Brethren, Christians are exhorted not to be earthly-minded, but be heavenly-minded.
Paul said in Colossians 3:1, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
The opening words of the verse – “If ye then be risen with Christ” – assume that the readers are those who have experienced new life in Christ (i.e. those who are born again). The word “if” is used logically, as a means of argument, not a means of doubt.
Representatively, all the elect of God died with Christ unto sin and resurrected with Him unto newness of life. Dying and rising with Christ is a spiritual reality that they also personally experience. In an earlier chapter, Paul told the believers that “you, being dead in your sins… hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13). So those who are “risen with Christ” are no more dead in their sins, but they “are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12b). Our faith in Christ, the joy of forgiveness, sanctification and all other spiritual realities which we enjoy are abundant evidence of the power of His resurrection that is at work in our lives (cf. Ephesians 1:19-20).
In our text, Paul speaks of the new spiritual pursuit of those who are risen with Christ, as they “seek” (zēteite) or strive earnestly for those things above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. The phrase, “those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God”, points us to all things with reference to Christ’s present exalted state.
Since He is interceding for us as our Advocate at His Father’s side, we must seek His forgiveness and sanctification (cf. 1 John 2:1).
Since Christ reigns in heaven as the Head of the church, we must submit to His headship (Ephesians 1:20-22; 5:23-24); we must give Him pre-eminence in all the affairs of our life (Colossians 1:18); we must seek to be nourished up in the fullness that He grants us as our Head (cf. Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 2:10, 19); we must seek to grow unto the Head, even our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:15); and we must seek to be knitted together as His body (Colossians 2:19).
Since He is preparing a place for us in heaven, let us be ready for His coming, and for the heaven and the rewards which He is preparing for us (John 14:1-3; Colossians 3:24; Hebrews 10:35).
Paul continued his exhortation to be heavenly-minded by instructing Christians to “set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). Those who are risen with Christ have not only a new spiritual pursuit (Colossians 3:1), but also a new passion, which Paul describes here.
The verb “set your affection” (phroneo) means “direct your mind to something”. A Christian’s thoughts should be directed to Christ and the things associated with where He now dwells. That is our ultimate destination; hence it must be our preoccupation while we live on this earth. We are to be heavenly-minded (“on things above”) because, as Paul says in Philippians 3:20, “For our conversation (or citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ”.
What are your great interests? The great object of our contemplation should be the celestial city that Jesus is preparing for us. Readiness for that final home must be our greatest passion on earth.
While we are exhorted to be heavenly-minded, we are also cautioned not to be earthly-minded – “not on things on the earth”. Our affections should not be placed on wealth and health, houses and lands, honour and pleasure, etc. Neither should our passions be the worldly fashions and corrupting entertainment of this world. Worldly lust must be denied. The deeds of the flesh, which are sinful, must be mortified. No provision should be made for the encroachment of worldly allurements.
While Christ and heaven draw us upwards, the world and its charms draw us downwards. Let us not yield to the pull of earthly things, but earnestly pursue heavenly things. Let us not love things that are earthly and perishing, but rather those that are heavenly and everlasting. The apostle John admonishes us in 1 John 2:15-16, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
Christians must always be conscious and deliberate to prefer and pursue heavenly and eternal matters above earthly and carnal matters. Unless our affections are set on heavenly matters, we will never appropriately seek after them. Let Christ and heavenly things be our greatest concern, passion and pursuit. Let us be desirous of everything that fixes us to heaven and its eternal glory.