At times we all need a new start. Even a short break or vacation can provide a refresh. I enjoy long weekends. We don't often take them as a family, but it is always a refreshing time when we do. To drive somewhere different, to see other roads and different scenes. It always seems to be a breath of fresh air.
Paul, in Colossians 3, shifts the focus of his letter. We have discussed several cultural pressures seeking to distract Christians from focusing on Jesus. Pressures such as dietary laws and observing special holy days in chapter 2. Forces challenging Christians to supplement the message of Christ with something more. Paul has stressed the importance of remaining focused on Jesus. Jesus is all-sufficient. Nothing more is needed.
Continuing, Paul challenges the church to focus on things above (3:2). Don't be distracted! Through the final half of his letter, we will see practical examples of being a Christian. A resurrected life in Christ lives in a new way. Christians are to live in the present as God's new creation will be. This type of life is a new start.
Colossians 3:1–4 (NIV)
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Being raised with Christ is a new start. With Christ is not traveling the same roads we always have.
Paul has taught that all wisdom is in Christ (2:1-5). Therefore, since all wisdom is in Christ, Christians should walk in His wisdom.
Colossians 2:6–7 (NIV)
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."
Identified with Christ, Christians are not identified through Jewish law (2:11-17). Dying with Christ, Christians are not held captive to the elementary principles of the world (2:20). Clinging to such rules for salvation would result in losing the reward Christians possess (2:18-19).
Colossians 2:18–19 (NIV)
"Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow."
Chapter 3 marks a significant pivot in Paul's letter to the Colossians. In the verses read earlier (3:1-4), Paul draws from themes he has mentioned to provide a true alternative to the cultural pressures seeking to draw their focus from Christ.
SEEK THINGS ABOVE
Colossians 3:1–2 (NIV)
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."
In these few lines, Paul stresses that those in Colossae have been raised with Christ. As those who have been raised with Christ, their lives should be different. Our interests, minds, ambitions, and outlook are to be centered on Christ.
Staying centered on Christ will take effort. To "set your heart on things above" implies to "keep seeking" things above. In our lives, there will be pressures seeking to pull our focus away from Christ. However, we must realize who has all authority (ref: Col. 3:1; Matt. 28:18). As Christians, our focus should be on heaven and seeing heaven as a reality here on earth (see: Matt. 6:10).
HIDDEN WITH CHRIST
Colossians 3:3–4 (NIV)
"For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."
As those raised with Christ, Paul also teaches that we have died with Christ and that our life is now hidden in Him. Therefore, as Christians, we have put away the former practices of our lives. Paul stated this in (2:20).
Colossians 2:20 (NIV)
"Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules"
The difficulty is that we tend to return to familiar things. The basic principles of this world seem normal and comfortable.
Traveling the same roads becomes comfortable, and they become familiar. So often, we can get in our cars and commute to work, get there and not even realize we've been on the road.
Many times, we return to what feels normal. But what may seem ordinary and comfortable will often trap us. Destructive patterns and choices that we make can often become the default. Comfortable will seldom challenge us. The risk is slipping back to the very things we have died to and being enslaved again. Paul's reminder is that we have died to our former enslavement, and there is no need to resuscitate what has been put off.
The new life is "hidden with Christ in God." We have joined Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection when we were united with him in baptism.
Romans 6:3–5 (NIV)
"Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his."
Hidden with Christ is both a place of safety and security. In (2:13), Paul said we were dead in our sin. In Christ is where new life begins. Christ is life!
Paul's direction is for Christians to look upward, to set our minds on things above, and to look forward to the glorious return of Christ. When he returns, we will be with him.
BRIDGING THE CONTEXT
Chapter 3 of Colossians marks a pivot in Paul's letter. A new life in Christ is not following the same patterns of the past. Instead, a new life in Christ will be focused on him as we look upward and forward. Moving forward in his letter, Paul will begin to practically demonstrate what God's kingdom on earth looks like.
Our challenge today is to live as God's new creation. Doing so will mean demonstrating what it is for God's kingdom to be on earth as it is in heaven. A new start in a broken world.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER?
What old patterns are you holding on to?
Where do we need to let go and seek things above?
Unless otherwise noted; Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by Permission. All rights reserved worldwide. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).
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