1.) If you then were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.
2.) Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
3.) For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4.) When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
HAPPY EASTER! I miss being with you on this most holy of days for the church. My hope is that it will be for you a great family day as much as is possible.
Our text this morning comes from Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse. Paul did not found this church, nor had he ever visited it. It was actually founded by Epaphras with help from Timothy; but Paul was good friends with Epaphras, and we know that he considered Timothy a son. You will see Epaphras mentioned in other letters where he had provided for or helped Paul with something. As a matter of fact, this letter is an answer to a letter delivered by Epaphras to Paul as he was awaiting trial in Rome.
Paul was writing in response to a problem of a form of Gnosticism that was rearing its ugly head in Colosse. This city was located in the Lycus River valley in central Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. Along with its sister cities, Laodicea and Hierapolis, Colosse had a very large Jewish population, many of whom had been taken there by the Babylonians. This population had been there so long that even under the rule of the Greeks and the Romans, they were able to pay the temple tax back in Jerusalem, and it was considered tax exempt by the ruling authorities. Many of the Jews from this area would travel to Jerusalem for the Passover and the other two major Jewish feasts. The Gospel was probably heard by pilgrims from this area on the day of Pentecost.
The form of Gnosticism encountered in Colosse was different than that confronted in the Greek churches. Where the Greek form was all about the attainment of knowledge, this form in Colosse was thoroughly Jewish. There was belief in God and belief in Jesus, but that wasn’t enough. The thought process was that one must seek enlightenment – by earning it! One earned it by working to achieve different levels. It was like an early game of Dungeons and Dragons or most role-playing games today, where after mastering one level there is always another higher level to attain. For Colosse Gnostics, some levels required the help of angels, some levels required a fight with angels, and yet in other levels there was actual worship of angels. The whole goal was to make it to the throne room of God, to earn a way into God’s presence.
Right off the bat we can see what the issue was. It totally ignored the cross. It totally ignored the finished work of Christ. It totally ignored the finished work of the Father, which was the resurrection and the ascension of the Son. The finished work of Jesus was concluded on the cross. He shed His blood for our redemption, and He gave His life for our forgiveness. But God’s finished work occurred when He raised Jesus from the grave and sat Him at His right hand. The blood and the death opened the doors for salvation, but the resurrection and the ascension made it a done deal.
The resurrection of Christ and the restoration of life proves that the debt of sin has been completely paid. It means justification for the believer. We are not just forgiven – we are justified in the eyes of God! As humans, we can forgive a person for something terrible they have done to us, but that doesn’t mean we want to be around them. Yet when a person is justified, they are not only forgiven but also wanted. The ascension proves that the work of the cross is complete because Jesus is now sitting at the Father’s right hand.
Jesus is also our High Priest. Before the cross, in the Tabernacle and subsequently in the Temple, there was a table with the show bread on it; but there were no chairs. No chairs in the court of the holy or the Holy of Holies. This meant that the priests’ work was never done. They did not have a place to sit because they did not have time to sit. Since the resurrection and ascension, the Father sat Jesus at His right hand. Jesus sitting means that the work of salvation is done.
Paul sharing with us in Colossians says, “If you are baptized in Christ, then you died with Christ, then you were raised with Christ.” This means that through professing and possessing our faith in Christ and His finished work, through our baptism, we die His death and we are resurrected in His life. As professing and possessing Christians, He is living His life through us. Therefore, since our life is from Him, we should seek the things that are from Him, the things that are from above. We should seek the things of Christ where He is, which is in heaven at the right hand of the Father.
Paul then tells us to set our minds on the things above. The Greek for “mind on” translates to “be devoted to”. We are to devote ourselves to the living out the life and the treasures from above. To devote ourselves to God’s word, God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, God’s gifts which come from the Spirit. To devote ourselves to doing His will, following His direction, allowing Him to do His work through us instead of hoping He will add His name to what we want to do. We are to devote ourselves to following His will and walking in His power, to being citizens of heaven and strangers in this world.
Paul says that since we died and were raised with Christ our eternal life is sure, our eternal salvation is sure. There are no doubts, for it is hidden with Christ in God. Remember, Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
(Matthew6:19-21). Our treasure – our eternal salvation, our eternal life – is sure because it is in heaven with Christ IN God the Father. It is where our true citizenship resides.
The promise continues when Paul proclaims that our salvation is so sure that when Jesus comes again, when He appears, we will appear with Him. The word “appears” in the Greek translates as “to manifest oneself openly.” Therefore, when Jesus returns, He won’t be hard to find. The world will see Him, and not only see Him but see him in all His glory! The Greek for “glory” means “eternal exalted state.” So, Jesus will be seen and made manifest openly to all in His eternal exalted glory. But not only will the world see Jesus, it will also see us – openly sharing with Him and in His eternal exalted state.
Paul is asking, “Why? Why are you falling for this false doctrine? Why do you think that you have to jump through all these hoops and levels and seek or fight or worship angels to present yourself to the throne room of God? Jesus has already done it for you!” As Bob Hartman writes, “The provision has been made, the foundation has been laid, He paid the ransom due, tore the temple veil in two, and opened up the way for me and you. IT IS FINISHED!”
We may not be like some of the people in Colosse, but there are those who think that grace is not enough. They come up with new ideas, new concepts to earn our way: Pray this way, and you’ll get God’s attention. Read so many chapters a day in your Bible, and God will have to take notice. Do this job or that mission. Believe this way versus that other way. It is as if Jesus was not and is not enough.
The GOOD NEWS is, Jesus is MORE THAN ENOUGH! This morning we celebrate His resurrection. HE IS RISEN! Death no longer has any power over Him. Since as believers we are baptized in His name, we have died and risen with Him. Death no longer has any power over us. Our salvation is sure because the One who holds our eternal life in His hands is sitting at the right hand of God Almighty. All that we should want, need, desire, and be devoted to is sitting at the right hand of God. And all we have to do is say, “Hey, Daddy! Hey, Lord!”
Now may the presence of our resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus Christ, the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, and the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father resurrect your faith to greater faith. Amen
Be sure to continue to read Psalm 91 in the first person and claim it each day.