"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with Him in glory." Colossians 3:1-4
1 NOT ALL CAN DO THIS, BUT THOSE WHO ARE RAISED CAN
The permanent, eternal, invisible, valuable things that are worth seeking are on a higher level than natural man can understand or appreciate. They are so much higher and wonderful than the visible earth we see that we need to be conditioned, made able, qualified, and set free from our blindness in order to "see" them. Christians have been "raised with Christ." We have been lifted to a higher level and made able to see what is really more real than the visible reality we see with our natural eyes.
We do not deny the reality of the material universe, but we recognize that it is temporary—only matter. What is real? what can be seen and felt or what is permanent and eternal? I believe that you will agree with me that what is permanent and eternal is more "real" than what we can see only temporarily. In other words, God's children have their eyes opened to a reality that is more real than the visible matter most people see.
Where do we want to make our investments? In what is lasting or in what is temporary? In what is invisible or in what is visible?
2. GOD IS THERE, ALL WISE, POWERFUL & GOOD
What is in the visible and really real world? There is God. Who is God? What is He like? Without taking the lengthy time to describe God in an exhaustive Theological presentation, I want to explain how wonderful He is by addressing three generally well accepted aspects and from them draw a surprising and wonderful conclusion.
God is all good. Anything He does or plans will always be consistent with His essential goodness. He can never do anything that is not good. His motivations, actions, thoughts and treatment of humans is all good. There is nothing that could be better. If something could have been done better, God would have done it. Even if something seems temporarily to be not good, that only seems to be not good because the fullness of the good He is doing has not yet been completed. The best good may require the existence of something bad, but the bad only serves to accentuate the good or make the good possible. God uses bad for good, so even the bad that He allows to exist is serving an ultimately good purpose. That is good. This does not mean that bad is good, but it does mean that ultimately the essential goodness of God is still in tact even with the coexistence with the bad He has intentionally allowed for a good purpose.
God is all wise. Anything He does or plans will always be consistent with His essential wisdom. He can never do anything that is not the wisest it could have been. Not only does God do only good, He also, in His wisdom, performs it in the best and wisest of possible ways. The good that He does is therefore the best possible of good that could have been conceived and implemented.
God is all powerful. God's motives are good and He does everything He does is the wisest and best possible of ways. Furthermore, because He has all power, everything He wants to do in His goodness and can conceive in His wisdom is possible to implement because He also has the power to make it happen. Nothing that He wants to do in His goodness or knows would be best in His wisdom is He not able to do. There is nothing good or wise that He could not do or would not do because He is all good, all wise and all powerful.
An Amazing Conclusion. If the preceding three notions are correct, it brings us to the indisputable and surprising realization that what is, is the best there could have been. If reality, both visible and invisible, material and spiritual, temporary and eternal, could have been any better, God would have chosen that better way. In the universe that exists we see apparent evil, obvious good, free will, good choices, poor choices, sin, righteousness, pleasure and suffering. How is this world the best of all possible worlds? Some day we will fully understand, but even now, by faith, (which is possible for those who have been raised with Christ) we can accept this. God is using it all for His glorious purpose—which includes our opportunity to participate in the good work He is doing in the world.
3. JESUS IS THERE REPRESENTING US
Prayer is one of the good works—possibly the best good work—that we can do. It is possible because Jesus is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us and allowing us to address the Father by using His name. In the "things above," which those who have been raised by Jesus Christ know are worthy to be sought, include this glorious fact that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. It is glorious that Jesus is above and we can see Him and seek Him, but His location or position there makes His presence "above" even more glorious. He is at the right-hand of the Father.
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:15 & 16.
If we are to seek the things that are "above," this expression is surely a tacit acknowledgement that we are now "below." Yet, from here below we have representation above. We can reach above. We can touch the powers that be above.
4. NOT ON (COMPETITIVE) EARTHY THINGS
Several places in the Bible the truth being taught is clarified by mentioning the opposite of the desired behavior or attitude. Proverbs 3:5, for example, says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding." The double instruction makes it clear what we are to do by also telling us what we are not to do. In the Scripture we are looking at now, this occurs. We are to set our minds on things above, not on things on the earth.
Jesus taught us not to lay up treasure on earth in Matthew 6:19-21: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
John instructs believers not to love the things of the world in I John 2:15-17 "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.'
Earthy, visible (temporary) things and pleasures compete for our attention. They are visible and distract our attention away from what is eternal (and invisible.) By clearly telling us not to set our hearts and focus on earthly things, Paul helps us in Colossians to set our hearts on things above.
5. YOUR LIFE IS HIDDEN, INVISIBLE
When you look in the mirror you only see the physical, temporary, outward and material appearance of part of your body. When others see you, they do not really see you; they only see what you see in the mirror. The real you is inner, invisible and hidden. Jesus, God and things above are also invisible and hidden, but this will not always be true.
Some day we will see Him as he really is. I John 3:2 says, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as He is pure."
Some day these hidden, unknown and unknowable things, mysteries, answers to our questions will all be understood—made visible. This leads us to the final part of this teaching.
6. YOU WILL APPEAR
When the visible and temporary things have all disappeared, earthly fortunes are gone, and the material world is burned up in fire, and only what is really real appears, when earthly life is past, when the dreams, schemes, ambitions and plans of men have come to an unfulfilled and unfulfillable end, what is left? "You also will appear with Him." Your purposes, treasures, hopes, and aspirations which developed over the years as you were seeking the things above, will now unfold and eternal life will begin. When all that is now so tempting, alluring, attractive and winsome disappears, you will appear. All is not lost. Nothing important is lost. What was invisible including you now appears.
Peter gives us this word in 2 Peter 3:10-13 "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells."
Conclusion: The day will come when we will be very glad that we learned to seek the things above.