Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Paul’s feet were always on the ground, but his heart was in heaven. This allowed him to live above his circumstances, and to do a great work for Christ. This is what he wanted for the Colossians.
Many years ago I went to a second rate zoo where I saw an eagle in a cage, sitting on the ground. A majestic bird, designed to soar, was locked up and confined to earth. Christians are also designed to soar, but are often weighed down by worldliness. The more we think about things below, the more they will pull us down. The more we think about things above, the more they will lift us up. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
When an elderly person dies, it is not unusual for their spouse to die soon after. Over several decades their union becomes so profound, that whatever happens to one happens to the other. Likewise, believers in Jesus Christ are so united to him by the Spirit, that his death and resurrection become our own. We died with him (Romans 6:8), and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.
There are, in fact, some advantages to being dead. Dead people are less concerned about the economy, the next election, or even the threat of war. They are not easily tempted or offended, and are no longer plagued by the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). In dying he destroyed our death, in rising he restored our life. Christian conversion is life and death; we died to the old, and live to the new.
Colossians 3:4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Glory was ascribed to kings due to their power, wealth and beautiful homes. We can think of glory as the best possible life. When Christ returns, he will bring the glory of heaven down to earth, and we will appear with him in glory.
Several years ago we traveled with friends to Switzerland and arrived at night. We had little sense of our surroundings as we rode a cable car to our hotel. But the following morning I was overwhelmed by what I saw. The snow covered mountains and deep blue sky were nothing short of glorious—and so was our hotel.
These are a hint of the age to come, when we will also enjoy a glorious body (Philippians 3:21). If we had to choose between a glorious place or glorious body, we might have to give it some thought. But we won’t have to make that choice, since in the age to come, we will live in a glorious place, with glorious bodies, and lots of glorious friends. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
One man bludgeoned a lady to death in order to steal her money. Murder for money is bad, but this was even worse, since he was a pastor and she was an elderly member of his congregation. How could someone who started out trying to be so good, turn out to be so bad?
Being good involves two parts: practicing virtue and killing vice. It is not enough to pray to God, if you curse your neighbor. It is not enough to help the poor, if you neglect your kids. It is not enough to give to the church, if you cheat on your taxes. Real goodness involves more than doing good; it also involves killing sin.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24), wrote Paul. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:13), he wrote.
A military chaplain was frequently approached by young people about going into the armed forces. First he would ask if they loved their country enough to die for it—and many were. Then he would ask if they loved their country enough to kill for it—which often gave them pause.
There are many Christians who are willing to die for Jesus, but not as many who are willing to kill their sin for him. But unless we are killing sin, sin will be killing us.
Colossians 3:8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
As Paul preached the gospel he saw people change. The godless became godly; haters became lovers; the harsh became gentle; and the cruel became kind. With God’s help, real change is possible.
One man read this verse and realized that he had to deal with his anger, not only because God said so, but because it was destroying his family. So he committed this verse to memory and asked his wife to pray for him. For the next several weeks, whenever he became angry, he quoted this verse out loud. At first it was not easy, but it gradually became easier. Those who knew him best were amazed by the wonderful change in his life.
If Satan tempts you to exaggerate, be careful to understate. If he tempts you to be lazy, be doubly industrious. If he tempts you to be stingy, be doubly generous. If he tempts you to be prayerless, be doubly prayerful. This is how to spite the devil, glorify God, and become deeply rooted in Christ. One of the best proofs of the gospel is those who have been changed by it.
Reflection and Review
Why is it helpful to think about heaven?
Why is it hard to kill our sin?
How much can people change?