Celebrating Christocentricity (3:1-4)
Among the many incredible statements in Psalm 16, consider David's declaration in v. 2 – "I say to the LORD, 'You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.'" I fear that if I were honest with myself I'd be forced to identify a number of things in life I consider "good" that bear no relation to Christ Jesus. I'm grieved by that. It's another way of saying that my life isn't nearly as Christocentric (now that's a word worth memorizing!) as it should be.
This is what makes Colossians 3:1-4 so indescribably important. Let's take a closer look at this stunning statement concerning the centrality of Christ. "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."
The opening statement in Colossians 3:1 ("if then you have been raised with Christ") parallels what Paul said earlier in 2:20 ("if with Christ you died"). Paul's Christocentric focus is unmistakable: for the Christian, everything makes sense only when seen in terms of our identity, relationship, and union "with Christ." We are "with" him in his death and "with" him in his rising. Indeed, as v. 4 makes clear, we are also destined to be "with" him in glory when he comes again to this earth to consummate his kingdom!
Dying with Christ points to the definitive and irreversible split with the old life in which we were once immersed (3:2). We are to be as lifeless and insensible to it as a corpse is to the stimuli of the world in which it once existed. Likewise, being raised with Christ points to our new status that requires a new ethic and a new lifestyle (one that Paul will outline in some detail in vv. 5ff.).
By virtue of our having died with Christ we have been set free "from" something (namely, the elemental powers; see 2:8,20). By virtue of our having been raised with Christ we have also been set free "for" something (namely, a new life in him). Our death with Christ severed any links we had with the values and life of the present world order and our resurrection with Christ united or connected us with the new, heavenly, eternal order. Or again, we died with him to "our old ways" and have been raised with him to "his new ways."
So let me emphasize the Christocentricity of the apostle once again: we have been raised "with Christ" in the past (3:1), we are hidden "with Christ" in the present (3:3), and we will be revealed "with Christ" in the future (3:4). Not to be connected or united to Christ by grace alone through faith alone ends all hope of a break with the past, a power for the present, or glory in the future.
We have no independent life of our own. We can claim no right in our bodies or minds or souls or possessions. The only life that we now have is actually the life of Christ in us. Therefore our interests must be identical with his. Our goals and aims and vision must be co-extensive with his. All that is precious and dear to him should be to us as well. All that is alien and offensive to him should affect us in the same way.
This isn't to suggest that we can attain sinless perfection in this life. Paul makes it clear that our experience of final and full glory comes only at the second advent of Jesus (v. 4; cf. 1 John 3:1-3). But in the light of what has already happened to us (we died, were buried, and now are raised with Christ) and in light of what will happen to us (we will share his glory when he is revealed) our lives must be radically different, radically other-worldly, radically sin-denying and Christ-affirming.
Once again, the only reason, the sole ground, for Paul's exhortation to set our hearts and minds on the things above is because that is "where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (v. 1; an allusion to Psalm 110, the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament). We don't seek "things that are above" because that it is where the "things" are, but because the "things" are where Christ is!
"Things above" have no value or appeal except insofar as they reveal Christ, focus on Christ, and bring us more of Christ. We are not to read Paul's words as if he had in view heavenly "stuff", whether treasures or streets of gold or rewards for earthly obedience. The "things" that are above, those "things" that are to be the focus of our concentrated pursuit, are Christological "things"! Apart from him, they lose their luster. Apart from him, they have no power to please. Apart from him, heavenly things would be no better than hellish torments.
Perhaps we should pause to identify those "things" below that hinder our focus on the "things" above. What earthly entanglements exert a downward drag on your soul? What worldly attractions have become distractions and keep your mind off Christ? What fleshly affections compete with passion for him? The power to disengage from and triumph over all such rival pleasures will come only as we see and savor him who is above.
"Oh Father, make known to us the glory of your Son! Oh Spirit, shine the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ Jesus into our hearts! Blind us to all but him. Captivate us with his splendor that we, like Moses, might say no to the passing pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:25-26). Help us to rest in Christ alone as the treasure greater than all earthly rewards. Amen."
Seeking Him as my only good,