1 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. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. ESV
This is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible to actually live out each day. Read it again in the New Living Translation and let the words sink in.
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in his glory. NLT
Do you hear the apostle Paul’s plea? “Keep looking up!” Your new life in Christ, no matter how long you have been a follower, is all about acquiring the value system of the Lord Jesus. You are learning to value what he values. How is it possible to keep thinking heavenward in a world that is drenched with responsibilities, demands and obligations, not to mention all the fun things there are to do in this world? Because you have been raised to new life with Jesus, your perspective about everything is being renewed by your Father in the heavens.
Do you remember the night when Jesus came to the disciples walking on the water and Peter asked to join him? Jesus, probably smiling from ear to ear, said “Come on!” Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, at least for a few steps. He was resisting all the laws of nature until he thought about the wind against his face and the waves beneath his feet. When he took his eyes off of Jesus and focused on the things around him, he began to sink. Don’t you think Jesus was still smiling as he took Peter by the hand and said, “Little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:22-33)
The term, “little faith”, seemed to be how Jesus both challenged and teased his disciples. He used the phrase as more of an admonishment than a rebuke. It could be compared to how you might encourage someone to think harder when they make a silly mistake by saying, “Way to go Einstein!”
Just like Jesus did to Peter, he gives you the opportunity to live an amazing life and do incredible things as you set your sights on what is above. Don’t plan on impressing your friends at the lake by walking on water. But do anticipate making a Kingdom impact at your church and through your work, school and relationships as you keep looking up.
The challenge before you is to not set your full attention on the things around you. Keep looking up. And when you catch yourself focusing on how hard the wind is blowing or how quickly the waves are approaching, look up. Instead of thinking about the person or situation that is making you tense or angry, think about who Jesus is, and what he may be up to in and through you. Keep playing and replaying Jesus’ words in your heart and head. There are many voices vying for your attention. Make sure Jesus has the mic so that you are listening to him more than anyone else. “Seek first the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 6:33-34)
Seeking first the kingdom of God is an amazing concept, but it sure can be difficult to apply. What does seeking the kingdom of God first and foremost in your life really look like and why should you do it? After all, it’s much easier to keep focusing on the stuff below, just like everybody else. And let’s face it, there are some very cool things here below. So let’s think about the “why” first.
Paul gave the answer in v1 and vs3-4. He made a “look up” sandwich by placing it in between two slices of whole-doctrine bread. First, you have been raised with Christ Jesus. It is a fact, just as was first stated in 2:12, that you are so completely identified with Jesus that you are effectively seated with him in the heavenlies even now. Why should you have a heavenly perspective about life down here? Because you are just as much up there as you are down here.
You were raised with Christ because you died with Christ (v3 & 2:20). The part of you that stood condemned before God the Almighty was crucified with Jesus. It’s dead, buried and gone forever. The whole space and time continuum makes that difficult to believe but believe it you must. Who you really are is now hidden with Christ in God. You are so inseparably united with Christ that you are absolutely secure in all of God’s promises. The full reality of who you are is not yet visible here on earth, but you are nonetheless with him and in him. When Jesus does return, you will get to share in his spectacularly stunning glory as he rights every wrong and recreates the world to be our new forever home. Part of looking up is to remind yourself continually of the powerful doctrine of v4: Christ, who is your life!
Because Christ is your life, a constant dialogue with God is essential. The Kingdom Come prayer you learned from 1:9-12 is a very practical way to set your mind on where Christ is ruling. Use it in quiet times of reading, reflection and meditation as well as in the heat of the battle as a flare player.
You don’t have to live like everyone else. Their lives are totally consumed with: careers, degrees, relationships, possessions, habits, problems, abilities, disabilities, sports, diseases, looks, size, memberships, where they live now, where they want to live later, etc. That is not true for you so stop living like it is. Look up! And keep looking up (except when you’re driving, then just glance up occasionally). When you get overwhelmed by life’s challenges and burdens, remind yourself that you are not of this world. Stop focusing on the wind and how hard it’s blowing. Don’t keep looking down at your wet feet or listening for the crashing of the waves. Set your sights on the kingdom of God and everything that you need, and need to do in this world today, will fall into place. Look up and trust the One who has absolute authority over everything that is seen and unseen. Develop the habit of taking control of your thinking so you can set your mind on the things above rather than the stuff around you. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. You are merely passing through this life, headed full steam ahead to your real life.
- It may be a good practice to actually look up, regardless if it’s sunny, cloudy or nighttime, and try and picture Jesus and the Father surrounded by millions of saints and angels in paradise. Remind yourself that you too will be there one day.
- As you look up, speak up. Praying according to 1:9-12 is how you put into practice seeking the things above. Ask the Father to fill you with the full knowledge of his will for what you are facing and to strengthen you with all of his glorious power. Develop the habit of flaring this prayer to your all-knowing Father before meetings, phone calls, answering emails and planning your day.