A Sermon by Nate Wilson on Colossians 3:1-4,
Resurrection Day, 2005,
repeated Easter 2007 and 2016 for CTR church, Manhattan
Early on in his career as a preacher, Dwight Moody is said to have been asked to preach at a funeral, and, as is the nature of funerals, that meant preparing an extra sermon on short notice, so Moody got an idea. He would search the Gospels to find out what Jesus said at a funeral, and, voila, his sermon would be prepared for him! However, after a bit of searching, Moody realized something profound. Jesus never presided over a funeral. In fact, in the Gospels, Jesus interrupted every funeral He ever attended, and the deceased ended up walking home alive again! Stupendous!
About a hundred years before Dwight Moody, there was a French prince, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, who liked to tell the story of a conversation he had with a chap who was trying to start a new rival religion to Christianity. (Such religious innovation was apparently in vogue among the nobility during the French revolution.) This chap was complaining to Charles, however, that even though he had worked out a brilliant philosophical system, he was having trouble making any converts, so he asked Charles, “What do you suggest I do?”
“I should recommend,” replied Charles, “that you get yourself crucified, and then die, but be sure to rise again three days later!”
Our Lord Jesus is an amazingly-singular person, who has founded the most powerful religious movement in history, and one of the most amazing things about Him is his power over death.
I want to challenge you, to consider your life on earth in light of His resurrection. The apostle Paul states this challenge in his letter to the Colossians:
“Therefore, if you were raised in Christ, seek the things above, where the Christ is sitting on the right hand of God. Mind the things above, not the things on the earth. For you died, and your life has been hidden together within the Christ in God. Whenever the Christ (your life) shall be revealed, then also you together with Him will be revealed in glory. (Colossians - 3:1-4, NAW Translation)
Do you believe that Jesus is alive from the dead? There are plenty of logical reasons to believe it:
· There’s the fact that He disappeared and no dead body has ever been found despite the desperate attempts of all His enemies to produce one.
· And there’s the fact that all His friends, even under threat of death, went to their graves insisting that they had seen Him alive after He had died on the cross. Hundreds of them.
· But we ultimately believe in the resurrection out of faith in God. The Bible tells us that Jesus rose from the dead, and we believe God’s word.
This passage in Colossians has an IF in it. “If you were raised in Christ…” So we must first figure out which side of the IF we are on. Were you raised in Christ, or were you not raised in Christ.?
There are many passages that speak of how the resurrection happens. Let’s look at them:
· No one can come to me unless the Father draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:39)
· you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God who raised Him from the dead (Col 2:12)
Do you have what it takes? An all-powerful God, faith in Him, and taking the step of obedience and identification with Him in baptism? O.K. Then we have established the potential that you could have been raised. But our passage in Colossians does not say, If you have the potential for being raised, but If you HAVE been raised. Does the Scripture give us assurance that we have actually been raised?
· Eph 2:6, God raised us up with Him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
· Col 2:12 You were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God , who raised Him from the dead.
We who are believers have been raised, and so we can go on to the THEN part of this IF-THEN statement in Colossians 3. IF we have been raised, THEN it makes a difference in how we live!
“Therefore, if you were raised in Christ, seek the things above, where the Christ is sitting on the right hand of God. 2 Mind the things above, not the things on the earth.”
Belief in the resurrection requires a radical reorganization of earthly life to align with our heavenly life. Instead of drawing our life out of the earth, it involves drawing heavenly life down to earth (REPEAT). That’s why Jesus organized the Lord’s Prayer like He did when He taught His disciples to pray. The very first things on our mind should be,
There are many other passages that talk about how our thoughts should be consumed with heavenly things. Here are a few of them:
· Matt 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”
· Philippians 4:8 “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”
· Hebrews 11: 13-16 “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.
· Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith…”
“If you were raised in Christ, seek the things above…Mind the things above, not the things on the earth.” You have a different nature as one who has been raised with Christ. Your nature is such that it would be absurd for you to seek things on earth and think about earthly things.
In his book, The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis commented, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased!”
It’s so easy to focus on the interesting things in front of our faces. Like the child in the slum, the mud is right there to be played with. The thought of a holiday at sea seems too remote to excite any real interest.
· Do you think about how you can make more money? Do you dream of being rich? Do you pursue schemes for making money quickly? Do you worry about protecting your investments? Or is money something you receive as God’s providence to cover your needs. Setting your mind on things above would mean doing good work as unto the Lord to honor Jesus, and considering the money you make a means to pay for the kingdom of God to be established in your home, your church, and the world.
· Giving is the antidote to greed. It is the giving up of riches in this life to gain possessions from God.
· Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21)
· Do you think about the opposite sex in terms of the pleasure you can draw to yourself? That is setting your mind on earthly things.
· We should approach the opposite sex in order to bring the blessing of God to them, and if married, we can be the instruments for God to create new living souls on this earth through having children.
· Do you think a lot about food? Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. (John 4:34) Not “What will I eat next” but “God, what do You have next for me to do?”
· Fasting is a means of denying the pleasure of food in the present to gain greater pleasure in God.
· Do you look at food in terms of what pleasure you can draw from it, or is it merely a means to strengthen us for our heavenly purposes on earth – a means in which we can certainly take delight and be thankful for, but which is nevertheless a means.
· What is free time for? Is it a time to throw off constraint and seek pleasure for yourself? What do you do when you are off work, out of school, and don’t have immediate responsibilities at home? Is it a time to switch on the TV, numb our minds with music, relax at the bar, browse the mall, play games, or wander aimlessly through the internet? I submit to you that our leisure time is the true test of our faith. We certainly need rest from work, but oftentimes we take too much rest or we spend our rest time seeking to be renewed by earthly things rather than by God. Our leisure time should be spent seeking the things above, thinking about heavenly things, hiding with Christ in God. In your reading, are you seeking the things above? When you listen to music, is it stimulating your mind to think about heavenly things? When you spend time with friends on the phone or on the playing field, are you bringing the kingdom of God to them?
· Parents have a special temptation to set their minds on earthly things when it comes to children, although it can happen in any other human relationship. Do you draw meaning in life from the dependence of your children upon you? Is the earthly success of your children so important that you would sleight heavenly things to ensure it? Do you allow the constant messes your children make to take your mind off Christ?
· Well, if you were raised in Christ, seek the things above, where the Christ is sitting on the right hand of God. Mind the things above, not the things on the earth. For you died, and your life has been hidden together within the Christ in God.
If you are Christian, you are dead. You are a corpse.
Dead people cannot advance up the corporate ladder.
Dead people do not care what others think of them anymore.
Dead people don’t get excited at the sight of something interesting.
Dead people are not looking forward to their next meal.
Dead people are not thinking about the next show.
They’re incapable of enjoying themselves on earth anymore.
If you are a believer, then you have died with Christ.
I remember a funny story that a friend of mine told me about this. Steve Ward had been reading about how he had died with Christ, identifying with Christ’s death in baptism. One day he was driving along the highway in Eastern Tennessee in his pickup truck and he saw a hitchhiker. He stopped to pick the guy up, and they talked a little bit as he drove along. Then the hitchhiker pulled a revolver out of his bag, pointed it at Steve and said, “I’m going to kill you.” Without skipping a beat, Steve replied, “It wouldn’t do much good, because I’m already dead. I died in 1964.” Steve says the hitchhiker’s eyes just got real big and he started reaching for the door handle. That hitchhiker didn’t want to have anything to do with a ghost!
Part of what it means that our life is now hidden is that we are carrying eternal life hidden in a mortal body. We have life that is hidden in Christ in heaven and is not clearly seen on earth. We are inbetween two resurrections, the one which we have already received and one yet to come.
There is a resurrection yet to come.
· 2 Cor 4:14 “He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence,
· John 6:40, I will raise him up on the last day
· I Cor 6:14; God will also raise us up by His power
· 15:52, At the last trumpet… the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed
Note the future tense verb “will raise/will be raised” in each.
Col 3:4 Whenever the Christ (your life) shall be revealed, then also you together with Him will be revealed in glory.
That is heaven! That is something to look forward to! That is worth living for! That kind of glory is worth seeking and setting my mind on! For this reason, we who have been raised in Christ, also set our hopes on this glory to come:
· I am the resurrection and the life, Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live (John 11:24)
· Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40)
· This hope gave Paul confidence to go on trial in the Roman court system. “It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial” (Acts 23:6; 24:15)
· It gave Paul hope and courage to fight “beasts” at Ephesus (I Cor. 15:32)
· It upheld martyrs who “were tortured, refusing to accept release to that they might rise again to a better life.” (Heb 11:35 – referring to 2 Maccabees 7)
Richard Baxter, the puritan pastor wrote in 1649, “If then there be so certain and glorious a rest for the saints, why is there no more industrious seeking after it? One would think, if a man did once hear of such unspeakable glory to be obtained, and believed what he heard to be true, he should be transported with the vehemence of his desire after it, and should almost forget to eat and drink, and should care for nothing else, and speak of and inquire after nothing else, but how to get this treasure. And yet, people who hear of it daily, and profess to believe it as a fundamental article of their faith, do as little mind it, or labour for it, as if they had never heard of any such thing, or did not believe one word they hear.”
Therefore, if you were raised in Christ, seek the things above, where the Christ is sitting on the right hand of God. 2 Mind the things above, not the things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life has been hidden together within the Christ in God. 4 Whenever the Christ (your life) shall be revealed, then also you together with Him will be revealed in glory.