2018-11-11 Seek the Things Above

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          November 11, 2018

 

“Seek the Things Above”
Colossians 3:1-4

Today, in our punctuated sermon series through Colossians, we reach the third chapter—and, in so doing, we reach the letter’s major content shift.  We leave the doctrinally focused first two chapters, in which we learn what to believe, and we enter the ethically focused final two chapters—in which we learn how to behave in the light of what we believe.  As we embark upon how to behave in Christ—now knowing what to believe in Him—let this command frame the rest of this letter: “Seek the things above.”  Hear now the Word of the Lord.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

Paul, led by the Spirit, begins this paragraph with a conditional clause, “If you have been raised with Christ….”  The if in this clause, for the Christian, is rhetorical.  That is, you and I who are in Christ have been raised in Him.  Remember, as God identifies us with His Son in His death, so also He identifies us with His Son in His risen, abundant, eternal life (cf. Colossians 2:12).  Jesus affirms this from His own lips on the night of His betrayal, saying to the Eleven, “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19).  Because He lives, and because we live, then, let us in God’s glorious power seek the things above.

Let us seek the things above, because that—after all—is where Christ is, where Christ reigns, and from whence He shall come again upon the Father’s cue to consummate redemptive history and God’s eternal plan.[1]  Those things that are above, then, let us seek.  Let us seek the things above, according to the senses of the underlying Greek verb (zeteo [zhtew]), with intensity, with effort, with intentionality, and so forth.  As we, to use the vernacular, get after it in seeking the things above, may He bless us by His grace in the seeking of Him.

Paul continues similarly in the Spirit, urging us to set (literally ponder: Greek phroneo [fronew]) our minds on the things above—not the things on the earth.  How, then, shall we set our minds on the things above?  We get a list of proper deeds that reflect minds set Heaven-ward in verses twelve through seventeen. We also do well to focus upon the Being of our triune God—especially as denoted in His attributes.  We also do well to note His works—what He has done in creation and in providence.  We also do well when we reflect deeply upon the things dear to His heart—such as His Church, the advance of His Gospel, His praise, and the like.  Let us fix our minds on these and like things—and, in the doing, we shall comply with Scripture here.

Conversely, we must not set our minds on the things of earth.  We have a list of earthly, unspiritual, to-be-avoided behaviors in verses five through eleven.  We further avoid undue focus upon the things of earth when we focus not upon that which this world applauds—such as wealth, status, influence, and the like.  True, these are useful tools in God’s service, but that is all they are.  Too often they become objects of worship, or idols. This will not do.  Also, let us note that these will perish over time—whereas God, His ways, and His things do not.  Thus, let us focus not on the things of earth.

Now come two strong motivations to comply with these commands to seek the things above and to set our minds upon them.  First, note a fact: We have died—to self, to life outside of God in Christ, and so forth.  Note Paul’s remark to the Galatian church, and to us, “I am crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians ii.20).  In short, we have died to the things of earth—and, for this reason, let us not set our minds and hearts upon them.  Our life, rather, is hidden with Christ in God.  Its source cannot be known by others who are unregenerate, and it is kept safe by the sealing work of the Spirit.  Again, we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God.

Now, second, comes a precious promise: We shall appear with Christ in glory at His appearing.  Note Paul’s Spirit-led phrasing: Christ, Who is our life.  Hence, Jesus Christ is no mere part of our life.  Nor is He merely the highest part of our life.  Christ is our life.  We have no life apart from Him.  Christ, Who is our life, one day shall appear, and we shall appear with Him at His appearing—either as He appears to us each at our respective Home-goings or as He appears to us all at His glorious return.  We are raised with Christ, and we shall appear with Him at His appearing.  Therefore, let us seek and ponder His things—the things above.

Now I know that it is necessary to attend to some things in this world.  We must secure our material provision in it.  We must decide and obtain what to eat, what to wear, where to live, and so forth.  We must understand and discharge our relative and private duties in this world—to our employer and to our family, for example, among others.  We also must comply with governmental law, insofar as that law conflicts not with God’s Word.  We must attend some things in this world.

Yet let us do this needful attendance with an eye to God’s glory.  Let us, then, ever ponder God’s Word, His Being, His character, and His deeds.  Let us ever enjoy the Lord by the right use of His appointed means of grace, such as Scripture, prayer, and worship. Let us ever seek His highest and best in those around us.  Let us seek His interest in those whom we providentially meet.  In short, beloved in Christ, let us seek, by God’s grace and the Spirit’s help, the things above—where Christ is, seated at God’s right hand.

AMEN.

[1] This precise wording of Christ’s consummation of all things rises from Essentials of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (known colloquially inside that denomination as Essentials of the EPC).

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