Colossians 3. 1-4: Mystery of a Mind on Jesus

November 6, 2011 Series: Colossians

Topic: New Testament Passage: Colossians 3:1–3:4

Intro: The Gospel Five Years Later
Five years ago this past Friday, Damascus Road Church launched publicly at Allen Creek Elementary School.  We’re five years old (+2days) today—I guess means we’re potty trained, learning to read, and preparing to lose our first teeth.   In five years, we’ve experienced many undeserved blessings, unwanted sufferings, and many unexpected changes.   As we’ve matured, we’ve experienced seasons of beautiful growth and seasons of ugly pruning; seasons of great joy and seasons of great suffering; seasons of crystal clear clarity and seasons of confusing chaos.  But one thing that has always been beautiful, always clear, and will never change is our uncompromising commitment to do as Paul did: proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.(1Cor 2.1-2).  And that is what we are going to do today…again for the 260th sermon we’ve preached here.

Why talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ every week for five years?  First, we believe that there is more to this life than living and dying.   Second, we believe that there is a good God who loves us.  Third, we believe we were created to worship Him and be with Him, which is not difficult when you enjoy Him.  But we also believe our sin makes it hard to enjoy God, in fact, sin causes men to hate the Creator and enjoy creation so much they worship it and allow it to enslave them.  But we also believe the death of Jesus, eternal God and sinless man, on a cross outside of Jerusalem 2000 years ago, changed everything. And we believe we never, ever, ever, ever, outgrow our need to hear the news of what Jesus has done to bring us back to God; because we believe the preaching of who Jesus is and what He has done mysteriously and irresistibly draws us into a deeper love for God—the truth of God’s grace changes who we are. 

Five years ago, on this day, I was preparing to preach my 2nd sermon on the first letter Paul ever wrote.  It was to the church in Galatia, written less than 20 years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In Galatians 1, similar to the end of Colossians 2, an astonished Paul asks why these believers have jettisoned the truth and turned FROM trusting in the grace of God and the holiness of Christ TOWARD trusting and hoping in earthly religion and “the appearance of holiness”.  Pursuing “spirituality” apart from Christ has been a problem for Christians for over 2000 years.  More than one pastor has proven how easy it is to build a church centered on the shadows of spirituality without the substance of Jesus.  But the last thing I want our church to have is morality without Christ, cultural popularity without Christ, or visions and mystical experiences without Christ.  God willing, for whatever years Jesus gives us, I pray we are NOT a church known primarily for our solid theology, our awesome programs, or even our loving service but for our deep devotion to Christ.

V. 1 The Search for More
But how do we get to know Christ more? How do we fill up, grow up, and mature in Him?  Having told us how we are NOT to do it, beginning in chapter 3, Paul is going to show us how to.  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

UNION with CHRIST: If you have been raised
Paul begins by reminding the Colossians that those who have placed their faith IN HIM, have died and been raised with Him.  Romans 6 says that we have been UNITED with Christ.  Our relationship with Christ is like no other.  In his final prayer for his disciples Jesus said: John 17.20-23 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.  Whatever it all means theologically, it is clear that there is a deep intimacy here. And as the church is called the bride of Christ, I like to think of it as a marriage.  Maybe this is silly to say, but our relationship is not with an idea or mystical force, it is with a PERSON. 

Now, I have been married to my bride for 16 years.  And in these 16 years, I have learned a ton about my bride—I want to know her person.  I am surprised each year with something new about her as our hearts grow closer together.  Some things are beautiful, some are shocking, some are dark, but all are part of knowing her more intimately.  Intimacy is an intriguing. Intimacy is a bit unpredictable.  Intimacy is powerful.    And the more I know her, the more I understand how she responds, how she thinks, what she loves, what she hates, what she hopes for, what she wants from me, etc.  After 16 years, we can communicate with looks, tones, secret words, or not at all and I know what we think or feel about we’re doing or not.  I have become a student of my bride because I find joy in knowing her person, delighting in her, and being changed by that knowledge.  It’s been 16 years of pure awesomeness, but the truth is, a lot of marriages haven’t had that passed the first 16 days.  There is no intimacy, no curiosity, no pursuit, no exploration off the heart—only getting through each day hoping not doing something stupid. The relationship is taken for granted; they assume they know all there is to know, or worse, relationally apathetic.

Paul tells the Colossians Christians, those “married” to Christ, must SEEK the “things above”—where Christ is. Seeking is an intentional act of the will to pursue something—in this case someone (I DOESN’T JUST HAPPEN).  Seeking means searching, exploring, investigating, not necessarily in HOPES of discovering treasure that MIGHT BE there, but in fact to obtain the treasure that is there—to know the heart of God in Christ.  This kind of seeking describes someone who is content but not complacent, someone who desires to know more, to find more, to understand more, that I might enjoy Him more.  Let’s be honest, some of us are married to Christ but we’re not in love anymore.  We prayed some prayer, put a Jesus ring on our finger, and then we assumed our work was done.  But when the honeymoon thrill passed, and the distractions and difficulty of real life overwhelmed us, we looked over at Jesus and thought WHO ARE YOU?  We have zero intimacy with Christ because we have spent zero time getting to know Him—and suddenly a lot of other sutors start looking good (religion, lust, etc.)  We need to be captivated again. . 

V. 1B Things above
How do we begin to know Jesus?  We start to look at him—not sermons, not books, not what other people have to say about Him, but what He says about Himself (Consider doing that with your bride…this book said…this friend said).  We pursue Him with curiosity, with discipline, and with joy.  We stop assuming that we have we know everything there is to know about God and start exploring the riches of who Jesus is and what He did.  Where do we look?  We intentionally, vigorously, and enthusiastically look for the THINGS ABOVE in His Word, praying that the Holy Spirit will teach us.  But we’re not searching the Bible for good moral principles to follow or religious practices to adopt—though helpful at times, Paul has said there is no power there.  We are transformed through God’s Word, by the Spirit, as we behold the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ himself.  2Corinthians  3.17-18  17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.  Paul says that as we behold Christ we start to look more like Christ.

What are we beholding about Jesus exactly?
When we behold Jesus Christ, we are looking at everything we are meant to be.    According to Genesis 1.26-27 men were uniquely created in God’s image (Genesis 1.26-27) AND according to Isaiah 43.6-7, we were created to bring glory to God.  We were uniquely designed to represent and reveal God’s nature, character, wisdom, beauty in how we lived.  BUT….men sinned.  Men rejected God’s Word, rebelled against His rightful rule, blew through the boundary, missed God’s mark, and fell short of God’s glory.  The fall of man shattered the image of God within us.  The image did not disappear, it became deformed.  Any reflection of the image of God fell short of his glory; we no longer accurately represented Him, we could no longer be with him.  And we didn’t want to be.  We love our sin, find new ways to sin, encourage others to sin.   But in our sin, God loved us. 

Beholding Jesus Supremacy and Sufficiency
And Jesus, the Son of God, our Creator, entered into His creation and took on human flesh.  And for over 30 years, Jesus fully and flawlessly reflected the image of God that Adam should have.  Scripture calls Him the 2nd Adam, perfectly reflecting the glory of the Father and showing us a picture of sinless humanness.  IN HIM, we see what God intended all human beings to be in their relationship to God, to self, to one another, and to creation.   Here is where it is amazing.  We are not beholding the one who simply set a good example or gave good moral advice—we are the one who, through FAITH, takes my sinfulness and gives me his righteousness.  He is not only infinite lovely—he is infinitely loving.  Because of Jesus Christ, I stand before God right now, innocent, forgiven, approved, defended, holy and blamelessAnd as I behold Christ, studying him, looking at him from every angle, fighting to rest in His grace, my love for Him grows and I see his loveliness and his love more and more.

V. 2 Meditation of the Mind
Until then, we SEARCH AND we must 2 SET your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth—to carve the truth of grace into the forefront of our brains.  Why? Because the hardness (or easiness) of life makes me forget.  I start to believe that other things are lovely.  I begin to believe that I am not loved. I am weak, I am accused, I am ashamed, I am fearful.

So, I set my mind on Jesus—WHO the Bible tells me He is and what the Bible tells me He did: Then, when  I feel week…I know  is strong.  When I feel accussed…I know he has declared me innocent.  When I feel ashamed…I know he has forgiven.  When I am fearful…I know He has already been victoriousPaul says it is not enough to SEEK Jesus, we must SET our minds on the truths we find, we must meditate on them, center our daily life on them.  It is not enough to celebrate the beauty of your bride once a year, month, or even week.  The gospel of Jesus, who He is and what He did,  should saturate our thinking and captivate our affections.  We must behold his loveliness and his love constantly.

Many of us will argue, well, I think about Jesus all the time!  Would your life look any different if you stopped setting your mind on Jesus?  Our relationship with Christ is supposed to be one of concentration not of convenience, of joyful devotion not reluctant duty.   We are to organize our lives in order to know Christ and to make him known, not fit organize Christ somehow into our lives.  In every situation, out of response to His grace, are to concern ourselves with Jesus, what He thinks, what He likes, what he wants, what he thinks is right or wrong.  And if you don’t think that way, then you have not come face to face with who Jesus is what He did.   I do not want to characterize our faith as an intellectual exercise or to think.  But we must also not minimize the role of the mind in loving the Lord.  This is not a matter of measuring your faith by “spiritual moments”; it is about living with intention, it’s about actively directing what shapes your mind and heart every moment.   

Things of the earth
We are easily and naturally captivated by the things of the earth.  Some of these things are important (religion, family, etc.) others are trivial (sports, facebook, etc.).   We end up SEEKING these things, devoting our time, energy, and resources to them.  Then we SET OUR MINDS on these things—think about them, fantasize about them, talk about them constantly.  It is not that these things are all evil, but it’s that we find them more lovely and even more loving than Jesus.  In our “overstimulated” culture, this is a constant battle. We are like DOUG the dog on the movie UP, who loves His master until he is distracted by all the Squirrels running by. Squirrel!  We have to seek cleansing and renewal of God’s Word.  Romans 12.2 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Renewal comes from immersing yourself in God’s Word—not to check a box or get a gold star—but to know God.  God’s Word, as we are taught by the Spirit, changes us.   Do not expect renewal and transformation when we spend 13 hours on [FILL IN THE BLANK]  and 3 minutes in God’s Word every week? 

Conclusion:  V. 3-4 Conviction of the Heart
Paul concludes by reminding us that we left our BACHELOR life behind. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  We must all come to the conviction that our old life is gone, your old desires, your old hopes, your old ways.  And this is a good thing because God has rewritten our story. We have a new history, a new identity, a new trajectory. Our past no longer defines us, our weaknesses no longer govern us, and our future no longer scares us.  THE COMPLETED STORY of your LIFE, in all its perfect restored glory, lies hidden with Christ. Peter calls it:  4 an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1Peter1.4-5

Christ who is your life
And though not fully revealed, Christ is our life now.  We don’t just “let go and let God.”  There is work to SEEK and SET.  And as we begin to delight in the loveliness and love of Jesus more than anything else, glimpses of the restored image of God that resides in our hearts can be seen. You, we, the world begins to see that really CHRIST IS YOUR LIFE—that His Spirit dwells in your heart.  Like what happens to all brides who are actively loved by the husbands, we all become more beautiful!  We see it in your marriage, in your family, even your workplace.  The perfect glory of Jesus that resides in you heart which, in the end, everyone will see—trickles out in little glimpses.  And thinking about Jesus, knowing Jesus, becomes not only easier but more desirable and enjoyable.  And as you look UPWARD at JESUS, you can’t help but start looking FORWARD for his return.