Devotional # 157. 10/5/15. Colossians 3:1-4.
Intro. Last week we finished a section (Col. 2:16-23) dealing with the freedom Jesus gave us to not keep religious rituals that only empower our flesh, but instead to cling to Jesus, the Head of the Church. This week we’re going to continue to be encouraged with a series of arguments why we shouldn’t be living the same life we were living before we became Christians.
v. 1. Last week in our first verse (18) I reminded you that we had been given an incredible gift of freedom along with the wonderful gift of our salvation and citizenship in heaven. I’m going to remind you about the citizenship in heaven in our first verse today because that is what the text here is talking about! Not only that but we talked a little bit last week about how we’ve “died with Christ from the basic principles of the world.” It’s no surprise that Paul continues that thought in this section.
Paul starts off with “if” and “if” can be a scary word sometimes when it comes from God. Read 2 Chronicles 7:14 where God says, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Whether you’re in Hungary or the USA or anywhere else, we need God to heal our land and forgive our sins. But He purposefully puts the word “if” in there. “If…[we] will humble ourselves, and pray and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways’ then He will heal. So the question is: what if not? What if we don’t do those things? Then we are in for rightly deserved wrath and judgment.
So back here in Colossians “if…we were raised with Jesus” then we are to “seek those things which are above.” Do you consider yourself to be dead to your sins and alive in Jesus? Then “seek the things above.” How do we “seek”? In the same way as when we really want to find something out. Have you ever wanted to know something and you look online or in a book? And then it becomes a challenge and you take a clue from something and then keep digging? Pretty soon you feel like Indiana Jones going and going and not stopping until you find what you wanted. That’s “seeking.” That’s how we’re supposed to be looking for the “things above”. What are the “things above”? Let’s look at the next verse to find out.
v. 2. We’re told to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
The phrase “set your mind“ is phroneo meaning “to exercise the mind” (Source 1). Do you ever play brain games or crosswords? The idea here is to actively and continue to, focus your thoughts on heavenly things. Another synonym is “savor”, which I really like. It’s one thing to scarf down food but to savor it, is to enjoy it, to let it sit in your mouth and taste the different flavors.
What are the “things above” that we’re supposed to actively savor? In Matthew 6:33 Jesus told us, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” So it seems one of them is the kingdom of God and another is “His righteousness.” If you want to know some other ones I suggest you read this article: http://www.neverthirsty.org/pp/corner/read2/r00890.html . Notice that these “things” don’t live down here on earth with us. The only way we can know about them is through the Bible. So if we’re not reading our Bible then we’re missing out on the different things from heaven. Read your Bible!
So what are “things on the earth“? Well, it’s important to point out what one commentator says, “’earthly things’ are not all evil, but some of them are. Even things harmless in themselves become harmful if permitted to take the place that should be reserved for the things above” (Source 2). That’s a great perspective because so quickly we can forget about the ‘heavenly things’ being contrasted with the ‘earthly things.’ Of course, there are sins that we need to recognize as wrong and in Galatians 5:19-21, we are told, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” This is an important list but it doesn’t seem like Paul wants us to just focus on a list of things “not to do.” In fact the whole context here has been that we can’t just be religious people who have “do” and “don’t” lists. Instead when our “life is hidden with Christ” we become something different. What does that mean and how do we do it? Read the next verse to find out.
v. 3. First, we ask ourselves “what drives us to ‘set our mind on things above’?” The fact that we died. We’ve discussed this death before, in fact just last week (Devotional 156) we read that we’ve “died with Christ” (v. 20). In the same way that Jesus died and was buried for our sins we are baptized as an outward confession of what has happened in our heart. We have died to the world, sin and those former “regulations.” So you have died and “your life is hidden with Christ in God.” I love what Matthew Henry says about this, “Christ is at present a hidden Christ, or one whom we have not seen; but this is our comfort, that our life is hid with him, and laid up safely with him. As we have reason to love him whom we have not seen (1 Pt. 1:8), so we may take the comfort of a happiness out of sight, and reserved in heaven for us” (Source 3).
v. 4. Essentially this verse is saying, ‘When Christ appears then you will appear with Him in glory.’ I think this really connects with what Matthew Henry just said about right now Christ being “hidden” from us, but then we’re immediately comforted to find that not only will that not be the case forever but the next time He does physically appear we won’t miss it. How can we be sure? Because we’ll “appear with Him in glory.” I am reminded of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 which tells us, in more detail, about this event when we will join Him in the clouds. But it’s important to not just take this at “face value” but also look at the context. It’s such a marvelous thing to hear that we may forget to ask why Paul decided to tell us this here. Now, we’ve already said one reason (because he’s contrasting the fact that we don’t actually get to hang out with Him face to face now) but also because we’re seeking the things above.
At the beginning of this verse I condensed the verse for clarification that we would be with Him in heaven but I want to make sure that we don’t overlook the phrase, “Christ, who is our life.” Jesus is our life! When it says “Christ who is our life appears” it implies that we don’t have a life without Him and that we actually don’t even have a complete life until He does appear. Do we really think our life isn’t going to change much once we get to heaven? Do we really think this is all there is? Now is when we starting making Jesus our everything because then we will have a much smoother transition when we actually do “appear with Him in glory.”
Conclusion. Today we focused on some of the things we can do to get our life on track as well as learned some interesting theology like the fact that currently we are “hidden with Christ” but eventually we will join Him in the clouds! In terms of context from the last chapter and the beginning of this one, we don’t have time to waste on the limitations of man’s doctrines and rituals (2: 22) instead we’re focused on Christ, since He is our life!
Source 1: phroneo (G#5426), https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5426&t=KJV
Source 2: Vaughan, via David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Col/Col_3.cfm?a=1110001
Source 3: (Matthew Henry, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Col/Col_003.cfm?a=1110001).