Setting Our Minds Right

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. 

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:1-11)

In our walk through the book of Colossians, we ended last week with chapter 2. In that chapter, Paul really hit hard on the dangers of following teachers of doctrine that was not rooted in the Bible. We discussed a great deal about how we can get caught up in teaching that masquerades as truth. Much of it sounds good, it makes sense to our hearts that may be hurting or confused. Much false teaching may be wrapped tightly in compassion and apparent care, but is more like a drug that may dull the pain for a moment but quickly loses its effect. Paul is adamant that we should never rely on teaching that goes counter to God’s Word, even if it sounds good. To do that would be to follow after those things we loved and held on to prior to being changed by God through Christ.

We have read of this, of false teachers and how they can draw believers into false understanding and entrap them in human ideas, from Colossians 2. Paul gives similar warning, strong words, in 1 Timothy 4…

1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-4)

In the “later times,” which include the times in which we live, we can expect false teachers to do their teaching, and sadly some will follow their lies.

Let’s not be those who will be easily swayed. Let’s not be those who will be swept up in the next wave of new thinking. Let’s not be those who surrender to the latest fads of what it means to be a family, or how we should or should not do church, or what it means to be a true Christian, or how to live life among sinners. We have a time tested, rich, full, inerrant book, and it is from God, and it is truth. So we don’t have to listen for the most compelling of teachers or the most innovative minds in our quest for what is right and what is wrong, and who we are to be, and what we are to do. Those teachers will come and they will go, we have seen that throughout history. Their theories will rise quickly, and they will fall suddenly, and then new ones will spring up, but they too will die out. We don’t have to ride all these waves, because we have God’s Word.

The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

The Lord offers Himself to us. As the Psalmist says, “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” This is why Jesus said, “Come unto me” if you are burdened. And what does He give? Rest, peace.

And so do we want solutions that come and go, that unravel as soon as they show signs of success, or do we want solutions to the hard issues of life that last? 

This morning and for the next few weeks, I’d like for us to look at solutions from God’s Word, answers to the problems of life. We know how to suffer, or what I mean is we have all suffered, we know what suffering is – to grieve, to live in a sinful world, to live with consequences of our sin, to live with consequences of other people’s sin. We have lived through these things. Maybe we didn’t live through them well, but we have lived through many of them. But wouldn’t you like to do better next time?

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)

We are talking this morning about sanctification. This is is a big word that describes how our Christian life should play out. As a Christian, we are to be growing in our walk with Christ. What should this growth look like? How should it go? How do we get to a better place as life moves forward? How do we handle life better tomorrow than we did yesterday? Paul is giving us solutions here.

He reminds us that we, if you and I are truly saved, if we have by faith trusted in Christ for our salvation, if we have given up on trying to be good enough to appease God and simply trusted Christ for what we could not do, repented of our sins, and have trusted in the Savior who died for us and was raised to be our Lord, Paul says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, raised to a new life in Christ, then do these things…”

Do what? These are commands. Ready? This is what your Lord has told you to do, so this is important. The commands are, “Seek the things that are above,” and “set your minds on things that are above.” Two commands with some similarity, but each is also distinct in their meaning.

First, “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

Now, sometimes we may think that seeking Christ is only what we tell non-believers. That once we are saved, we are good, that is it, we are Christians and we will go to heaven. But seeking is something we are to continually do. The verb tense tells us that here, seeking is ongoing, it is to be continual, to never stop. The translation from Greek to English is a little difficult. “Seek the things that are above” is translated other places as “keep seeking,” or it is to “be mindful.” It is what we see in Philippians, describing our purpose as having the mind of Christ. In the NIV it is translated “set your hearts on things above.” It could, because it has way more to do with just our thinking, it could even be understood as delighting in things above. 

It encompasses a preoccupation with eternal things that are ours in Christ Jesus. To be preoccupied with something is to really be consumed by it, to the point that it affects our entire being, including our affections or emotions.

You see, in this command to seek things that are above, this is not simply a command to go read your Bible more. You and I, we can go read our Bible more, and not necessarily be anywhere remotely close to seeking the things that are above. In fact, we can go to church, and Bible study group, and pray, and have debate about the fine points of Scripture, we can teach a class, preach a sermon, go to Bible college, memorize verses, learn Greek and Hebrew, we can do all these things and not even come close to living out this command of seeking the things that are above. We can fool ourselves and others into thinking we are doing this, but we may not be. 

I’m not saying those things are bad. They may be helpful, and many of them we should be doing. I’m just saying there is more involved in seeking the things above than these things alone. What is involved is our desires, our emotions, our loves. This is to be preoccupied with the things above.

Think about your week last week. What have you been preoccupied with? Good or bad. What has really affected you this last week? What is it that even had impact on you physically? I mean that thing that, as you thought about it, it began to change how you felt, even how your body felt, not just your mind? What is it that really got you going? Good or bad?

Paul said we should be going after, seeking after things that are above, consumed with, preoccupied with things that are above, where Christ is.

What are those things? Anything that emits from, flows from Christ – what He has said, what He loves, what He values, what He has planned, what He feels, what He treasures, those things He has promised His children. Seek after all of these things, body and soul, with the same passion that Christ has for them.

What if these were your primary pursuits? What if these things were your preoccupation? We are talking about solutions to falling into error, solutions for life in general when facing hard things.

What if in those hard things, we were viewing them in light of Christ, what Christ taught, what Christ has for us, what our future holds, and so on?

What if our whole being was wrapped up in seeking after those things? If so, how would that affect our troubles and trials?

I don’t know about you, but for me, in my flesh, I tend to preoccupy myself with my problems, not in light of Christ and His work, but in light of how they make me feel in the moment. That is handling things like a non-Christian. We need to repent of that. We need to repent of handling difficulties as if Christ were not our Lord. We should turn from that because our command, His command to us, is to seek after, go after, pursue with passion the things that are above where Christ is.

Paul then focuses on the mind, on our thinking – “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

We are to think on what is in heaven, not on earthly things, things that are of this earth. It is a matter of thinking with a heavenly mind and not an earthly one. To think on earthly things is to focus on what this earth can offer and stop there. It is to be short sighted with a very limited view of life. It is a view that says, “Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Many live this way, and it drives much of the problems we see around us. “Grab what you can for yourself, take what you want even if it belongs to someone else, lie if it gets you what you want, take, use, enjoy at all costs.” People become objects, not souls, and life is about getting what we want. This is earthly living. Paul says, “Don’t live like that!” That is setting our minds on the earth when we are to set our minds on what is above.

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. (Romans 12:2)

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24)

We see this battle for what? For the mind!

Philippians 4:8 really helps us here as we consider the mind, our thinking. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Here are the things we should be thinking on. These are ways we should be exercising our minds. These are heavenly things. And listen to what happens when we go here with our minds as opposed to focusing on earthly things, from verse 9 – “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Peace, the peace of God is with us.

Our pursuits, our desires, our preoccupations, our thinking, all is to be focused on Christ, and He is in heaven.

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)

Here is our position, our new position. We, you and me as Christians, we are hidden with Christ. This is like being clothed with Christ. We are not to be distinguishable on our own by ourselves, we are in Him.

But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (1 Corinthians 6:17)

This is a real uniting with Him. People should in some measure see Christ as they observe our lives.

Or, as in verse 4, I love this – ”When Christ who is your life appears.” Do you see that? Christ, who is your life! Not just your Savior, not just another friend, not just anyone…He is your life! Is He your life? Is He everything to you?

He is to be our life, and we will some day appear with Him, be with Him in glory, sinless. Sin will be behind us, attitudes of earthliness gone, no more idols in our hearts, no more fear, worry, depression, or pride. We will be as He is, with perfect peace and joy forever.

This is incredible. Let’s put it all together.

Our pursuit should be Christ and His domain. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

Our minds set on Him, our thinking dominated by Him and His ways. “Set your minds on things that are above”

Our minds are not to be dominated by earthly things, anything that stands in opposition to Him, philosophies of this world. “not on things that are on earth.”

Here is why: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

These lives are not what they used to be, we are hidden in Christ, clothed with Him. And He is to be our all! “When Christ who is your life appears”

Our future is secure and it will be perfect, perfect, lacking nothing. “then you also will appear with him in glory.” Our affection and our minds set on Him and His ways.

Let’s be clear, these things are meant to drive us and to carry us through the hard bumps of life. We have a Lord and Savior, set your mind there. Let that be the lens by which you see all other things that come your way.

He is your life, enjoy Him now and forever.

So what do you do if you say, “I’m really struggling here because I’m not doing that. That’s not my pursuit right now. My heart, my desires aren’t geared toward loving Christ, and loving what He loves.” These are commands, so clearly if we’re not following them we should confess and repent. We can go to the Lord and say, “This doesn’t describe me, and I need to confess that sin, and repent of that.” We can ask Him to change our hearts and minds, and to give us the strength to walk in these ways that He’s commanded us to walk. We’re not left on our own to do this.

We can go beyond that even, and make a plan. Ask, “How am I going to do this? What am I going to do Monday morning that will help me focus my heart and mind on Christ throughout the day?” Write yourself a plan, give yourself some homework. “What passages am I going to be in, what am I going to read, how am I going to pray differently with these things in mind? How am I going to seek Him with all of my heart?”

You may say, “I don’t know how to do that either!” Seek counsel, ask someone around you that loves you. Ask the question, “How can you help me do this? What’s been helpful for you?” It’s all rooted in loving God and wanting to live out His Word, so I want to encourage you to do that, and do it consistently.

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)