Set Your Hearts and Minds on Things Above
Set Your Hearts and Minds on Things Above
Text: Colossians 3:1-4
If only Jesus had stayed. Think how different things would be! Think how much better things would be! We wouldn’t have this terrorist problem. One flex of his pinky finger and the Muslims would be overthrown. One wave of his hand and gas prices would plummet, inflation would be deflation, and I wouldn’t have to worry about money. One loving touch and all our sicknesses and diseases would be cured.
If only Jesus stayed. Then I wouldn’t suffer so much. Then I wouldn’t be sad so much. Then I wouldn’t worry so much. Then I wouldn’t sin so much.
Sometimes I feel like Martha when her brother Lazarus died. She greeted Jesus by saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” We sing big and powerful hymns today until we are red in the face—A Hymn of Glory Let us Sing . . . Alleluia! Sing to Jesus. But wait a second! I’m not so sure I’m glad Jesus ascended to heaven. If only Jesus had stayed, then things would be better!
We love results in our world. We want to see proof that something is as great as we hoped it would be. When the team isn’t winning and isn’t going to bring home a championship, the coach gets fired. When a little green gecko promises that we can save $500 a year with Geico, we need to do some research, compare prices, and read the fine print first. When the doctor promises that this little bright pink tablet will make all our pain go away and destroy any virus within us, we need to feel better before we believe it works. We love results. We want proof.
How much more so isn’t this the case with our faith and Jesus! Often we have a mindset like the disciples in our first lesson this morning. You heard them ask Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” They essentially were saying, “Yes, Jesus. Thank you. Thank you for dying and rising from the dead. But are you going to make Israel a world superpower again so that our lives can finally get better?” Clearly they were focused on the wrong thing.
We do the same. “Yes, Jesus. Thank you. Thank you for dying and rising from the dead. Really appreciate that. But can you help fill my bank account now? Could you make my family get along finally? Can you please give me a little job security? Oh, and I would love it if we had world peace, too.”
How quickly we become focused on the wrong things! Here and now matters most. Our earthly lives are of greatest concern. What happens to us physically becomes more important than what happens to us spiritually.
Many times our self-centered earthly thinking gets even more carried away as we gratify the desires and passions of the moment we are living in. Getting revenge and getting payback and getting the last word matter more than the ramifications of what we say and do. Letting off some steam and saying what’s on our mind suits us better than patience and forgiveness.
Sometimes it’s our family that distracts our attention and focus. We’ll do whatever it takes and pay whatever it costs to protect and take care of our family. So we lie or cheat a bit to get a little extra money for the family. We are loud and out of control at our kid’s soccer game because we want our kid to be the best. Who cares what other parents or kids feel like? We skip church and Bible study opportunities because we have “a family event” that is more important.
It’s almost on a daily basis that our minds become clouded with worldly thinking. We become so distraught and worried about money and bills. We say and do whatever feels good to us at the moment. We nitpick and criticize and gossip. We work, work, work. You name the worldly action, we do it.
It’s a two-fold problem really. First, we overemphasize the importance of things in this life and in this world. Second, we live for the moment in this life, gratifying our sinful desires and passions.
This kind of sinful, worldly thinking reminds us of the 1st Commandment: You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. The first commandment is very clear. Nothing can or should come before God in our lives. Not our family. Not our job. Not our free time or fun time. Not money. Not possessions. Not our own selfish desires. Nothing. Putting anything before God is idolatry. Committing idolatry is sin. Sin deserves punishment. The punishment is hell.
Like Jesus’ disciples, we are often in need of great repentance. As the disciples seemed to be more concerned about their worldly needs and desires than their spiritual needs, so we often have an earthly focus rather than a heavenly focus.
Yet whether the disciples fully understood or appreciated it at the time or not, that didn’t change what Jesus had done for them. So also for us, whether we truly understand and appreciate all the time what Jesus has done, that doesn’t change the fact that he is our Savior. That’s why it’s called grace—undeserved love. Jesus loves us and forgives us despite our wrongs.
Jesus offers forgiveness to all sinners. That’s why he came. He came to fulfill that first commandment to its fullest. Jesus always had his heart and mind on heavenly things rather than earthly things. We might think of when Jesus was 12 years old and stayed back in Jerusalem so that he could listen to, preach, and teach the Scriptures in the temple. Or we think of every time we hear about Jesus eating when he would first give thanks to his Father for that food before he ate it. We think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane on Maundy Thursday. He knew the pain and suffering that was just hours away. But instead of running away or begging out of it, he prayed, “Not my will, but your will be done.” We think of Jesus hanging on the cross with all of his enemies taunting him, yet he still prayed, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And we think of the torture and torment of carrying our sins that he experienced as he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”
From birth to death, every moment of Jesus’ life—all the way up to his death—he lived with perfection and with total focus on his Father and his Father’s will. Jesus did what we could not and died so that we would not. This boundless grace and mercy won for us the forgiveness of sins. It removed our guilt. It earned us a place in heaven forever.
There is nothing more precious or valuable than that. There is nothing worth more than that. There is nothing that lasts longer than that. There is nothing that matters more than that.
That brings us to the words that Paul wrote in the second lesson this morning in Colossians 3. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” Since we have forgiveness and a whole new life in Christ, we should seek after and pursue only the things that have to do with our forgiveness and new life, the heavenly things that truly matter. Don’t set your heart on your bills or your bank account or your business. Set your heart on your Savior who is seated in the place of honor and glory on his throne at the right hand of God as the victorious Savior who conquered sin and death. Pursue him. Pursue his Word. Pursue his ways. Pursue his will.
The second verse is similar. “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Don’t set your mind on all the things that you need here in this world, or how much money you wish you had, or how much your back and your joints hurt, or how you wish you were younger once again. Set your mind on the eternal life that belongs to you. Set your mind on the endless bliss that awaits you. Set your mind on the place where there is no pain or sorrow or tears.
We love results. We love to see evidence and proof. We want so bad to see Jesus’ glory here in this world, much like the disciples. So we think, “If only Jesus had stayed. If only he didn’t ascend and visibly disappear.” But Paul reminds us again of what matters most as he puts everything into perspective. In verse three he says, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” The blessings that we have for believing in Jesus are hidden right now. To unbelievers in this world, it doesn’t seem like being a Christian is worth much. It doesn’t seem like there is any value to following Jesus. But here in this world Paul says that our life is hidden. No one can see our forgiveness. No one can see the salvation that belongs to us. No one can see the heaven that awaits us. This is the challenging part about being a Christian. It’s hard for us to live this life with hidden blessings that we can’t see and that we can’t show to others.
But here’s the ultimate encouragement to help us keep our focus, in the last verse: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Just wait. You might not “see” any glory right now. The world might not “see” anything special about Christianity or about us or about Jesus. But some day soon they will.
Just as Jesus ascended into heaven, some day soon Jesus will come back on Judgment Day. When he comes it will all be over forever and ever. And when he comes and life in this world is over, then his glory will truly be revealed to everyone in heaven and earth. And when Jesus returns and it is all over and his glory is truly revealed, then our glory will no longer be hidden but will be revealed to all as well. Then we will “see” with our own eyes the blessing of following Jesus. Then others will “see” with their own eyes what they missed out on and rejected. Then we will begin our life of glory forever in heaven.
“If only Jesus had stayed,” we think, “then life would be better.” But he didn’t stay. Jesus chose instead to ascend and physically disappear (though he is still always with us). Jesus did this for several reasons.
Jesus wants us now to do his work, to go and make disciples of all nations. Jesus wants us to be tested in our faith, to remember that he is our source of strength and salvation, even though we can’t see him. Remember, he told Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus also wants us to remember what is most important, to focus on things above rather than things below.
Jesus could have stayed, but he didn’t. So until he appears again, focus your entire life and being on what really matters most. Set Your Hearts and Minds on Things Above.