Colossians 3 1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
I think last night was my favorite evening of the year. I love getting to set my clock back an hour! This morning we’re going to set something else not back, but above. As a carry-over from last Sunday, I’m going to explore setting our hearts and minds on things above. The two must be done together. We often talk about someone “giving their heart to Jesus.” But I don’t know if I have ever heard someone say, “I’m going to the altar to give my mind to Jesus.” Yet we read in this passage in Colossians that God wants both. God wants both to be seated in Christ.
This idea of heart AND mind devotion and focus isn’t merely a New Testament principle. Deuteronomy 11:1818 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds.
“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind. . .”
1 Chronicles 28:9
“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought.
I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Why the dual emphasis on heart and mind? We know our hearts are darkened with sin. We know what flows out of our hearts (Matthew 15:19) isn’t pretty. Jeremiah doesn’t mince any words about our heart’s condition. Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” But we have more than a heart problem.
We have a dual problem. Both our heart and mind are at war with God. Psalm 64:6 “Surely the human mind and heart are cunning.”
That’s why the Psalmist says in 26:2, “Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart AND my mind.” Let’s re-explore what it means to set our hearts above. Colossians 3:5-10
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Paul uses some pretty dramatic language here. “Put to death, whatever belongs to your earthly nature?” Isn’t that kind of drastic? Sounds a bit over the top doesn’t it? Why would we have to put to death the things that belong to our earthly nature? Because to let them live leads to the possibility that you will let them reign. And whatever you let reign is what you have given your heart to. Paul is saying, “Put to death anything that has the potential to rule your heart.”
If we voluntarily put to death the things of the flesh, and we stay seated with Christ and truly live! If, however, we don’t put the things of the flesh to death, and we give them our hearts, they lead to a kind of death on their own that isn’t pleasant to experience. The Greek tense in this command suggests a decisive action, as if Paul said, “Put it to death, and do it now!”
Look at verse six. The things of the flesh, when given our affection, lead to the wrath of God. I don’t know about you, but I’m not wanting to sign up for that!
Jesus spoke of this same idea when he said: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29). I remember reading this verse as a child and going to my mother in tears! I was and STILL am quite a literal person! J Obviously neither Paul nor Jesus was recommending literal surgery, for sin does not come from the eye (or the hand), but from the heart—the evil within.
Centuries past in England, if a pickpocket was caught and convicted, his right hand was cut off. If he was caught again, his left hand suffered the same fate. One pickpocket lost both hands and continued his occupation with his teeth! You see, physical dismemberment cannot change the heart. (Preaching the Word) You have to make the decision to put it to death.
If you set your heart on earthly things, you will surprise yourself at how far you will go to achieve them. Paul is contrasting the things of earth with the things above where Christ is seated. None of the earthly, fleshly, sinful behavior listed is going on in heaven.
Verse 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. What has changed? Your heart has been transplanted. You walked in this life living as the flesh led you. Now, you walk in this life with a new heart, a clean heart, a heart that is in the process of being transformed that is called to live on a higher plane, a heart that seeks to please God, a heart that possesses a growing affection for God’s will and God’s presence, and a heart that is free to love and serve God. Now you walk as your heart that is seated with Christ is leading you.
In Genesis 17, God established a covenant with Abraham. There are many beautiful facets to this covenant, but I want to point out two. It involved a circumcision, which was a physical cutting away of flesh. The purpose of the circumcision was the display of one’s willingness to always obey God. In the context of explaining that all the Jewish men were to be circumcised, God told Abraham that one aspect of the covenant of circumcision involved Abraham being fruitful.
As God’s covenant people, included in the New Israel, chosen and loved by Him, we too are supposed to undergo a kind of circumcision. Male and female. Romans 2:29 “No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit. . . ”
Until Christ has the full attention of your heart, He can’t do the inward circumcision needed. Setting your heart fully on Him will put your heart in a position where it can be transformed into the obedient heart God desires each of us to have. God can cut away, if you will, the fleshly earthly places in your heart that will always be contrary to His holiness and righteousness. Circumcision of the heart will put your heart in a position where God can make it beat in the right spiritual rhythms, so like Abraham, you too will bear much fruit! Lukewarm Christians are the result of half hearted Christians.
If you had a heart problem in the right and left chamber, but you only let the surgeon operate on one side, you would still have a heart problem. You would still get tired easily. You would still feel like you lacked energy. You would still be in danger of a sudden heart attack and as a result, you would limit or minimize what kind of energy you would exert out of fear that something bad might happen. Listen, we have the same thing going on in the church. Many Christians still lack spiritual power and energy because they haven’t given over every part of their heart to be dealt with.
A “Seated Heart” has staying power. Unless you set your heart above, you’ll quit when following requires sacrifice. Abraham stayed the course when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac. God was testing Abraham to reveal where his heart was, and when push came to shove and Abraham’s greatest earthly love was asked to be sacrificed, because his heart was seated above, He was willing to make the tough choice and obey what God was asking.
The Rich Young Ruler in Luke 18 had an infatuation with Jesus, but he never made the commitment to seat his heart above. When he asked Jesus what would be needed in order to obtain eternal life and Jesus basically said, “I need your whole heart,” the Rich Young Ruler couldn’t commit. His heart had been given to something earthly, his riches. His heart was absolutely committed to his riches. He would never have had the staying power to follow Jesus because unlike Abraham his heart belonged fully to something other than Christ.
We love to quote verses like Jeremiah 29:11-12 that talk about God prospering us, not harming us, and giving us a great hope and a future. But we don’t always emphasize the last part of the passage where we read in verse 13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jesus wants your whole heart, seated above with Him. If you are here this morning and you have an on again off again relationship with Jesus, ask yourself, “What or who has your whole heart?” Isn’t it time to find some consistency? Isn’t it time to get some sticking and staying power in this Christian life? Isn’t it time to quit being one way one day and another way another day? Isn’t it time to see spiritual progress? Isn’t it time to move on to greater spiritual truths, principles and practices? Isn’t it time to quit “breaking up with Jesus” every Monday or Friday or whatever day it is that you choose to do what your flesh wants to do rather than seat your heart above and say “no” to yourself?
John 6:63 tells us “The flesh profits nothing or counts for nothing.” Don’t you want your life to count? Don’t you want to live for eternity rather than the flesh that counts for nothing? That’s what God wants for you. That’s why He wants to circumcise your heart and cut away the flesh that will make you a nothing. Put the flesh to death once and for all and give your total heart to Jesus.
Get your heart focused on Jesus and worshiping His majesty. Get your heart focused on falling in love with the Jesus, the Lover of Your Soul. Set your heart on desiring more of Christ and less of you. Fix your heart on truth, righteousness, soul winning and the power of God. Set your heart on spending time with Jesus every possible minute. Make your life count! Set your heart above.
A heart seated in heaven will be an excellent defense against the temptations to sin because it will have lost an interest in the things of the flesh. A heart in heaven won’t be easily distracted by the drama and noise of this earthly life.
If you can tell me this morning that you have found eternal happiness by setting your heart on something earthly, I want to hear what it is. Anyone? Is there anyone here who says, “I have found the secret to eternal happiness?” Right. No one can testify because eternal happiness is only found in giving our whole heart to Jesus.
Now that our hearts are seated above, let’s get our minds there. It’s time to live and think higher than we have ever thought before.
Before we ever ask ourselves WWJD, “What would Jesus do,” we ought to ask, “WWJT?” “What would Jesus think?” We are told in I Cor. 2:16 that we have the mind of Christ. So, as we set our minds on things above, we are saying, “Jesus, I want your mindset. I want to think like you do.”
We get into trouble more often than we may realize because we don’t anchor our minds above. Your heart may be set on pleasing the Lord. You may enjoy spending time with Him. You may love to worship and sing the songs of faith, go to the Christian concerts, sway and shout and buy the t-shirts and even talk to Him in prayer, but if your mind is never changed about anything or your thought life is never transformed, you are going to be in a constant battle. Until you think like Jesus would think, you will never do what Jesus would do.
Romans 8:5–6 “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
We aren’t born with the mind of Christ. It has to be cultivated. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Jesus had a different take on this earthly life than we have. He said to live you have to die, to gain you have to lose, to be forgiven you have to let your offenders go by forgiving them, to please God you have to sacrifice, and to become great you must serve. Those thoughts are foreign to us as the world has taught us to move through life trying to preserve self, achieve greatness and the recognition of others. When you talk about seating your mind above, you are strategically turning over the faculty to Jesus that will enable you to live like He did. He will renew your mind and through that renewed and transformed mind you will know how to battle the enemy and keep yourself from destruction.
II Cor. 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Listen, your thought life is even more important than your behavior because your thoughts will dictate what you do. If your thoughts don’t behave Jesus, your behavior never will.
If your mind isn’t seated above, Satan will take the opportunity to sit in your mind and start to whisper his evil thoughts. “Who does she think he is?” “Are you going to sit there and take that?” “You deserve better.” “Why don’t you show them whose boss.” “Why don’t you take matters into your own hands?” “They ought to pay for what they’ve done to you.” “That wasn’t fair.” “He doesn’t care about you.” “He doesn’t appreciate everything you do for him.” “She doesn’t respect you.” “God isn’t listening to your prayers or they would be answered by now.” Blah, blah, blah! Remember, we are to take our stand against the devil’s schemes (Eph. 6). He is scheming for control of your mind. He wants to plant seeds of doubt in your mind. He wants to deceive your mind.
When Jesus told the disciples about the plan for his death and resurrection in Mark 8, Peter took Jesus aside and started to rebuke him. But Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Clearly, Satan was influencing Peter’s thought life. This past week, have you been more mindful of the things of men or the things of God?
Let’s continue Paul’s train of thought in Colossians 3:12ff: 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
What do these verses have to do with our minds? They all deal with our relationships with others. In our relationships with others, we’re told we are to have the same mindset as Jesus. (Phil. 2:5) Where we can clearly see Satan’s efforts to gain access to our minds is in our relationships with others, something these verses address. We are to think about people, whether strangers or friends, like Jesus does.
We are to think compassionate things about others; things that move us to acts of kindness. Oh, your heart can feel compassion, but your mind can quickly override it and rationalize reasons for not getting involved. Am I right? How often has your heart been touched deeply by something only to have your mind dismiss it? In your mind you justify why it isn’t your responsibility to help out or get involved. Satan doesn’t want you to do the ministry of Christ. He’ll use every tactic at his disposal to distract your mind or minimize the need that once touched your heart. But if our heart is seated above, you won’t dismiss it. You’ll act on what your heart felt.
We are to be accurate in our minds about ourselves. We are to be humble in our assessment of ourselves. None of us is “all that.” Tell your neighbor, “You aren’t all that!” We need to get over ourselves quickly and make our minds sit above in Christ. Jesus IS “all that and more!” It’s all about Him. He is the Vine. We are the branches. Apart from Him, we are nothing and can do nothing. But Satan wants to puff you up. He wants you to think you have it going on, that you are talented enough or connected enough or powerful enough to succeed on your own. He wants to see you, the branch, cut away from the Vine.
We’re quick to rush to judgments about people, but Paul says we are to bear with one another in gentleness and patience. We make assumptions about people in a hurry. Those assumptions are made in our minds. And instead of speaking gently and taking our time to find out what is really going on with folks, we shut them down and shut them out. People who are seated with Christ make up their minds not to react to people in a harsh, gruff, or impatient way, but to treat people with honor and preference. Satan wants to make you think you don’t have time to deal with “incompetent people” or you don’t have time to “wait for people.” He wants to get you in a hurry. He wants to put thoughts in your mind about not having to tolerate people. He wants you to be annoyed by people to lead you to say cutting and hurtful things.
Now for the toughest part: 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
One of the biggest things Satan uses to trap you and render you powerless is offense. He wants to make sure you are offended as many times as possible. Satan is baiting you in your mind to get you to believe things that will lead to you carrying an offense.
Don’t take the bait! He wants your feelings hurt. He wants you to add to the offense in your imagination. He wants your relationships to be as full of drama as possible. Because once you are offended by what you THINK someone did to you, a chain reaction takes place that is hard to get stopped. Wrong thinking leads to anger. Anger leads to bitterness. Bitterness gets rooted in your heart. When that happens, Satan has successfully de-seated your heart and mind.
If you will keep your mind seated in Christ and arrest and destroy those thoughts that Satan wants to feed your mind, you can defeat Satan. Rather than let the thought turn to anger and bitterness when you are hurt, pray about it and if you can’t get peace that way, ask for Christ’s mind and heart to speak to the person with the purpose of getting things resolved. The worst thing you can do is just go over and over the offense in your mind. It will get bigger and you will get madder.
Our thoughts are like silent conversations in our heart. To keep talking to ourselves and filtering it through the hurt and our perspective of what happened can be very destructive. Having a conversation over and over with yourself is a dead end street.
You take these kinds of thoughts captive when you just choose to forgive. Choose to release people from what you think happened. Choose to release people from your judgment that they meant harm or are out to get you. Don’t let the offense turn to anger and produce bitterness. Bitterness will eat at you the rest of your life from the inside of your soul. “Bitterness is unfulfilled revenge.” (Francis Frangipane) It is produced when revenge is not satisfied to the degree we desire.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews spoke directly about this issue. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. ~ Hebrews 12:14-15
Bitterness is a root. If thoughts are nursed — watered, protected, fed, and given attention — they increase in depth and strength. If not dealt with quickly, roots are hard to pull up. The strength of the offense will continue to grow. We are therefore exhorted not to let the sun go down on our anger (see Eph. 4:26). Now instead of the fruit of righteousness being produced, we will see a harvest of anger, resentment, jealousy, hatred, strife, and discord. Jesus called these evil fruits (see Matthew 7:19-20).
The Bible says a person who does not pursue peace by releasing offenses will eventually become defiled. That which is precious will end up being corrupted by the vileness of unforgiveness.
The opportunity to be offended happens multiple times a week, sometimes multiple times each day. These are landmines of Satan. They are traps that you have to navigate through. Don’t minimize the danger of harboring an offense. When you do, it’s like carrying an explosive device around that continues to detonate over and over again.
Jesus had many opportunities to be offended. There was no one more mistreated than Jesus. Yet He chose to forgive. Satan wants to bait you and trap you through offenses. Jesus wants to use them to enable you to become more like Him. Become a lover of people. A forgiver of all.
If you can’t wrap your mind around the idea of forgiving people who harm you, set your mind on this truth. God is just and vengeance is His. (Romans 12:19) If a wrong needs to be righted, He will see to it that it happens.
“If we are impatient and seek revenge, we presume that we are wiser than God, and we reveal a blatant lack of trust that God will do the right thing. Only by trusting God’s sovereign wisdom will we be free from our anger and preoccupation toward those who have committed evil. If we refuse to trust God’s justice, we become enslaved to bitterness and anger. We must guard our hearts and trust God to exercise His judgment against those who oppose Him.” (Henry Blackaby)
If we are going to have the mind of Christ, we will choose forgiveness. We will choose to release our offenders.
You were made to live on a higher plane. Embrace it. Put your heart there. Die to the world and put your whole heart into living for Jesus. You were made to think on a higher plane. Capture thoughts that will take you down and tie you down with the chains of bitterness. Seat your heart so you can live right. Seat your mind so you can think right. Anyone want to give their heart or mind to Jesus this morning?