Keeping a Heavenly Focus Part 1

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

FOCUS ON THINGS ABOVE (Col. 2:20; 3:1-4)

FOCUS ON THINGS ABOVE (Col. 2:20; 3:1-4)

Keeping a Heavenly Focus

This lesson will help you understand the importance of keeping a clear focus on your ultimate destination, which is heaven.
It also will offer practical help along the lines of removing old, ungodly habits and replacing them with an attitude and behavior that pleases Jesus.
There are three things required if you are going to have an attitude that pleases God while you are on your way to Heaven.
The first is, you must--FOCUS ON THINGS ABOVE (Col. 2:20; 3:1-4)
2:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments (fundamentals or basics beliefs) of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (regulations/laws),
The Apostle Paul was a prisoner (see Col. 4:10, 18) when he wrote this letter to the Christians in Colosse, a city in Asia Minor.
Although he never traveled to Colosse, Paul stated that he heard about this church from a common acquaintance named Epaphras (see 1:7-8).
As the brief letter unfolds we see that Paul wrote to confront false teachings, by upholding the truth about Christ.
Notice this warning by Paul: "And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words."
Paul went on to describe these "enticing words" as part of an effort to take the Colossian believers captive "through philosophy and vain deceit...after the {basic beliefs} of the world, and not after Christ" (v. 8).
Certainly, the ultimate answer to the false teaching Paul named is Christ, "for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (v. 9).
When Jesus died on the cross, He died for our sins, paying the debt we owed.
When we believe this good news and receive by faith His gift of eternal life, we die to our sins in the sense that sin no longer has a legitimate claim on us.
Therefore, believers are set free from bondage to sin; they are free to live the new life that is theirs because of their union with Christ.
The phrase "rudiments of the world", refers to false teaching about the necessity of keeping various man made religious rules--These rules say, "Touch not; taste not; handle not" (v. 21).
Notice the negative decree of these commands.
A Christian is aware of certain God-given prohibitions, but the primary emphasis always is positive.
However, with these religious rules, this was not necessarily the case.
The focal passage for this message begins with Paul's reminder that all believers are dead with Christ.

3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

The meaning of If in this verse is "Since." The verse could be read like this: "Since ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above."

The next 3 verses continue the thought--
2Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

Believers are united with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
The Lord who is seated at the right hand of God the Father represents His followers in heaven.
He is there as every believer's High Priest.
So, how should this reality affect us?
Notice this command: "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."
Paul helps us gain a proper perspective regarding this present life.
We are reminded of our dual citizenship--on earth and in heaven.
But we should focus primarily on heaven because our residence there is permanent.
As Paul stated, our life is "hid with Christ in God."
The term that was translated "hid" emphasizes the ongoing and permanent effects of the believer's death with Jesus.
The Christian's life has been hidden with Christ in God, and it remains that way.
The word "hid" suggests three things:
(1) Secrecy-- the Christian's life is nurtured by Christ's presence deep within the heart.
(2) Christians can identify with the risen Lord; and
(3) There is safety since we are in Jesus.
Perhaps nothing is more helpful for keeping one's focus on the Lord than the practice of daily private worship.
Spend time early each morning reading God's Word.
Lift your heart in praise to Him through songs and prayers (Yes, it's ok to sing when you're walking outside your home and inside its walls; and, of course, we all sing in the shower.), and commit yourself to live continually under His control.
Nothing else pays such rich dividends.
We also must live with the continual awareness that an event of tremendous significance is approaching--Jesus' Second Coming, when Christ, who is our life, shall appear.
At that glorious moment, all believers from all the ages will appear with him in glory.
Keeping our focus on Jesus greatly influences all our values as well as our attitude toward life and the things this life offers.
Someone has said, "Don't be so heavenly minded that you're no earthly good," but this kind of "heavenly mindedness" actually makes it possible for us to influence others for Christ.
How does it do that?
In the verses that follow, Paul talked about some specific ways.
(Col. 3:5-10)

5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
6 For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

Paul is continuing to appeal to the Colossians as he urges them to deal severely with evil practices that were present in their lives before they were saved, and are still there.
First, he called on them to mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth.
Paul was telling them to put to death all their ungodly desires and actions.
He is saying that we must not tolerate evil; all of our sinful behavior must be identified, condemned, and eliminated.
The Apostle named several specific sins.
The term fornication, which refers to illicit sexual activity, comes from the same root word as the word that we get our word pornography from.
Uncleanness has a broader meaning, including morally unclean thoughts, words, and actions.
Inordinate affection, as it's used here, expresses a meaning similar to that expressed by the term "evil desire."
It's very clear that Paul was referring to sexual sins.
Covetousness is the desire for what someone else has.
Greed is idolatry because it puts one's own desires in the place of God.
However, unlike the desire for God, greed never is satisfied.
The greedy person always wants more--more sexual experiences, more material possessions, more recognition, and more of all this world offers.
Paul reminded his readers that each of them once lived in these things.
He also warned them that because of this ungodliness they may receive the wrath of God.
Paul's second appeal included a list of sinful attitudes and speech.
He ordered the Colossian Christians to put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, and filthy communication out of your mouth.

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