Server Outage Notice: is transfering to a new Server on Tuesday April 13th

2365 sermons as of May 17, 2024.
Site Search powered by FreeFind

bottom corner

Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
 send email...
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
Title:Believers united to Christ are to be focussed on heavenly things
Text:Colossians 3:1-4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2014 Book of Praise

Psalm 42:1-3

Hymn 11:9

Psalm 27:1,2

Hymn 72

Hymn 41

Scripture reading:  Philippians 3

Text:  Colossians 3:1-4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ,

I once heard a radio program about call center workers in India.  North American companies often contract out their call center work to cheap labour in India.  However, many North Americans get annoyed and agitated when they call that number and then hear someone who’s obviously from India.  So many call center workers suppress their Indian identity as part of their work.  They take extensive training to get rid of their Indian accent, they adopt American accents, take a Western name, adopt a Western diet and so on.  So when you call that number, Jim who sounds like he’s from Boston might really be Raj from Mumbai.

As Christians, we have a distinct identity in Christ.  Believers are united to him and that means that our identity is bound up in him.  Who we are is totally related to who he is.  What we’re like and what we’re becoming is entirely related to what he is like.  You can’t separate a Christian’s identity from Jesus Christ.

Yet that’s exactly what we’re so often tempted to do, isn’t it?  We’re tempted to divide our life up into little air-tight compartments.  This compartment is what I do for entertainment and it has nothing to do with this compartment that has everything related to being a Christian.  This compartment is for me at work and it has nothing to do with the “religious” compartment.  This compartment is for me on the Internet and it has nothing to do with the “faith” compartment.  The world insists that this is the way you should live.  If you have religious convictions, you must keep them in that air-tight compartment and don’t ever let them out.  It makes things uncomfortable for people around you if you do.  Our own sinful nature tempts us to do that too – after all, it’s much easier to take the compartmentalized approach to life.  The people at work are never going to give you a hard time if you just talk and act like one of them.  That’s what we mean by suppressing your identity in Jesus Christ, hiding the fact that you are united to him.

Our text this morning speaks to that temptation.  In our passage, Paul points out that believers who are united to Christ should let that fact always be evident.  Christians cannot ever suppress their identity, they can’t be hiding who they really are in Jesus.  That starts with our priorities and what we focus our lives upon.  I preach to you God’s Word and we’ll see how believers united to Christ are to be focussed on heavenly things. 

We’ll see that Paul shows why:

  1. You have been raised with Christ
  2. Your life is hidden with Christ
  3. Your glory is to be revealed with Christ

Let’s first spend a moment reviewing the preceding context in Colossians.  Chapter 2 was where Paul took on the false teachers that were threatening the church.  The false teaching seems to have been some kind of blend of pagan and Jewish religion.  Paul first presented a positive argument against the false teachers, showing that Christ has everything, that Christ is far better.  Then, in the verses right before our text, Paul presented the negative argument.  He critiqued the false teaching and showed it to be man-made religion with nothing to offer.  One of the key things that Paul used to undermine the Colossian false teaching is the fact that believers are united to Christ.  If you are in Christ, and if Christ is all-sufficient, then you have everything you need.  Why turn after something or someone else?

Now as we turn to chapter 3, Paul’s focus begins to shift away from the false teaching.  Chapter 3 begins a new section of Colossians where Paul works out what living in Christ means in practical everyday terms.  Union with Christ is still in view here, but it’s now in the context of living as Christians each day.

Verse 1 says, “Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”   There’s no doubt here about the fact that the Colossians have been raised with Christ.  You could paraphrase it, “Since then you have been raised with Christ (and you surely have), seek the things that are above…”  He’s addressing the church as a body of believers professing faith in Christ.

Then we can go on to ask, what does it mean to be raised with Christ?  This has been mentioned before in the letter to the Colossians.  We find it in 2:12, “you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God.”  What it means is that you are joined to the Christ who was raised from the dead and therefore, he is the source of your spiritual life.  Through Jesus Christ, you have been raised from spiritual death.  The gospel tells us that when he rose from the dead on the third day, all Christians rose with him.  We share in his victory over sin and death.  That’s good news, isn’t it?  When we hear that, our hearts ought to rejoice.  We have been raised with Christ – that means we’re not under the curse of sin.  We’re not destined for eternal death.  In fact, we’re alive right now in Christ and we always will be. 

That’s good news to cheer our hearts, but it’s also something meant to change our lives.  In view of our identity with the risen Christ who is now in heaven at God’s right hand, we’re taught to “seek the things that are above.”  Verse 2 repeats the same basic idea, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on earthly things.”  It might be tempting to see this as setting up some kind of opposition between spiritual (or immaterial things) and earthly (material) things.  But it would be wrong to go in that direction.  The Holy Spirit wants us to think in terms of heaven’s values and priorities versus the values and priorities that are found here on earth among sinful and unregenerate people.

When we focus on heavenly things, when we always conscientiously seek the things that are above, we are purposefully lining ourselves up with what Christ holds as valuable.  We’re pursuing things that are close to the heart of Jesus.  What those things are is worked out in the following verses of Colossians 3.  We need to look ahead to those verses to begin understanding what it means to seek the things that are above, what it means to focus on heavenly things.

Verse 12 speaks of compassionate hearts.  We’re united to Jesus and he is the compassionate and sympathetic High Priest.  When we pray, he has compassion on us, his heart is inclined towards us and he takes action on our behalf.  Or think of the time that Jesus went to the town of Nain.  As he was coming into the town, he encountered a funeral procession.  It was for a man who had died, the only son of a widow.  You can imagine her grief.  Luke 7:13 tells us how Jesus reacted to this sight, “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her….”  His heart broke with her.  He felt her pain at this horrible loss and then went on to do something about it.  Scripture tells us several times of Jesus’ compassion and tender mercy.  This is the Saviour to whom we’re united.  Since our identity is in him, we’re to pursue compassion, to focus on developing that in our lives, to pray for it.  Loved ones, pray that the Holy Spirit would make you a more compassionate person in union with Jesus.  Praying earnestly like that would be seeking the things that are above. 

Verse 12 also speaks of kindness.  Who was more kind than our Saviour Jesus?  A Saviour willing to die for his enemies, what could be more kind?  Brothers and sisters, united to this Saviour, we’re to pursue kindness and pray for it. 

Then there’s humility.  Jesus emptied himself of all his heavenly majesty.  He took on our human nature.  He came to this earth and shared in all our grief and sorrows.  If you want a picture of humility, look to Christ.  If anyone had a reason to hold his head high and be proud of himself as he walked this earth in perfect righteousness, it would have been Christ.  Instead, he walked in humility and believers who are in him should reflect him.  The branches should bring forth the same fruit as the vine. 

Meekness and patience too – they’re also heavenly things.  Bearing with one another, forgiving one another as we have been forgiven.  Love, peace, thankfulness.  These are all heavenly values and priorities found in the heart of Jesus.  When Scripture says that we are to seek the things that are above, this is where we’re being pointed.

We’re being pointed to some things, but also away from other things.  At the end of verse 2, it says, “not the things that are on earth.”  What are the earthly things that we’re not to set our minds on?  Again, we need to briefly look ahead to the verses that follow right after our text.  Verse 5 speaks about sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness.  There’s anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene talk in verse 8.  In verse 9, we read about lying.  All these things are examples of “the things that are on earth.”  These things have nothing to do with being united to Christ.  These are the things that don’t fit with your identity in Jesus Christ.  If you were to ever seek after these things and pursue them, you would be denying your identity with Christ and your union with him, suppressing it.  These are things to be repented of and hated, rather than pursued.  That goes for every single area of our lives.  There ought to be no room for any of this anywhere in the life of any Christian.                       

So God tells us in his Word here to let our identity with the risen Christ shape what we hold as valuable, what we make the priorities in our lives.  Our values and priorities must increasingly become those of Christ our head.  This is what we need to intently focus on.  This is not only taught in Colossians – this is found elsewhere in Scripture too.  It’s in what we read from Philippians 3.  At the end of that chapter, Paul writes about those who have their minds set on earthly things.  But he reminds the Philippians that their citizenship is in heaven – that’s where their identity is, it’s with Jesus Christ in heaven.  Therefore, Christians must and can be different.  We have the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14) and that makes a huge difference in our lives.    

Let’s now look at verse 3 of our text.  The Holy Spirit says through Paul, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  There’s a lot packed into these words and what’s here is rich.

“For you died” – just like with being raised, this is repeated from before.  When Christ died on the cross, all believers died with him.  What that means is that their old natures were crucified and put to death with him.  In principle, your sinful old nature is dead.  The nature that was under the curse of God is dead and finished.  It no longer has any power to determine your destiny.

Now, your life is “now hidden with Christ in God.”  Through Christ and everything he’s done, you have true life.  Remember he said that he is the resurrection and the life.  You have eternal life through Jesus.  He said in John 14:19, “Because I live you too will live.”  We have life in abundance through Christ. 

It is a life hidden with him in God.  When Paul writes that this life is hidden, he means that the world can’t really see it.  The world can’t see the eternal life that you have in Jesus.  Because it’s spiritual in nature, the world can’t perceive your union with him.  Yes, it should be possible to see the evidence of it.  Even the world should be able to see the fruit of your union with Christ, but they can’t see the union itself.  Because it’s spiritual in nature, it’s something hidden.

There’s a little more in that word “hidden.”  It also has the sense of something being hidden for safe-keeping.  If your life is hidden with Christ in God, it’s being kept safely in heaven.   Just as Scripture says in places like Psalm 27, if we are with God (and we are through Christ), we are in a shelter that will preserve our lives.  We’re in a tent with him at our side.  We’re high on a rock where there’s safety.  Your life being “hidden with Christ in God” speaks of your preservation and perseverance.  Because in his grace he preserves you, you will persevere to the end.  Loved ones, there’s great comfort in these words.  The comfort is in knowing that your life is in his good hands.  You’re safe in Jesus.    

Note that your life is hidden with Christ “in God.”  As the second person of the Trinity, Jesus has intimate communion with the other two persons of the Trinity.  If you are united to Christ in heaven, you also are united then to the other persons of the Trinity.  Through Jesus, you have spiritual union with the Father and the Holy Spirit too.  Your life is hidden in the Triune God, the God of life. 

Now there is an implication to draw from that.  If you are in loving fellowship and communion with the Triune God of life, why would you have anything to do with earthly things that he hates?  Why would you seek after things that this God tells us will earn deadly wages?  Why would you pursue sin?  It just doesn’t fit with your identity, with who you truly are in Jesus Christ.  Instead, what we find in verse 3 must lead to the same conclusion:  set your mind on things above, seek the things that are above.  Focus on the heavenly things, direct your heart and will to the priorities and values found with the Triune God in heaven, the one with whom you have such close fellowship.

There’s one more reason why believers should do this and it’s found in verse 4:  “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”  What a gospel promise we have here!  Christ is our life and some day he is going to return, he is going to appear on this earth a second time.  His return will be visible, public, and glorious.  For Christians, it will be a day of rejoicing because “you also will appear with him in glory.” 

Here on this earth, Christians are often hated and attacked.  In chapter 2 of Colossians, we find that the church at Colossae faced judgmental critics.  The false teachers passed judgement on them for wanting to remain in Christ alone.  They tried to disqualify the believers, saying that they didn’t measure up because they didn’t follow the rules.  The false teachers claimed that to be truly spiritual, you had to do things their man-made way.  If you were intent on following Christ alone, that was not good enough, in fact, it was shameful.  Those who wanted to follow Christ alone were mocked and berated. 

In verse 4, Paul gives encouragement to those who face that.  He says your life is in Christ, you are united to Christ, and he is returning in glory and you will share his glory.  When Jesus returns, all Christians who have ever lived will be publically vindicated.  The world will know who was right and who was wrong.  Everyone will see that Christians were right for following Jesus alone.  Then believers will be invited to dwell in eternal glory with Christ forever.  We will bear his glory in our beings.  There’s the hope of vindication here and that’s a comfort for those who face the hatred and opposition of the world.  Perhaps you know what that’s like.  If you’re intentional about living in union with Christ, you know that there will be haters.  There will be mockers, those who make fun of your serious commitment to Christ.  Brother, sister, don’t let them have their way with you.  Instead, focus on Christ.  He is your head, he is your life in heaven and when he appears, there will be glory, not only for him, but also for you.       

This coming glory can be seen as another one of these heavenly things that we need to focus upon.  United to Christ, we should think often of what is coming for us.  Do you take time to reflect and meditate on your glorious future with Christ?  We need to do that often.  We need to do it because, as we point our minds in that direction, our hearts get pulled along, and so do our lives.  Our lives more and more reflect the glory that is ours in Christ.  Scripture speaks about this in 1 John 3:2-3,  “…we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”  When he appears, we shall share his glory.  We have that hope and because we have the hope, we’re motivated to purity and godliness right now.  If that’s where we’re heading, we’re getting ready ourselves ready for it today.  So focussing on this heavenly thing, the coming glory, it produces fruit in our lives.    

These verses portray to us the gospel, but also the believer’s response to the gospel.  Look at the three gospel elements:  you have been raised with Christ.  You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  Christ your life is returning with a glory you will share.  All of that is good news – it’s gospel.  But then there is also the response to the gospel, the fruit of being united to this gracious Saviour:  seek the things that are above.  Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  Loved ones, I urge you in the name of Christ:  first of all, believe the gospel message found in our text.  Believe that you have died and risen with Christ.  Believe that he is your life and with him you are hidden away safe.  Believe that when he returns, you will share his glory.  It’s vitally important for you to believe, because it’s only through faith that you are united to Christ.  It’s only through union with Christ that you can and will respond to the gospel by being focussed on heavenly things.  And in that way your identity in Christ will always be consistently lived out to the glory of God.  AMEN.               


Heavenly Father,

We constantly hunger for the gospel.  We need it.  Without it we starve and waste away.  Thank you for feeding our hunger again this morning.  We praise you for the good news that Christ is our life.  Father, we believe in him.  We have heard your Word and we respond in faith.  We believe that we have died and risen with Christ.  We believe that he is our life and with him we are hidden away in you, we are safely preserved.  Father, we believe that when he returns, we will share his glory and how we look forward to that day.  Please bring it quickly.  Father, with this faith we are united to our Saviour Jesus and we pray that with your Spirit, we would be empowered to always focus on heavenly things.  We pray for your help so that the priorities and values of Christ would be ours.  Please conform us more and more to the image of Jesus, make us look more and more like him.  Make us more compassionate, more caring, more kind, more humble, meek, and patient.  We pray, fill us with more love, more peace, and more gratitude.  Father, we want Jesus to be seen in us, but we can’t do that of our own strength and power.  Please give us the gracious help of your Holy Spirit so that our identity in Christ is never suppressed but always fully lived out to your praise.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster

bottom corner