Wednesday morning, September 15, 2010
(Disclaimer: These notes are an attempt to capture the main points of the speaker; mistakes are inevitable and I’m certain not every word and phrase was captured exactly.)
Fred Zaspel: Pastor at Reformed Baptist Church in Franconia, PA and an instructor in Bible and theology at To Every Tribe Ministries in Brownsville, TX.
Turn to Colossians 3, let’s read the entire Chapter:
“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. 3 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. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.” (NIV)
The great theme of the early Christian Church is the unrivaled Lordship of Jesus Christ. You see it in all of their activities. One of their favorite titles for Jesus was “Lord”. He is Lord in the sense of Yahweh, creator, and master. The center of their message was this announcement, “Jesus is Lord.”
They would say to the people of their day, “you may not have bowed the knee to him, but one day you will.” You see this pervading the entire New Testament.
We see it in this passage, “you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” This is what gives the cross its significance. When exhorting believers to virtuous behavior this is invoked.
Where did they learn this? From Jesus himself. Jesus taught that this is the question on which our eternal destiny turns.
Interesting, in the NT there is a dual sense in which Jesus is Lord. In the sense of his person, the eternal God. But in another sense, which pervades the NT, Lord by virtue of his work.
Scriptures describe it as an achieved lordship. An example is Matthew 28, where we see that all authority has been given to Jesus. As a reward for this work accomplished, Jesus has been given the universal right to judge. We see it in the Revelation, because he was the Lamb of God slain, he is worthy to be worshipped.
In John 17, God gives authority over all people.
In Daniel Chapter 7, the son of man is seen coming before the ancient of days, coming on clouds, receives a kingdom, an “everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
In Philippians 2, “ God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Peter declares in Acts 2, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
As a result of resurrection, he has entered into his glory and kingship.
There is a now and not yet. There awaits a consummation, we look forward to the day all his enemies will be placed under his feet. And yet, Christ has been installed as universal king.
This pervades the NT, and is here in Colossians. Our attention drawn to the exalted Christ at the father’s right hand. Theologians have long called this Jesus’ “session”, his being seated at the right hand of the Father, his station of honor.
What’s interesting is what Paul does with this truth. The focus is not simply Jesus seated, but our identification with him, Colossians 3:1, “you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”
The apostle Paul has as a signature phrase, “in Christ”.
Many preachers have a signature remarks. John Reisinger would frequently say, “One of the worst things in the world.” For Paul, his signature was the phrase, “in Christ”
He alludes to this in verse 3, “you died”. What’s that about? We rode piggyback with Jesus to the cross Christ and we were with him on the cross.
I remember an atheist one time pointing out to me discrepancies in the Bible. He was particularly upset that so many bad people in the Bible were considered friends of God. Well, I agreed with him. The glory of the gospel is that we are joined to Christ and our sin is dealt with. We die.
His point is not just our identification in his death, but also our identification with his exaltation. Verses 3 and 4, “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 receive this exaltation by participating in his resurrection. The hour has come when those who hear the voice of Christ will live. What is true of him becomes true of us also.
We have participated in his resurrection already. Now it’s not exactly the point he’s making that we are just joined with his death and resurrection, but that we are joined in his exaltation. We have been exalted with him to glory as well. What is true of him becomes true of us. This is what we call realized eschatology. We’ve been made part of the new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
This is not just abstract theology, this is practical as well. We march to the beat of another drum entirely. We have the first fruits of the spirit; we have the taste of glory. We have been raised into the heavenlies.
When preaching think of this, there are many times we come across passages with a rebuke. Stunned by the way people respond. For example, preaching 1 Corinthians 11, Paul tells the people, “You haven’t been observing communion.” Rebuked them. After the sermon, people thanked him for that. We who have been joined with Christ rejoice even in rebukes. This is why it is true we are not as distracted by the world. Well said in the hymn by John Peterson, “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.”
The sad reality is, although we have been redeemed out of this present evil world, yet we still live in it. We’ve been exalted, but at the same time, though his law is written on our hearts, we still feel the tug of sin. There’s the “now and not yet”, the painful work of mortifying sin. We are not there yet in full, but we have been raised with Christ.
We must grasp this to get the full force of Paul’s exhortations in vs. 1-2. We have something of a summary of his theology here, we’re in Christ. Paul is asking, "Have you been raised in Christ, exalted?" Then live like it. If we’ve truly died with him this must be the shaping of our existence. Have you been bought by Christ? Then glorify him with your body. Is God at work in you to do his will? Then work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Be what you are.
Remember Copernicus? Discovered the earth revolved around the sun. What’s the big deal? It was a revolution. Paul is saying here, this is a revolution, when we see that we have been raised with Christ. Verse 3, your life is now hidden. Means a clean break with sin. A new existence entirely. It used to be my thoughts were self-centered sin-centered. Now, bound up with the triune Christ. Now Christ is our life.
We must adjust our thinking. Notice how he shapes the command in vs. 2, “set your minds”? The language of our thinking, our devotion, these things should shape our lives and our thinking. Risen with Christ, exalted, we no longer have lives of our own. We now seek first the kingdom of God. We live with new values. Set our hearts on things above.
There is a preacher I’ve heard of all my life, described as “so heavenly minded he’s no earthly good.” Never met this man. Met plenty of people the opposite, so earthly minded they are no heavenly good.
Paul pressing us to live heavenly lives, to cultivate a mind for heavenly things, dwell more and more on our heavenly rescue. A radical reorientation of our lives.
All of this works its way out in practical ways. Verses 3-5, “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. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”
An outworking of this is a total reorientation of life. That is what it is to live with, and unto the exalted Christ.
Did you notice a second motivating factor in all this?
In vs. 4 he draws our attention to what we will be. Future eschatology—Paul envisions our final future glorification.
This has been the heartthrob of the church through the ages. Is there anything we want more than the fact that our great redeemer is coming again?
My father used to teach me to pray that Jesus would come soon. I’m thankful that he instilled in me a lively awareness that Jesus is coming. As in 2 Peter 3, hastening the day. How do you hurry it up? An eager anticipation, longing for Jesus to come.
Do you ever think what that day will be like? Try to imagine what the scriptures depict. Matthew 24, when it comes, you’ll know it. To see finally the one who gave himself for us, finally to be with the one we’ve kept ourselves pure for. To see the whole world come to him to confess that Jesus is Lord.
Try this. Not only in that day will we see him in his glory, we will share with him in his glory.
Romans 8, if we’re sons, we are heirs. Think about the he “no mores” of Revelation: no more pain, no more crying. We shall see his face, and we will share his glory. That age to come has been brought forward. There is still frustration, but one day we will be what we should be. Forever done with this life of sin, then we will know what it is to set our minds on things above.
What we wish life to be: with Christ in his glory.
Therefore, let’s live like it. Orient our entire lives around him.