If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. —Colossians 3:1-3
In this passage, the apostle Paul helps us understand who we are in Christ, and what we are to do in light of that reality. Before we examine our condition in Christ and subsequent calling, though, let’s consider the contrast that Paul sets up as his letter transitions into chapter three. You might want to grab a Bible and follow along.
At the end of Colossians 2, Paul sets up a contrast, making the point that those of us who have died with Christ have also died to the idea of setting up regulations or living ascetically in order to work our way to God. Christians have died to a works-based lifestyle, and now live gospel-driven lives. Paul is saying that Christians recognize they can never work their way to God, and fight to rest in his power instead of their own. But what does it mean to live a gospel-driven life? Enter chapter three.
Paul wants to tell us what a gospel-driven life looks like, but first, he wants to remind us of our condition in Christ. “If then you have been raised with Christ…”, he begins (emphasis mine). Paul is not telling us what we must do in order to be raised with Christ; he’s telling us what to do because we have been raised with Christ. He’s making the point that our condition drives our calling, and to make the point stronger, he bookends this section by telling us who we are in Christ twice. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God,” Colossians 3:3 states (emphasis mine). Let’s put away our checklists, because this is not about how we must make ourselves right before God; indeed, we cannot. Yet, we do have a calling. What must we do in light of who we are? More precisely, what do lives that are hidden in Christ look like?
Because we have been raised with Christ, Paul says, we are to “set our minds on things above.” What does that mean, though?
John Piper has a helpful word on this question in his article entitled, Setting Our Minds on Things Above in Summer: Thoughts on Colossians 3:1-2:
“[Things of earth are all a] prelude to the real drama of heaven. It is a foretaste of the real banquet. It is a video preview of the reality of what the eternal summer will be like when ‘the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb’ (Revelation 21:23).”
Piper is saying that Jesus is in the details of our daily lives. “Things above” are things pertaining to the beauty of Jesus. Colossians 3:1-3, then, calls us to live in such a way that Christ can be seen in us, and we would worship him in the details of our lives. It is a call not to ultimately treasure the things of earth, but—as Piper goes on to say—to “see the Light beyond the campfire.” To acknowledge that everything exists for God’s glory, and so, to glorify him in everything we do.
Because we have already been raised with Christ, believers, this call is attainable. Because our lives are hidden with Christ, “who is our life,” we are already counted righteous even as we struggle daily to obey Paul’s exhortation. Because we are seated with Jesus in the heavenly places, we have been given access to the source from which we must draw our strength to live out Paul’s charge—God himself. Best of all, our union with Christ guarantees that we can never be disconnected from this source of power.
We need only ask, and God will again breathe gospel-driven life into us, by his Holy Spirit, empowering us to set our minds on things above.
Do you find yourself forgetting who you are in Christ? How does that manifest itself in your life? How can you keep the gospel forefront in the “details” of your life?
In what ways are you tempted to rely on yourself instead of all that God is for you in Christ? How can you fight these temptations?
What things currently occupy your time? How might you see past those things to “things above”?