Set Your Mind On Things Above | Sermon on Colossians 3:1-4 by Pastor Colin Smith

well today is the last message in our series on the inside story of your future life and a number of you have either made comments or you’ve written notes to express how this series has been helpful to you I have to tell you that simply trying to soak my mind and heart in these passages of Scripture has been immensely helpful to me also and has been stretching in every way in my own walk with the Lord think about what we’ve done over these last weeks we have been intentional about filling our minds with eternal things we have to use the phrase we’ve just read from Colossians in chapter 3 we have set our minds on things that are above we have tried to fill our minds with who Jesus Christ is and what our future with him looks like in the presence of Jesus in heaven and it has done is good and so the question as we wrap up the series today is how can I keep my mind on things above how can I continue to nourish my own soul by fixing my mind and fixing my heart on the joy of future life with Jesus Christ it’s a very important question now that we’ve tasted how powerful and how valuable it is to set our minds on things above we’ve all heard the cheap shot that people who are heavenly minded are no earthly use you’ve heard that haven’t you you know always so heavenly minded is no earthly use that is a cheap shot in fact precisely the opposite is true precisely the opposite is true it is only when you know what the end is that you actually discover how and where to begin if I said to you prepare or you would say what in the world are you talking about prepare for what how can I prepare if I don’t know what I’m supposed to be preparing for you’re talking about an exam snowfall prepare for what you see it is only what when you know what is to come only when you have your mind fixed on that that you begin to discover how it is that we are to live now and so that’s why we’re ending our series on a very practical note thinking about our own individual lives moving forward as we’ve soaked ourselves in thinking about the things that are above and as the Bible tells us that this has to be not just a series in the church but an ongoing pattern of our lives how am I to do this to set my mind on the things that are above it’s a very special text for Karen my wife and myself the the college where we studied the Scriptures the London School of Theology has this as its motto tah onofre nighty set your minds on things about I hope you have your Bible open at this passage that actually isn’t anything terribly difficult to understand here and that’s why I once spend most of my time on application but look at what he says Christ has been raised that’s what it begins Jesus died and his life left his body the body of Jesus lay in the tomb and in fact it had to be laid there by other people because it had no life in it when it was taken down from the cross but you know that on the third day the life of the Son of God came into his body and he rose and the body of Jesus was wonderfully changed now Paul is saying here in verse 1 if you are a Christian the life of the Son of God has come into you that’s why he speaks about being raised with Christ remember we’ve been learning earlier in the series by nature all of us were dead towards God we were deaf towards the Holy Spirit we were incapable of rising up and following after Jesus and a life of faith and obedience but the life of Christ came to you this is the miracle of salvation the Holy Spirit as it were gave you the kiss of life and you are raised with Christ now he says since you are raised with Christ you obviously have a new life in him his life has come to you you’re a new creation you’re a new person if you’re a Christian it’s

not simply that you believe certain things it is that the life of Jesus is in you and therefore all that he has purchased belongs to you forgiveness of sins reconciliation to the Father the the gift of the Holy Spirit adoption into the family of God heaven as your everlasting home and as your rest it’s all yours because of him now he says if all this is true of you if you are a Christian here’s what you must do verse 2 set your minds on things that are above so again there is nothing very difficult to understand here where we need help is in how to put this into practice so once all for just two things today the first is I want us to see the value of meditating on your future life what you will get out of setting your mind on things that are above how it will help you why this is important and then I want to offer just some very practical guidelines for how you can go about doing this setting your mind on the things that are above so most of this is really application of what we’ve been learning throughout the series what you will gain from thinking about heaven and how you can go about doing that and building that into your life let’s begin here then the value of meditating on your future life and just three observations first meditating on your future life will change your entire view of money you say why did you go there because it is staggering how often Jesus links heaven and money these two just seem to keep coming together again and again and again as you go through the Gospels Luke’s Gospel chapter 12 one day while Jesus was teaching a person in the crowd shouts out and asks a question there was a dispute in this man’s family and it was about money some money had been left in a will and there was a dispute as sadly so often there is between brothers as to how this was all to work out and this man says Luke chapter 12 and verse 13 teacher tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me and you see we want Jesus to be in the middle of these things don’t we we want Jesus to be the one who upholds our rights and says well this is yours by right and this is yours by right and and we want Jesus to be in the middle of all of this and Jesus says in effect I’m now going to have anything to do with it he says who made me a judge or an arbiter over you very interesting the occasions that Jesus refused to intervene say I think we would have said hey we must set up a Christian ministry to deal with problems like this wouldn’t we Jesus says nothing to do with me this is not why I’ve come into the world if that’s your focus you’re not on the same page as I am then he said to them I quote take care and be on your guard against all covetousness for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions then Jesus told a story about a man who had been blessed in his business he had bumper crop in his fields and he stored it in barns the way we would say that today of course is a little different not so many of us are farmers here in the suburbs we would put it this way we would say his his 401k was fairly healthy alright that’s that’s what it was this was his retirement and he said well now I can enjoy my retirement this was the man in other words who lived what we like to call the American dream he worked really hard he saved really well he was a real good planner and he had his future years mapped out he had places he wanted to go he had friends he wanted to see and no doubt golf courses he wanted to enjoy as well this is the life he always wanted and now he’s got the 401 K and he can go for it and there was one problem he did not think about the things that are above and one night he died and God said to him can you imagine this God said to him you’re a fool you’re a fool don’t all of us want and we think about this sometimes I want to stand in the presence of God and when I stand there I would really like him to say to me well done good and faithful servant when you

like God say that to you can you imagine what it would be like to stand in the presence of God and have him say you were fool never thought about the things that are above so here is the height of folly according to the Lord Jesus to live for the things of this world and to neglect being rich towards God and that is why he says well now do not lay up treasures on earth where moth and rust corrupt and thieves break in and steal whatever you have in this world in some way shape or form eventually you lose you cannot take it with you but lay up treasures in heaven because where your treasure is there your heart will be also the more you invest in stuff here Jesus is saying the more tied your heart will be to this world below so learn to be rich towards God that’s Jesus phrase rich towards God the more you invest in Christ’s work on earth the more your heart will be connected to Christ’s home in heaven Thomas Boston er I’ve courted a lot during the series against so much from him he’s a really helpful picture here it’s only in one sentence but let me try and play the picture out for you he says in this life we are all rather like actors in a theatre we’re on a stage in a play and all of us have a particular part in the story and one of us gets to play the part of being the prince and somebody else gets the parts to play of being the pauper and we put on our costumes and we play our part and when the curtain comes down at the end of the play all the actors go backstage and the one who has played the part of the Prince takes off his very fine costume and the one who has played the part of the pauper takes off the rags that he has been waiting on the platform and then both of them leave the theatre both actors leave the theatre by the same back door what difference does it make that one got to play the part of the prince and the other got to play the part of the pauper when they leave the theatre then they go into the real world and what matters is not what they wear on the stage for a short time what matters is who they are there now of course we think this is the real world don’t we we think this is where the action is this is where we can earn money this is where we play sports this is where the real world is isn’t it no Jesus says everything here is passing away the real world where solid riches and Joy’s are is the world that is to come so set your mind on things that are above this world is only a passing shadow however real and solid the stuff of this world feels you have to under stand that what last is only in heaven so why would you envy a brother who has more than you do why would it matter to you that he for a very short time got in this play on earth to have the role of the Prince while you perhaps had the role of the pauper what difference does that make what matters is that you have treasure in the real world that will never pass away do you just see in these moments that that meditating on your future life will begin to change your whole whole outlook in regard to this material world and especially in regard to money how much you need in this very short time that you’re here and what is the best thing to do with what you’ve got set your mind on things above not on earthly things that’s the power of it the value of second meditating on your future life will give you strength to endure and thinking here of the example of the Lord Jesus Christ he knew what it was to set his mind on things above when did he do that well he did that throughout his life but supremely we know this that he did that when he came to the Agony’s of the cross how did Jesus endure the agony of the cross I thought about that where did he find the

strength in the flesh to deal with all that was heaped upon him there well you know that hebrews chapter 12 and verse 2 gives us the answer he endured the cross because of what the joy that was set before him the joy that was set before him and where’s that joy that joins in heaven in other words he was setting his mind on things above that that’s how you gain strength in the toughest trial of your life that’s what Jesus was doing intentionally as he in across the book of Hebrews is telling us and and and and Hebrews tells us that’s what we are to do we’re to run the race that is set for us and we’re to look to Jesus who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross and now he has sat down at the right hand of the Father on high gird it because he saw what was ahead of him that would last for a longer time the Bible keeps bringing us back to this the the shortness of this life and the length of eternity and the extent of the joy that we were thinking about together last week and you get your mind on that it’s going to give you strength to endure the difficulties to gut out the toughness that you’re facing in your life this week this month last time Karen and I were in the UK we we plan to stop for a night in the long journey that we have between where her parents are in the south and and mine in the north and we were in an area where we don’t normally stop and so we picked on the internet a place that we thought would be a reasonable place to stop for the night on the journey and we thought it would be okay it was terrible it was you’ve all had this experience right this place might have been okay in the 1960s but nothing much seemed to have been done to paint or anything else since then the entrance from the road was overgrown we knew we were in trouble the moment we drove in the restaurant that was next to this overnight stopping place had closed it looked like a kind of ghost town there were us and three other rooms that were rented everyone else seemed to know it was no use except for us who found it on the Internet the bed seemed to be like a kind of hand you down from a camp you know the sort of have you got the scene yet you got the general idea and I’m pacing up and down in this room and we brought our cases in and here’s the problem it’s one of these cheap internet deals and it’s free pede and you can’t get your money back and I’m not feeling good about staying at this place pin good money for this and my goodness look at this place My dear long-suffering ever patient wife said just sit down and she said it is only one night that makes a difference in your perspective doesn’t it it’s only one night now you see that is precisely the point that the Apostle Paul is making in 2nd Corinthians chapter 4 he talks about how do you keep going when it’s really tough and how do you not lose heart and he says here’s how 2nd Corinthians 4 and verse 17 for this light and momentary affliction whatever your affliction is and however hard you think it is it is momentary in the light of eternity and he says this momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison and we don’t lose heart because here’s what we’re doing we look not at the things that are seen but the things that are unseen I’m going to be in a better place tomorrow set your minds on things above fill your mind your heart with your eternal home it will not only change your entire thinking in relation to this material world it will give you strength to face the toughest things in your life here’s a third great benefit and value of meditating on your future life it will motivate you to holiness and I draw that simply from the context here in Colossians in chapter 3 it’s a good rule of thumb by the way in studying the Bible if you want to know the significance of anything that is being said look at what is before and look at what is after and the context will also will often give to you the key to understanding the force of what is being said and if you look at what’s before and

after our little passage that we’ve read today you’ll see that this is the context there were Christians in this town of colossi little church wonderfully converted but some of these young Christians had just been overwhelmed by the sheer force of temptation and sin and they were struggling with a question that’s still contemporary for every Christian today how do I deal with the lusts of the flesh how do I handle this stuff that’s going on inside me and there are always plenty of suggestions always plenty of books and I don’t suppose that there were publishers there is there are no of course but if there were then chapter 2 tells you some of the books that would have been around in that time as they are now Paul says at the end of chapter 2 in effect and summarizing you can’t overcome sin simply by disciplines and boundaries and accountability we always default to that because that’s the stuff we can do verse 21 of chapter 2 don’t handle don’t taste don’t touch you see all the rules all the disciplines all the boundaries all the accountability and what does he say about it verse 23 these indeed have an appearance of wisdom but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh oh they’re good things do them but they’re not going to be sufficient to deal with the stuff that is in your heart that’s what do you say William Hendrickson puts it this way there is no material cure for spiritual ill you can’t overcome sin by the power of discipline alone it’s not the law that changes the heart it’s the gospel when you look at chapter 3 and verse 5 the other side of our passage and you find Paul saying put to death therefore what is earthly in you say wait a minute there’s a jump here what how did he get to the place of saying that what makes that possible well the answer is what’s in our passage B raised with Christ and setting your mind on things above so here is the value of a person who has new life in Jesus Christ setting their mind on things above it will change your view of money and everything in this material world it will give you strength and it will motivate you to all in it and that’s what we’ve been trying to do over these last months and some of us have tasted just a little bit that has helped me and I’ve experienced there being some lift in my spiritual life and I’m saying to you we need to find ways to build this into our lives on an ongoing basis set your minds on things above we need this otherwise we’re going to be bogged down with this material world we’re going to be overwhelmed by the difficulties of our own trials and our sufferings and we’re going to find that the sheer power of temptation gets the better of us so set your mind on things about so this is very practical I’m giving this as an exhortation to build this into your life you say how am I to do that help me help me well let me quote a wiser Christian than me to give some help is then as Richard Baxter Baxter was a pastor in the town of Kidderminster in England 17th century he knew about suffering big time in his own experience dr. Jim Packer describes him this way just just get this as a description and try not to wince too much it describes him as quote a chronically sick Puritan tuberculin his teenage years suffering constantly from dyspepsia kidney stones headaches toothaches swollen limbs intermittent bleeding at his extremities and other troubles all before the days of pain-killing drugs not a guy who was exactly in the middle of a very happy life right and he had it from his teens just all was struggling with wretched health before the days of wonderful blessings of modern medicine now ask this question how would you endure that kind of difficulty can you imagine it Baxter’s answer was this he spent at least half an hour every day meditating on heaven he began it at the age of 30 and he continued it for the rest of his

life Packer says this cultivation gave him daily doggedness in hard work for God despite the developed debilitating effects of his sick body he stands for all time as proof that there is supernatural strength for God’s service that is beyond any human explanation so here’s a man who spends 30 minutes every day in his life from the age of 30 thinking about heaven setting his mind on things about and he wrote a book entitled the since everlasting rest I guess have you been thinking 30 minutes about heaven every day of your life since the age of thirty by the time you get old you’ve got a few things to say about it and he he wrote a very very long book indeed called the Saints everlasting rest it’s old it’s not easy to to read at least for some readers and but it’s full of spiritual wisdom and in the last quarter of the book he just focuses in on this question how do I set my mind on things above how can I do what it says in Colossians chapter 3 and verse 2 well there’s about a hundred pages not only a few minutes let me just give you four things that I’ve gleaned from Richard Baxter and they’ve helped me immense and I hope that they will help you here’s the first take responsibility for directing your mind you see that comes right out of the scripture here set your mind set your mind on things about so my mind goes all over the place wait a minute what does the Bible say to you you’re risen with Christ take control of your mind give direction to your mind take responsibility to do what the Bible is telling you to do here this is a command set your mind on things above you must do it God says do this you must do this if you’re raised with Christ do it and not only must you do it but you can do it you must do it because it is the command of God and you can do it because you’re risen with Christ don’t say oh it’s so terrible I have these wandering thoughts when you have these wandering thoughts set your mind on things above this is in your Christian job description look at it that way God has given you an assignment in this world this is part of it so get serious about doing it we’ve been trying to do it together for two months in the short times that we’ve had on Sundays build this into your life some time to think about eternal things you know your body has times of working and your body has times of relaxing and perhaps on a Sunday afternoon when there’s a game on and you get the remote out and you stick the lay-z-boy up and you enjoy relaxing your body and you watch this game and then at the end of it you say to yourself feeling really sluggish I think I need to get up and go for a walk what are you doing at that point you are you are calling your body to action your body probably doesn’t feel like action says I’ll just stay here in the lay-z-boy but you say no I’ve got to get up I’ve got to go for a run we’re going to go for a walk or whatever that is now in the same way as you give direction to your body you know that your body needs to be exercised now done healthy if your body is not exercised that you got to do the same in regards to your soul that’s what Baxter’s saying you got to set your mind on things above your mind may not want to go there just as your body after the game doesn’t particularly feel like getting up and going for a walk but but it’s for your good and for your health that you give that direction take responsibility for the direction of your mind set your mind on things above Baxter makes this very shrewd comment he says a really wise Christian will be aware of the work and of the weariness of his own soul in the same way as a person is aware of that with their body are you aware of that are you giving direction to your own inner life second thing I learned from Baxter first was to take responsibility set your mind on things about second thing learn the art of talking to yourself so I was though that was the first sign of madness no it’s the first sign of spiritual health for a Christian

it’s all over the Psalms you know when David says bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me praise His Holy Name who’s he talking to himself when he says why are you cast down O my soul and why are you so disturbed within me who’s he talking to he’s talking to himself he’s addressing his own soul Martyn lloyd-jones used to make this very pithy observation he said that we get into difficulties because we spend way too much time listening to ourselves and not nearly enough time talking to ourselves think about that learn the art of talking to yourself your mind needs to be set it needs to be told where to go it needs to be brought like a dog to heal when you’re training an animal your heart will always be a problem will always be wandering in different direction needs to be set that’s why every Christian needs to become a very good preacher to his or her own soul Baxter says you need to learn how to manage your own heart to manage your own heart and he uses an example that all of us will understand easily from the world of business he says now suppose that you are running a business and you employ a youngster who comes in to do a particular assignment and to join your staff team and two days into his employment you find that this guy is not doing anything that is in his job description but what he is doing is he sort of wandering around everyone else’s desk and he’s sort of chatting to other members of the staff and he’s thoroughly he’s just doing what he feels like gnosis Baxter you’re the manager what would you do well it’s obvious what you do you’re going to call them into your office you’re going to sit down you’re going to a good straight talk to you say no this this is you’ve got to do your job here and you’re going to kind of lay it on the line if if this pattern of behavior is is is is continuing now assess Baxter you need to learn to manage your own heart in exactly the same way set upon your heart roundly he says persuade it to the work don’t accept any excuses chide it for its backwardness bring it into service whether it is willing or not take up the authority God has given to you command your heart and if you feel weak too weak to do this then call in the assistance of the Holy Spirit oh god help me my heart’s all over the place I need to set my heart and my mind on things above here’s the third thing I’ve learned from Baxter first I got to take responsibility in this it God God tells me this is a command this is not a sort of thing I can do now and again when I feel like it I must set my mind on things above otherwise I’m going to live like a fool in this world and I’ve got to learn to talk to myself because otherwise what’s going to happen is it’s just going be whatever is flitting through my mind and whatever happens to be occupying my heart is just going to be driving me all over the place like a car with a drunken driver at the wheel but I take control here manage your heart your risen with Christ you’re in a position to do this third direct your heart and your will by exercising faith in God’s promise direct your heart and your will by exercising faith in God’s promise by the way there is a very profound Bible psychology right here when the scripture says set your mind on things above because that’s what it begins it is the mind that lays hold of the promises of God and laying hold of the promises of God faith brings the promises to the heart and to the will and Baxter has a beautiful little phrase that I found really helpful he says let faith lead your heart as it were by the hand isn’t that beautiful let faith lead your heart by the hand in other words as you’re setting your mind on the great promise of God in my father’s house Jesus says are many rooms and here’s your heart soul bound up with this world or so worried about what you’re facing and how you’re going to get through it and and let faith in that promise lead your heart by the hand look

heart at what belongs to you many rooms in my father’s house this is yours tell your heart lead your heart tell your will persuade your will this is yours in Christ let faith lead your heart into the presence of God and draws near as you possibly can I love this little phrase he says make sure you take a walk in the New Jerusalem every day I take a walk pretty much every day run the block exercise the body ought to be twice as fast ten times as long I need to take a walk in the New Jerusalem every day to set my mind on things above just playing a role in this world that God has assigned for a little while and then forever in the presence of Jesus and all the richness that will be mine and and when I feel over extended to lift up my heart and to say I cannot overextend myself for this Savior here’s the very last thing use the joys of Earth to propel your mind towards heaven this is a wonderful thing and we’re going to do it actually in in just a moment we come around the communion table what’s the communion table all about we have ordinary physical elements a cup wafer bread wine and we’ll receive these physical elements and what are we to do with them well as we eat them we’re to use them to propel our minds to heavenly things to take us to the cross by faith and Baxter says this is what you should do with every joy in your life every every birthday party every celebration every promotion every good thing that happens in your life use the joys of Earth to propel your mind towards heaven if you’re hungry and you go out for a really good meal you have a great steak and you say oh that was really good make it your habit always to propel your mind from that joy on earth to say and how good it will be when I am gathered around the table with my Savior in heaven if the steaks this good good is that make this the habit set your mind on things above not on the stake enjoy the state but use it as a means thinking about heaven when you find pleasure he says in the arts or in science or in the wonders of nature when you find pleasure in music and technology you have that new iPad well you say to yourself if this marvelous piece of human learning and design can be so beautiful how beautiful will be the face of God say otherwise earthly things just get us more and more consumed with the earth he says take the things of Earth enjoy them appreciate them and let them propel your mind into the joys of heaven when you savor the joys of friendship the joy of love in marriage think to yourself what will be the delight of savoring the love of God and all of his redeemed people forever and forever don’t let the joys of this world be your anchor don’t let the things that God gives to you as gifts in this world make you more and more and more tie tied tied bound let them propel you use the blessings of this life to anticipate the greater blessings of the life that is to come if you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above where Christ is seated on the right hand of God set your minds on the things that are above not on things that are on the earth for you’ve died and your life is hidden with Christ in God and when Christ who is your life appears you also will appear with him in glory father we feel the value of setting our minds on things above and sense how different we will be as we learn to do this more so please help us for Christ’s sake and we ask it in Jesus

name and everyone said together