Expository Sermon on Colossians 3:1-4 | Setting Hearts on Heavenly Things

Focusing on heavenly things

Heavenly Things (Colossians 3:1-4)

As Christians, we need to live in a way which moves us closer to heaven. Our citizenship is in heaven, not on the earth (Phil 3:20). Since our citizenship is in heaven, we need to seek heaven with everything we have—We should live so differently from the world that there is no question that we are on the way to heaven.

This morning, we want to talk about “heavenly things.” Since we are on the way to heaven, “heavenly things” should permeate our lives. This morning, we are going to discuss how “heavenly things” should affect our lives.

We Must “Seek” Heavenly Things, v 1

We have been raised with Christ. We were raised with him through baptism. We were “buried with Him in baptism, in which [we] were also raised with Him” (Col 2:12). We were buried with Christ in baptism “that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4).

That we have been resurrected implies that we have died. We have died to the things of the world. “You died with Christ from the basic principles of the world” (Col 2:20). “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God” (Rom 6:11).

Because we have died to the world, we can no longer live like the world. We cannot tell the same jokes those in the world tell. We cannot wear the same clothing those in the world wear. We cannot work for the same companies those in the world work for. Are you dead to the world? Have you been raised with Christ?

We are to seek the things which are above. The verb “seek” implies persevering effort. We could translate the verse “Be constantly seeking.” We are not just to give slight effort to seeking—We are to seek diligently those things above.

Just what are these things above? These things are obviously heavenly things, for that is where Jesus is seated at God’s right hand. Paul explained in detail what these “heavenly things” are—Colossians 3:12-17. Are you seeking these things? Do these things have a place in your life?

We are to seek the things where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Christ is in heaven. Jesus “was taken up [from the apostles] into heaven” (Acts 1:11). When Stephen was beings stoned, he “gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55).

Christ sits at the right hand of God. Stephen saw Jesus at God’s right hand (Acts 7:55). Many wonder why this text presents Jesus as standing at God’s right hand. Since Stephen was the first Christian martyr, Jesus may have stood to show him respect. After Jesus left this earth, he “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3).

What does it mean that Christ sits at God’s right hand? The right was the place of highest honor and authority. Since Jesus sits at God’s right hand, Jesus is being exalted above everything except God himself.

Are you seeking heavenly things?

We Must “Mind” Heavenly Things, v 2

We are to set our minds on things above. To set our minds on things above means to think on heavenly matters. Paul does not mean to think so intently on heavenly things that we cannot function in this world.

The Thessalonians were too heavenly minded to function in this world. Apparently, they thought the return of Jesus was going to occur sometime soon. Therefore, folks were quitting work and doing nothing. Paul rebuked that idea in 2 Thessalonians. “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess 3:10). Paul had heard that some brethren were walking disorderly in that they did not work (2 Thess 3:11). Paul expected the Thessalonians to get back to a normal life.

However, Paul does mean that the things of heaven are to permeate our thinking. We are to meditate on things which are praiseworthy (Phil 4:8). Timothy was to meditate on the things Paul taught (1 Tim 4:15). “To be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom 8:6). We are to have the same mind that Jesus had (Phil 2:5). Are you setting your mind on heavenly things?

We are not to think on things on the earth. Thinking on things on the earth means to fill our minds with temporal things. There is so much evil with which to fill our minds. We can fill our minds with hatred and malice. We can fill our minds with greed and covet the lifestyles of those who earn more than we. We can fill our minds with impure sexual thoughts.

We need to guard what we fill our minds with, because we are going to think on those things with which we fill our minds. We need to monitory closely what we watch on TV. We need to monitor closely the books we read. We need to monitor closely the friends we have.

Are you thinking on things above, or are you thinking about the things here on earth below?

We Must “Live” Heavenly Things, vv 3-4

This is where the rubber meets the road. Paul had been talking about the way we think. Now, Paul turns and disses our behavior—Just as we must think heavenly things, we must also live heavenly things.

We died. When we were baptized into Christ, we died to the old man. The Scriptures affirm that we are to die to sin. “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24). “You died with Christ from the basic principles of the world” (Col 2:20). Are you dead to sin? Are you still living in sin?

Our life is hidden with Christ in God. What does it mean to be hidden with Christ in God? It means that when people look at me they actually see Christ acting instead of me. Scripture exhorts us to allow Jesus to live in us. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). “To me, to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21). We sing, “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me, All His wonderful passion and purity.” Are you letting the beauty of Jesus be seen in your life?

To be hidden with Christ in God also means that when God looks at me he sees Christ instead of me—This allows me to be righteous before God. Is your life hidden with Christ in God?

Christ is our life. There are two ways in which Jesus is our life:

  1. He created us and he sustains our life on this planet (Col 1:16-17).
  2. He gives us spiritual life. “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (Jn 11:25). “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6).

Jesus is giving you physical life. Is he giving you spiritual life?

When Jesus appears, we will also appear with him in glory. Jesus is coming again. When the disciples were watching Jesus ascend into heaven, angels appeared to the disciples and said that Jesus would “come in like manner as [they] saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). This is a day which we should anticipate, and not dread; we shall be glorified with Christ.

When Jesus appears, we will be glorified with him. “We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3:2). Jesus “will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body” (Phil 3:21).

Are living a life which will allow you to be glorified?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Owingsville church of Christ in Owingsville, Kentucky.

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