This week, our Workbook used passages from Colossians 3 to discuss the transformation that God works within us as Christians. Over time—if you do as you ought in learning, believing, and applying God’s Truth, as contained in the Bible—you will “put off the old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:9) and “put on the new self… being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator” (Colossians 3:10).
This sort of thing is discussed by Paul elsewhere as well, in some of his other letters. Ephesians 4:22-24 is basically directly parallel to Colossians 3:8-10. Romans 12:1-2 is closely parallel too, talking about the transformation effected by the renewing of our minds. And in Romans 6:6 Paul says that our old self has been nailed to the cross with Christ, such that we are no longer slaves to sin.
Ephesians 2:1-10 can help us understand the magnitude of the changes God works within us. We—who were once dead in our transgressions and sins, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts—have not only been saved, but have also been given works from the very hand of God, in order that we might walk in them, and by so doing, bring Him glory. Though once dead, we have been made alive in Christ!
The point of all this is that scripture is full of this talk of us being ever more transformed to conform to the image of Christ—turning away from sin and the lusts of the flesh, and turning towards “the things above” that Colossians 3:1 mentions. And therefore, God’s voice will always lead us on paths of change and transformation. If a voice doesn’t require this of us, then it is certainly not of God.
This week’s lesson starts on page 103 of the workbook, and was what we went through on 02/26/2023.
This week’s lesson discussed Colossians 3, including Colossians 3:1-2, verses that talk about setting our minds on things above, rather than on earthly things.
In this world of lust, rust, and dust, it is all too easy to let our focus slip off of higher spiritual things and down into the mud and mire of our lives here in Satan’s world system. And it’s not always just us getting distracted by the temptations before us in the world; sometimes it may be pressure that gets to us instead, rather than temptation.
When things get really hard and everything goes sideways, it can be difficult to keep our head up and our eyes quickened with the spiritual perspective that comes through faith. It is all too common for people’s Christianity to go out the window when they metaphorically get punched in the face, even though it is the very time they most ought to trust in God rather than themselves.
Instead, we ought to aspire to have the peace and confidence that comes from intentionally holding onto the proper spiritual perspective, even as the world falls to pieces around us (compare Psalm 46:2-3), leaving God to sort out our provision. This page is going to examine this concept.
The answer is always focusing on spiritual things. Always
Trouble at work? Think on the things above.
Politics got you frustrated—with the incompetence and general madness of our trajectory? Think on the things above.
Discouraged and disgusted by your sin? Think on the things above.
Have worries about finances and making ends meet? Think on the things above.
Relationships (family, friendships, marriage, dating) going poorly, even falling apart? Think on the things above.
It is hard—so hard—to do this as we truly ought. Things will go wrong, even spectacularly so. They always will. But that doesn’t matter. Why should it bother us? What is this life, that it should so capture our attention? It is but a single drop of water compared to the endless oceans of eternity. How small is our faith if we don’t trust that the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe can handle our problems! Are they really such great matters for an Infinite God, One who is Omniscient and Omnipotent?
Colossians 3:1-2 is not so very difficult to understand conceptually, but you will very quickly find out how hard it it in practice to keep one’s mind always focused on the spiritual. The sin nature within our flesh and Satan’s world system will together always try to steer us away from the spiritual focus we ought to continuously maintain, but we can fight them… if only we trust God enough to lean on His strength in our fight, rather than trying to go it alone.
What are the things above?
Spiritual things. The Bible—God’s written word—and in-depth Bible teaching coming from it. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8).
We know what these things are. It is no trick question.
We have duties, it is true. But priorities are priorities
Consider this passage from Luke 10:
Luke 10:38-42 | NIV84
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42 | NIrV
38 Jesus and his disciples went on their way. Jesus came to a village where a woman named Martha lived. She welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary.
Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was busy with all the things that had to be done. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, my sister has left me to do the work by myself. Don’t you care? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered. “You are worried and upset about many things. 42 But only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better. And it will not be taken away from her.”
It is probably really easy for us to sympathize with Martha in this passage, especially if we consider ourselves “the responsible sort.”
But if what we are about is not truly “Kingdom business,” how urgent is it really? How much does it really matter? After all, what do we imagine is more important than sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to Him?
So yes, we must provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8), we must work to support ourselves so as not to be a burden to others (2 Thessalonians 3:6-10), and so on. But in truth there are very few things that ought to take us away from the feet of Jesus, out of His Word and His Truth. Don’t be like Martha and worry about the things of the world, but be like Mary and choose the better part that comes from focusing single-mindedly upon spiritual truth, and the One who gives it to us.
God will provide, if we put our focus in the right place
Consider this passage as well, this time from Matthew 6:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
25 “I tell you, do not worry. Don’t worry about your life and what you will eat or drink. And don’t worry about your body and what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than eating? Aren’t there more important things for the body than clothes?
26 “Look at the birds of the air. They don’t plant or gather crops. They don’t put away crops in storerooms. But your Father who is in heaven feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are?
27 “Can you add even one hour to your life by worrying?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the wild flowers grow. They don’t work or make clothing. 29 But here is what I tell you. Not even Solomon in all of his glory was dressed like one of those flowers.
30 “If that is how God dresses the wild grass, won’t he dress you even better? After all, the grass is here only today. Tomorrow it is thrown into the fire. Your faith is so small!
31 “So don’t worry. Don’t say, ‘What will we eat?’ Or, ‘What will we drink?’ Or, ‘What will we wear?’ 32 People who are ungodly run after all of those things. Your Father who is in heaven knows that you need them.
33 “But put God’s kingdom first. Do what he wants you to do. Then all of those things will also be given to you.
34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
What use does worrying about worldly things get us if when we “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” all of our legitimate needs will be given to us? For that is what God promises here. That is why we need not worry about tomorrow.
So we should err far on the side of over-prioritizing spiritual things in our lives
As mentioned briefly above, there are some common-sense lines we cannot cross, such as failing to provide for ourselves and our families.
But Luke 10:38-42 and Matthew 6:25-34 definitely show that the single-minded focus on “things above” that Colossians 3 commands is really that: single-minded. We cannot properly sit at the feet of Jesus and give ourselves over towards His Truth if we let our hearts be split by worldly worries—even things that are far from bad or sinful. It’s just that everything in this ephemeral world weighs in as completely inconsequential compared to eternal spiritual realities. We need to be pleased to put God and His Truth first in our lives—making that our primary focus—and hand over the reigns to Him in absolutely everything else.
We may not get everything we want when we do this, when we completely hand control over to God, but the Bible is clear that we will get all we truly need. And in exchange, we will gain ever so much more on the spiritual front. For the least spiritual reward that is eternal will be worth more than all the wealth in this present world that is passing away. That is the calculus that we should always strive to keep within our minds.
And that is precisely why we should always set our hearts on things above.