Colossians 3:1-3 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
Heaven is where our focus and attention belong as Christians, in spite of how deeply we desire to invest ourselves in the world in which we now live. Honestly, how much time don’t we spend trying to make ourselves as comfortable as possible, making ourselves financially secure, extending our lives as long as we can, improving our standard of living-our community- our world? We spend a colossal amount of time focusing upon the quality of the life we live right here.
Some of that attention may serve God and care for the needs of my neighbor. But let’s not fool ourselves. More of it serves to make me worldly. It gratifies my selfish cravings. And what does our fascination with the immediate landscape get us? So long as we keep thinking about the evening news, the aches and pains of our bodies we try to fix but can’t, the never ending mountain of work we can’t get on top of, the fear we have of school shootings and terrorists and hurricanes, the scandals of our government leaders, the more pessimistic and depressed we get. These things kill the spirit.
We need to set our hearts and minds on things above. Doing so is no mere escape, like a trip to the movies to get my mind off life for a while. No, the reasons Paul gives for urging us are far more compelling than that.
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” We died? How? When? He is referring to the death we died with Jesus since he went to the cross as our substitute. Our worldly obsessions, our selfish cravings, our moral failures–all of them were nailed to the cross when Jesus died. That life is buried and gone as far as God is concerned. He doesn’t hold it against us. It is just a corpse to his eyes. We don’t believe in reincarnation, but every Christian does have a past life in one sense. It is the sum total of his life of sin, the life of his sinful nature–past, present, and future–which Jesus took to the cross and paid for with his life. That’s how God sees it. No need to dig that corpse of a sinful, worldly life up and keep looking at it.
But there is so much more than a death here. “…your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Jesus is not just our death. He’s our life! He is still our substitute, not just at the cross, but even now at God’s right hand in heaven. When God wants to see what you look like to him, he doesn’t have to go searching for you. He can turn to his Son, seated in glory at his right hand, and there he sees you and me as glorious, perfect creatures, because our lives are hidden with Christ in God.
What happens when all of a Christian’s focus is on his existence here in this world? He is constantly confronted with his own frequent moral failures. His life is full of disappointments and troubles. Relationships are messed up. Career goals don’t pan out. His body is subject to sickness and decay. Death is inevitable. If that is all the input we receive, won’t we see ourselves as dying failures and act accordingly?
But that life died with Christ at the cross. Our real life is hidden with Christ in God. God assures us that we really look like Jesus in all his glory. Because of the forgiveness of sins we are holy saints. We are children of God. We are creatures of heaven.
When we believe that, won’t it make all the difference for our lives? Don Matzat tells the story of a man he once met who worked as a janitor. He had immigrated to this country from Iran. There he had been a high official in the court of the Shah of Iran, the ruler of that country before the Ayatollah took over. Because of the way the man carried himself, and spoke, and behaved, you didn’t get the idea that you were talking to a janitor. He continued to see himself as someone important. He believed that one day he would be restored to his former position. That was his identity, and it drove the way that man lived.
See your life above, hidden with Christ, where you are seated with him at God’s right hand in glory. Then you will live like those who died and rose, who died to sin with Christ and rose with him to heavenly life.