Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Colossians (page 2 of 9)

Be at Rest!

“… having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14)


“The record of your sins has been erased, removed, and crucified–be at rest!” (Colossians and Philemon for Pastors, p.199)

Real Change

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

“Paul sets heavenly realities (“the things above”) in contrast to earthly realities (“the things that are on the earth”). In doing so he tells us that reality upon earth is defined by the reality of heaven, not the other way around. Spiritual truth defines tangible reality. We are on dangerous ground when we weigh spiritual matters by what appears to be the fact based on limited, earthly evidence. He who sees only the earthly sees only partial reality; he misses the most vital pieces of evidence for interpreting reality in its fullness … The ‘things that are on earth’ only change when we leverage our minds in faith against ‘the things above.'” (Colossians and Philemon for Pastors, p.233)

Who is Jesus Christ?

“Christ is everywhere in Colossians; Christ is everything in Colossians. Certainly the letter is Trinitarian. The Father (1:2, 3, 12, 19; 3:17) and the Spirit (1:8) are vital and present. But Christ shines most brilliantly. He is designated as ‘Christ’ (18 times; e.g. 1:2; 2:2; 3:11; 4:4:3), ‘Jesus Christ’ (1:1; 4:12), ‘Christ Jesus’ (1:4), ‘Christ Jesus the Lord’ (2:6), ‘the Lord Jesus’ (3:17), and ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ (1:3). He is God’s ‘beloved Son’ (1:13). He is God’s ‘mystery’ (1:27). He is the sphere in which our maturity will be realized (1:28). In Him ‘are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (2:3). He is the sphere in which the believer lives his life (2:6). He is the soil in which we thrive and the arena in which we are built up to become what we were designed to be (2:7).

Christ has died (2:20), been buried (2:11-12), is risen (3:1) and is now exalted to the place of supreme authority in the entire universe (3:1). Thus Christ has utterly defeated Satan and all demonic powers (2:10, 15). Remarkably, Paul tells us that with Christ we have died (2:20), been buried (2:12) and been raised (3:1). Thus we share in His victory and authority. Indeed, ‘you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God’ (3:3).

Christ is the substance and reality of all God’s purposes and grace (2:17). He is ‘the head’ of the body, the Church (2:19) and as such is both the supply line of all we need and the binding support which holds us together as His people. At His return we will ‘be revealed with Him in glory’ (3:4). Christ is the goal and pattern after which God is remaking us and to which He is conforming us (3:10). Christ overcomes all human, earth-bound distinctions that separate people (3:11). He has forgiven us all our sins (2:13; 3:13). His word is to become the substance of our thoughts, the meditation of our hearts, the song on our lips, the theme of our conversations, and the substance of our worship (3:16). His name is to be stamped over everything we say or do (3:17a). He is the channel of our ever-flowing stream of thanksgiving to the Father (3:17b). He governs and defines marriage (3:18-19), parenting (20-21), and our employer/employee relationships (3:22-4:1).

Christ is worth being imprisoned for (4:3). To Him we bend the direction of our lives, rendering our service (4:7, 12) and from Him we receive our ministries (4:17).” (Colossians and Philemon for Pastors, pp.35-36)

Union With Christ

You are “in Christ” (Colossians 1:28) and “Christ [is] in you” (1:27).

How can we be “in Christ” and at the same time have Christ in us? When we hear the word “in” we think spatially, and being in something and that something being in you do not seem to be possible at the same time in the same way. But our union with Christ is not a spatial reality, but a relational and spiritual reality. This, however, does not make it any less real.

Realizing that no illustration is perfect (including this one), allow me to paint a picture which might crack the door of our understanding. Christ is infinite (1:15ff). The Pacific Ocean seems infinite to us. The Pacific Ocean is not infinite, but it seems to be from our perspective. The Mariana Trench reaches depths of over six and a half miles. Whether you are four foot eleven or seven foot six, the water definitely would be over your head. Thus for the sake of illustration the waters of the Pacific might help us.

Picture a helicopter flying you into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You ask the pilot to bring the helicopter to a standstill, hovering just above the surface of the water. Then you leap from the helicopter. You are now “in the Pacific.” You signal the pilot and he turns the craft and speeds away. Your entire identity is now wrapped up in the fact that you are “in the Pacific.” You are surrounded by seemingly endless miles of open water. There are an estimated 622 million cubic kilometers of water in the Pacific. You are now in those waters. This now defines your existence. This answers the question of your identity.

But this only helps us with one line of this foundational truth of our union with Christ. It aids us in seeing ourselves “in Christ.” But what of the other essential strand of truth—“Christ in you”?

Picture yourself now taking an action that will be completely counter-intuitive. It will go against everything that you’ve come to deem rational and logical. It will cut cross-grain against everything you’ve ever known as sanity and in accord with reality. It will defy what seems to be “life.” Yet now, by an act of your will, you draw in a deep breath, turn yourself downward and swim with all your might. You kick and use your arms—going as deep as you are able with one breath. There you are, twenty or thirty feet below the surface of the Pacific. You are “in the Pacific.” Now you open your mouth and . . . draw in a huge breath!

To this point you have been “in the Pacific.” But now “the Pacific is in you”!

“Ah,” you say, “but now I am also dead!”

Precisely. You have died with Christ (Col. 2:20; 3:3). In fact you were buried with Him (2:12a). But you have also been made alive with Him (2:12b; 3:1). In fact it is “Christ who is your life” (3:4a, ESV)! This has been and continues to be actualized by His indwelling Spirit (1:8). “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (3:1-2). In other words, think in accordance with reality—the new reality established for you by God in bringing you into union with Christ! A reality that provides you . . .

  • A New Identity: You “in Christ”
  • A New Presence, and thus a new power, and thus an entirely new potential, and thus a life is defined by completely new possibilities: “Christ in you” (pp.40-41, Colossians and Philemon for Pastors)

Leveraging a New Life

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)

We’ve all got problems. We all have personal problems. They are what Paul calls “things that are on the earth” (v.2). We’ll just call them earthly realities. But we also have perception problems. That is to say, we too often conclude that these earthly realities represent a total view of reality. But that’s not true! There are also heavenly realities which must be factored in, if we are to live in a full embrace of total reality. Paul mentions five of them:

  • You have died with Christ. (3a)
  • You have been raised with Christ. (1b)
  • You are seated with Christ. (1b)
  • You are hidden with Christ. (3b)
  • You will be revealed with Christ. (4)

All these are just as true, real, actual, and factual and any of the earthly realities. To borrow from Paul’s earlier words: you are “in Christ” (Col. 1:28) and Christ is in you (1:27).

But how do we see these heavenly realities brought to bear upon our earthly realities? We must undergo a change of perception. Two choices are demanded of us in this regard:

  • Pursuit: “seek the things that are above” (1)
  • Posture: “Set your minds on things that are above” (2a).

Apart from this, you’ll continue to reside under the distortion of your partial perception of reality.

Both of these actions must be undertaken continually and repeatedly. They must become a habit of life. Your minds must always be seeking after, in full pursuit of reality—a perception that appropriately calculates in the heavenly realities of your standing in Christ and your resources as Christ dwells in you. This is not pie-in-the-sky, but the pursuit of reality. There must also be the posture of reality—“set your mind.” We must sink footers deep, down to bedrock truth and frame up there our understanding of not only our earthly realities, but our heavenly ones as well.

Settle this in your mind: Reality upon the earth is defined by the realities of heaven, not the other way around.

In determining the posture and pursuit of your heart and mind you are not trying to make something come true. Rather you are striving to bring total reality to light in your earthly experience. You do not make these things true by your action, but you do make them evident by the choices of how you perceive reality. Your mindset does not establish the heavenly truths as reality, but it does bring you into the enjoyment of them.

The power to change my earthly experience lies, not in me, but in the heavenly realities themselves. It is my thinking and resulting choices that allow me to leverage the heavenly realities over against my earthly realities … with the result that my actual earthly experiences change.

This is the possibility and promise of people given a share in the resurrection life of Jesus!

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