Raised with Christ
INTRODUCTION: We are now halfway through our series on the book of Colossians, and we said at the beginning of this series that the letter of Colossians has two major themes. The first half of the letter focuses on the person and work of Christ, and the second half focuses on the new life of the believer. And it is here in chapter three that Paul makes the transition from doctrine to application. We’ve already looked at the doctrinal foundation for the Christ-centered life. Now we get down to the practical nuts and bolts. Hopefully you’re already convinced of the value and the necessity of the Christ-centered life. Now we want to see, how do you actually do it? What does the new life of the believer actually look like?
Last week we looked at poor substitutes, the things that people try to put in the center of their lives instead of Christ. Now Paul goes full speed ahead on the real thing. If the false teachers were wrong about how to approach the Christian life, then what is the right way? That’s what today’s passage is about, and it all centers around being raised with Christ. (Read Colossians 3:1-4 and pray.)
There are any number of directions a person can look when trying to figure out how to live his or her life. Some people look forward, focusing on their goals and plans and what lies ahead. Other people look backward, always analyzing their past decisions and choices. Some people look down on other people in hopes of feeling better about themselves. While other people look around to see what everyone else is doing. But God gives you a better way in our passage this morning. God says, “Look up!” – set your hearts and minds on things above.
Once again it all revolves around your identification with Christ and your being united with him by faith. Four times in these four verses Paul mentions Christ. Christ is central.
We have talked a lot in the past weeks about being united with Christ, that when you put your faith in Christ as Savior you are united with him in his death, burial and resurrection. Now Paul wants to especially focus on this third aspect of being raised with Christ. And the idea here is not only being raised with Christ from death to new life, but being raised with Christ to the heavenly places. In other words being raised with Christ includes both his resurrection and ascension.
So how should we live now that we’ve been raised with Christ? William Hendriksen sums it up this way: “Believers should be consistent. They should live in conformity with the fact that they were raised with Christ, who is their life.”
You are meant for so much more than this world can give you. Colossians gives you a bigger picture, a higher goal to live for. It directs you to rise above the things of this world and to focus on eternal things. You have been raised with Christ, and that changes everything.
I. Two commands for those who have been raised with Christ
Paul begins by giving two commands for those who have been raised with Christ. Set your hearts on things above. And set your minds on things above. Let’s look at each of these two commands together.
A. Set your hearts on things above (a new direction)
– Matthew 6:19-21, 33; Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12
So first of all, set your hearts on things above. Look at verse 1 with me: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1) The word translated “set your hearts” here is a word that means “to seek something.” It’s the same word we find in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 6:33) And so when Paul tells you to set your hearts on things above he is talking about what you seek. He is saying that as a Christian you have a new direction or goal. You are no longer to seek the things down here on earth, but you are to set your heart on things above.
“The things above” refers to heavenly things, eternal things, the things of God rather than the things of man. The things above are those things that will last forever in contrast with the temporary things of this world. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 6: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
Back to Colossians 3:1, Paul says to set your hearts on things above – “where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” Why do you seek the things above? Because that’s where Christ is! You love Jesus. You hunger and thirst after Christ. You want to be with him, and he is above. He is seated at the right hand of God. Sitting at the right hand was considered a place of honor, especially when you are talking about sitting at the king’s right hand. Well this is not only the kings’ right hand; this is the right hand of God, the place of highest honor.
It is also the place of highest authority. Jesus sitting at the right hand of God in the heavenly places means that Jesus is reigning over all things. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18) To set your heart on things above where Jesus is seated at the right hand of God is really just another way of saying, “Jesus is Lord.”
But the Bible tells us not only has Christ been raised and seated in the heavenly realms, you are sitting there with him. Ephesians 2:6 says: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6) Spiritually you have been raised with Christ, and you are sitting with him in the heavenly realms. That means that you have the high ground over the enemy. You have been freed from Satan and from sin. You have authority in Christ who is seated at the right hand of God.
All this goes back to the picture of your baptism in Colossians 2 where Paul said, “You were buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God.” (Colossians 2:12) When you went under the water in baptism, that was a picture of you being buried with Christ. And when you came up out of the water, that was a picture of you being raised with Christ. You have been given new life with Christ with a new direction and a new goal. As A.T. Robertson puts it: “We are now on the other side of the grave and are walking with Christ.”
When you died with Christ you cut off your connection to this old word. Now that you are raised with Christ you are connected with heaven in a new way. As William Barclay puts it: “From now on the Christian will view everything against the background of eternity and no longer live as if this world was all that mattered.” So that’s our first command this morning. Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above.
B. Set your minds on things above (a new focus)
– 2 Corinthians 5:15-16; Philippians 3:19-20, 4:8; 1 John 2:17
And then the second command is similar. Set your minds on things above. Look at verse 2: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2) The word translated “set your mind” is a word that means “to think about something,” and it is phrased in such a way here that it means “to think about constantly.” And so if setting your heart on things above means having a new direction or goal, setting your mind on things above means having a new focus.
As one person put it: “You must not only seek heaven; you must also think heaven.” (J.B. Lightfoot) You may be living here on earth, but your mind is constantly in heaven. You have been raised with Christ, and therefore you have a new focus. You are constantly thinking about God and the things of God rather than the things of earth.
Now when Paul talks about earthly things, he is not necessarily talking about sinful things. Some earthly things are sinful, but not all earthly things are sinful. That would be making the same mistake as the false teachers who taught that all material or physical things were evil. The sin is not in the earthly things themselves but in making them your focus. Don’t set your minds on earthly things. Don’t be thinking of earthly things all the time. Instead your thoughts should be focused on heavenly things. As Paul writes in Philippians 3: “Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:19-20)
It’s been said that some people are so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good. But the greater danger is you can be so earthly-minded that you are no heavenly good. Setting your minds on things above will not pull you away from helping others here on earth. It will do just the opposite. In fact you must be heavenly-minded if you want to do earthly good. We are not to ignore this world and just focus on heaven instead. That’s the false teaching of dualism once again. Rather we are to view this world through heaven’s lens, from an eternal perspective. And that will actually increase our service to people in the world.
When you set your minds on things above it will revolutionize your thinking. You will think good and right and worthy thoughts instead of focusing on so much of the garbage that we put up with down here on earth. As Paul writes in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
And you will also view people around you differently. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5: “Christ died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” (2 Corinthians 5:15-16) When your focus is on heaven you view each person in light of eternity, realizing that they will spend forever in either heaven or hell.
1 John 2:17 says: “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17) So where is your heart – what do you seek? Where is your mind – what do you think about? Don’t let the world influence your thinking, but let your mind be transformed by Christ and his word. Let your mind be soaked with Scripture and with thoughts of Christ. Since you have been raised with Christ, you have a new direction and a new focus. Set your hearts and minds on things above.
II. Three reasons why you should do these things
Now those are two pretty big commands, so Paul follows them up for us by giving us three reasons why you should do these things, and these three motivations are based on your past, your present and your future.
A. You died with Christ (past)
– Galatians 2:20
So first of all, the motivation from your past: you died with Christ. That’s what it says at the beginning of verse 3: “For you died.” (Colossians 3:3) Those are three short words that carry a world of meaning. Christ not only died for you, but you died with him. If you are a Christian this is something that already happened to you. It is a completed action in the past. When you put your faith in Christ, you died. As pastor Warren Wiersbe writes: “We are dead and alive at the same time – dead to sin and alive in Christ.”
Wiersbe shares the story of two sisters who came to Christ. Before they became believers they lived a pretty wild life, and so it wasn’t long after that they received an invitation to a party where, let’s say, the focus was not going to be on Christ. As new Christians they responded: “We’re sorry, but we can’t make it because we recently died!” They got it. They understood. They were setting their hearts and minds on things above. Why? Because of something that had happened to them in their past. They had died with Christ.
Paul writes in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) That’s the first reason why you should set your hearts and minds on things above. You died.
B. Your life is now hidden with Christ in God (present)
– John 10:28-30, 17:20-21; Romans 8:39
That’s a reason from your past, and next Paul gives a reason from your present. Look at the rest of verse 3: “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3) Now that’s an unusual phrase – “Your life is hidden with Christ” – so we need to spend some time unpacking that. What does that mean?
First of all, the fact that your life is hidden with Christ means that you are safe and secure. Where is your life? It is hidden with Christ! And where is Christ? He is seated at the right hand of God. I can’t think of any safer place to be. Jesus said in John 10: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28-29) Note that when your life is hidden with Christ no one can snatch you out of Christ’s hand, and no one can snatch you out of the Father’s hand. Christ and the Father are one. They both hold you in their hands which means you are safe and secure. As Paul writes in Romans 8:39: “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So that’s the first sense of this word “hidden.” Your life is safe and secure in Christ.
And then the second sense of this word “hidden” is that the world does not really understand your relationship with God through Christ. When you die physically, your body is buried in the ground and hidden from sight. When you die with Christ, you are seated in the heavenly realms and your life is hidden with him. And the mystery is even greater than that because your life is not only hidden with Christ but “with Christ in God.” Jesus prayed in John 17: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21) The Father is in Jesus, and Jesus is in the Father. And you are in the Father and the Son. It’s a mystery, and those who do not know Christ cannot possibly understand it. We can barely understand it ourselves! But your life is hidden with Christ in God.
So that’s the second reason you should set your hearts and minds on things above. Your life is hidden with Christ in God. You are safe and secure. Nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
C. When Christ appears, you will appear with him in glory (future)
– John 14:6,19; Philippians 1:21; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 John 3:2
Why should you set your hearts and minds on things above? We’ve looked at a reason from your past and a reason from your present. Now let’s look at a reason based on your future. Look at verse 4: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4) You died with Christ in the past, your life is now hidden with Christ in the present, and in the future you will appear with Christ in glory.
Christ died; Christ rose again; Christ ascended into heaven; one day Christ will return. And on that day what was hidden will be revealed. Earlier Paul said your life is now hidden with Christ. Now he says that Christ is your life. Christ is the source of your life; he is the goal of your life; he is the very reason for your life. Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) And then he went on to say: “Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19) And so as a Christian, Jesus is not only the most important thing in your life. He is your life!
There’s an old Disney movie called “The World’s Greatest Athlete” which begins with a coach in the locker room talking to his players. It’s baseball season, and he’s holding a baseball. And he tells his players, “Men, baseball is my life.” And then he gives them a motivational speech and sends them out into the game. The very next scene shows the same coach with the same players in the same locker room, but now it’s football season and he’s holding a football. And he starts his speech off the same way, but this time he says: “Men, football is my life.” And then he gives them his speech and sends them on their way. And then the very next scene he’s back in the locker room with the players again but now it’s basketball season and he’s holding a basketball. And he’s giving his speech again: “Men, basketball is my life.”
Well, what is your life? What is most important to you? Paul said in Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) If Paul were the coach in the locker room, no matter what the season he would say: “Men, Jesus Christ is my life!”
If you are a Christian, then Christ is your life. And because he is your life, he is also your hope. Which is why Paul says: “when Christ appears, you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4) This is the hope and destiny of every believer. Just as every eye will see Christ when he returns, so every eye will see you with him. What was hidden will be revealed. Those who laughed at you or mocked you for being a Christian will see the reality of your faith at last. Your faith will be vindicated before the whole world. So don’t worry about being on the wrong side of history. Worry about being on the wrong side of eternity.
We read in 1 John 3:2: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) 2 Thessalonians talks about “the day Christ comes to be glorified in his holy people.” (2 Thessalonians 1:10) What glory! God will take a bunch of rag-tag sinners like you and I, and he will glorify us with Christ.
When Christ is revealed in glory, you will be revealed along with him. Your life is totally bound up with Christ. Remember, you are united with Christ by faith, so what happens to Christ, happens to you. Christ died; that means you died with him. Christ rose again; you were raised with him. Christ will appear in glory; you will appear in glory with him. You are united with Christ not only in his death, burial and resurrection but also in his ascension and his return.
CONCLUSION: As Christians we are called to live the Christ-centered life, and that means putting Christ at the center rather than the things of this world. So don’t look forward, don’t look backward, don’t look down or around. Look up! As a Christian you have a new direction in life – set your heart on things above. As a Christian you have a new focus – set your mind on things above. As a Christian you have a new authority – you have been raised with Christ who is seated at the right hand of God. And as a Christian you have a new destiny and hope – when Christ appears, you will appear with him.
Are you with Christ or against him? Jesus said he who is not with me is against me. (Matthew 12:30) But when you put your faith in Christ, you are with him all the way. If you are feeling down today, discouraged or defeated, then let me remind you to look up. You have been raised with Christ. So set your hearts and minds on things above, not on earthly things.