What is Your Mind Set On
I want you to think about, as much as you can recollect, all of the thoughts you have had over the past hour…or the past few minutes even. Of those thoughts, how many of them were centered on the things of Christ, the things above, and how many of them were centered on the flesh, the worldly, the things on this Earth. I know that not all of my thoughts were on Christ or things above, and many of them, sometimes more are on the things of this Earth. Maybe at this very moment your mind is on something other than Christ. You could be sitting next to someone of the opposite sex and you are thinking “man, I would like to get a ring on that!” Perhaps finances plague you, or your job is not what you desire. For some of you graduation is coming soon, so you ask uncertain “God where in the world am I going to go from here, what is next?” It might be even that you are knocked down, dragged out, and torn up by the trials of life, and instead of turning you mind to God, you turn it to the world, or yourself. We consistently are faced with situations and circumstances where we are given the choice between what we should and should not set our minds on. All sorts of thoughts that were not Christ centered, ran around in my as I wrote this. Am I wearing the right bow tie? What do people think about me? Does what they think about mean more than what, God, thinks about me. I hope I do not write something stupid. Which given me is a very legitimate concern.
My point is that each and every passing second we have the choice regarding what we think about. This second, this moment, am I focused on the things above or the things of this earth? If we want to be people who are holy in action we have to be people who are holy in thought. An old friend of mine Blaise Pascal, maybe you know him, once said “Truth is so obscure nowadays and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth shall never recognize it.” And that was hundreds of years ago, Pascal would have a philosophical nightmare if he came back today! Do our minds love truth, or are we so concerned with the obscurity of earthly thinking that sometimes we have a hard time even discerning what truth is? Today I am going to write about Colossians 3:1-4 and how thinking can make or break our Christian life.
Colossians 3:1-4 “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
How Believers Should Think
Colossians 3:1-2- “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
Paul makes Christ the very center of this passage. He begins by telling us what we should and should not think on, if we are believers in Christ. Since, he says since, he is confident that the people he wrote to in Colossae were believers, and we can in turn take these same words for ourselves being believers also. If we are in Christ, if we claim to be in Christ, then we must be people who think like Christ. Our minds should not only accept the truth and thinking that Christ accepts, but also reject the lies and thinking that Christ rejects. Not only are we supposed to think about the things above, but we are also not to think about the things on earth, and not just ignore earthly thinking, but reject it. What we allow our minds to take in, will dictate the actions that we put out.
Sherlock Holmes will always be one of my top favorite literary characters. Often when I read Sherlock Holmes, quotes will jump out at me that seem very applicable to the Christian life. In A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes has a conversation with John Watson on what he (Sherlock) thinks about. The context is, Sherlock did not know the earth rotated around the sun. He then proceeds to explain to Watson about how men’s minds are like attics, and while many people fill their attics with junk making it hard to get at the things that are useful, he tries to hold onto only the information he needs, that he will use. In his words
“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it.”
-Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlett
What are we keeping in our attics? As I thought through what it meant to set my mind on the things above over the things of this earth, I realized, it is a lot easier to list things of this earth, than what it was things that are above.
Thinking on things above means we think in a way that is consistent with our position in Christ. How do we do that? Anything thinking that operates in the will of God, is thinking on things above. Still what does that even mean? We use a lot of Christianese to say something without saying anything. Think about the ways God has shown Himself to you in your life. What has He shown you through His Word and through the lives of others? What have you seen or what do you know of his character? As followers of Him we are called to enjoy what He enjoys, that goes physically as well as mentally. How have you seen God provide? Whenever I start to give into my flesh or focus on my present predicaments, I write out all the ways, material or immaterial, I have seen God provide in my life. Whether that is finances, my friends, direction, or something as small as a tooth brush, reminding ourselves how God has been faithful in our times of faithlessness, helps set our minds on things above and how He is faithful.. One of the closest times I have ever been to the Lord was when I was living homeless in vehicles and all I had to depend on was His Word and provision. If I had not set my mind on things above who knows how differently things may have turned out. At the same time I have had to have huge mental dependence on God by thinking on things above, having manic depression, or as many call it, Bi-Polar disorder. There have been many moments, in the midst of my lows, my depression, that regardless of what emotions, of what my feelings told me, I had to think on the things above. It was through the truth of thinking on the things above, on my position in Christ, how I saw God active in my life, that I was able to get through the lies my feelings said were true. Even now, sure I take medication and often see no symptoms, but if I am not intentional about think on the things above, I am still susceptible to giving into the lows. No matter who we are or what we face, Paul speaks to us all, our mind has to be set on things that are above.
Writers of comic strips often say more in four strips than many authors do in four books. Peanuts is among one of the great comics, and often contains great illustrations of truth. Here we see, that while sound theology does not stop the rain, it does bring comfort during it. The same is true as we set our minds on things above in our daily life.
Things on Earth
I do not know if it is because I am human and still have the flesh or what, but when it comes to nailing down what things of this Earth are, that is a whole lot easier. Not only that, but we give into Earthly thinking so easily. Paul tells us not only to think on the things above, but to not think on the things of this earth. As a believer, thinking on things above, to think like Christ, often means to reject thinking on things of this earth, not just withhold from thinking those thoughts, but rejecting them. What does need to be distinguished is what the things of this earth entails. Since one of Paul’s primary objectives in this letter is a rejection of worldly philosophy and intellectual habits the people of Colossae had succumb to, the things of this earth would be worldly philosophy and worldview that is inconsistent with that of Christianity. He is not telling them to not think about necessary things of this earth, they have to, like us they have daily tasks, needs and responsibilities that needed taken care of, but what he is telling them to do is to not let the things of this earth be the focus of their thinking. At the same time, by things of this earth, he is talking about worldly thinking, thinking inconsistent with Christianity. What does setting our minds on things of this earth look like? For the people of Colossae it was a philosophy called Asceticism, an ideology that promoted piety through exterior religious acts, such as self-harm.
While we may not give into the same earthly thinking today, there are many things of this earth that we allow our minds to think on. One of the biggest ones is the idea of happiness. I am not a betting man, but I bet you could not find one place in all of Scripture that says the goal of the Christian life or following God is about being happy. The Bible talks about joy, but joy and happiness are not synonymous. “I just want to be happy” (sickening) is often a thought that drives many in how they think and act. This thinking has become pervasive in Christianity in everything from the feel good tones of Joel Osteen, to the plethora of rubbish Christian self-help books. For many the goal is not Christ, it is happiness. Another way you can see believers thinking on things of this earth, is the divorce rate. In 2008 the Barna Group did a survey on divorce rates amongst Christians in the U.S. 32 percent of born again believers who marry, will get divorced. This is only one percent less than unbelieving people. I am not sure what is sadder, the percentage, or that I was not shocked by the percentages. Because they set their minds on things of this earth, they were okay with divorce because of it. I know many women who instead of thinking about beauty through the lens of things above, they viewed it through things of the earth, and as such had image problems, some became bulimic, others anorexic. There are guys I know, who set their minds on things of this earth and struggle with lust, an intense sexual sin. A lot of these people are what you would consider to be solid believers! You might be sitting there thinking “that will never happen to me”, but I have news for you, the people I talked about above, said the very same too.
Paul does not tell us to reject thinking on the things of this earth for no reason, earthly thinking is volatile, and thinking on things of this earth, like the many divorced Christian couples, the girls struggling with image problems, the guys dealing with lust, will have consequences. What do you do when you have a bad day? Do you turn to worldly media, or to God? Like a lot of other people, instead of turning to Christ, I turn to this world listening to music like Radiohead or Elliot Smith, and does it ever make me feel better?! No, it often makes me feel worse! The same goes for other media like films, television or books. How often do those take things of this earth take precedence in your mind over the things above? Again, there is a reason why Paul tells us not to set our minds on the things of this Earth. When it comes to how we view people, how often do we give into how the world says we should view them and not how God says we should? We do this with both believing and unbelieving people. How often do our views of them reflect a mindset from above and not on this earth? We view people like the world says to, they get what they deserve, or they look weird so they are not worth my time, when really we are supposed to love all people, because God does.
Let us be people who set our minds on things above not on this earth. Does that mean we will always do so? Nope! We are not perfect, and having the flesh, it is unavoidable that at times our minds will focus on the things of this earth over the things above, and while this is may be unavoidable, does not mean we should not try to avoid it. Our friend C.S. Lewis said to me once, “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth thrown in, aim at Earth and you will get neither.” Aim your mind at the things above and you will get things of this Earth thrown in, aim your mind at things on this earth and you will get neither.
Why We Should Think On the Things Above
Colossians 3: 3-4 “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Now that we have been told what to think Paul tells us why we should think it. The why factor, the reason why we should set out minds on things above, not on this earth, is because of Christ. Is that not what it always comes back to in the end, Christ? Sometimes the Sunday school answers can be right. Since we are believers our position is in Christ, so not only do we have security knowing that our identity, our spiritual self is concealed, hidden in Christ, in the present, but we also have hope because we know that our physical self will also be glorified in the future. What we cannot see is the basis for living what can be seen. Our future should motivate how we live in our present, and that stems from thinking on things that are above, not those that are on this Earth. We are not just capable of thinking on the things above, but we are responsible to do so. We have hope because of Christ. We do not know how we are going to die, but we where we go when we do, and as people with that knowledge, we are given a hope that makes us unstoppable. Thinking on the thing above, our eternal destiny in Christ, gives us the hope and security to do things, to live in a way normally a person could not.
How We Think Determines How We Live
As we have seen, what we should and should not set are minds on, the overarching implication is how we think will determine how we live. Does who we are in Christ line up with how we live Chris
To me nothing is more thought provoking than the works of Calvin and Hobbes. Not John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes, Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Here we see that Calvin is pretending that he is invisible. Because he thinks he is invisible he acts invisible. As we see in the last panel, not only is he not invisible, but there are consequences due his thinking to be so. How we think will determine how we act, and good or bad, how we act as a result of what we think, has consequences.
We should live as people who constantly ask “Am I thinking on things above, or on things of this earth?” What we think, we live. If we choose to think on truth, we will live truth, if we choose to think about lies, we will live lies. The application is one so simple, but at the same time so difficult, set your minds on things above, not on this earth.