The following is the manuscript of a Sunday teaching I delivered on May 3, 2020.
Close your eyes.
Picture the first thing you will do after the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order ceases.
It might be a place you will go to eat. Maybe it will be a gathering with friends. Maybe it will be the gym where you go to work out.
How clearly can you see it?
Right now, some of you see this picture crystal clear. Some of you are distraught because you feel like you can’t picture anything. Whether you can picture it clearly, or can’t picture something at all, what will make that picture reality?
Acting on what you picture. As we will say in this series, it’s embodied–to give a tangible or visible form.
A vision, a dream, a thought becomes reality when it is embodied. Some of us are living in a dream world that we never expect to make it a reality because we are unwilling to take action. Some of us are living so firmly focused on the world around us that we never dare to dream of more–a picture of what could be thus is seemingly foreign. Some of us see both the dream and the reality and have no flippin’ idea how the two get bridged because we don’t see how the dots can get connected. All three of these disconnects prevent us from seeing the vision of God be expanded through people. That has already been God’s goal–his will and his way manifested through people.
In the same way, the reality of Jesus bringing heaven to earth through His Church right now, while not always seen with clarity doesn’t make it any less real. The reality in heaven must become embodied on earth. The vision made manifest is not always the most practical. It’s not always the most heroic. God’s will embodied is composed of men and women who learn obedience through the Holy Spirit wherever they are.
Paul is writing to a group of believers whom he wants to remind them that their experience can catch up to reality. Paul wants them to aspire to be like Christ because through Christ God sees them as actually like Him. Therefore, they don’t need external practices to make them appear to be what they in fact actually are.
If then you were raised with Christ: Paul here begins a section where he focuses on practical Christian living, with a clear understanding that practical Christian living is built on the foundation of theological truth. Because we know that Jesus is really raised from the dead, then our identification with Him becomes real. Now, if you are skeptical about the claim of the reality of Jesus’s resurrection, on this week’s episode of the mid-week podcast we will cover some basic evidence of the resurrection.
It is only because we were raised with Christ that we can seek those things which are above. The idea of being raised with Christ was introduced back in Colossians 2:12, where Paul used baptism to illustrate this spiritual reality. Now, seeing that we are raised with Christ, certain behavior is appropriate to us. An inward resurrection drives external resurrected living.
“The opening verses of chapter 3 sustain the closest connection with the closing verses of chapter 2. There the apostle reminds the Colossians that ascetic regulations are of no real value in restraining indulgence of the flesh. The only remedy for sinful passions is found in the believers’ experience of union with Christ.”
Because we were raised with Christ, we should act just as Jesus did when He was resurrected.
- After His resurrection, Jesus left the tomb. So should we – we don’t live there any more.
- After His resurrection, Jesus spent His remaining time being with and ministering to His disciples. So should we – live our lives to be with and to serve one another.
- After His resurrection, Jesus lived in supernatural power with the ability to do impossible things. So should we – with the power and the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
- After His resurrection, Jesus looked forward to heaven, knowing He would soon enough ascend there. So should we – recognizing that our citizenship is in heaven.
- After His resurrection, Jesus knew he would return to judge the earth and make it new. So should we — actively demonstrate what this new earth will be like so that more people will get to experience it.
To emphasize the implications of Christ’s resurrection, even more, Paul added the phrase, sitting at the right hand of God: Our attention is to be focused on the sovereign rule which Christ now exercises. The command to aspire to the things of heaven is a command to meditate and dwell upon Christ’s sort of life, and on the fact that he is now enthroned as the Lord of the world.” (Wright)
The logical conclusion, of your being risen with Christ, is that… Set your mind on things above:
“The believer is to ‘seek the things… above.’ The word ‘seek’ marks aspiration, desire, and passion…. In order to seek these things the mind must be set on them.” The best Christian living comes from minds that are fixed on heaven. They realize that their lives are now hidden with Christ in God, and since Jesus is enthroned in heaven, their thoughts and hearts are connected to heaven also. Paul has now flipped the object that was hidden. The mystery of Christ has been made known to us so that we can be hidden in Christ.
Actively look & do not settle. This is not passive.
Inevitably I end up coughing loudly or knocking something over to reveal my location so I can extricate myself from said contorted position. Horrible game. This, I think, is the kind of seeking we sometimes employ when attempting to “seek the things that are above.” We give the search little attention – 10 minutes in the Word here and there, a brief pause to pray or meditate – but are ultimately distracted by other things and aren’t fully invested in the search.
See, my kids might look for me for a few minutes but ultimately if you offered them a snack or a video game they’d abandon the search immediately without bothering to inform me. Isn’t that often what our seeking looks like? Half-hearted, easily distracted.
We just got finished with looking at how the ascetic practices and rules will not curb self-indulgence, meaning, these won’t effectively move our eyes from self to what is above. So what will?
First, seeking God in a distracted world begins with picturing the end. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory: The promise of the return of Jesus is not only that we will see His glory, but so that we also will appear with Him in glory. Christ who is our life: Sometimes we say, “Music is his life” or “Sports is his life” or “He lives for his work.” Of the Christian, it should be said, “Jesus Christ is his life.” There is a nuance between “Church is his life” and “Jesus is his life.” In our community groups, we will take a look at this nuance.
On that day, all will see the saints of God for what they really are, not as they merely appear to this world. “Paul, the prisoner, an eccentric Jew to the Romans and a worse-than-Gentile traitor to the Jews, will be seen as Paul the apostle, the servant of the King. The Colossians, insignificant ex-pagans from a third-rate country town, will be seen in a glory which, if it were now to appear, one might be tempted to worship.”
Second, Encounters with believers who embody the character of Christ. [One of my first encounters, in-laws with cars. Everyone had their own car.]
While ascetic practices won’t curb self-indulgence there are good practices that put us in position to be changed. Ultimately, these practices won’t bring change because that only comes from the Holy Spirit. What do other people’s encounters with you communicate about your encounter with Christ?
‘Earthly things’ are not all evil. Even things harmless in themselves become harmful if permitted to take the place that should be reserved for the things above.” When good things become God things in our lives, the people we encounter will be directed to something temporary instead of the intended eternal.
This is why we talk about progress over perfection: Disciplacing the temporary things that aren’t connected with Jesus from the driver’s seat of our lives. If we are connecting with Jesus, then the next interaction with the person should be different than the next.
Imagine what our world might look like if people saw Jesus as clearly in your life as they see a video on a smart phone. Imagine if their interaction with you catapulted their lives in a community of people who began to shape their life for the better. People would begin to experience Jesus wherever they lived, worked, or played.
If this sounds like pressure to you, then please know this…we won’t get it right. Together we must return to the core of who Jesus is…a Savior who forgives us and then gives us the motivation to try again. Today, you have begin to experience newness of life through Him.