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Christ Our Life; When Christ Our Life Appears (Col. 3:3-4)

Christ the One We Seek and Esteem above All (v. 3)


Died with Him: Crucified to Sin, World, Self


Dead with Christ and alive with him – this is the great dynamic of the Christian life (2 Cor. 4:10). Here our death with him is the reason we seek him above. Since we are dead in him, we only have life in him. Once we were dead in our sins, but now we are crucified with Christ and raised with him so that sin has no dominion over us (Rom. 6:1-7). We have left that realm; we do not love sin but feel a growing abhorrence to it and have power to resist it, as we abide in Christ. Once we loved the world, but in Christ we are also crucified to the world, the lusts of the eyes and flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). We are dead even to ourselves in the death of Christ. We live, but it is not we who live, but Christ who lives in us (Gal. 2:20). Thus, being dead to all that we were, we seek our life in Christ. We must take our death in Christ with utmost seriousness (Rom. 6:11). This is the way we must think of ourselves, define ourselves.  We are dead in him to all that is of this world, and we are alive only in him. He has the living water and bread, the Holy Spirit, love, joy, peace, and every gift and grace. All the fullness is in him (2:11). We seek him because our death in him frees us from sin and death. He fills us with himself, so that we can live body and soul unto him.


Our Life Hid with Him: Heavenly, Secret


And yet, our life in Christ is hidden, not yet revealed in its full glory and splendor. We have new life in him, but we also have much lingering weakness. Hourly the flesh rears its ugly head, trying to drag us back down into the world of sin and death. Hidden is clearly contrasted with revealed. It is a secret life we have in Christ because the world knows nothing of it and can know nothing of it (John 14:17). The world lives by sight and gratification of the senses. The life we have in Christ is lived by faith in him (Gal. 2:20). To live by faith in the Son of God means that we come to him, believing that he is the Christ of God, forsaking trying to be our own life, entrust ourselves to him, and draw life and salvation from him through prayer and the word. This life is known only by the Spirit revealing it to us, and therefore, it is hidden. And yet, secret likely means more than this. It is heavenly. It is hidden because it will be revealed when Christ returns from heaven. He is our life, and therefore we are continually in communion with our Savior in heaven to have life. Clearly, the world is shut out of heaven, for it does not believe upon the name of Jesus Christ. It seeks life and pleasure and help from this world, and therefore its death deepens.

This is the reason the Christian is heavenly-minded, and it deserves special attention. It is not that we are fed up with the fools running things below. Frustration with earth is not heavenly-mindedness. Nor is it to seek the things above to think that the body is bad, or that since some are sick all the time, nothing good happens here. Bitterness is not heavenly-mindedness. Nor is it heavenly-minded to omit pertinent duties of friendship, fellowship, and even citizenship. To be heavenly-minded is to seek the life that is in heaven, Jesus Christ. It is to live in communion with him through prayer and the word, and then obeying the life and grace he gives. In this way, our earthly lives are impacted by heaven – not by becoming heaven or a paradise, but by the grace and life of our Savior being brought to bear upon our earthly responsibilities and relationships. This is the great challenge of true heavenly-mindedness: that in the midst of our warfare with sin, our many responsibilities, and the pressures of cross-bearing of many forms, we continue to draw life from our Lord Jesus by faith in him and communion with him.


Christ Is Our Life (v. 4)


Christ the Essence of the Christian Life


The profundity of “Christ our life” is lost in the shuffle of so many other “lives” and things we live for: sports and entertainment, friends and social media, or making money. We need not investigate too deeply all the counterfeit lives that are offered in place of the only true and abundant life that is in Christ. To say that Christ is our life is to believe, first, that he is Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:11), the first and last in himself as God, and also the first and last of our existence. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). We live by his power and we live unto his glory, or we live badly and not really at all. But we rebelled against the Lord, and he is our life in that he is the “Savior of the body.” In obedience to his Father, he willingly became our substitute and surety. Sinners have no life before God unless they have Jesus Christ as their Savior. Satan does all he can to convince sinners that they are doing just fine without a Savior. This is the way we can tell where he is deceiving and where the Holy Spirit is working. The Holy Spirit speaks of sin, righteousness, and judgment, so that men are convicted of their sinfulness and of the danger of their sins so that they seek a Savior.


Christ the Strength of the Christian’s Life


Jesus Christ is also the very essence and strength of the Christian life. He is the Vine from which we receive all life and grace (John 15:1). There is really no good in us at all except what comes from our Lord Jesus by his Spirit. The Holy Spirit works all the good in us, from Christ our Head. Progress in Christian living is not drawing out hidden strength or ability from within believers. It is drawn from our Head, the Lord Jesus, by his sealing Spirit, who takes what is Christ’s and shows it to us (John 16:13; 2 Cor. 3:17). We would pray to greater effect if we believed this more firmly – that any good we do on a given day, any victory over sin, any love shown and service given, are all from the strength of our Savior. It would also deepen our sense of connection to him – bride and Husband, branch and Vine.

He is also the living Model by which we are to live, for being in Christ and seeking our life from him means that “we walk as he walked” (1 John 2:6). It is one of the evils of our time that we make so little today of the imitation of Jesus Christ. Why do we need a model for Christian living? Because we have no idea what we are doing. This is the reason we must be in the Gospels constantly, seeing the way our Lord walked, obeyed his Father, prayed without ceasing, lived not for his own will but for his Father, suffered patiently, loved his enemies, and all the other glories his “going about doing good” (Acts 10:38). We must be more intentional about living as he lived, for he is our great exemplar. Do not listen to those today who say that something more is needed than the example of Jesus Christ. He faced all we do today, and he shows us the way to be bold with despisers of God and his word, gentle with the weak, tender to the needy, humble toward all, zealous for his Father’s house, unmindful of his personal rights and claims to glory but instead humbling himself and serving others, and his love for sinners.

Because Christ is our life it is absurd for us to set our desires upon this life. Even the good things we do in this life must be with Christ and heaven in our hearts. And since our life is Christ, still hidden above, we must seek constant nourishment from Christ. This is the real purpose of prayer and abiding in God’s word day and night – not a monkish accumulation of knowledge but a disciple’s renewal of life and love. It is only because Christ lives and is our life that we live. In his fellowship new life is fostered, and the old man dies more and more. And since that life is yet hidden with a future revealing, we must not complain and murmur at our earthly difficulties. These are the Father’s way of making us seriously displeased with ourselves and teaching us that our life is not below, but above. If everything always went well for us below, we would not seek the Lord with fervency, mourn over our sins, and seek the life to come. And thus, as Calvin said, no one can “rise with Christ if he has not first died with him.” We cannot know his abundant life unless we are daily putting sin to death, dying to ourselves and our desires, and asking the Lord to kill sin in us, to kill the world in us, and to kill the “I” in us. Christ alone is our life, and he will not share his place with anyone else.

Christ Coming and Glorified with Him (v. 4)


Sonship Fully Revealed – Because Christ Will Appear


“If only in this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). And yet, in response to the pressures and temptations of our age, we seem to have grounded our hope almost exclusively in this life. If you want to be relevant, build a following, make some money, talk about here and now. Agitate everyone with how bad things are, propose solutions, and look the part of the wise and the clever. The Lord is a Shepherd who leads in different paths. We must repent of being so much “this life” and “kingdom now” Christians that we forget the highest reason for the hope that is in us is not in this life. Christ will appear from heaven. He is returning in glory, as we shall see him, admire him, and be with him (2 Thess. 1:10). The One whom we love will not forever be removed from our physical presence. As we wait for him, our sonship lies hidden. “It does not appear what we shall be” (1 John 3:2). We must not talk and act like we know everything or as if we have presently reached a heaven-like level of Christian experience and understanding.

Our life is hidden with Christ in God. This means, first, that our life is Trinitarian – in fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Our lives sometime feel unsettled because our theology is too shallow to support the weight of glory and the reality of warfare. Jesus Christ is the Mediator between God and man. We do not relate to him alone, but he brings us into the fellowship of the Father of love and grace. “Through whom we have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph. 2:18). Here also the whole work of the Godhead is brought forward and made very personal for our faith – access – meaning that we are invited and welcomed to draw near to God as our Father, through the Mediator, Jesus Christ, who sympathizes with us, by the help and witness-bearing of the Spirit that we are God’s children. This is some of what it means that our lives are hidden with Christ in God. It surely also implies our absolute security, that we and our inheritance are being reserved in heaven, as Peter said (1 Pet. 1:4-5). And with the Father, the Son is in complete repose. His kingly reign is not a season for him of personal agitation but of sovereign joy and peace. His victory is beyond the slightest doubt. Satan knows that he has but a little while, and thus evil is agitated – not righteousness. Like its Savior, it can rest in the repose of God-reconciled, a cross-crushed Satan, and intimate heavenly intercession.

It thus greatly matters for our faith, our peace and purpose, to know that our life is hid with Christ in God. We are as untouchable as our Savior is. No one can pluck us from his hand. This is not said to foster passivity but to fuel faith, energy, and zeal. Do not allow the salesmen of fear and doom, whose only life is in this world, to make you forget, child of God, where your life is. It is with Christ in God, not with men in this life. Earthly scraps are all the heaven they will ever have, and like alley-cats they fight over every morsel.  We, however, have present communion with God in Christ and future hope that our life is returning. Our life is to have perfect fellowship with God through Christ in glorified bodies and souls. We know little of this yet, only a promise and a hope of it, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Using every means of grace, we must allow “returning life” to exert controlling influence upon us. It is our own little war to escape being consumed by this life, both its joys and its problems. Every believer feels this. Our earthly lives take up so much time and energy. Even when we are trying to live them for the Lord, we feel divided and often fall back into the old ways of self, the world, and even sinful words and attitudes.

But Jesus Christ our life will appear. This life is not all there is. Today’s technologies are not eternal, and we need not fear them or become obsessed with them. Our affections must be upon a returning Savior. We must pray for his return, live in the light of his return, and expect his return in glory. In the same body, said the angels, that the apostles watched him ascend, he will descend in glory to be admired by all that believe (Acts 1:11). It has been 2,000 years since he ascended, but we should put this in perspective. This is the same length of time between Adam and the Flood, Noah and Christ, and Christ and us – very brief stretches of time, but long to us because we are so frail and air-breathers (Isa. 2:22). I doubt heaven’s receiving line of the ascended Son of God in glory and wonder has finished greeting the returning Lord of glory! Do not allow the oil in your lamps to be extinguished by the passage of time. Continually return to the reservoir that is the Holy Spirit. Seek to gain deeper and more controlling impressions and convictions of Christ’s reigning at the Father’s right hand, interceding for us, and soon to return for us. And then work diligently and joyfully in the light of his return. A returning Savior, a returning Bridegroom should make the most joyful of disciples.


Life Fully Revealed – Because Christ Revealed in Glory


Because Christ our life has not yet appeared, our life has not appeared. Our lives as Christians are yet in their infancy! We have but the vaguest notions of the life to come, how glorious we shall be, how inexpressibly happy, contented, peaceful, strong. If we measure our Christian experience by this life, we shall certainly be disappointed, and many are for this very reason. They make the rounds looking for the perfect church, or the perfect preacher, or the perfect people, and never find it. Or we look for the perfect or better times of history, and lament that we could not live in those times. The life we have in Christ was no more fully revealed then than it is now. We are not contented and useful because we find perfection now but because we know perfection is coming. Christ is coming, and then since he is our life, our life will be more fully revealed.

Now, we do not know what it is like to live without sin, without suspicion or envy, without any troubling thoughts or sinful motives intruding into our relationship with Christ, or hatefulness destroying our relationship with others. We have not had an instant without the flesh fighting against the new man in Christ and the devil hurling his lying insults and taunts. We truly have no idea of what our lives will be like without any sin – none. Every thought shall be willingly brought captive to Christ. No temptation will be able to penetrate the shining veil of heavenly perfection. All will be love and joy, toward God and others, strength and purpose in serving him, never a dull moment, always fulfilled in the smallest acts of service and fellowship with God and one another. And the birds of doubt will not pass over a single time – that all this joy must eventually end, or that something bad is just around the corner, or that this bliss will be lost. No more tears, for the Lord will wipe them away. The Lord will be our portion, our sunshine, our food, our life. And this is all because Jesus Christ will be revealed in glory. Let us comfort one another with these words, as we have been commanded to do (1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11). Too seldom do we do this but instead agitate one another with what is happening in this dead world.


Glory Transforming – Because We Shall See Him as He Is


All of this is in Christ. All the glory coming is the grace of God revealed in Christ, applied to us by the Holy Spirit. It is not because we shall all have a fairy tale ending. The Christian’s hope of glory is not a placebo to make us more docile in this life’s trials and tribulations or accepting of the evils around us. It is the invigorating reality because Jesus Christ is the Son of God and has come to give us abundant life. We are not to lay up treasures here, for the only treasures that will last are those in heaven that we lay up before God (Matt. 6:19-20). This is from the mouth of the One who emptied himself of all splendor and became poor for our sake. He did this to make us rich toward God. Our riches will fully begin when we see him. The sight of him will be transforming (1 John 3:2). We experience now a shadow of his glory – as we look upon him in his word, our hearts are transformed. Sorrow gives way to joy, fear to peace, and despair to hope. This is all Christ. It is part of the glory that we shall one day have fully. We will appear with him in full glory, seeing his glory, reflecting his glory, body and soul, and enjoying the glory of God.

Some rays of this penetrate below. The full weight of glory is future, but it can be seen now, if you have eyes to see it – when a Christian forgives injury – like Jesus Christ did. Or, when we serve without complaining or shining a self-praising light upon our good deeds – like our Lord. We pray when we want to sleep – again, this is our Lord’s life in us. Love, joy, and peace – all the fruits of the Spirit – are the glory begun. The more we give ourselves to these, the more we anticipate what is coming and in a sense bring heaven to bear upon earth. This is not grabbing the spotlight and using the world’s magic and weapons to accomplish better ends. This is the life of Christ shining through us, the light of the world, so that men see, whether they will or not, the Father’s glory in Christ shining through us. Such glory is a great weight and responsibility. It is the first faint rays of heaven.

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