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A sermon on practical Christian living from Colossians 3 November 1, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Colossians, Religion, Sermons, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Warfare.
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How to be Heavenly-Minded and Still be of Earthly Good
Colossians 3:1-17

Have you ever heard the phrase, “His head is in the clouds”? If you have, then you know this is not a compliment. It means that someone is impractical and does not know how to live practically in this world. Another way of saying this is that someone “is so heavenly-minded that they are of no earthly good.” I have been asked by believers, if it is possible to be too focused on heaven. Now that may be code for how do I live for Christ without being obvious. That, of course, is impossible. There is, however, a legitimate concern that we all should have. How should my spiritual reality positively affect my life here on earth?

We saw last week that the keeping of rules and regulations does not necessarily mean that one is living a spiritual reality, that is, that one is heavenly minded. Instead it may mean that one is living an earthly, fleshly reality with religious trappings. Obeying the rules and regulations of a religious group, even one that is true to the Scriptures as we are here at Grace Bible Church does not make us heavenly-minded anymore than wearing a Stetson would make us Texans.

I. You see, in order to be heavenly-minded, we must have an eternal perspective that becomes visible only out of our position in Christ (vs. 1-4). No doubt, you realize that your physical position determines what you can see. Back in August, I flew into Detroit from Philadelphia. My flight was delayed and I ended up flying fairly late at night. I had a window seat on the right side of the plane. As we flew south of Cleveland, I saw the most amazing sight. We were flying south of a huge thunderstorm that was over Lake Erie. You could not hear the thunder but you could see the clouds filled with lightning. If we had been flying through that thunderstorm, it might well have been a terrifying experience but because from where I was sitting, there was no turbulence the thunderstorm not only was not terrifying to me but gave me a sense of confidence that the person or persons who determined the route that we were flying were highly competent. You see, your physical position affects your perspective physically as well as psychologically. Spiritually this is also true. The reality of our relationship to Christ is what gives us an eternal perspective and allows us to be heavenly-minded.

a. Our present reality is connected to the resurrection and ascension of Christ (vs. 1-3). We talked about our present reality last week. When we put our faith and trust in Christ, it is as though we died with Him (after all, it is our sin that put Him to death), were buried with Him, and rose again with Him. This, of course, is what baptism symbolizes. “We are buried with Him in baptism, raised to walk in new life through Christ Jesus.” In that statement there is a commitment that is described with two words in Colossians 1:1-2.

1. The first word, in verse one, is “seek.” Jesus said according to Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” Since I am a new creature in Christ Jesus, I am committed to seeking those things that are associated with Christ, specifically with a Christ who is sitting at the right hand of God. You see, Jesus is ruler of this universe and my life is to be given to seeking those things that are associated with His eternal reign. His kingdom has priority, His righteousness has priority. That is one reason why I am a part of a church, because it is through His church, His people that His kingdom is advanced.

2. There is another word, actually a phrase, found in verse two, “set your mind.” That is, exercise your mind. Think on heavenly things, taking great interest in them. Think on God’s Word with the intention to obey it. Why? The reason is this, you are dead to sin and resurrected with Christ. Although outwardly you may look no different than before your salvation, your reality is different and you need to think about the things that belong to your new reality. A believer in Christ who is raised in Christ Jesus and yet is focused on this world is trying to live a fantasy, trying to exist in a spiritual “Land of Make-Believe.”

b. Our future reality is connected to the return of Christ (vs. 4, 6).
 Although we may at the present look no different physically than the unbeliever, there is coming a day, according to verse 4 when we will appear with Jesus Christ in glory. 1 John 3:2 puts it this way, “…it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” When Christ returns, our present reality will be unleashed and we shall, as believers in Christ, enjoy the glory for which God saved, the glory which we will share with Jesus Christ, the one who saved us from our sin.

 Let me remind you of the alternative in verse 6, “…the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.” When Christ returns, it will be a time of glory for believers but for those who have not put their faith in Christ, it will be a time of angry judgment. God is not unemotional when He judges men for their sin anymore than He is dispassionate when He glorifies His children for all eternity. God hates sin and He will judge each man’s sin either through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ or through His endless wrath on the sinner.

II. Now this is our spiritual reality. The past two chapters have been largely given to describing how that we through faith in Christ are dead to sin, buried with Him in baptism, raised to walk in new life in Christ Jesus, serving our heavenly King Jesus and His heavenly kingdom, looking forward to the day of His coming when we will be glorified with Him for all eternity. What, however, does that mean for us practically? When we go to work or to school tomorrow, when we go home this afternoon, when the stresses and temptations of this world start to press down on us, how do we remain heavenly-minded? The answer is this: to be heavenly-minded, we must spiritually and mentally execute the members of our fleshly being (vs. 5-7).

a. Our fleshly being still wants to satisfy itself (vs. 5). The first four items in this list deal with sexual sins. Certainly this is a problem in our society. The problem begins, however, not on the TV or the computer but begins in our sinful flesh. Paul says, take drastic action. This takes constant and conscious effort. It means not watching certain forms of entertainment. It means not spending time with certain people. It means putting your computer in a place where everyone has access so that you cannot hide any sin in which you may be tempted to indulge. It means learning to dress in a way that is not an invitation to the evil thoughts and intentions of others. It means memorizing Scripture and praying much and studying much Scripture and, if your married, focusing on your spouse more intensively. Why go to such lengths? Because our fleshly being still wants to satisfy itself.

Now the first four items may not be a temptation for you but there are few of us who do not look at others and long for what they have. That is what covetousness is. Paul says, “That is idolatry.” When I look at what others have and long for it instead of longing for the heavenly things of Christ, I am no better than the tribesman who sacrifices to a rock or a tree. I am an idolator.

b. As we have seen, the satisfaction of the fleshly being is one of the reasons for God’s anger with unbelieving men (vs. 6). Why then would I want to engage in behaviors which make God angry?

c. We are capable in our new life in Christ, our resurrected life, of rejecting our old life (compare vs. 3-4 to vs. 5a & 7). That does not mean it is easy. That is why Paul uses the word “execute”, that is, “put to death” your sinful flesh. It takes drastic action but in Christ it is possible.

III. To be heavenly-minded, we must spiritually clothe ourselves according to our spiritual reality (vs. 8-17). Paul talks here of our earlier “dead” life and compares it to our new “resurrected” life as two suits of clothes. Only one of those is appropriate to our spiritual reality. If the clothes make the man, then we need to pay attention to what we should and should not wear spiritually.

a. Our spiritual reality is a new man (vs. 9b-11). In these verses, Paul describes a spiritual exchange. When I go to the store, I make an exchange. Let’s say that I take a can of beans off the shelves, take it to the cashier who tells me how much the item costs, and then give the cashier some money. Once that exchange takes place, that can of beans is mine. The store cannot say put it back on the shelves. I have a receipt that shows that I exchanged a certain amount of money for that can of beans. The money now belongs to the store owners and the can of beans is mine. When we put our faith in Christ, we exchange our old man and his destructive behaviors (verse 9b) and the destructive words that come out of his mouth (verse 11a) for a new man constantly renewed in the knowledge of God (vs. 10) and unified with the body of Christ (vs. 11b).

b. Our old man is characterized by destructive behavioral sins (vs. 8-9a). Look at this list of sins. They are all verbal and they are all against mankind. Even the “blasphemy” here is not talking about using God’s name in vain but rather “blaspheming,” that is, slandering other people. Paul is saying, the heavenly-minded person will take those things off and put them away.

c. Our new man, however, is characterized by the fruit of the Spirit (vs. 12-17). Not every fruit of the Spirit is listed here in these verses but most of them are, specifically those fruit that deal with the words of our mouth and the relationships we have with other believers. If I could summarize these verses and the commands in them, I would say it this way, “Let your relationship to Christ keep your relationship to the body of Christ God-glorifying!” Let me repeat that. It is so important. “Let your relationship to Christ keep your relationship to the body of Christ God-glorifying!”

1. According to verses 12-15, believers are to forgive with the type of forgiveness and under the same conditions with which Christ has forgiven us. Let me illustrate using the first part of verse 13. Paul says there are ways in which we put on the characteristics of verse 12. Endure one another and forgive one another. To endure means to put up with, not to say anything, let it go, it isn’t important, forget about it. Most of us are willing to do that up to a certain point. We will put up with anything except… Most of you have said something like that and it may be that whatever you fill the blank with is an indication of what condition you are not like Jesus Christ. Forgiving, however, goes a step further. It involves action, it involves confrontation, it involves saying something but it also involves showing mercy, giving someone forgiveness that they do not deserve, it involves putting someone else’s needs before your own, it involves being a peacemaker, it involves pain, it involves tears of grief. That is, by the way, how Jesus assuages the wrath of God, by providing through His death, forgiveness. An act on confronting sin and its penalty head on but showing mercy to the sinner who needs peace with God. It cost Christ (1:24). He suffered much but that was the price necessary for my salvation and forgiveness and He paid it thankfully. In the same way that is the price I must pay if I am going to be heavenly-minded and of earthly good and use to the cause of Christ.

2. In verses 16-17, Paul sums up how this is possible. By the knowledge of Christ that makes us, as a body, focused on Jesus Christ. Colossians 3:17a says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” Commit yourself to saying this verse everyday this week to yourself. Write on the back of the outline insert during the week, ways in which you have a choice between doing or saying something in the name of the Lord Jesus and following the ways of the body of sin.

What is your future? Is it glory or wrath? Is it forgiveness or damnation? Is it the old man or the new man? Jesus is the way to glory and forgiveness. Will you trust Him as your Lord and Savior today?

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