Treasure Christ Above All Else

Over the past months as a leadership team as we have been praying for the flock and interacting with all of you we have seen the need for shoring up the domestic lives of God’s people.

We recognize that these are areas that each of us and each of you could use practical encouragement.

By domestic lives we mean especially on the home front—relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and then outside of the home in the workplace and with unbelievers. It really doesn’t matter what stage of life you are in these are important principles for you.

You may be single, or childless, or now have adult children, or be retired. But there is much benefit for you still in these things. There is still application to make at any stage or season of life from these principles. If you aren’t in some of these stages, but may be in the future this is preparation, and if you aren’t in the future then this is an opportunity to be reminded of truths that you can encourage others in.

So, this series is title “Christ in the Common.” The point is that this is about where Jesus intersects with everyday life at the street level so to speak. 

But for a Christian, the single greatest defining factor in your life in Jesus. Life-altering, life-redefining, life-reorienting, life-empowering. It all centers around Jesus. You not only care about different things (e.g., worship) but you have the power to do different things (i.e., love from the heart).

And so, this is our starting point. It is the starting point of everything is our vertical relationship to God.

Oftentimes when we speak of domestic life and relationships there is a temptation, even in the church to want things quickly and cheaply. It is a great tragedy when the church results to superficial remedies for issues that have spiritual causes. Example a series on relationships (be better listeners, be more thoughtful, be slower to speak, etc.). And we can have that entire conversation without anyone admitting to be a moral failure with heart issues and idolatries that must be repented of. 

I’m by default superficial about these things and so are you.

So, we begin with your relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. Every failure at home, every failure in your moral life, is a failure to submit to the Lordship of Jesus.

To live an effective Christian life, you must believe everything that the Bible says about you. That of course means you believe the depth of your depravity. But equally so you must believe the reality of your redemption by God. 

You my sinful friend are actually called by God a saint. You who return to the bondage of sin have been set free by the power of God. You who are full of guilt and shame have been washed and made clean. You who struggle to move beyond the past are a new creature in Christ.

If you don’t have these truths established, you will get stuck in discouragement in the battle with sin.

That’s why this sermon is titled: Be who you are.

Not Be Who You Are, the New York Times bestseller, written by author Todd Parr encouraging children to embrace themselves without judgment or fear or restraint.

1 Corinthians 6:11—And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Our obedience flows out of the relationship we have with God, which is based upon his grace alone. But we can live below our calling. That’s why we titled this Be who you are… it is a call to live in light of who the Bible says you are, namely a saint, a child, a friend, an heir, a dearly beloved one of God.

3 Characteristics of a Thriving Christian (Be Who You Are)

  1. One who treasures Christ above all else (1-4)
  2. One who mortifies sin upon seeing it for what it is (5-11)
  3. One who models Christ magnifying him on earth (12-17)

Colossians 3:1–17 (ESV)—1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 

(5) Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 

(12) Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 

(15) And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

3 Characteristics of a Thriving Christian (Be Who You Are)

  1. One who treasures Christ above all else (1-4)

(1) If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 

There is a perquisite here in this passage. Before seeking the above things, Paul says if then you have been raised.

You could also translate this since then… the instruction is predicated on your union with Christ. Theologians call this “vital union with Christ” what we mean is that you now belong together.

Here’s a close connection.

Two take-a-ways from what Paul is saying here.

  1. You must be saved (explain the Gospel)
  2. If you are saved, then this appropriate and right and good for you to do.

If Jesus gave you new life, and he bought you, and he indwells you, and he is in heaven, then heaven is where your life is to be as well. Your body resides on earth for this time, but your citizenship, your home, your ultimate hope and dwelling isn’t here but there.

This is looking back at what God has done for you. You have been raised… you have been made alive. Look back at Chapter 2, where Paul was just making this point:

Colossians 2:12–13—12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,

Praise God. Dead people can’t raise themselves any more than you could spiritually raise yourself, but God did this work in your behalf because of his great love for you.

Now living, you have a job to do: keep seeking the above things…

Seeking=orienting your will in the pursuit of something. 

Paul says let your preoccupation and your exertion be oriented heavenward. Literally keep seeking. As long as you live here, but belong up there, you will need to be doing this. Do you understand what a privilege this is? A privilege is an advantage given only to certain people.   

where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

What’s the point of this little phrase? It isn’t literal of course, God doesn’t actually have a right hand. But it is figurative language that Jesus is in the place of highest prominence, centrality and honor in heaven, next to the Father. And by nature of your union with Him, you have a place at the table. 

The phrase that unlocks a position of privilege, “I know a guy.” You need court side seats, I got a guy. You need financing, I know a guy. Well if you want access to the Father I know a guy.

Ephesians 1:3 (ESV)—Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

And there’s a relationship. It is a simple concept. Lord you are in me and I am in you and where you are I want to be also. Like during the years of dating my wife while we were separated by the Gulf of Mexico. My body was in Florida, but my heart was in Texas. 

Christian, you belong to Jesus, you have been raised spiritually with him, you are bonded inseparably, but he exists in heaven, leaving you during this season to carry out his will on earth. And Paul says, treasure Christ. Seek him above all else. Let Jesus be the orienting priority of your life.

Now, coming to a verse like this, what does our flesh want to do?

Immediately find a way to dodge conviction. My heart will convince me that it is a really difficult thing to discern what it is I’m seeking. My flesh hates to be indicted. Perhaps I’ll tell myself that it’s just a season that I’m in.

But the question here is very simple, and contrary to what your flesh will tell you, it isn’t hard to identify the answer. 

Do you seek the above things? Or perhaps better stated, what do you seek? What are you most captivated by? What are the values that govern your daily life? What are you in pursuit of right now? 

Let me encourage you to be honest with yourself and with God. Don’t miss an opportunity to hear from the Lord this morning. 

Maybe you are sitting here genuinely struggling to answer this question. How do I know what I’m seeking? Well as one of my mentors used to say: bring me your day timer and your bank statement and I will tell you what you love and what your priorities are. That’s a good start—where do you spend your time and your money. 

But as we will see in this passage shortly, even before that is what you think about.

We don’t struggle with this because it is rocket science to identify. We struggle with this because it is painful to believe, and if you believe it, this will require making changes in your life. Passages like this are difficult for me. Because to obey is going to require something.

I’ve found that I am a grandmaster ninja when it comes to sanitizing my pursuits. I’m an expert at trying to feel like I’m obeying this verse while still seeking and pursuing earthly things. It’s unbelief.

I’ll just seek things below, but in moderation. I’ll just seek the things below, but I’ll set some parameters. Friends, God has placed us in his wise and good plan to inhabit the earth. And life here is full of responsibilities. It requires energy and time to be a faithful employee to your employer, and there is oil to change, and grass to mow—Paul isn’t advocating life in a heavenly commune where we leave behind earthly responsibilities.

Rather, he is speaking of the priority and orientation of your life, and what matters most. Christians are to treasure Jesus Christ above all else.

How do you pursue the things above? Gather with God’s people when they gather. Read your Bible regularly and prayerfully. Memorize and meditate upon God’s Word. Engage in fellowship with other believers (real fellowship—talk about truth, sharpen one another, encourage one another). 

People pursue all kinds of things: romance, external beauty, health, fitness, long-life, their dream house, peaceful relationships, notoriety at work or financial freedom, control over how their life goes, more free time or leisure, less stress. And to the degree that you do, you are living more like an unbeliever, and you are ineffective as a Christian.

Does your Christianity define your life, or is it merely one allegiance rivaled by many others? If your preoccupations in life center on the things of this world, not the things above then you are partaking in the worship of idols, and you are living far below the glorious realities that you have been freely given.

Matthew 6:33—seek first his kingdom… 

Perhaps you are sitting here identifying that you don’t seek the things above as you ought, and you want to fix the problem. You might want to right this down, the issue is that you don’t believe that it matters what you seek. Who cares whether you pursue Jesus or pursue the here and now. You and I seek what we love and esteem as most worthy of our time and attention.

If you have grown spiritually lazy in your pursuit of Christ, then wake up. Like the heir of a great inheritance living in hunger and squalor, you have been given privileged access to God and by his doing, but you must lay hold of it by faith. If you believe God, you will therefore conform your life to these things. God has enabled all you need to do it.

Paul is very practical here for us. He’s going to continue to expand this concept of seeking the things above by giving a simple explanation for where it all begins…

You aren’t what you think, but you are known by what you think. 

(2) Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Paul, “let me say the same thing another way” how do you seek above things? You think about above things. What does that mean? Daydreaming about heaven all day? We are helped by the contrast.

Paul is talking about two different realms. One that is passing away and one that is enduring. One that is below and one that is beyond. One that is penultimate and one that is ultimate. And what’s the challenge.

One you see and one you don’t. One you live in every day by sight, the other one you exist in by faith. 

I found myself thinking I need some kind of restart. That the patterns of thinking and evaluating and valuing are so entrenched in earthly-mindedness it’s almost overwhelming. Your heart is already predisposed to earthly-mindedness. 

Then the world is full of godless thinking. 

But God doesn’t want you to leave the earth right now. And we can’t leave our context. And the word of God prevails even in this. See God’s design is to have his people, living thinking and valuing eternal priorities while on earth, that they might be a compelling testimony of his glory to those around them.

You know what creates ineffective Christians? Earthly-focused Christians. This is hard. It was hard for those Colossian believers. They faced the same kinds of pressures you and I face.

Paul says, you set your mind…

This is proactive. God doesn’t set your mind, he tells you to set your own mind on these things. Such a great word. Things. In the Greek: things... the priorities, the principles, the place. Truth. Eternal realities.

Stop valuing and evaluating according this earth. 

It’s like we have ADHD on our way to glory. “It’s all about Jesus, I love you Lord…” 

Allow me to illustrate: you attend a (thinking about it in an earthly way vs. a heavenly way)… also an over-concern with life on this earth. What in your life is getting more attention than it ought? Are there things you focus time and attention upon to a degree that it is crowding out heavenly priorities?

Matthew 6, turn there with me.

But there are endless pursuits in vanity fair that do nothing but waste your God-given stewardship of time and energy and thought and money.

The battle is in the mind. We are vulnerable in our thought-life. Actively letting the Word of God inform our thinking as we believe it. 

And Paul grounds this way of thinking in theology.

(3) For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 

We learn a couple of things here. You can do it (in other words you are able) because of this, and you should do it (it is appropriate).

What did you die to?

  • Sin
  • Satan’s power
  • World
  • Old man

The life you now life you live by faith in the Son of God who gave himself up for you.

When you became a believer you had a birthday and a funeral on the same day. You became a believer and at that very moment you died. The former you was alive to sin. The former you was dead to God. The former you was enslaved to sin and lusts. 

That you had to go and the new you had to be made alive.

You are held by God in safekeeping with Christ. That’s the word here for hidden. Nothing could ever threaten your standing before God as his child.

If their death with him severed the links that bound them to the old order, then their resurrection with him established links with a new and heavenly order (Bruce, 258)

(4) When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

This verse contains some eschatology. Eschaton—last things. Eschatology is the study of last things. And so far from creating charts and timelines, the primary implication of eschatology in the Scriptures is to live now for the future.

Consider where all of this is headed, and so conform your life now.

One of the ways you can get something done is plan an event at your house. Whenever one of us would graduate from high school we would have an open house and invite just about everyone we knew. For the weeks leading up to that date it was a time of preparation.

Deferred maintenance was getting “undeferred.” Tidying, cleaning, organizing, replacing, repairing, all in preparation for that day. I’m going to give you a smattering of passages that speak to the return of Christ and the impact that has on his people.

There are so many more, but as you hear this, let the Word of God recalibrate your thinking…

You’re to be looking and waiting and making ready…

Matthew 24:44—Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Imagery of a surprise visit from your Lord.

Hebrews 9:28—so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

It is a comfort that we fix our eyes on when we are fearful and weary. Your earthly home may be falling apart physically and lacking peace right now.

John 14:1–3—1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Titus 2:11–13—11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

Death of judgmental spirit who always assesses to motives of those around them. Expecting to see that Jesus will come and then the proper judgment will be made.

1 Corinthians 4:5—therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

When emails are revealed in a deposition. Jesus will disclose the purposes of the heart.

Remaining in Christ and expecting to be received by him on that day.

1 John 2:28—And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

In the midst of trial and difficult focusing on the coming grace.

1 Peter 1:13—Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Living as an outsider—an alien, a stranger, a foreigner who is dead to this word, and waiting to get pick up by your savior.

Philippians 3:20—But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

A trust that the relative season of dealing with life in the flesh here has an expiration date that is coming soon, and one day you will know him sinlessly.

1 John 3:2—Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

An embracing of meeting your judge because you know that you will be able to stand before him.

2 Timothy 4:8—Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Paul’s life was plagued by sin and guilt, but he knew there was a crown coming. Because Jesus paid for his sin, enabled his obedience, and the rewarded him for it. How’s that for a one-sided deal, huh?

The reality that Jesus is coming back as savior and judge means something to us. It means comfort, it means sanctification, it means justice, it means all kinds of things for us. How many of those passages make mention of a focus on waiting to see Jesus?

Is Christ your life? Is it obvious that Jesus Christ is whom you treasure? What would your friends say if given a quiz about you on what your life is all about?

Oh, he is a sports fanatic. He loves his little projects. He is really into his toys. He lives for the weekend. She is all about fashion. She is really into decorating her house. She is totally into fill in the blank.

Paul isn’t commanding the Colossians to make Christ their life. Grammatically, he is stating it as a given. This is a stative verb. Jesus is your life. Christ is your life. It means that if you have been saved then these things are true of you. Romans 8—if we live or if we die, we are the Lord’s. 

Do you see how incongruent it would be to live this life for yourself with Jesus as an add-on and then be ushered into his glory for all of eternity. You will never live perfectly, but your life now is preparation for the life that is to come. The entry into glory is to be as seamless as possible.

Melissa Kruger sums it up well when she writes:

Often we continue to chase the pleasures of the world and simply approach Christianity as a nice accompaniment to our life. 

Why do we keep seeking? Because we are awaiting the future glory. It isn’t here yet. And so, we continue to strive by his grace reaching forward to these things in anticipation of them. You say that sounds like a lot of effort—yes it is, and there is no more worthy pursuit than the pursuit of knowing Jesus.

then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 

Like the phrase to get the crowd full of anticipation, “ya’ll ready for this?” We could meet him this afternoon. Then you’re in glory. 

You don’t have anything to do with this. It will happen upon you with absolute certainty.

We don’t know when that is going to happen.

It could be before next Lord’s Day or it could be 1,000 years from now. And that’s the point. Get ready. Set your hope fully on grace that will be brought to you.

3 Characteristics of a Thriving Christian (Be Who You Are)

  1. One who treasures Christ above all else (1-4)
  2. One who mortifies sin upon seeing it for what it is (5-11)

A challenging section helping us to identify if we are really killing sin or not in our lives. It is a very help area that we will cover in depth next week.

  1. One who models Christ magnifying him on earth (12-17)

Before getting into all the particulars of family life and relationships in the world, Paul is grounding that practice in the theology we find here. Namely, an expression of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the mark of maturity. You want to see mature Christian living? It is people who look like Jesus. 

We’ve been seeing our Lord respond so carefully to others as we walk through the Gospel of Mark. So often he is patiently instructing and patiently bearing up. His attitude is explained in this section of Colossians and it is the real measurement of your maturity in Christ.

Things like compassion, patience, forgiveness, love, and thankfulness. 

Well let’s close our time out today by humbly asking God to help us believe these things and to spur one another on in them.

What does this mean for those who by faith have been united with him in his death and resurrection? They continue to live on earth in their mortal bodies, but they have embarked on a new way of life… Since his people share his risen life, their interests are now centered in him; his interests, in fact, have become theirs. They must therefore pursue those things which belong to the heavenly realm where he reigns; their mind, their attitude, their ambition, their whole outlook must be characterized by their living bond with the ascended Christ. The conclusion is inescapable. Having died with Christ, they now live with him and in him. Their life is bound up with his; it is, in other words, laid up in safekeeping with him, securely hidden in God. Because he lives, his people live also: because he is their life, their life is as eternal as his. The world cannot see their real life at present, just as it cannot see the exalted Christ. A day is coming, however, when Christ will be revealed in glory, and those whose life is at present hidden with him will necessarily be revealed with him and share his glory.