Living for the Glory of God ~ Vivir para la Gloria de Dios

Daily Devotion: Oriented to the Things Above (Colossians 3:1-2)

“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.” ~ Colossians 3:1-2

Explanation of the Text: There is a marked transition between chapters 1 & 2 to the rest of Paul’s writing in the book of Colossians. No longer is Paul concerned as much about calling out the false teachers, but instead he is focusing on the foundation of the believers. Having counteracted the false teachings with the truth, Paul now moves on to Christian lifestyle. It is here Paul comes to a point of his writing, indicating that in light of everything he just taught them, not only was it meant to simply stand as opposition to the false teachers, but it was meant to stimulate their lives into action. That is to say, because of who Jesus Christ is, now do this. This transition is indicated in the phrase, “If then you have been raised with Christ.” Like we saw in 2:20, the word ‘if’ can best be rendered ‘since,’ meaning that because of your identity in Christ, follow Paul’s teaching. Likewise, this phrase completes the process from 2:20, in which believers had died with Christ, now they are raised with Christ.[1] Thus, it can be said that a true believer indeed has a new life, having been reborn to a new spiritual life that can only come through the identification with Christ. Even more so, the phrase is in the passive voice (have been raised with Christ) indicating this is not something that any of us did in our own human strength, but rather this was an act of God. It was God who took action on each of our lives by raising us to life in Christ, and thus it is God whom we belong to.

As Paul goes on, he then writes to seek the things above, and he specifically notes, this is where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. This is an important qualifier. You see, if we don’t understand the importance of this, it would seem that Paul is teaching the same things as the philosophers that he was writing against. In 2:18, it is seen that the philosophers also sought things of the heavenly realm, but Paul differentiates himself by indicating that they are not to seek just anything above, but seek the place where Christ is.[2] This is huge, because when we recognize how specific Paul is being in this text, we recognize just how serious it is to make sure that Christ is at the center. Christ is the focus. Christ is the priority. Christ is the everything.

Finally, we move on to the heart of this text. It is a text and concept that may often hear taught and preached, but often fails to permeate our being. Paul indicates the need to set your ambitions on the things above. For some translators, they will translate verse 1 to include the word ‘heart,’ meaning that one should set their heart on the things above in verse 1, and set their minds on the things above in verse 2 (to see this contrast, read the text from the NIV). This is not necessarily wrong, as hear is an inference, but there is a greater point here. The heart and mind are not synonymous, and neither are verses 1 and 2, as Paul is actually trying to make a differentiation to speak of both a person’s moral state and mental state.[3] The point is that one’s entire being should be consumed by the things above. One’s heart, one’s mind should be set on things above. One’s emotions, one’s knowledge, should be fixated on Godly things. It is rightly said that, “What we set our minds on determines our seeking and thus the direction of our Christian lives.”[4] It is for this reason that Paul writes in Romans 12:2 that believers are to be transformed by the renewing of their mind. Where the mind is, there the heart will be also. When truth is in the mind, every other aspect of a person’s life will respond to that truth. When it is truth that is in the mind, then one can know the will of God, because God’s will is truth (see Romans 12:2b). Therefore, as the mind is transformed and the will of God is recognized, only then can one offer themselves as a living sacrifice to God as Paul indicates in Romans 12:1. For that reason, the battle for the mind is important.

Examination & Application of the Text: What does it mean to life a Christ-centered life? As Paul once again reasserts the centrality of Christ, he also tells of the first steps to the Christlike living. It was John Stott who said, “The battle for the Christian life is the battle for the Christian mind.” Steve Lawson goes further to say, “Elevate your mind, elevate your life. Purify your mind, purify your life.” Everything is dependent upon your mind. The text of this verse is literally meaning to ‘constantly fix your thoughts on’ or even more so ‘orient yourselves toward.’[5] Therefore, the idea is to orient your mind toward the things above. Focus on that which God has set forth as His standard. Seek those things and the rest of your life will follow. One’s behavior will reflect Godly character; One’s priorities will reflect God’s priorities.

Forget the ways of the world and being focused on those, but instead, let us be all-consumed with all things of God.

[1] David Poa, Colossians & Philemon, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 210.

[2] David Poa, Colossians & Philemon, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 211.

[3] Richard R. Melick, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991), 280.

[4] R. Kent Hughes, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, Preaching the Word (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), Location 4753.

[5] Murray J. Harris, Colossians and Philemon, B&H Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2013), 120.

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