Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. - Vs 2
You've probably heard the phrase, "He's so heavenly minded that he's no earthly good." It is commonly used when referring to someone who talks a lot about spiritual things, but it doesn't seem to make much of a difference in the way they live their lives. That's NOT what Paul is recommending here when he says, "Set your mind on the things above." I think he's talking about perspective and motivation. Because the rest of this chapter don't paint a picture of someone who's so heavenly minded that he's no earthly good. In fact, Paul goes on to tell the Colossians (and us) a whole list of earth-oriented actions to engage in. He tells them to…
…put aside (strip off) the old self with its evil practices (Vs 10)
…put on the new self (Vs 10)
…separate yourself from the deeds of the old nature (Vs 5)
…get rid of anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech, lying (Vs 8-9)
…put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience (Vs 12)
…bear with one another and forgive one another (Vs 13)
…put on love (Vs 14)
…let the peace of God rule in your hearts (Vs 15)
…let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise (Vs 16)
…do all in the name of the Lord Jesus (Vs 17)
Now that sounds like someone who is living a life that is doing some earthly good. But it begins with that change in perspective and motivation Paul mentioned in verse 2. I love how The Message interprets that verse.
Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ--that's where the action is. See things from his perspective.
Because we live on the earth, we can become obsessed with the things of this earth. If anything, we can become so earthly-oriented that we lose our heavenly perspective. As believers, the "chosen of God " (Vs 12), we are what Paul refers to as holy. We are separated from all that is unclean and set apart to God. We belong to Him. We are citizens of a new kingdom – His. So we are to think like citizens of that kingdom. We are to be heavenly-minded. We are to see things from God's perspective and to not forget that we live by a new set of standards and answer to a new King. Paul reminds us that we "have been raised up with Christ," so we should "keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Vs 1). Again, I think The Message gives us some good insight into what this verse means:
So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, [act] like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides.
Another translation puts it this way, "If then you have a new life with Christ, give your attention to the things of heaven" (BBE). This is all about our new life in Christ. That's why Paul spends so much time talking about putting on and taking off. We are to remember that we are new creatures with a new nature. But because we live in a fallen world and still have our old sin nature to deal with, we have to go through the daily practice of putting on the new characteristics of who we are in Christ and remove the old habits and characteristics of our old nature. Charles Ryrie puts it this way, "become in experience what you already are by God's grace. The Christian is risen in with Christ; let him exhibit that new life."
This is practical stuff. This is here-and-now stuff. It will impact the way we live our lives. It will filter into our homes and relationships. It will change our attitudes toward work. It will change our speech and our conduct. In fact, Paul says, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father" (Vs 17). When we set our mind on the things above, it will change how we live here below. Keeping our thoughts on heaven just means we are thinking about our real home. It means we are reminding ourselves of where the real authority in our lives is. When we hear all the bad news on the evening news, we are to think about Christ sitting on His throne. He's in control. When we feel tempted to get angry and act out of frustration because of something done to us, we are to think about heaven, and remember that we are children of God who have been offered forgiveness for our sin. Which should make us want to extend the same grace to others here on earth.
Bottom line: we are to live like who we are – the chosen of God. Citizens of heaven. But to do that, we have to let heaven be our motivation. We have to change our perspective from an earthly one to a heavenly one. We have to set our minds on the things above.
Father, give me a heavenly perspective. Let me see this world from Your vantage point. Give me heavenly eyes that see myself as who I am in Christ. Help me to see the world with new eyes, a new perspective – Yours. May my motivation for all that I do come from heaven, not this earth. Amen