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Raised with Christ, Now Seek Him (Col. 3:1-2)

We Are in a Living Union with Him (v. 1)

Raised with Him from Sin’s Death

Union with Christ in his resurrection is the foundation of all the moral and spiritual duties contained in the next two chapters. We serve and please God in our human relationships and duties by the strength of Jesus Christ. Union with Christ is also the reason that we must not think of godliness in terms of beating up the body, observing external rites, or following a religious calendar. These were the shadows of the old covenant days, but we are now in the new covenant day of Jesus Christ. The old, earthy ways of living before Christ’s incarnation are now obsolete. To follow them is to put new wine into old wine skins. Instead, we should trace out the highest of revealed themes – that every born-again believer is in a living union with Jesus Christ. The Father chose us in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-5), and every blessing is ours in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Union with Christ means that he is bound to us, and we are bound to him by faith, forever. This is the reason we must hold fast to our Head, our Surety. He is our life. Everything worth having is found in him, and he shares his fullness with us as we abide in him by walking in the Spirit.

When the Son of God humbled himself to die for our sins, his death was not for himself alone. He died to the power of sin for us. We died with him (v. 20). The Holy Spirit applies the virtue, the power of his death to us. Because of the death of sin in the death of Christ, sin has no more dominion over the believer in Jesus (Rom. 6:1-14). Jesus Christ rose from the dead to walk in newness of life, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are raised with Christ. The Holy Spirit brings the power of his resurrection into our lives (Phil. 3:10). We have new and abundant life in Jesus Christ (John 5:40; 10:10). It is by his resurrection power that we live a resurrection life. Everything about our earthly lives is fundamentally altered by our fellowship with the Lord in his resurrection. The world knows nothing of this new life and power. Sadly, we know far less of it than we might. It is a treasure room of grace that none has yet searched fully – of all the grace and truth, light and wisdom, strength and purity, patience and mercy, love and hope that are in Jesus Christ. He will share them with us. These lines show us the way he shares his fullness with us.

Raised to Heaven Oriented and Empowered Living

He does not share his new and abundant life by rules and ceremonies, which deepen our ties to earth and inevitably result in pride. New life is by communion with a living person, the Son of God, through his indwelling Spirit. Godliness and purity are drawn from his fullness of life and grace. By the resurrection power of Jesus Christ working in us, he transforms our earthly relations, our attitudes and words, and our lives in this world. He brings his heavenly grace to bear upon all that we are and do. He does this because we are raised with him. The “if” does not express doubt but establishes a relation upon which everything that follows is built. This relationship is union with Christ in his death and resurrection. Instead of being dominated by death and the old ways of sin, the believer in Jesus is now dominated by life and new ways of righteousness in him. This is because he rose from the dead to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). When we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, he applies Christ’s resurrection to us. We can resist our sins and put them to death in his strength. We can obey God with joyful hearts and be oriented toward godliness in his strength.

These verses make this point repeatedly. We have no strength or wisdom in ourselves. Christians are not Christians because we have had mystical experiences, greater intelligence, or superior fortitude to other men. Outside of faith in Jesus Christ and living union with him, we are just as dead in sin as everyone else. We have no more life or ability to please God than anyone else. Christianity in its true, heavenly manifestation is the most anti-elitist faith because we have one Head, Jesus Christ, and we are all brethren. We have nothing in ourselves – no good, no strength, no wisdom, no holiness. All that we are and have as Christians is drawn from Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. We live only by him as we draw life from him (Gal. 2:20). He is the well of life and salvation that has been opened to us by faith. His resurrection, therefore, is our resurrection. If we look for truth to gird and guide us, truth to lift our discouraged spirits, truth to strengthen and sustain us, here it is – we have been raised with Christ. God our Father has raised us up with him. He has done it all for us, as the passive verb makes clear. We are now dominated not by sin but by new life in him, the life of heaven already begun in the soul. He rose for us. He rises in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no single truth more profound and more invigorating and more transforming – the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead has raised us to a completely different life of grace and strength.

We Must Seek and Set Our Affections upon Him (vv. 1-2)

The Above Things in Jesus Christ

Raised with Christ does not mean we are in heaven – obviously! It does not mean earth and our lives and callings here are unimportant. Resurrection life in union with our Savior is not a spiritual escape from earthly duties and responsibilities. It means that heavenly grace and power are brought to bear upon earth. Thus, to seek the above things is to seek communion with Christ in heaven. First, we are told to seek this life. To seek here is parallel with “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33), to seek the honor that comes only from God (John 5:44), and to seek “honor, glory, and immortality” (Rom. 2:7). The union with Christ life is a seeking life – God’s kingdom, God’s honor, and life with God our Father through faith in Jesus Christ. In this life, we must always be seeking, for we do not yet enjoy fully our life in Christ. We possess it by promised inheritance and by union with Christ in faith, but we seek for it. And this means, first, that we seek the things above because we seek Christ. He is in heaven, not on earth. We seek heaven because Christ our life is in heaven. We want our Lord. If resurrection life in him is anything, it is a Christ-seeking, Christ-loving, and Christ-desiring life. His abundant life must be sought.

This “seeking above things where Christ is” is very different from one-and-done Christianity, whereby each emotional experience provides a spiritual dopamine drip that makes us self-satisfied. No, where Christ’s life is sought and possessed by faith, he creates within us the desire for more of his fullness, more of him, more fellowship with him, more of his transforming grace in our lives. By prayer and the word, we seek Christ’s strength and wisdom. It is seeking his strength when we are children so that our inborn sinful responses to authority or difficulties or our besetting sins do not become entrenched habits that dominate us and hurt those around us. It is seeking his life to satisfy us, his word to feed and guide us, and his people to fellowship and hold us accountable. It is seeking to be like him, meek and humble, and to be with him, where he is, “that we may behold his glory.”

“Seated at the right hand of God” is from Psalm 110:1, which is cited over twenty times in the New Testament. Our Savior is not only raised from the dead but also ascended and reigning. He has entered his kingdom and glory (Luke 24:26). He rules over all, for the sake of the church, his body (Eph. 1:22). We are to seek Christ as exalted, reigning King. We do not come to our heavenly therapist but to our “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). In our warfare against sin, to which the Spirit immediately turns (Col. 3:5-6) and in all matters of our earthly callings and relations, we seek help from the reigning Lord. We must therefore approach him with that reverence and trust, with that hope and confidence. We are often brought to feel our utter impotence, but this is so that we learn to rest in his power and faithfulness.

Yet, if we pray without hope of his help, with low views of his power and glory, distrusting views of his love and headship over us, we dishonor him, and should expect little help. He will be approached as Lord, as King, our Savior now seated at the Father’s right hand. And the Father will be approached with the confidence that our Savior’s heavenly intercession should inspire in us. If we come doubting or double-minded, we should not expect much help or guidance or comfort (James 1:7). But let us seek the Lord Jesus reigning and interceding for us, willing to help us, there at the Father’s right hand. His intercession is availing and prevailing (Rom. 8:34). When we see him as he is, we shall enjoy more of his fullness and help, more of the joy that comes from having him – like those who saw him in those first resurrection appearances. They did not understand much, but they knew He lived. This reality began to alter them, to shape their understanding, and to fill them with joy (Luke 24:52-53).

The Whole Desire toward Jesus Christ

If we are to live as raised with Christ, we must consider Christ, his glory, dominion, and love, as our supreme good. To set our affection on things above means that the movement of our soul is toward Jesus Christ. To know and love him is what draws us more than anything else, which is the reason we seek the things above, where he is and reigns. There is no one else for the believer. We supremely esteem Jesus Christ. We want him, to please him, to be with him where he is, to serve him on earth, even if it is with only one little talent. Desiring him, we mourn over our sins, yet we welcome his conviction of our sins, for we want to get rid of what displeases him. We do not want to move through life reacting – doing what comes natural to us, fighting the world’s fire with our own fire, or constantly trying to anticipate and outmaneuver whatever bad things we think are coming. We live seeking Jesus Christ. Our affections are on him, not on things on the earth. This life must not dominate the horizon of our desire. This chief place in the soul of the Christian is solely occupied by Jesus Christ: that we may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings.

The failure to set desire supremely upon him explains more than anything else why believers are often consumed with the things of this life, angry when things do not go our way, fear of loss and suffering, and cross avoidance. We follow our loves. Our loves will determine our fears. If we love this life supremely, we shall fear losing what we think is absolutely necessary for our peace and happiness here. But, if we love Jesus Christ supremely, we shall not worry overmuch about this life, for we have his promise never to leave us and always to take care of us. It is not that in setting our desires upon Jesus Christ that we are indifferent to this life. It is that this life becomes less about this life and more about serving Christ in this life. We do our work for him. We speak the truth for him. The way we speak the truth is about him – not about winning an argument or exposing the stupidity of others. It is about Jesus Christ, his glory and his grace, and the fullness of life we have in him.

One way we set our affections upon things above is to be heavenly minded. This scares us, I know, for it has scared me. This is because we do not know what it means. To set one’s affections upon heaven does not mean to daydream about angels and harps and bright lights. It means that we endeavor to remember who is ruling our lives and all things. It means that we want to please him in all that we do, in our battle against sin (3:5-11), the way we treat one another in the body (3:12-16), and our very motives for all that we do (3:17). Then, since most of us live in families, setting our affections upon Christ and heaven means that husbands love and wives submit as unto him, children obey because of him, and slaves serve with Jesus Christ in mind (3:18-25). We serve the Lord Christ (3:24), and this changes every attitude of the heart, the words we say, life priorities, and motives for living. Heavenly-mindedness is Christ-serving mindedness, that we live for him and will soon stand before him. It is the most relevant thing we can do in every age. All positive and meaningful change in men’s earthly lives is the result of Christians shining as light and serving Jesus Christ in all that they do. Outside of him, there is nothing but darkness. In his fellowship, there is life and joy, strength and hope.

Since there is no life or light outside of being raised with Christ, we must seek to be found in Christ (Phil. 3:9). Be sure of your saving part in Christ, that you are truly in union with him by faith. Do you see his heavenly rule changing you? Is his abundant life making you fruitful? Admittedly, we shall never be now what we shall be later, but where he walks, there is fruit on the path – love, joy, and peace (Rom. 14:17). These are the fundamental marks of his kingdom – love for God and man, joy in his person and work, and peace through his heavenly intercession. Be sure he knows you, for he marks his own with the Spirit and his fruits. Come to him, whether you are sure or doubtful. He is the light that drives away confusion. His cross shatters our pride when he applies it to us by the Spirit. Be sure you are raised with Christ. Outside of him, there is nothing but discouragement, blindness, weakness, and death. Repent and believe upon his name! Ask the Lord to make you alive in him!

Raised with him, now live in him. Use today as God’s checkpoint Sabbath. (1) Are your affections upon Christ? Do you worship Him as Lord, ruling over all for the sake of the church? We must, for the judgments we see around us are not the absence of Christ ruling but very painful evidences that he is judging and tearing down unbelief. Only the resurrected can see this. (2) Are you growing in love for him and desire to know more of him? He invites us: “Come, learn of me.” Does his call still draw us? We must not allow the screaming sirens of a collapsing anti-Christian state to fill us with fear of earthy loss. We must feed the sober joy that our Lord and Christ is ruling. He will not allow his enemies to prosper without exposing them and toppling their Babel. He is longsuffering and is building his church, but his enemies’ collapsing tower of unbelief will fall upon us unless we are seeking his city and kingdom first. (3) Are you living in the power of Christ? In his strength, we can speak his truth without fear. He will teach us obedience in all matters, small and great, so that “whatever you do, you do it heartily, as to him” (Col. 3:23). Abide in his word. This is the sword Satan cannot resist. Be often in heaven by prayer, in your affections thinking of Christ with the multitudes in glory, in your daily lives doing your work for him. Be intentional. You serve the Lord Christ. He is the great King and worthy Savior. He bled for you on the cross. Love him and live for him in all that you do.

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