Tag Archives: Colossians

The revealed life

Colossians 3  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

As you may have noticed, I’ve been spending a lot of time in this passage and I want to finish by looking at verse 4. This passage has covered the believer’s past (being raised with Christ), their present (being hidden with Christ), and naturally concludes with the future promise of being revealed with Christ in glory. All these verbs (being raised, hidden, and revealed) are written in the passive voice because from start to finish, our salvation is not dependent upon ourselves, but upon the perfect, completed work of Christ. This reality should shatter all pride in our accomplishments and relieve any fear of failure on our part because none of it depends upon us.

This passage concludes the same way as all human history: Christ being revealed in glory. But the unbelievable part is that we will be revealed with Him. If the reader were puzzled by the preceding description of their life being hidden with Christ for the present, this verse describes the future revelation of Christ with their life. For the Christian, their life is hidden with Christ today, and will be revealed with Christ in the future. The wording here describes a personal connection and shared destiny with Christ: “and you with Him” (Col. 3:4). If believers share Christ’s destiny through being raised with Christ and by having their lives hidden with Christ, then we finally find out what that destiny actually is: “you also will be revealed with him in glory.”

Here we have the answer to every “why” question in the Christian life. Why yearn for the things above? Why focus intently upon the things above and not the things upon the earth? Why have we died? Why does it matter that our life is hidden with Christ? And, in light of the rest of Colossians 3, why should we put to death the earthly members within us? Why should we put on the new man? Why should we strive to honor Christ in public as well as private? Not because it will be easy—quite the opposite, in fact—but because it will be worth it. Currently, Christ is seated at God’s right hand; one day, we will appear with Him in glory (see also, Romans 8:17b). The natural response to such a gracious gift is gratitude, thanksgiving, and obedience. Thus, the instructions in the rest of Colossians are not a duty, but a delight. If we understand the free gift we’ve been given—a gift that redeems our past, directs our present, and secures our future—we will strive, with every fiber of our being, to bring glory to God.

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The hidden life

In chapter 2 of Colossians, Paul sets forth a defensive strategy for the Colossians: resist captivity (Col. 2:8-15), resist judgment and disqualification (Col. 2:16-19), and resist the elemental spirits of the world and false religions (Col. 2:20-23). Colossians 3:1-4 serves as a transition-point before Paul teaches how to go on the offensive by mortifying the flesh (Col. 3:5) and putting on the new self (Col. 3:12). This passage has some very profound implications for Christian living, and one thing that really grips me is the security that we have in Christ.

For example, Col. 3:1 says that Christ is seated. The sitting position signifies the completion of Christ’s work. This contrast between Jesus and the Levitical priests is demonstrated in Hebrews 10:11-14: the priests stand because their work is never finished; Jesus offered one perfect sacrifice—Himself—and is now seated. His work is done, there are no questions about it; His sacrifice was accepted and Christ now enjoys a seated position of honor because He has earned it. Christians never need to question whether or not they are saved because they did not save themselves. As previously discussed, we have been raised by Christ and with Christ and now share His destiny. His work is completed and He is now seated in a position of honor and glory. Christ would have the seat pulled out from under Him—marking an incomplete sacrifice for sins and unfinished work—before a Christian would lose their salvation.

Another amazing statement is found in Colossians 3:3: “…you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” The Greek word for “hidden” here (krupto) is the root of the English word “encrypt;” in the same way that encrypted data is considered safe, so the Christian’s life is safe because it is ‘encrypted’ with Christ. Through Paul’s use of the perfect tense, we know that this “hiddenness” occurred in the past—presumably at the time of our salvation—and has ongoing effects. In the same way that someone in the witness protection program is safe because they are hidden, so the Christian’s salvation is secure because it is hidden with Christ.

A Simple Idea for Christian Decision Making: Up or Down?

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).

At one time or another we all face major life decisions. If you’re like me, it often feels like God directs you to a point, but then He leaves you to take that final leap of faith. I often feel like I’m brought to a ledge and told to leap. Don’t worry, just jump and trust that God will catch me. Or perhaps it feels like He leads you to an intersection, where you have two or more possible choices and it’s up to you to make the right decision.

I’m not one of those people who receives a sense of deep, unshakable peace about a decision. Instead, I often feel the opposite: nervous, excited, and perhaps more than a little curious; almost like I’ve just been strapped into a roller coaster. And so, at life’s precipices, I prayerfully leap regardless of whether or not it makes sense. I do so because I know that God has called me to be faithful to Him, not successful in this life. The last thing I want is to finish this life and show up at the next one as someone who was very successful in the eyes of the world but completely unfaithful in the eyes of my Heavenly Father; a temporary success but an eternal failure.

Recently, I’ve been studying Colossians 3:1-4 and run across a new way to make decisions. As I’ve discussed before, in this passage we’re told to set our minds on the things above and not on the things that are on the earth. While it would be easy to just casually pass over that verse without much contemplation, I have slowly realized that this is one of the most practical Bible verses I’ve ever encountered. This verse separates all things into two essential categories: things above and things upon the earth.

How easy would it be for us to make decisions if we asked this simple question: “Am I seeking the things above or am I seeking the things upon the earth?” I’m quickly realizing that this framework can apply to virtually anything from dating, to marrying, to raising children, to buying a home, to choosing a college, to determining a career path, you name it. Sure, not everything fits into a simple up or down division; sometimes both decisions are ‘upward’ options, such as buying a home. Then you can simply determine which decision takes you higher. For example, which home would put you in a better position to reach out to neighbors and share Christ? Which home would give you an extra room to allow others to stay with you if they needed? Which home would be better for practicing hospitality? Or perhaps you feel God leading you to choose a house that would be smaller, but would allow you to be more generous with your money. Perhaps, by choosing a house that has one less room, you’re able to fully fund a well to be dug in Africa every other year. When there’s not a black & white, right or wrong answer, perhaps there’s a good and a better option. Perhaps there isn’t a clear-cut right answer, but perhaps there is an option that gives you more ability to seek the things above.

From now on, I think Colossians 3:2 is going to be one of the first Bible verses I share with people who are faced with big decisions and want to know God’s will. What does God want you to do with your life? Set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth. While this may not tell us what to decide, it certainly tells us how to decide. Our decisions should be made in light of eternity, not in light of the next 5, 10, or 50 years. We need to see this life as a short opportunity to make an eternal difference. I challenge you need to seek counsel from fellow believers and from the Holy Spirit to ensure that you are making decisions that seek the things above and not the things upon the earth.

Heart and Mind

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. (Col. 3:1-2).

Notice something about the text I underlined? Looks like silly ol’ Paul accidentally repeated himself, right? Not quite. These are two completely different Greek words with similar but subtly differing meanings. In the context of this passage, the term used for “seek” (zeteo) means to want or yearn for something. In other words, we are to desire or yearn for the things that are above. We are to want them with our hearts. The reason why we are to want them is simple: that’s where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Why are we to yearn for the things above? Because they are worth wanting! They are naturally desirable; in fact, they are more desirable than anything else in existence!

If the first verse tells us what to want, the second verse tells us how to want. The term used for “set your minds on” (phroneo) means to maintain a sustained, intentional focus upon the things that are above. Paul is calling his readers to radically focus upon the things above, casting aside all the concerns and cares of this world; to ignore the things of this world so as to better see an eternal reality. The best way to grow in your desire for something is to think about it. If you’re craving pizza, the more you think about it the more you want it. If you want to go see a new movie, the more you watch trailers for it and talk to people about it, the more excited you get about the movie. The word in vs. 2 is used to denote a relentless focus upon a singular goal or purpose.

In simple but profound language, Col. 3:1-2 calls us to set our hearts and our minds upon the things above. In the same way that a compass always points North, our hearts and our minds are to be unwaveringly directed upwards, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.

One of us

Joan Osborne once inanely crooned the question, “What if God was one of us?” She sang this as though it had never been answered. Well, if God was one of us, He would have come full of grace and truth (John 1:14), speaking the truth in love. He would have been a perfect, exact image of the Invisible God (Col 1:15). In our blindness we would have rejected Him (John 1:11, Colossians 1:21). Yet in His grace, He would have reconciled all things to Him through His blood on a cross and made peace between a rebellious people and a Holy God (Col 1:20). He would have done this to make us sinless, spotless, and blameless (Col 1:22). In fact, he would have gone so far as to give us the privilege to be call ourselves the children of a God against whom we had once rebelled (John 1:12). He would have, once and for all, delivered us from darkness to light (Col 1:13). He would have taught us what our Heavenly Father was like (John 1:18) because he has been with Him since eternity past (John 1:1).

How do I know all this? Because God was one of us! God did come down to earth. Because Joan Osborne’s question was answered almost 2 thousand years before she was ever born. Joan Osborne opens her song by asking, “If God had a name what would it be?” If God were one of us, His name would be Jesus. And, although He was equal with God the Father, he humbled Himself and became a servant (Philippians 2:6-7). He lived the life we were supposed to, paid the penalty we earned, conquered the death we deserved, rose from the grave by which we were imprisoned, and now grants us a gift we could never purchase:  reconciliation and peace with God. And one day, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14).