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 minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
People gathered to witness the public spectacle before them as Jesus and the criminals were raised to their death on their crosses. It had been a cruel day of humility and pain but now it was over. What was raised must be lowered. On that day, the living was raised to their death and now must be lowered to their final resting places. Perhaps the sun was setting, and people started to leave to go back to the places where they were staying during the great festival of Passover not realizing the significance of God’s Son as their own Passover Lamb. The disciples were most likely the most distraught, confused, and heart wrenched to their most inner being as they just witnessed the death of their beloved Messiah.
Jesus’ death on the cross appear to many people as only a significant historical event. They fail to see the continuing significance of what Jesus did nearly 2,000 years ago. The history of the world is full of events that could have been much different if Adam and Eve did not rebel against the Lord’s command in Eden. Could you even begin to imagine if death and decay had never been introduced to the world? Two of the most important events in the history of world was the fall and Jesus’ resurrection. The fall resulted in death, but Jesus’ death resulted in life. Decay and death entered the world through the first sin, but redemption began through Jesus. The world is not what it will one day be, but there exists a future hope of redemption. I love what Romans 8:18-19 says regarding the day of full redemption, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”
Easter commemorates what Christians celebrate every Sunday and that is the resurrection of our beloved Lord from the dead as he granted eternal life to those who believe in his name. This devotional will not be focused on the historical and theological events of the resurrection, but on the effect of the resurrection in the believer’s life. The applicational effect of the resurrection will be discussed within the context of Colossians 3:1-4.
Being Raised with Jesus
Colossians 3:1 describes the positional standing of those who belong to the Lord. The opening phrase says, “If then you have been raised with Christ,” which identifies to whom the rest of the passage is written. This is a conditional phrase which means it should be true of those who belong to a particular group. He is not saying one is redeemed by doing certain things but rather those who are already saved should live their lives in a specific way. Imagine with me that you have a leaky sink you are unable to repair. Who would you contact? Should you call the exterminator, your family doctor, or a plumber? We would expect a plumber to be able to fix the situation. You probably would continue using the exterminator if he wasn’t able to fix your problem but if your plumber was unable to take care of the leaky sink then you would be well advised to start looking for another one.
The characteristics that follow in this passage are those that are common to those who “have been raised with Christ.” The joy for the believer in Jesus is focused on resurrection. Jesus was killed on the cross and was buried in the tomb, but on the third day he was raised from the dead. The hope for believers is not focused solely on Jesus’ resurrection but the hope of their own resurrection as well. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead then so too the Christian will be raised from the dead. Resurrection means one goes from death to life. There are two resurrections every Christian will experience. The first is the spiritual resurrection when our dead spirit is made alive. Every child who has ever been born through a natural birth has been spiritually dead at birth, but through Jesus we are made alive. The second is the physical resurrection as a future hope. One day, we know death will come, but we also know there is a coming day when the believer in Jesus will be made alive at the return of our beloved Savior. 1 Corinthians 15:50-52 describes this future resurrection for believers, “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”
Seeking Things Above
Christians are people who live on a physical planet and in a physical body, but we are told to keep our focus on the spiritual. We cannot physically see the spiritual reality but when the Lord resurrects our spirit at salvation then our focus begins to shift. The temptation is for us to focus on our physical priorities while neglecting the spiritual ones. We have been going through this pandemic that has limited our mobility, but it should not affect our spirit. We need to keep our focus on the things above as Paul reminds us here. Someone may say that not being able to go to church has affected their relationship with the Lord, and I admit being physically separated from the body of Christ is difficult, but what a tremendous opportunity has been given to us to focus on the Lord. Paul was often restricted from seeing other believers when he was in jail but listen to his words in Philippians 1:3-6 as he was under house arrest, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” What an attitude of thanksgiving during a time of great separation.
What things should we seek above? I think the Sermon on the Mount is a great place to start. Perhaps during this time of separation, it would be a great time to seriously consider the instruction of our Lord in Matthew 5-7. The Beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12 are the principles of the Kingdom of Heaven we all should all possess as citizens of God’s kingdom. The rest of Jesus’ otherworldly sermon applies those principles in practical ways. The obvious truth is that these principles are not the same principles as our world, but when the Lord awakens our spirit, they become our desire. An example is found in Matthew 5:5 which says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Our world generally does not exalt the humble but the proud. We are told to be proud and let everyone else know about it, but the humble spirit is often trampled by the foot of the arrogant boasters. Where will the proud be in heaven? They will not be found because who will be able to boast in the presence of God? What was the first thing John saw when he was transported to heaven in Revelation 4:2, “At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.” In other words, God is the focus of heaven, and we will spend eternity praising and worshiping his greatness. For those who don’t know the Lord, this does not seem desirable, but for those who know the Lord, it is our desire to worship the Lord with this type of nearness to him.
Set Your Mind Above
The believer who has been redeemed by the Lord will focus on heaven. The idea is focused on our thinking. Christians do not think the way others think and this is a result of the resurrection. We often remember the way we used to think before we knew the Lord. Our thinking was often selfish and not seasoned with love. We desired to satisfy what was best for us while we didn’t care about other people but when we were saved those things began to change. The changing of our thinking is part of the sanctification process. Sanctification is the process in which we become more like Jesus throughout the course of our lives. We don’t transition from worldly thinking to a heavenly focus in a single day, but it is a lifelong struggle of growth. There is an approaching day when we will be completely heavenly focused, but that day is probably not today. I believe many of the struggles in this life between two believers is in relation to not being heavenly minded, but practically this is where our joy is located. Joy is stolen from the one who focuses completely on the things of this world. I don’t know about you but about 30 minutes to an hour of the news is all I can handle, especially with the outbreak of the Coronavirus. I would rather think of heaven and the beauty of our Savior who has given to us his great and precious promises.
Perhaps one of the greatest passages in Scripture in relationship to our thinking is Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to your therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” It seems this passage in Romans connects worship with right thinking, and I have heard people talk about worship as a feeling they get, but genuine worship is informed by the mind and felt in the heart. Both are required, and if we think like one who does not know the Lord then our worship will certainly be affected.
Focus on Future Glory
Paul states simply and powerfully, “for you have died,” which serves as reminder that we have been changed. There is a death that occurs at salvation and it is the death of sin’s power over the believer. We continue to sin, but we can also resist it in our daily lives by the power of God and the Spirit’s work in our lives. There is also a connection between Jesus on the cross and our death to our former spirit. This should be joyful for us because we should rejoice, we are not what we once were. There should not be a single Christian who wishes to go back to his or her former lives. In other words, let us not focus on what lies behind us but focus on what is in front of us. We should always keep our eyes focused on the Lord as we live our lives and not live in the past. A good reminder of this is found in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” This is an exhortation for us to not turn back but to walk while keeping our eyes on Jesus, himself.
Our joy is in our hope that the Lord is returning. We should focus and rejoice in this truth every day and especially at Easter. The text states clearly, “When Christ your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Christianity does not live in the past but in the future, and the end of the universe as it is currently is constructed will be at the return of Jesus. The world fears the apocalyptic events such as a heavenly body striking the earth and some fear a zombie apocalypse, but we rejoice in the real end of the world, and that will be the return of Jesus. I want you to rejoice as we conclude with the return of Jesus in Matthew 24:29-31, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect form the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” What the world will mourn we shall rejoice. There is a day when heaven will collide with the earth and the only thing that will remain is what is holy. Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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Pastor Steven Lookabaugh has been our pastor since 2016 and is passionate about proclaiming the gospel of God through the weekly exposition of God’s Word; believing application is possible when one understands the historical/cultural meaning of the text. He leads our church in fulfilling our purpose toward the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, and to the Great Commandment as we seek to love one another. He has a Doctor of Ministry degree in Expository Preaching from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with an emphasis on parabolic exposition. He is married to Jennifer and they have three children, Andrew, Kate and Olivia.