ˇ°IN THE WORLD, BUT NOT OF THE WORLDˇ± By Pastor YAU
Text: Colossians 3:1-4 June 29, 2014.
1) We were sent into the world: As Jesus prayed to his Father in John 17:18, ˇ°As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.ˇ± Jesus also commanded his disciples saying: ˇ°Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.ˇ± (Matt 28:19) It is the privilege and sober responsibility of the church and all Christians to proclaim the good news of salvation even to the outer most part of the world. (Acts 2:8) But before Christians can reach the world for Christ, they must first leave the world. In Galatians 1:4, Paul affirmed that Christ ˇ°gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of the present age.ˇ± Christians are of Christ' kingdom which is not of this world. (John 18:36) We have to overcome the world through faith in Christ. Although we exist in this world physically, spiritually we are already citizens of heaven (Ephesians 2:6).
2) But we cannot be of the world: It is only when we rise above the world that we can both appreciate the appalling the spiritual poverty most people live and learn to fix their mind on the reality of heaven. Our blessings are in heaven (Eph 1:3); the angels are in heaven (Eph 3:10); Christ is in heaven (Eph 1:20); and we, through our union with him in his resurrection, will exist in heavenly realm (Eph 2:6). Because most important to us are in heaven, we must not be entangled in things of this world. All the above scriptures provide the backdrop for Paul's message in 3:1-4 as we move to the practical side of this epistle. Paul began by calling all Christians to the preoccupation of the heavenly realm that is the hallmark of true spiritual life, and the starting point of practical holiness. There are five simple guidelines to help us unfold the power of heavenly living on earth. Let's look at them one at a time.
THE REMINDER OF A HEAVENLY LIVING: (3:1)
1) We have a resurrected life: ˇ°Since, you have been raised with Christ.ˇ± (3:1) Paul tried to remind his Colossian Christians of their true nature of life. They were not people of the old life, but of the new life which was raised with Christ. The verb in this sentence means they have been ˇ°co-resurrectedˇ± with Christ, and it is an accomplished fact. All Christians have entered into Christ's death and resurrected the moment at their salvation. Galatians 2:20 says, ˇ°I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the fresh I live by faith in the Son of God.ˇ± In this verse, the apostle shows us the union of the believer with the Lord, so they have a shared life. Romans 6:3-4 teaches us the same truth: ˇ°Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? Therefore, we have been buried with him into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we might walk in the newness of life.ˇ±
2) We need to live as resurrected: ˇ°In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.ˇ± (Rom 6:11) Consequently Christians have an obligation to live consistently with the reality. The new life we have by union with Christ is powerful. The repeated short phrase ˇ°with Christˇ± is key to our victory. Paul reminded the Colossian Christians that they have been risen with Christ. This is the path to holiness, not self-denial, angelic experience or ceremony. They are no longer living in the old nature they used to live before their salvation, but now they possess the eternal life of Christ and have been raised to live on a higher plan. They must not be ignorant or forgetful of who they are and how they should live. All our sinful passion is now controlled and conquered by the power of the risen Christ.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF A HEAVENLY LIVING: (3:1b-2)
1) We are to live the heavenly life: ˇ°Keep seeking the things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.ˇ± ˇ°Keep seekingˇ± indicates a continuous action. Christians are to be preoccupied with the eternal reality in the pattern of Christ's life. Jesus put it clearly, ˇ°Seek you first the kingdom of
God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.ˇ± (Matt 6:33) Paul is not advocating a form of mysticism, but rather, he desires that Christian living should be governed by heavenly principles. This means that the purpose, plans, provision and power of our life should be aligned with that of our heaven Father. ˇ°The things aboveˇ± refers to the heavenly realm and the spiritual value that characterize Christ. Our purpose of life, goals of pursuit, mindset and value, should set with that of God who is in heaven. One way to check our spiritual level is to see what criteria we set to live our life.
2) We are to set our mind upward: ˇ°Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.ˇ± (3:2) ˇ°Setting your mindˇ± is from phronro which means ˇ°think thoroughlyˇ± or ˇ°have this inner dispositionˇ±. The present tense indicates a continuous action. Before we can ˇ°seekˇ± heavenly life, we need to first ˇ°thinkˇ± heavenly life. Christian mindset should be oriented toward heaven instead of earth. We are to set our mind toward things that are ˇ°true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and of good repute; things that are excellent in nature and worthy of praise.ˇ± (Phil 4:8) When we allow these godly values to dominate our mindset, they will produce godly behavior.
THE RESOURCES OF A HEAVENLY LIVING: (3:1c)
1) Seeking power for heavenly living: ˇ°Keep seeking the things above where Christ is.ˇ± (3:1) In John 15:4, Jesus said, ˇ°Abide in me and I will abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me.ˇ± Heavenly living is a vigorous living, a life style it takes much effort to achieve, to over come the human and worldly nature and temptation. No one may live a heavenly life by his own desire or will power or determination. We much seek heavenly power from our Lord who is in heaven. After the negative warning, He gives us a positive promise in 15:5, ˇ°I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man abide in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.ˇ± God doesn't leave us alone to achieve heavenly living. He has prepared a way, the only way, so we are guaranteed of a fruitful heavenly living: If we look up to the Lord and keep abiding in him.
2) The power is from God the Father: ˇ°Christ is seated at the right hand of God.ˇ± (3:1c) The Bible has so many listings on ˇ°Christ is seated on the right hand of God.ˇ± The position God gives to Christ indicates the power, majesty and honor He bestowed on Christ. Because of Christ's coronation and exaltation to the Father's right hand, He is the source of blessing on his people. Jesus told his disciples, ˇ°Whatever you may ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.ˇ± (John 14:13-14) Believers can be assured that what they seek is there, ˇ°for as many as the promises of God, In Him, they are yes.ˇ± (2 Cor. 1:20)
THE REASONS FOR A HEAVENLY LIVING: (3:3) How can believers live a heavenly life is a major question we will ask. God has a complete strategy for us to live that way. Here are the reasons we are able to do that:
1) Consider our true condition: ˇ°For you have died (with Christ).ˇ± (3:3a) Paul stresses the first reason why Christians should live a heavenly life and that is there is NO other alternatives. We have already died with Christ to the world, there is only one choice to live: To live with or in Christ in heavenly way. We cannot and will not live in the worldly way like the rest of the worldly people because we ˇ°are dead to the worldˇ± already. When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we also died to the world. A truly born again believer can't and won't live his life in the worldly way. Unless you are a hypocrite in your confession of faith, you are already a ˇ°new creation,ˇ± so you cannot live like others in this world. Your new nature in you, the Spirit of God in you can't go along with you in the worldly life style. The Spirit in you will cause you to feel miserable, shameful and convict you of your sins so you will come back to God to live a new life that He intends you to live.
2) Consider our best protection: ˇ°Your life is hidden with Christ in God.ˇ± (3:3b) ˇ°Hiddenˇ±, kekruptai, comes from krutw, plural, passive, to hide, keep in secret such as precious jewelry. God treasures us as the most precious jewel and is hiding us in the secret place where no one may come to take us away or harm us if we allow God to be our protector. The plural and passive means this act of God covers all believers and it isn't our own but the act of God. This doesn't mean we are Christians in secret, but it does mean we are in the best protection of God. As God protects Christ, he protects us the same way. The only way Satan, the world or any evil power may come close to us to harm us is when we sneak out of God's protection, to live our life our own way. In Ephesians 6:10-17, God has provided us the best spiritual armor we need to put on each and everyday so we will be best protected from all harm.
THE REWARDS OF A HEAVENLY LIFE: (3:4) Some believers hesitate to live a heavenly life because of the potential sacrifices they may have to give, the fun they may miss and the short end of the stick they may need to hold. It is true that living a heavenly life does cost us some freedom, we may need to give up some carnal fun or satisfaction of the evil desires. But God promises us rewards when we keep our eyes focused, our feet firmly planted and our faith in Jesus strong. Paul list a couple of rewards to show us living heavenly life may not be all the loss but a great gain. Here is how.
1) The heavenly life is in Christ: ˇ°When Christ, who is our life, is revealed,ˇ± (3:4a) Paul points out that Christ is not merely a giver of life, but he IS our life. He says this because ˇ°Christ lives in our lives.ˇ± In Galatians 2:20, Paul said: ˇ°I have been crucified, it is no longer that I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life, and the life which I now live in the fresh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me, and delivered himself up for me.ˇ± (Gal. 2:20) The key to a victorious heavenly living is to center our life in Christ.
2) Heavenly living is glorious: ˇ°Then you also will be revealed with him in glory.ˇ± (3:4b) Paul was talking about the ultimate glory when Christ comes back to rule over the heaven and the earth. ˇ°Gloryˇ± means all the glamor and majesty at the time of his return. All the sacrifices we rendered in heavenly living will be rewarded in heaven when Christ comes to take power to be the Lord of lords. The sacrifices we render for the Lord today may not earn any reward or praise in this world; or it may even be ridiculed by the world. But God promises us rewards beyond measure if we are faithful in our endeavor.
ˇ°Gloryˇ± may also mean fruitful in this world. When believers are willing to live their life on earth as it is in heaven, even the world can see and brings glory to the God. ˇ°In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.ˇ± (Matthew 5:16) Holy Christian living is always glorious even in the darkness of this world.
1) Remember where we are going: Yes, we are here on earth today, but this isn't where we will stay forever. Our eternal home is in heaven with our Lord and God. We are here like a traveler to a destination. It is important that we are well prepared now as we are on the way home, so by the time we arrive home, we won't be left unprepared and surprised to lose the rewards God has in stored for us. Our Lord has so much to tell us the importance of being ready for the day to come. For no one knows when that day may come, so, let us be ready every moment everyday.
2) Remember we are his witnesses: How we live our life here on earth speaks much louder to being the witnesses than what we say in our words. The Lord wants us to be the light of the world, that has to do with the way we live. Our purpose of life, attitude of life, and the way we live and treat others, all have the power to either brighten or dimming the results of our witnessing. We are in this world, but we are NOT of this world. Let us make a difference to the mission Jesus has for us.