The way God has changed believers should change believers.
After reminding us in Colossians 3:1 of the fact we have been raised with Christ, Paul goes on to show how that new reality should produce a completely different mentality.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are earth.”
Which are commands.
Seek the things that are above and set your minds on things that are above.
And I probably should stress the fact that they are commands, because it means, obviously, as Christians you are supposed to do something. I know some of us are concerned about legalism, and because we are concerned about legalism, we are concerned anytime someone tells us to do something, we’re like, that’s legalism, but that’s not legalism, just telling someone to do something is not legalism, because Paul tells us to do something.
He tells us to seek the things that are above and set our minds on the things that are above, which are you know, I think, ground level kind of commands, when it comes to living out the Christian life. In other words, when I am talking to you about the specifics of the Christian life, like say marriage or saying no to lust or whatever, there are some specific commands I might give you, like love your wife or something, but those specific commands won’t make sense, unless you are committed to obeying the commands Paul’s giving here.
Because, the first one, seeking the things that are above, really has to do with an orientation or a direction you are facing.
There’s an obvious contrast that Paul’s making.
Where there are people who are spending their lives seeking the things here on earth, that’s the direction they are facing, their life is here, on earth, that’s all they’ve got, so they are busy pursuing earthly kinds of things with all they’ve got. As Christians, we’ve been united with Christ, and so the direction we’re facing is, you know heaven, which means, what matters there, is what should matters here, and we should be busy pursuing the things that are above with all we’ve got.
And I don’t know if you have ever been talking to someone who says they are a Christian, and maybe they are, but as you are talking to them, you are realizing, it’s like we are speaking a different language almost, because while they know words like Jesus and grace, it’s clear that’s not what’s heavy with them, and, it seems like it is the temporary stuff, that matters the most.
This is important, because say they are having some problems and they want some specific help, like my wife is bothering me or I am having problems at work, what should I do, and you know, it’s going to be very hard for them to actually change and deal with those specific problems in a God-honoring way, until they get the bigger issue settled first, which is the direction they are facing.
Because they are busy seeking the things that are on earth, when they should be busy pursuing the things that are above.
Now you might say, I guess, what does that mean exactly, the things that are above?
And in Colossians, the first thing it means, might actually surprise you, it means not submitting to legalistic rules about religion and rituals that aren’t centered in Jesus Christ.
You remember verse 20?
“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations, ‘do not handle, do not taste, do not touch.’”
Which is I think surprising because when we think worldly, earthly, we don’t usually think about religion and religious activity, but Paul’s saying there is a lot of religious activity that is just all about the temporary, and the first thing you need to do if you are going to seek the things that are above, is stop wasting your time with religious activity that is all about the now.
Secondly though, it’s not just the wrong kind of religious activity, and we are going to see this more next time, seeking the things that are above, means saying no to, turning from the sinful desires that are still in us.
Which is where Paul heads down in verse 5.
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
And honestly, finally, probably the main thing Paul means by the things that are above, is more positively, just very simply, the stuff that matters most to Jesus.
If you are going to mature spiritually, if you are going to change, one of the very first things you need to do, and you need to keep doing, is making sure on a day to day basis that Jesus main priorities in this world, are your main priorities as well.
And if you are wondering, how exactly do I do that, I think Paul’s second command is the place you should start.
When he says,
“Set your minds on the things that are above.”
In other words, the place to begin is with your thinking.
What do you think about when you don’t have to think about anything?
That right there is a very important question, because what you think about, has such a profound impact on your spiritual condition.
You’ll start seeking the things above, when you are thinking about the things above.
In fact, Paul puts it like this over in Romans 8:5 and 6.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
And he’s saying, one of the big differences between a person who is a Christian and one who is not, is what he sets his mind upon. If we are always thinking only about earthly things, and remember there is even a kind of earthly religion, it’s all about the now, if this is our basic mind-set, we are probably not Christians, and yet, of course, even as Christians, we can sometimes slip back into setting our minds on the flesh, which is why Paul has to remind us here, in Colossians, that’s not who we are anymore, Christ is our life, so we need to be thinking about what matters to Him most.
Like for example, specifically, heaven, or eternity. Thinking about the things above, means thinking about heaven and eternity.
Listen to how Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 4:18.
And this is when he’s suffering. He actually says his outer self is wasting away, so his body, is dying, and yet, in spite of that, he’s not becoming discouraged, the opposite, he says his inner man is being strengthened, and the reason why, is because he’s thinking about eternity.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
And obviously, there are lots of things to think about when it comes to heaven, but the primary thing you want to be thinking about is Jesus, Himself. Setting on your minds on things that are above, means at the very least, setting your mind on Jesus.
If we want to grow and change, we need to learn to think a lot about Jesus.
It’s funny, you can talk to people for a long time about the problems in their life, and it can sometimes seem so complicated, you know what I mean, you are like oh man, this is too much, and yet, at the same time so many of the problems we have spiritually, come down to something very simple, and that’s the fact, that we are not really on a regular basis, thinking about and delighting in and enjoying Jesus.
In fact, I heard someone put it like this recently, they said we are always in the process of becoming like what we most adore, which is how we work as humans, what we admire is what we become, and that’s certainly how we work as Christians.
Listen to Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:18.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Beholding, is looking, and it’s an ongoing kind of word here, it’s not something we do once, but something we are continually doing, and Paul is saying, with unveiled face, and he’s been talking about the Israelites in the Old Testament who it’s like they had a veil over their faces as they read the Bible, but in the gospel, he says, that veil’s been lifted so we can more clearly see Jesus, and as we are continually looking at Jesus, thinking about Him, worshiping Him as He’s revealed in the Scriptures, something happens, we are being transformed, and that’s a process as well, it doesn’t happen all at once, but as we keep looking, God keeps transforming us, into the same image, meaning he makes us more and more like Jesus, from one degree of glory to another, we keep increasing, moving on spiritually, becoming more and more beautiful, the way Jesus is.
Which is just the basic principle, Paul’s highlighting about the Christian life, even back here in Colossians. He’s giving us some foundational ideas for how this Christian life is supposed to work, and he begins with this new reality, we are in Christ, and shows how that has produce a different mentality, Christ is our life, which at the very least means, we should think about Christ.
And I need to ask you.
And I am asking you, don’t think about your neighbor, don’t think I am talking to someone else, I am asking you, do you on a daily basis, think about what the Bible tells you about Jesus, and try to see how great He is and enjoy Him as a result?
Because that’s how the Spirit of God changes us.
In so many ways, that’s what Christian living is actually about, and if you are doing that, you will be changed, I guarantee it.
The Spirit transforms you, we saw in Paul.
And you know what, I John 3, verse 2 and 3. You are going to work at purifying yourself.
It’s a beautiful balance.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
Which is our hope, in other words, that’s what we long for, that we are going to see Jesus, and what does that hope of seeing Jesus, do?
“And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
Which is why I am asking, in this whole big series about change, whether or not you are setting your mind on the things above, because before you’ll ever grow in your obedience to specific commands you find in the Bible, you’ll need to be committed to obeying this command, to seek the things are above, by thinking about and enjoying Jesus.