Colossians 3: 1 – 4.
The Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Colossians reminded his readers twice to focus their minds on heavenly issues in this short passage. Given our earth-bound predilections, as we move into 2019, what can we learn from his concerns as he encouraged the Colossian believers to be Christocentric? Paul’s dramatic and life-changing transformation from a devout Jew who rapaciously persecuted Christians, to a disciple of Christ (Acts 9:1-31) undergirded the reality of his doctrinal position encapsulated in his narrative: “if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God’’ (Col 3:1). This is an astonishing pronouncement, where the essence of being a Christian is to have died in Christ and being raised with Him (c.f., Rom 6:1-14). It is a historical as well as a remarkable transactional spiritual truth that God substituted Himself for us on the cross in dying for our sins. After that, God views a believer perpetually in Christ. Hence, Paul was able to articulate that “for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” as his irrevocable secure position in Christ (Phil 1:21), irrespective of life or in death. However, in reality, our testimony in life repeatedly falls far short in our witness to Christ. Nevertheless, what would you not do for God having been set free from the bounds of spiritual depravity and the power that keeps us in sin? (c.f., Phil 2:5-11). Admittedly, due principally to our prioritised earthly orientation, we selectively filter out the sense of Christ’s presence in our lives, not realising that our lives can no longer be considered private as we belong to Someone else (c.f.,1Cor 6:19-20; Col 3:5-11). We disregard the fact that we have died with Christ and had been raised to a new life with Him, henceforth changing our conduct forever within ourselves. Because the believer is in Christ, he is “seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1; Eph 1:18-21; Eph 2:4-10; c.f., Phil 2:10-11; Eph 4:10), where God had situated Jesus. Spiritually, our interests must, therefore, be His interests, as we have been privileged in receiving a foretaste of what life is like in the age to come (c.f., 2Cor 5:17). What was Paul’s practical advice on setting our minds on things above?
Practice makes perfect, as the Apostle implied, that we have been customarily conditioned to constantly set our minds on earthly things (Col 3:2). The difference between the earthly and a heavenly mentality, albeit spirituality, goes beyond the instinctive simplicity of our focus on everyday life, as they are often further differentiated by our values and the issues that seem to irreversibly pervade our consciousness and motives. A few discerning queries would be pertinent to parse our earth-bound thoughts and actions: Do we know what drives us? What are we like when negative circumstances entrap us? Who or what do we bank on most? Would our world disintegrate when we lose our most prized possession(s)? What are our unspeakable secret thoughts? In life, our humanity generally shows up in our reactions, but how we deal with them indicates where we are in being heavenly-minded. To Paul, putting off the old self and taking on a new nature is equated to being made new as regards our knowledge of God and how He wants His people to live, in contrast with not knowing or choosing not to know what God requires of us (Gal 3:27; Rom 13:14). Our position in Christ assures us that we do have access to the mind of our Saviour as we become intimately related to Him. He IS our life, and our lives in Him as believers is such that we will be revealed with Him in glory in the consummation of the union between Christ and His people when God sums up everything in Him (Col 3:3-4; c.f., Col 1:27; Eph 1:4; Eph 1:9-12). Hence, disciples of Christ are God’s chosen people, called to be holy, loved and forgiven by Him. They are members of one body; so, they must live at peace with one another, allowing the Word of Christ to transform them. This teaching is not simply something that they learn and absorb into their minds but is also regarded as having a living force of its own. Therefore, whatever they say and do must be appropriate and be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” After all, Godly obedience intrinsically arises out of a deeply felt humility in our submission to the Lordship of Christ.