How to have Heaven on Earth Colossians 3a
Stephen Caswell ©1999
Illustration From Lion King
The Lion King is a Walt Disney movie for kids. Perhaps you have seen it. It's a story about a lion cub named Simba, who was the son of Mufassa the ruler of the kingdom. As heir, Simba was appointed to be the next king. But through tragic circumstances he was living outside his kingdom feeding on grubs and worms. He was not fulfilling the role he had been born to So Mufassa appeared to Simba in the clouds and told him that he was more than what he had become. The same is true for us in the Christian life. Often we live far bellow what we are. Paul commands believers to practice what they are in principle. How can we have heaven on earth?
Two weeks ago we finished Paul's warnings to the Colossians. He warned them to beware of false teachers who would rob them of their spiritual riches in Christ. They were complete in Him. Believers only need to lay hold of their resources in Jesus Christ. In tonight's passage Paul teaches us how our position in Christ relates to everyday living. What we believe should affect how we behave! In chapter 3 Paul tells how us we can have a touch of heaven here on earth. There are three steps we must take to attain this. I want to look at the first two tonight.
I. Seek The Heavenly
II. Slay The Earthly
III. Strengthen The Christly
I. Seek The Heavenly
Col 3:1-2 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
Paul gives two commands in these verses. He commands believers to seek those things above, and to set our minds on things above. Paul starts here because our hearts and minds dictate what we do and how we live. Why does Paul want us to set our minds upon heaven's Lord? Paul tells us why in the first four verses. Through faith we have been identified with Jesus Christ and His work of salvation. Verse 1 should read therefore since you were raised with Christ.
a. The Convictions
1. Firstly, We Died With Christ
Colossians 3:3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Why does Paul say we died with Christ in verse 3? Didn't Jesus die for us? Yes He did. This is known as substitution. But we also died with Him. This is identification. Gal 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
This happened spiritually. All who believe in Jesus Christ are identified with His death. We were then buried with Him as it says in Colossians 2:12 and Romans 6:4. This means that our old life died with Christ. It means that sins power over us has been broken on the cross. This means that the punishment for our sin has been paid for on the cross. This all happened because of our identification with Christ. But what does this all accomplish? It means that our old life is over, we died to it when we believed in Jesus Christ. What we were before we believed is finished!
2. Secondly, We Were Raised With Christ
Colossians 3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
When Jesus Christ came out from the grave in resurrection power we rose with Him. We now have a new life, a victorious life. Paul said in Galatians 2:20 that his present life is Jesus Christ. It was Jesus Christ living in Paul by faith. The same is true for every believer. 2 Cor 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. Because we are in Christ we have a new life, our old life is dead. Colossians 3:4 says that Christ is our life. By faith we can live in Him, the second Adam. The alternative is that we can struggle on in our old nature from the first Adam. After being raised with Christ, Paul says in Ephesians 2:5-6 says that we are seated with Him in heavenly places. But what does this mean to us? We are alive from the dead and seated in heavenly places. Christ is our new life. Paul says it well in Philippians 1:21: For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
3. Thirdly, We Are Hidden In Christ
Colossians 3:3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
The believers real life is not seen at present. It is hidden with Christ in God. We are safe in His hands. Nothing can take us out of His loving care. Non believers can't see God's life in us. They can see what His power does when it shows through. But the life is hidden in jars of clay that look just like their own. When Jesus Christ was on earth most people thought that He was only a man. They could not see His divine nature. Our spiritual position in Christ is just like this. We have eternal life now but unbelievers don't know it because the transformation is not yet complete. We are completely safe. If our life is hidden in Christ, shouldn't we live for Him now?
4. Fourthly, We Will Be Glorified With Christ
Col 3:4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
The word fanerow appear means to reveal, make known, declare. We are hidden in Christ at the moment. But it won't always be that way. One day soon, God will lift the cover off His new creation. Everyone will see the beauty of the new creation. This will happen at Christ's return. God's people will share in His glory. We will receive new glorified bodies of our own. 1 John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
The word revealed in 1 John 3:2 is translated from the same Greek word in Colossians 3:4. Romans 8:21 talks about this: Because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
A Model Car Being Unveiled
When car manufacturers release a new car they usually have a special launching. Important guests are invited to a special ceremony. Speeches are made about the features of the car whilst savories and drinks are served. After all the hype and build up they unveil the new model car. Once the cover is removed all can see the highly polished automobile. Only a few people ever get to see such an unveiling. But the new creation that God reveals will be seen by all. It will be glorious and magnify His own majesty. His people will dwell with Him forever. What difference does this make to us now? Since we are going to spend eternity with Christ in glory in glorious new bodies, shouldn't we be concerned about heavenly things now? In principle we are new people in Jesus Christ now! We need to work this out in daily practice. This is why Paul gives us these two commands. Many of us are more than what we have become!
b. The Commands
1. Seek Those Things Above. - Hearts
The word zhtew seek means to look for, search after, pursue, try to obtain, desire to possess. It gives the idea of searching to obtain something because of a strong desire. This command relates to our heart, the seat of our affections. Our affections should be set upon heaven's will for man. The command is written in the present continuous tense. We are to keep seeking the things above. This word is used of the crowds that sought to find Jesus. Paul uses it to contrast selfish believers with Timothy. Philippians 2:20-22 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.
Timothy sought the things of Christ. He served Paul faithfully in the Gospel, unlike the Roman Christians at the time. His heart was set upon Godly desires. He sought God's will to be done on earth. Jesus said this is in Luke 12:29-30 and Matthew 6:33: “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. “For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
To seek the things above where Christ is seated, is to set our hearts on the things important to Him. What is important to Christ? " The Kingdom Of God." This means obeying the Fathers will. How did Christ fulfill the Father's will? Luke 19:10 “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Jesus Christ came to seek the lost. He mixed with the publicans, the harlots and most vile of sinners because He wanted to save them. Can we do any less? Jesus Christ loves sinners and desires to seek them out and save them. How do we seek the things above? " The Father's will is to establish a righteous kingdom. Are you seeking His kingdom first? Are you leading souls into it? Is this the desire of your heart?
2. Set Your Minds On Things Above - Minds
The first command related to the heart, the second involves the mind. The words set your mind frone'ite means to be intent on, to exercise the mind on, to incline your mind to. Paul commands believers to continually set their minds on heavenly things. More than this they are to set their minds upon the Lord Jesus Christ seated at the Fathers right hand. If we set our minds upon earthly things that is where we will focus our time and talents. It all starts with the mind and the heart, so Paul starts here. In Philippians 3 we have a positive and negative example.
Philippians 3:15-19 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.
Many people set their mind upon earthly things which will all perish. Only a few set their minds upon heavenly things that will endure. People who set their minds upon Jesus Christ see things from His perspective. Setting our mind on heavenly things will encourage us in three important areas, Humility, Unity and Charity. Through out the book of Philippians Paul encourages the believers to be of one mind. The verses we just read emphasized that. There are only three commands in the New Testament where we are told to have a certain mind. Colossians 3:2 is one. Another is found in 2 Corinthians 13:11 where unity is commanded. But how can we be of one mind? Whose mind should we have? The humble mind of Jesus Christ.
Paul gives a third command for the mind in Philippians 2:5-8 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Unity, Humility and Charity are all wrapped up in having the mind of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ put aside His divine privileges for the sake of others. He humbled Himself and became a servant to miserable, wretched sinners. He showed great humility and charity during His earthly ministry. His sacrifice knew no limits, because He died for us. How can we set our minds on things above? By looking at life through Jesus' eyes. By being consumed by His will. By giving our service to a needy world as Jesus did.
Paul's positive commands are to seek the heavenly. To set our hearts and minds upon God's kingdom. The second thing Paul requires is to:
II. Slay The Earthly
All Christians need both negative and positive teaching. Warnings are needed just as much as instruction. Having started with the heart and mind Paul moves on to the body.
a. The Commands
1. Put To Death - Our Members
Colossians 3:5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
In verse 5 Paul commands believers to put to death their earthly members. From the context we can see he is referring to the earthly passions of the body. The way the command is written means to do this once and for all. Paul expresses this same idea in Romans like this: Romans 6:11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are not to allow our lives to be governed by physical passions and desires. We are to put these to death by starving them of opportunity. We just don't feed them.
Fornication refers to sexual immorality in general. This refers to any sexual activity outside of marriage. Uncleanness means lustful impurity that is connected with luxury and loose living. Inordinate affection describes a state of mind that excites sexual impurity. People who cultivate this kind of appetite can always find opportunity to satisfy it. Evil desire leads people into all the evil sins we have just described. Our desires or appetites determine our actions. Therefore we must be careful what we feed our hearts on since it determines our actions.
Covetousness is the sin of always wanting more. Advertisers appeal to this sin constantly. And credit cards allow people to buy what they normally couldn't afford. We need to be content with what we have or we will fall into this sin which God calls idolatry. This is because we make material possessions more important than God.
A person with Gangrene
Some of the tropical diseases you can catch are terrible. Leaving open wounds undressed in the tropics can be disastrous. They very quickly turn septic. One such disease is gangrene. This is where living tissue is infected by bacteria that kills it. The dead cells spread the poison to the living cells next to them. This disease can spread throughout the whole body in a short space of time. If nothing is done the person dies a painful death. The only way to stop it is by cutting off the affected limb just above the disease. If you don't it will spread through out the whole body. Amputation is the only way. This is what we have to do in the Christian life. Cut off the dead members so that they cannot corrupt the whole body. We must deny our physical members of all that is impure. The lifestyle of dead people is not appropriate for people with eternal life.
2. Put Off - Our Mouth
Colossians 3:8-9 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,
Next Paul deals with the sins that find their main expression through our speech. The word put off carries the idea of laying aside or putting off dirty clothes. Paul commands believers to put these things off like a set of old clothes. Again this command means a once and for all action.
Anger refers to the habitual nature of some to lose their temper, whilst wrath refers to a sudden outburst of anger. Malice is an attitude of ill will toward a person. If we have malice toward a person, we are sad when he is successful and we rejoice when he has trouble. Blasphemy describes speech that slanders other people or God. In Christian circles gossip often masquerades under the guise of spiritual concern. Sharing prayer points is often nothing more than putting fellow believers down. Filthy language is just that: foul speech, coarse humor or obscene language. All of these things are not fitting for Christians. Lying is doing the devils work since he is the father of lies. Lying is any communication intended to deceive. Whether it be a half truth or a sentence that has a wrong meaning because of our tone of voice or a gesture. What reasons does Paul give for putting to death the old man and putting off our old clothes?
3. Put Off - Our Old Distinctions
Colossians 3:10-11 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
As new creations in Christ we are to put off the old distinctions based on race, religious ritual, and social position. Jesus Christ has removed all barriers and made one new man. All Christians are part of the same body. Therefore we should not look down anyone according to these previos distinctions.
b. The Conviction
1. Because We Left this Lifestyle
Colossians 3:6-7 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
We left that lifestyle behind when we repented and were saved from God's wrath. God is going to punish those who live that way. He is going to pour out His wrath upon the sons of disobedience. That was our past. It has no place in our lives now! Paul uses the past tense to highlight this fact. God has made us new. Why would we want to go back into the old life which is leading others to death and destruction?
2. Because We Renounced This Lifestyle
Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,
When we died with Jesus Christ we put off the old man and his deeds. The word put off in verse 9 means to renounce. We have done this in principle through our identification with Christ's death. However we must make it real in practice. We must once and for all throw out the old man's clothes. This involves allowing the new man to continually renew our minds.
Does your Christian life seem weak and powerless? Then maybe you need to discard the old life. How do we slay the earthly? By putting to death the old habits of the body once and for all. By putting impure speech off once and for all. These things don't belong to the new creation. We must practice what we are in principle. We must lay hold of all that Christ wants us to be.
Being Released From Prison
After serving a prison sentence prisoners are released. They are set free from bondage since their time has been served. After they come out of jail, they take off their prison clothes and put on new clothes. These clothes suit the new life they have begun. The same is true for Christians we have been set free from the bondage of sin. We are no longer prisoners to it. We have started a new life. Therefore we should once and for all throw out the old clothes of death and put on the new clothes of life. After Jesus rose from the dead He had no use for His grave clothes so He left them in the tomb. He now lives in the garments of righteousness and life. Since believers have been raised from the dead we too should put on the clothes of righteousness. We should practice what we are in principle.
Can we have a taste of heaven here on earth? Yes we can! But we need to govern our affections and desires. Paul tells us three things we must do. We saw the first two tonight.
I. Seek The Heavenly
Since we are seated with Christ in heavenly places as God's own children we should set our affections on things above.
Does your heart warm to earthly things or heavenly things? Are you seeking God's kingdom first? Abraham and Lot were both believers. Abraham looked for a heavenly city and received God's richest blessings. Lot set his heart upon the city of Sodom and lost everything including most of his family.
Do you set your mind upon heavenly things? Do they govern your living?
II. Slay The Earthly
If your heart and mind are set upon heavenly things it is much easier to control the old nature. Have you put to death once and for all the sensual sins of the flesh? Do you control your desires by feeding your mind on what is wholesome? Or do you play around with these sins a little? Do you watch things on TV that are immoral? Do you cultivate impurity in your mind?
Have you put off the social sins of the mouth? Do you gossip about other believers, or share crude jokes? This is not fitting for believers. A Christian's speech should be seasoned with salt.
Are you living up to what you are in Christ? Are you putting into practice what you are in principle? I trust that you are! Jesus Christ blesses the life that is focused on Him. You really can enjoy a touch of heaven on earth.
Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.