Setting Our Mind on Things Above

Setting Our Minds On Things Above

 

Happy Thanksgiving! We’re taking a break this week from our look at RC Sproul’s book, “Does Prayer Change Things”, and want to take time to consider this great holiday and all the blessings we have as believers. Our Pastor says this is his favorite holiday, I whole heartedly agree. It’s a time for reflecting on blessing, and enjoying food and fellowship with family and friends.

 

We are all painfully aware that we are in the midst of a pandemic, which has devastated many families. Additionally, we have just experienced an election that has most believers anxious, unsettled and upset. Believers are upset and anxious, because we know the platform of the democratic party is: anti-God, anti –Jesus Christ, anti–Christian, anti-Bible; it will aggressively seek legislation and laws by fiat, that will attack the church (some of which are already being discussed and planned). If we are honest, we have to say that a new era is coming for the church in America, where persecution will purify the true church, and will separate the true from the visible church. And it's easy to be fearful and afraid if we focus on these things. 

 

In spite of these things, as believers, we have so much to be thankful for! Why do I say that?  Because we have received infinite spiritual blessing. God is so good, He has been so good to us, that in spite of temporal trial, persecution and hardship, we are infinitely blessed. Our Pastor has preached and taught us this, but just consider Ephesians chapter 1. That chapter provides for us all that Christ has done for us in savings us. In just the first 14 verses we find that He has:

* He blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

* He chose us before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.

* He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.

* He freely bestowed His grace upon us (grace being unmerited favor, something we did not deserve).

* In Him we have redemption. (He purchased us, He owns us)

* In Him we have forgiveness of all sin. (He paid the penalty for sin, required by God’s justice and holiness, that we could never pay)

* He has made know to us the mystery of His will, His purposes.

* We have obtained a tremendous inheritance (the word for “wedding ring”), the Holy Spirit, Who lives in us, works in us, strengthens us, molds us into the image of Jesus Christ, opens the Word of God up to us so that we can understand and apply and obey. What a tremendous gift.

* We were sealed with the Holy Spirit – we are secure in Christ.

* We are God’s own possession, saved for His glory.

* Further in Ephesians chapter 1, we find that Paul prays that we would understand the resources – the power, that is available to every believer. (vs. 18-20)

* That we would understand that our Lord Jesus Christ is “seated at the right hand of God, far above all rule, authority, power and dominion. He is Lord! He is Sovereign. He is all powerful. He is in control, and is working everything according to His divine will and plan.

* In chapter 2, verses 1-3, we find that we have been made alive in Christ Jesus. We who were once dead in our trespasses and sin, are now alive!

* In verses 4 and following, we find that God saved us because of His great love and mercy. We are alive together with Christ.

* It tells us more about this great love and mercy, verse 7 tells us that God “in the ages to come will show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”.

* Verse 10, we are His workmanship. We are saved by Grace alone, through faith alone, and it is all a work of God. There’s nothing we can do to earn this salvation, not works, not being good, not following rules – no, it’s only by grace through faith ALONE in Jesus Christ.

* Chapter 2 goes on to tells us that we are placed into the body of Christ, when we believe. We are all “one in Christ”. We are fellow citizens of an eternal Kingdom. Christ is the cornerstone, He is the Head.

* Jumping over to chapter 3, we find that we can know the fulness of Christ love, we can experience the fullness of God, we can see Him “do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can ask of think according to the power that works in us.” And it all becomes a reality in the Christians life as they are (verse 16), being strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. As the believer yields to the Spirit, as the believer commits himself or herself to obedience to the Word of God, as the believer walks in the Spirit – then the subsequent truths become a reality. But the things won’t become a reality in the believers life, unless they are obedient to verse 16.

 

In 2 Peter chapter 1, it tells us that every believer have been "given all things that pertain to life and godliness".

 

Folks, we have so much to be thankful for. We are spiritually rich, and although we may experience trials, tribulation, persecution in this life, 1 Peter chapter 1 tells us that we have an eternal inheritance waiting for us. And look at what it says about this inheritance:

1Peter 1:4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

1Peter 1:5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

 

And this inheritance includes all that the believer will enjoy in heaven for eternity, and all that will be his through Christ (Psalms 16:5). The inheritance is incorruptible and undefiled and unfading: (1) Incorruptible means that it can never corrode, crack, or decay. It is death-proof. (2) Undefiled means that the inheritance itself is in perfect condition. No tarnish or stain can dim its purity. It is sin-proof. (3) That does not fade away means that it can never suffer variations in value, glory, or beauty. It is time-proof. And it is being kept for us, by the power of God.

 

And listen, these things have a purpose, and Peter gives us one purpose of trial, tribulation and suffering in the next two verses:

 

1Peter 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,

1Peter 1:7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

 

There is great comfort for suffering saints in knowing that their sufferings are neither purposeless nor fruitless. The sufferings of the ungodly are only a foretaste of the pangs of hell which they will endure eternally. This is not true for the Christian. One of the many beneficial purposes of afflictions in this life for the child of God is to test the genuineness of his faith.

True faith is indestructible. The believer may undergo severe tests and trials, but instead of destroying his faith, they become food for faith to feed on.

 

Folks, we have much to be thankful for. But these realities should require something for us. These realities should motivate us to a way of living, a new way of life. Not focused on the things of this world, but on eternal things, eternal realities and truths. These truths should motivate us to “seek the things above”, and focus on our relationship to Jesus Christ.

 

Let close out this weeks study, by asking the question: "How can I stay focused on Jesus Christ?" Let’s consider the answer.
 

In our fast-paced, attention-grabbing world, it is easy to get caught up in the daily grind, get distracted, and lose sight of our true purpose in life—the worship and love of God (ref. Matthew 22:37). Yet we are told to run our race with our eyes focused on Christ: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1–2).

 

How can we resist the allure of the world and keep our focus where it belongs, on Christ?

To focus is to direct one’s attention or concentrate on something. If we are focused on Christ, then He has our attention; we are concentrating on Him and His Word; He occupies the forefront of our minds. Such a focus is only fitting, because Jesus “is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (
Colossians 1:18). By rights, He should be our focus.

 

Colossians 3:1–4 contains much that can help us stay focused on Christ: “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 also will appear with him in glory.

 

We are to focus on “things above,” remembering that Christ is seated in the place of glory and power (verse 1). The reason for the command is also given: because we have been raised to new life with Christ. To focus on the things above, we must consciously remove our focus from “earthly things” (verse 2), and the reason is given: we have died to self, and Christ is our very life (verse 3). Helping us stay focused on Christ is the reminder that Jesus is coming again, and when we see Him we will know glory (verse 4).

 

Hebrews 2 lists some of the things that Christ has done or is doing for us: He shared our humanity (verse 14), He breaks the power of the devil (verse 14), He frees us (verse 15), He is our “merciful and faithful high priest” (verse 17), He suffered for us (verse 18), and He helps those who are tempted in this world (verse 18). Because of all this, Hebrews 3:1, says, “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.”

 

Here are some practical ways for a born-again believer to stay focused on Christ (and listen these are things we know, but sometime need to be continually reminded of):

 

Commit to reading the Bible. It is impossible for a believer to be consistently in the Word without having his attention drawn again and again to Christ: “The Scriptures point to me!” Jesus said (John 5:39; see also Luke 24:44 and Hebrews 10:7). To focus on the Word of God is to have the Son of God brought more into focus.

 

Develop your prayer life. We have studied prayer for weeks, so this is familiar to us. If you want to know how to pray, read Jesus’ instructions to His disciples in Luke 11:1–13. As you speak to the Lord throughout your day, you will naturally be more focused on Him. Little things, big things—we can come to the Lord with any and all of our cares.

The command is to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to always be in an attitude and atmosphere of instant prayer.

 

Trust the Lord as your only protector: “My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare” (Psalm 25:15). Once we understand the spiritual dangers we face on a daily basis, we will focus more on Christ, our one and only Savior, who alone has the power of deliverance.

 

Recognize your need and the Lord as the source of all good things: “Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us” (Psalm 123:2, ESV). The world offers various means of obtaining love, joy, and peace, but they are destined to disappoint. The believer understands that love, joy, and peace (and a myriad other fine gifts) are the direct result of his relationship with Christ (ref. Galatians 5:22–23).

 

See the world for what it is: a sin-filled place of desperate need. The darker the world is to us, the more clearly the light of Christ will stand out. It’s not hard to focus on a light in a darkened room. “We . . . have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

 

Folks, we must get to the place in our Christian lives, where we reject the world, we reject the things of the world and begin to live for eternity. James says, "Friendship with the world is enmity with God." (James 4:4) You know what this is saying? If we love the world, if we focus on the things of the world, if we are friends with the world - then we make ourselves the enemies of God.

As believers we must make a choice. Are we going to seek and focus on the fleeting things of this sin cursed world, or are we going to seek the things that are above - eternal things? Thanksgiving is a great time to take stock of our lives, and consider the things we really love. Are those things eternal or temporal?

 

Those who stay focused on Christ will find their perspective on worldly things changing. As Helen Lemmel says in her hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”

 

In John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian and Faithful go through Vanity Fair, where they are offered “all sorts of vanity.” Christian’s and Faithful’s response is instructive for us:

“These pilgrims set very light by all their wares—they cared not so much as to look upon them; and if they called upon them to buy, they would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, ‘Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity,’ and look upwards, signifying that their trade and traffic was in heaven”.

May we, like the pilgrims in Vanity Town, practice the heavenward-look and keep our eyes focused on Christ, His glory, and His love. Hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving holiday.

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