Too Heavenly Minded? (Col. 3:1-4)Written by admin on May 27, 2013 in - No Comments
(Due to technical issues the quality of this week’s sermon audio is very poor.)
We have all heard the phrase, “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I have never really known anyone who had that problem. I don’t think there are too many people walking around today who are useless on this Earth because they are focusing too much on Heaven. Perhaps the real problem is that most of us are “too earthly minded to be of any heavenly good.”
I think you would agree that the most heavenly minded person who ever walked the earth was Jesus Christ. And I don’t think any of you would argue that he did more earthly good than anyone else who has ever lived. You see the reality is that the more heavenly minded we are, the more earthly good we will do. So friends, if you want to do more earthly good, turn your gaze and your thoughts toward Heaven and watch what happens. And next time someone tells you are being too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good, ask them if they think the same was true of Jesus.
If we have a problem as Christians it is not that our attention is focused too much on heaven, but too little on heaven. In our passage for this morning from Colossians 3:1–4, Paul is urging us to turn our gaze away from the things of this earth toward things that are in heaven. He is asking us to be heavenly minded.
But the question remains. Is it possible to be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good? Let’s see what the Bible has to say about that. If you haven’t already, go ahead and turn now with me to Colossians 3:1–4. And as you are turning let me do a little review of last week’s sermon.
In our sermon time last week we established the fact that Christ freed us from man-made religion. And where we pick up today is on the heels of that. In verse 20 of Chapter 2, Paul begins by saying, “If with Christ you died…” and here in verse 1 of Chapter 3 he says something similar, “If then you have been raised with Christ…” And please notice those words with Christ in both of these verses. What Paul was referring to in verse 20, when he said, “If with Christ you died,” was dying to man-made religious systems based on human ideas and teachings.
And that is the context we are dealing with when we get to Chapter 3 verse 1. As I have said before, Paul did not put the chapter and verse divisions in his letters. That was done later. And while it is very helpful, it can sometimes distract us from the context of the previous chapter. So in 2:20 when Paul reminds the Colossians that they have died with Christ, we should have this in mind when he uses those with Christ words again in 3:1. Because now he is reminding them that, not only did they die with Christ, but they also rose with him from that burial. They are dead to the old order of living and alive to a new order of living or to a new way of life.
So let’s go ahead and read our entire passage for this morning. Please follow along with me as I read Colossians 3:1–4.
1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1–4 ESV)
When I am working on sermons, one of the first things I look for in a passage is imperative verbs. Verbs that tell us what to do. Verbs that give us a command or some instruction to follow. And this passage has two of them, so it made my job pretty easy this week.
Paul tells the Colossians to do two things in this passage. In verse 1 he says that they are to “seek the things that are above.” And in verse 2, he says something very similar. He says they are to “Set their minds on things that are above.” And then he contrasts “things that are above” with things that are on Earth.
And because he tells us in verse 1 that Christ is located with the things that are above—“seek the things that are above, where Christ is”—we can infer that the place he is talking about is Heaven. So as Christians, we are to seek heavenly things and to set our minds on heavenly things as opposed to earthly things.
Ok that sounds nice. We all agree with that. But then, when you stop to think about it, what exactly does Paul have in mind when he uses the words: “the things that are above.” That could mean so many different things. So many different things that it would be difficult to give a comprehensive list of all the truths about heaven that would be helpful for us to seek after and set our minds on. Really I am not sure if in all of eternity we will grasp the wonder of it all.
But there is one specific thing in this passage that Paul plainly includes in the list of “things that are above.” Or maybe I should say one person in this passage that Paul plainly includes in the list of things that are above. Notice he says, “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is.” Not only do the words “where Christ is” tell us for sure that Paul is thinking of Heaven when he says “the things that are above,” but it also tells us that one of the “things” in Heaven that we are to focus on is Christ himself. And since ultimately all the wonders of Heaven are wrapped up in Christ and the gospel, that is where I will focus this morning. And I will do so by showing us three things that, if we seek to understand with all our hearts and ponder over diligently with our minds, will result in a life that is of much earthly good.
The three things I want to look at in this passage this morning are three realities that are true about us based on our being bound up WITH CHRIST. In this passage the words, “with Christ” or “with him” cry out to us for attention three times. And if you pay special attention to those three occurrences you will notice that the first one speaks about what has happened to us with Christ in the past. And the second one speaks about what is true about us with Christ in the present. And the third occurrence speaks about what will happen to us with Christ in the future. And again, it is my contention that if we turn our thoughts toward these realities and set our hearts on them, seeking to know them and understand them in a real way everyday, we will be of much good on this earth.
So first, let’s look at what has taken place for us with Christ in the past.
You Have Been Raised With Christ
Paul begins our passage this morning restating something he has said earlier. He says, “If then you have been raised with Christ.” Or perhaps a better way of saying it would be “Since you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above.”
Now first of all notice that this is in the past tense. Paul says “you HAVE BEEN raised with Christ.” So, there was a time in the past where the Colossians were raised with Christ because of their faith. This is a past event. It is done, it is completed, and it cannot be undone. And if the Colossians have been raised with Christ, then they need not give any attention to the false teachers who are telling them they need something more to have a complete and full spiritual life.
And you may remember, we talked about this concept of being raised with Christ before. Back in Colossians 2:12, Paul says that the Colossians have been “been buried with [Christ] in baptism” and “raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised [Christ] from the dead.
In verse 3, Paul reiterates that we have died with Christ. Again this is in the past tense. This has happened. It is done. And you may remember, a few weeks ago I said: “Baptism is a beautiful picture of what has happened to us as Christians. It doesn’t save us, but it is a picture of the saving work God did on us.” It is a picture of dying and going into the grave with Christ and then coming up from the grave with Christ.
I also said that: “When we placed our faith in Christ, we were somehow, in a way I cannot describe, taken back 2000 years to his death, placed in the grave with him, and raised with him three days later. And this is what baptism is a picture of.”
As we go down into the waters of baptism it is a picture of us being buried with Christ and when we come up out of the water it is a picture of us being raised with Christ. And that is what Paul is speaking of here when he says, “Since you have been raised with Christ.”
We are no longer dead in our trespasses and sin. But with Christ we have died to power of sin. And we have triumphantly risen with him as he defeated sin and death. And we are now enabled by the Holy Spirit to live in a new way of life that Jesus calls his followers to. Is it easy? No. Is it possible? Yes. Before we were slaves to sin and were completely incapable of living a life worthy of the Lord. But now we are freed from sin. We have been raised with Christ into a new life. And one of the things we are to do in this new life is to “seek the things that are above.”
Regarding Paul’s command to “seek the things that are above,” can you remember a similar command from Jesus? In the middle of his Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” And if you remember the context, Jesus was telling his followers not to worry about earthly provisions. In other words, “Do not set your mind on earthly things, instead set your mind on the kingdom of God.”
When Paul tells the Colossians not to set their minds on earthly things in verse 2, what he is referring to specifically is the man-made rules and rituals and regulations we discussed last week. All those components of a man-made religion. Their dying with Christ broke their link with this world and its order. Their being raised with Christ linked them with heaven and its order. So, they do not need to worry themselves with those “earthly things,” instead they are to “set their minds on things above” on “heavenly things.”
They are to remember that they have been raised with Christ, who is now in Heaven, and that is where their thoughts should be. Paul knows that heavenly thinking leads to godly living. Remember I have said before, “Right knowledge leads to right living.” Well, right knowledge certainly includes heavenly knowledge. Brothers and sisters, know this morning that if you have placed your faith in Christ you have been raised with him and he now sits in Heaven interceding on your behalf to the Father. He is seated at the right hand of God the Father continuing his work as your Great Shepherd.
Your Life Is Hidden With Christ
And in verse 3 we see that our lives are hidden away with his as he sits with his Father in Heaven. This is what is presently true of us and the second of my three points for this morning. In verse 1 Paul reminded the Colossians of what had happened to them in the past, “You HAVE BEEN raised with Christ.” And now in verse 3, Paul is telling them what is currently true about them in the present: “Your life IS hidden with Christ.”
We hide things we don’t want others to mess with. In the same way we might hide something valuable in our homes so that a potential thief could not find it, our lives are hidden away with Christ and are secure from the evil spiritual forces of this world. These words speak to us, then, about our security in Christ. The evil spiritual forces who the false teachers were claiming needed to be appeased and placated, they have no claim on the lives of the Colossians. The Colossians have no need to fear for their eternal security, their lives are currently hidden away with Christ in Heaven. Their eternal security is sure. And praise God the same is true for us.
And it is not only that the lives of the Colossians are hidden away with Christ, but Christ is their life. Look with me in verse 4. It begins by saying, “When Christ who is your life appears…” So Paul is telling the Colossians that they are so tightly bound up with Christ that their lives are hidden away with his in Heaven and indeed Christ is their life.
The reality is that Christ is the life source of all those who have come to him in faith. He is the source of life for you and for me. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Whoever belongs to Jesus has passed from death to life. And the life we have stepped into is the life of Christ.
And though we sometimes find ourselves barely making our way through this earthly existence, the reality is our lives are hidden with Christ in Heaven. And for a time we are stuck in this old age, sometimes seemingly without hope, sometimes as those ridiculed for believing these so-called fables we find in the Bible. But that will not last forever. One day our real lives that are hidden away with Christ will be revealed for all to see. And this leads me to my final point.
You Will Appear With Christ in Glory
Paul has told the Colossians that at some point in the past they have been raised with Christ. And now in the present their lives are hidden with Christ. But one day in the future, these lives of theirs that are hidden away with Christ will appear with him at his second coming. In other words, what is now hidden will one day be revealed. Notice the strong contrast between the word “hidden” in verse 3 and the word “appears” or “is revealed” in verse 4.
Let me read them together for us:
3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:3–4 ESV)
Remember the Colossian Christians were being told there was something lacking in their faith. They were being told that they were incomplete and excluded from the people of God. Paul is reminding them here that though their true standing with God is now hidden from the view of the world, hidden away with Christ who is in Heaven, that one day when Christ reappears, it will be plain to all that the Colossian Christians are the ones who are truly part of God’s people. His victory will be our victory.
Theologians often speak of the tension that exists between what they call “the already and the not yet.” There are many things that are “already” true for us because we are in Christ Jesus. But they are “not yet” fully true or finally true. I have already been raised with Christ, but I have not yet been finally raised with Christ. The Kingdom of Christ has “already” been inaugurated in this world, but it has “not yet” been fully consummated. We are living in this overlap period of the “already and not yet.” In other words, we are living in this present age and are awaiting the age to come. But the coming of that age is guaranteed. The work to bring it about has “already” been accomplished.
Let me try to explain this with an illustration. Even though all illustrations fall short, I think this might help us to see what is meant by “already and not yet.”
On February 17, 2013 I was installed as your pastor at this church. And at that time we moved some of our material possessions into the parsonage down the street. I started having some bills sent to that address. We lived there a few days of the week, but really our residence was still in Birmingham. So while we have “already” been residents of Huntsville since February 17, we have “not yet” been fully residents of Huntsville because most of our things are still back in Birmingham. And we are definitely living in this tension of the already and not yet.
But just like our time in this tension is soon coming to an end, our time as Christians in this “in between” life of already and not yet is soon coming to an end. And very soon, all of Christ’s people will be revealed for all the world to see. Our lives will no longer be hidden with Christ in Heaven, but they will be revealed with Christ in the New Heaven and New Earth.
So as Christians we “have been raised with Christ,” our lives are presently safely hidden away with Christ in Heaven, and one day soon we will appear with Christ for all the world to see at his second coming. And I have said all these things this morning because I want you to seek to know them with your hearts and seek to know them with your minds. I want you to order your lives in a way that demonstrates you believe these things to be really true.
I mentioned multiple times last week that one of the dangers of my sermon title, “Freedom From Religion,” was that someone would go away from the sermon convinced that I had said they could do and live however they want. I was afraid someone would believe that as Christians we are free to do whatever and whenever.
We are Free, yes. But what that means is that we are free from the bondage of sin and thus free to live for Christ in light of the things he has done for us. The fourth century church father, Augustine, said many important things. But perhaps my favorite quote from him is related to this notion of our freedom as Christians. He said, “Love God and do what you like.”
Now, what does he mean by that? Basically his point was if I love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, I can do whatever I want, because whatever I want to do will always be in line with God’s will. And I think that is what Paul is getting at in this passage when he tells us to seek and set our minds on the things that are above.
And so what I want is for you to seek the things that are above and set your mind on them, specifically the truths we have discussed today about being bound up with Christ. Think on these things deeply. Seek to understand them in your heart. And let a love for God well up in you so big that when you do as Augustine said, and do whatever you want, you will be of much earthly good precisely because you are so heavenly minded.
I want us all to be of much earthly good. I really don’t want you to be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good, but I am not really sure that is possible. So go ahead, feast on the realities of Heaven, taste and see that the Lord is good. I am confident that in the end the world will be a better place because of it.