Originally published October 31, 2016
As someone who doesn’t have kids, over the last few years, more and more of my friends have began to have children.
When you have your first kid, you’re a member of a new club. You are a parent. Being a parent is something that becomes part of who you are. Your whole life, you haven’t had kids….but then you leave the hospital, and you have this baby.
I’ve always thought, “Wow. That must be so…weird!”
Your whole life, you haven’t had kids, and then suddenly you have one, and forever.
And it’s a new life. It effects your habits, effects your sleep, how you spend your money. It effects how you spend your time, what you have time for. There are responsibilities: to love the child, to care for him or her, to teach, to be a role model.
Or at least, these are the ways things should be.
In the same way, when a person begins walking with Jesus, that also is a new life. It’s saying goodbye to a former life. A parent is always a parent. In Colossians 3, the apostle Paul is talking about the new life that is found in Christ.
To understand the gospel, to be walking with Jesus, to know his grace, you’re never the same.
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.
When you’re walking in faith, you have been “raised in Christ.” Jesus died and we are united with him in his death SO THAT we can be raised with Christ.
As Jesus was victorious over death, so too will we be. We are united with Christ in what he has accomplished.
And then Paul gives a command to: seek the things that are above… and the reason why we are to focus on the things above is because it is in heaven where Christ is seated. There is no higher place to focus, no pun intended, than on the things of Christ. To have a mind that is focusing on the goodness of Jesus.
In verse 2, the language intensifies: we go from seeking the things that are above to being called to “set your minds on the things that are above.”
The Lord in whom we have placed our faith and trust, we are to continually have a focus on Jesus, his teachings, his ministry, his gospel, his grace for our sin. This is an essential step in continuing to have a greater understanding for the person of Christ and of our union with Christ, our union with him in the death he died for us and the life we are raised to because of him.
We are to set our minds on the things that are above, and “not on the things that are on the earth.”
What’s that mean?
It’s not saying that we aren’t to have any thought about anything related to daily life. The point is rather that in our areas of sin, instead of dwelling on sins. Instead of focusing and setting our mind on sinful behaviors, instead of letting anger fester, instead of letting our minds run wild in a fantasy world, instead of dwelling on those, we need to give our minds over to focusing on things that are above.
The gospel is something with which we need to be thoughtful.
I think about the military and their training.
Psychologically there are elements to the training that are separating a person from their former way of life. For men, they cut you hair. You don’t just wear whatever you want, you wear what they tell you to wear. In training, you are introduced to a group where when a person makes a mistake, it effects everyone. Numerous other ways how a person is molded into a soldier, sailor, airmen, or marine.
When we begin walking with Jesus, that also changes a person.
To recognize your sin, to recognize that you are not righteous on your own, that you are not worthy of God on your own, and to accept by faith the grace that Christ extends, that is also walking away from a former life.
God is making us a new creation. Jesus came to save us but he also came to transform us. And for a person who knows of their sin, how incapable we are of living to God’s standard. To place trust in Jesus, to acknowledge that we can’t do it on our own, and to have faith that he lived that perfect life that we could not live is to trust in a God who is perfect and who is ethical. And therefore the commands he gives for how we ought to live are also ethical and right.
When I was a kid, sometimes I’d get a savings bond for Christmas. There wasn’t much I could do with it at the time. My parents would put it away some place for me.
Too many people in our society want to think of the gospel like that. You have it, but you set it off to the side and think it’s not worth a whole lot today.
“Sure, I accepted it, but I’m going to do my own thing.”
But the gospel necessarily impacts our lives.
If we believe in the Lord who saved us, it results in a transformed life.
We can’t simply say we believe in a god, as some sort of impersonal force.
To place faith, to place trust in Jesus, to know that you cannot earn salvation on your own and to accept what Jesus offers, to have no change in life is to not really believe.
One of the best ways how we can know God is to focus on him, is to be mindful of him.
Eastern, mystic religions that use meditation, it can have an inward focus. But we are to have an upward focus. To focus on God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
It’s hard to truly be walking in a steadfast focus on the things above and to be sin. People who hurt others aren’t committed to God when they do it. Have you ever been walking in Spiritual bliss, pondering at the glory of God and told off the cashier at the grocery store? Having a mindset that is focused on God, his goodness and gospel is transformative. Let us set our minds on the things that are above.
Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.