Longtime pastor of FBC Baton Rouge, Dr. J. Norris Palmer once preached a sermon on Easter Sunday entitled “The Resurrection Obligation”, in which he proclaimed from God’s Word that as those who have been raised with Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:1), Christian believers now have a “fixed and definite” obligation to live as Christ has called us. This particular passage in Colossians is a non-traditional Easter scripture, and the message itself isn’t exactly one which many people get excited about. We love to hear about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us; but we are not so keen on hearing what he expects of his people.
Yet that is exactly what the resurrection of Christ calls for: a serious and deep heart-searching evaluation of our priorities and affections, focused on how we live in light of the reality that Jesus is the living and reigning King of Kings. Colossians 3:1-4 calls every believer in the risen Christ to set our minds on things above, because our lives are already hidden with Christ in God forever and ever. We have nothing to lose by living for God’s glory in obedience to Jesus Christ because we already have what he has promised – eternal life.
The resurrection of Jesus should affect every part of your life. Why? Well, if Jesus was telling us the truth when he said he would be crucified and raised from the dead (Matt. 16:21, 20:18, Mark 10:34, Luke 9:22) then everything else he said has to be true as well. How outlandish and ridiculous is it that a man can predict that he will be raised from the dead? No one does that because no one is capable of doing that. But, Jesus not only said it would happen, but he proved it did happen when he walked out of the tomb that bright Easter morning. So, if his most “unbelievable” miracle actually occurred in the exact way he described, then every other commandment, rebuke, warning, and prophecy must be true as well. What this means for those who believe in the resurrection is that we must pay close attention to what Jesus said about those who are his true followers.
While you may not deny the resurrection, and in fact you may rejoice in it, the reality quickly sets in that we can easily drift from this joyous good news into apathy, complacency, and unawareness of the living Christ. This has a deep and corrupting effect on our hearts because part of being raised with Christ is the challenge to accept the change of heart that comes with faith in Jesus. To be a new creature in Christ means to be a NEW KIND OF PERSON– the old person has to be dead because he died with Christ on the cross (Galatians 2:20). To set our minds on the things that are above is only possible for those whose minds are transformed by the power of God and his gospel (Romans 12:1). You MUST change because that is God’s design for your new life in Christ. Keep in mind that this change is glorious. We cannot lose sight of or ignore this great reality for all Christians: God is making us more and more like his Son Jesus, which is why he saved you and will one day glorify you (Romans 8:29-30). We cannot live any longer HOWEVER we want; we are now set apart for live for God’s glory and now our own. Pastor Kevin DeYoung says it this way:
When you first got interested in Christianity it was new and exciting. It gave purpose and order to your life. You liked the fellowship and the people. But then you found out how you were supposed to change. You learned that God, because he loves you, didn’t want you to have to be a sexaholic, a workaholic, an alcoholic. You realized that following Jesus meant you couldn’t live any which you pleased. You belonged to God, and the God of the Bible is not an anything goes kind of God.
When we do not acknowledge the risen Christ in the monotony of every-day life we sell short our experience as those who have been “raised with Christ.” While the truth of the gospel, culminating in the resurrection, is what brought us to faith in Jesus to begin with, it is also what sustains us each and every day. So when the apostle Paul tells us to set our mind on things above, that includes setting our minds on the One who is seated above, at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for us and fighting for our joy in this life. You don’t HAVE TO LIVE IN SIN, because Jesus defeated its power over you (Rom. 6:6).
This was Paul’s warning to the Colossians: “Hey Christians, temptation is all around you! Set your mind on things above, NOT on the things of this earth.” This does not mean that we do not think about what’s for dinner, or how to get all the laundry done, or how do I discipline my children, or what kind of job am I to pursue, or who to vote for, or where to go on vacation, or which tie to wear on Sunday morning, etc. All of this ordinary stuff is actually within the framework of living new lives in Christ. How can we live in this world while doing all the stuff we MUST do each day just to survive? The answer: Set your mind on things above. There are a couple of practical, “everyday ways” to do this:
- Think about Jesus. Just stop for a moment and think about all you know about Christ. His holiness, his perfection, his unconditional love and mercy, his abundant grace, his patience, and his expectations for his followers. This is where we can all find common ground to set our minds on things that are above.
- Read the Bible! This sounds so easy and cliché’, but it is the primary way in which we “hear” from God. Do you want to hear God speak to you? Read your bible. And study your bible. To set your mind on things above means to fill your mind with truths of God. So read Colossians 3:5-17, Philippians 4:4-11, Galatians 5:16-26, John 14, and 1 Corinthians 2. Read ALL of the Psalms and Proverbs. Read the Word and set your mind on what you are reading.
May God bless you and sustain you by His Spirit as you read and believe His Word and trust more in the risen Jesus Christ. He is alive and he is working in you for the glory of His name and for your eternal joy.