First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, May 07, 2023)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Set Your Hearts on Things Above!”
Psalm 119:9-16; Colossians 3:1-10
The first few versus of Colossians chapter 3 capture the depth of what it means to live as those made alive in Christ. In his letter to the believers in the Roman city of Colossi, the apostle Paul says that as members of the new humanity, as those who have been raised with Christ, no part of their human existence remains untouched by the loving and liberating rule of Jesus. This includes their family dynamics and their work commitments, their suffering and their witness in the world. All of this must be transformed by the gift of new life in 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,” says Paul to the Colossians in chapter 3:1-2. What Paul was saying is simple yet so profound at the same time. Basically, he was saying, “Let’s put the new life into practice. Let your hearts be Christ-centered. Let your minds be Kingdom-oriented.”
In the previous chapter, in Colossians chapter 2, Paul talks about different dangers that might pull us away from Christ. These are certain temptations in this life. These dangers led to believers only demonstrate an outward Christianity. Some of those who had claimed to be Christians in Colossi didn’t live up to that standard.
In Chapter 3, Paul gets down to the real business. He tells us that if we want to live an authentic and real Christian life, a life that can make a difference in this world, we need to set our hearts on things above. This is the dilemma of our faith. As followers of Christ we do live here on earth but with a heavenly mindset. I truly believe that our spiritual well-being depends on how much we get this and how much we handle this difficult dilemma. Let me highlight a couple observations for us this morning:
First: Christ’s Life in us is a Daily Experience
Colossians chapter 3 begins with the word “since”, which means because of what had happened, you’re expected to live a certain way. “Since we have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above … set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” The verb “have been raised” in the original Greek here literally means “co-resurrected.” We have been “co-resurrected” with Christ. The resurrection of Christ should have a lasting impact on the believer’s life. A believer is someone whose life has been transformed by the power of Christ’s resurrection. This is what Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
Second: This is an Intentional and Deliberate Process
Setting our hearts and minds on things above is an intentional process. That seeking of the kingdom is intentional. Pursuing the kingdom is not our default. By default, we are drawn toward the things of this world. Martin Luther, the 16th century German Protestant Reformer, once challenged one of his students by saying, “I’ll get you a new horse and carriage (wagon) if you can pray the Lord’s Prayer and concentrate on every phrase without losing your train of thought.” “No problem,” the young man said. After he had prayed the prayer, the student, however, confessed to Martin Luther, “all I could think about was the horse and carriage (wagon).” As much as he tried to concentrate and focus on the Lord’s Prayer, his mind was drawn elsewhere. Setting our minds and hearts on things above is a deliberate and intentional focusing of our hearts and thoughts towards God and His Kingdom.
The truth of the matter is that we will not have the motivation to “seek” anything until we realize its value. Once we realize how valuable the kingdom is, then we will seek it first. We will put forth the effort to obtain it and to pursue more of it. Many “build their hopes” on the shifting sands of “things below,” which makes their life empty, meaningless, and unfulfilled.
Friends, let me ask you this morning: when you look at your life, what are you seeking first? What are you striving for the most? What is your deep passion in life? What is the deep desire of your heart? How much time have you spent this past week thinking on spiritual things compared to the time you have spent thinking on things of this earth? God wants us to seek His kingdom first. He wants you to strive for, to pursue, and go after the things that are above. This is our daily struggle. This is an intentional process. Let this desire, let this pursuit, regulate the rhythm of your actions and thoughts. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! Amen!
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