This is the last in a series about controlling our thoughts and setting our minds on the things of God which can be an exhausting battle raging in our heads most of the time. Life can seem surreal as circumstances continue to beat us down, situations spin out of control, and we feel unable to control our thinking. The Word of God shouts loudly and often about our thought processes and our need to set our minds on the heavenly things of God instead of the earthly things we usually focus on. A blatant and encouraging word was spoken to the church of Colosse concerning this very topic.
Colossians 3:1-3 “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. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
In effect “If then you were raised with Christ” is a rhetorical statement by Paul because the Christians at Colosse already knew they were raised with Christ from moral death to a new and blessed life in which they were entirely devoted to God. Paul exhorts them by saying as a result of being raised with Christ set your hearts and minds on heaven not earth. We need to receive this same exhortation as it is imperative we understand being raised with Christ literally means as Christians we are raised from the dead into new life. Thus we are people destined to seek those things which are above, to aim at and strive after heavenly things. We are to set our minds in pursuit of those things which gratify Holy Spirit, which ultimately satisfy our spirits and souls, rather than pursuing those things which only please our flesh. In this new life we experience union and communion with God through Jesus’ resurrected life, a great privilege indeed. We stand righteous before God because of Jesus’ work of justification and sanctification and we will share in eternal glory with Him.
Because of the work Jesus accomplished on the cross we are compelled to concern ourselves with the things of heaven not the things of earth. Beloved, we should not focus our time, energy, and thoughts on things which cause worry, fear, and discouragement here on earth. We must make heavenly thoughts our aim, knowing His will in heaven and bringing it to earth. When our minds are set on heaven the things on earth which presently consume our thoughts lose power and fade away. Thinking on the favor of God, communing with Him by faith, hope, and love, and securing our relationship with a most holy and faithful Father, lightens our load and enlightens our souls!
When we understand we have died and our lives are hidden with Christ in God we will put off all emotional response and susceptibility to worldly things which draw us away from God. As we prefer heavenly things, earthly things lose their hold on us and we are unmoved by them. We have a hiding place in Christ in which we escape notice and our lives are kept laid up with the One and Only true God in heaven. The more closely we walk with God, the more hidden we remain, and the more able and desirous we are of doing what He wills, commands, and desires.
It is a beautiful truth that Christ is even now sitting at the right hand of God! Jesus, our best friend, is sitting next to Father God. They are one, perfectly united with each other. Jesus has gone before us to secure our home in heaven just as He went before us through His death and resurrection to make a way for us on earth. It is to our advantage and is an honor, pleasure, and joy to live our lives here on earth just as Jesus lived His life on earth and now lives in heaven. Our heavenly existence begins by setting our minds on heavenly things even though we are physically bound to earth by gravity. When we set our minds and affections on things above we are choosing to love and desire the things of heaven rather than loving and desiring the things of earth. When our affection is towards God our spirits soar to the heavens rather than remain chained to this atmosphere.
We must become familiar with heavenly things in order to set our minds on them, appreciate and admire them, and position ourselves to enjoy them. David gives a glimpse of how to do this in Psalm 27:4-6 as he diligently sought after the house of God while on earth and was earnestly preparing for it. “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.” David was “on earth” as he proclaimed this desire so it was in his spirit where he sought to behold the beauty of the Lord and inquire at His temple. Trouble only exists on earth, not in heaven, therefore David’s assurance of being hidden in the secret place with the Lord refers to earthly life not life in heaven. Today, we can proclaim and experience the same. God is more than willing to hide us in the time of trouble in His secret place by His Spirit even as we live and breathe our earthly existence. All the while, we are preparing for our eternal dwelling place in the house of the Lord ALL the days of our lives.
This contrast will always exist because earthly things are in opposition to the things above because of sin and rebellion. Giving equal attention in our thought lives to earthly and heavenly things only causes confusion, discouragement, and inconsistencies. Doting on the things of earth, endlessly mulling over the inequity, unfairness, and dismal outcome of circumstances makes it impossible to set our affections on the things of heaven. Whatever we fertilize in our mind will grow. We cannot fertilize both. Double-mindedness is death because we will always find ourselves wavering between heaven and earth, sitting on a fence so to speak. Anyone knows how sitting on a fence can be awkward and unstable, and eventually we can lose balance falling to one side or the other. Why risk falling on the earthly side? How much better it is to get off the fence and take firm footing on the side of heaven. When we choose heaven while standing here on earth, our affection for the things of earth weaken and our affection for the things of God strengthen, grow, overpower and empower, and we find ourselves dead to the things of earth, and alive to the things of heaven.
One of the obstacles in setting our minds on the things of heaven is that the subject of death or being dead to anything is not popular, and we must die to earthly things. Even Christians who do not grieve as those who have no hope struggle with the whole concept of death or more specifically, the means of death because it is a separation that cuts to the very heart of our beings. We invest so much love into relationships that when a loved one dies it can be the most devastating occurrence in life. August has become a rough time of year for our family as we have lost several precious people to death during this month over the past years. Each of them died suddenly, unexpectedly, and in the prime of life. Our attempts to accept, cope, and understand death from our earthly point of view is impossible because it can never be reconciled to our faith in a God who protects and saves His people from catastrophe. However, as believers we view death from a heavenly perspective and confront it head-on knowing there is hope in Christ. As we familiarize ourselves with death, we embrace life more fully. As believers, there is no fear in death because we know the surety of being resurrected with our best friend, our Savior, and our Father! It only makes sense to seek and secure a relationship with God who paid such a great price so we could embrace this life through death.
If we will approach the subject of death at a spiritual level perhaps we will be more willing to accept the fact we have died even while we live. Every person who has received Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior dies to self, is crucified to this world, is buried with Christ, and lives a resurrected life in Him. If we remain uncomfortable with the whole concept of death we will not embrace the truth of the life we can only experience as a result of death. It is difficult to equate the pain and grief of losing a loved one with our death in Christ, but it is exactly what we need to do in order to live a life of peace while on earth. Colossians 3:3 says “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” When we become Christ’s possession, we die to ourselves and these present things. When we are dead to the things of earth, unmoved and unaffected by the things which typically shake and overwhelm us, are not dependent on earthly things for happiness and contentment, we readily see the absurdity in setting our affections on temporal things.
The grief we experience in times of death is all-encompassing because the spiritual bonds we form in relationship are eternal and as death separates, there is a ripping or tearing of our hearts and souls. But death is not the end it is only part of the life cycle. We will live eternally with God and all who have received Him as Savior. Knowing this often brings little comfort to those who are walking through grief, so we must be fervent about setting our minds and affections on those heavenly things now, knowing for a certainty death will lose all its’ sting and will have no victory in the end. As believers, we grieve with hope because our true life lies in heaven with all believers who have gone before us.
In the same way, we experience the ripping and tearing of our hearts as we die to ourselves and live for Christ. We have died! Just as losing a loved one hurts because there is separation, dying to earthly lusts and our own desires is going to hurt. And just as we celebrate the new life our loved ones live as a result of death, we can celebrate our new life in Christ as a result of dying to earthly things and setting our minds on heavenly ones. While living on earth we must purpose to set our affections on heaven, where our livelihood is assured, where we are born again, and nourished by the Spirit of God.
The perfection of our heavenly dwelling is already hidden with Christ, hidden for us in a secure place we will inhabit when we leave this earth. Our lives are even now hidden in Him – what a thought! In John 14:19 Jesus boldly proclaims to us “…Because I live, you shall live also!” Just as Christ is alive but hidden from our natural eyes, we are alive but hidden in Him, and our natural eyes cannot see it. But one day, we will see Him face to face! Are we mindful of such things?
Let us start today, wherever we are, whatever we are going through, let us begin anew to be mindful of the things of God, to set our minds on heavenly things instead of earthly things. Let us die and let us live! In Jesus’ Name!