Thursday, December 1, 2016

"When your heart and mind are on Christ ... it shows!"

Day #337

Scripture Reading:  Colossians 3 - 4 ...

In reading Colossians and some of Paul's other letters, it is remarkable that as Paul was under house arrest in Rome, he was still concerned about the believers in the churches where he had preached the Gospel and shared his life.  He cared not only about what they believed, but how they were living out what they believed.  Paul understood the important connection between what you believe to be true about God, about yourself, about the world in which we live and the way you live your life for Christ, knowing that eternity lies ahead.  Because of that understanding, it was Paul's earnest desire that their lives would display the power of God at work within them, for the glory of God and the spread of the Gospel.  And for that to happen, they needed to know their identity in Christ and the power of the Spirit who was at work within them.  The same is true today.

Having written about their freedom in Christ in Chapter 2, Paul begins Chapter 3 by urging them to focus their thinking and their affection 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" (3:1-3).  These are amazing, incredible, awesome truths!!  We who believe HAVE new life in Christ.  By the power of His Spirit our minds and hearts have died to sin and now we can serve God freely because we WANT to!  Those without the Spirit may try to serve God out of a sense of obligation or to earn His favor, but believers know that we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus and we now HAVE eternal life. "When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory!" (3:4).  This now becomes our new starting point.

And that makes a difference in how we live our everyday lives.  That which was attached to the old nature of sin is no longer our "default setting."  "You used to walk in these ways ..." (3:7) ... but no longer.  God is now at work conforming us to His image.  So he writes, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved ..." (3:12).  This IS our identity in Christ.  Only those who are born again by the Spirit of God and who confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord have this new identity.  We know we are chosen in Christ, holy in God's sight through His blood, and are dearly loved.  Those who know this to be true cannot and will not live to satisfy the old nature any longer.  Our heart's desire is to be what God wants us to be and to do what God wants us to do.

When we think of "grace," we usually think of "undeserved favor," and that is true.  But grace also has another meaning:  Grace is God's empowering presence, enabling us to be what He wants us to be and to do what He wants us to do.  In his letter to the Philippians, Paul explained the basis for our hope in desiring to live for Christ:  "God is at work in you, both to will and to act according to His good pleasure" (2:13).  All God calls us to be and do in His Word, He enables us to do by His Spirit and Word.  Paul shows the contrast between how the Colossians used to live and how they are now living and were being called to live, summarizing his instructions with the words, "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" (3:17).

What a joy for us as believers to see God working in us, making us more like Him, transforming us, molding us into the image of Christ.  In his instructions to wives, husbands, children, fathers, slaves and masters, it is all about serving Christ.  "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" (3:23-24).  While those instructions were given specifically to slaves (those serving others), the words apply to all of us in all our relationships.

And desiring to live for Christ requires us to be in constant contact with our Father in heaven, seeking His wisdom and strength to fulfill our calling as we live in this world for Him.  Therefore, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful" (4:2).  Those who know Jesus Christ, and who are God's children, have the greatest life possible in this world.  We know God is with us now, that He is working in us AND that we have an inheritance that is "out-of-this-world" when we leave this world or when Jesus returns.  That's why Paul's focus, as always, was on proclaiming the Gospel, so that others would know the truth that sets people free!  He asks them to pray for him, that even though he is in chains, he will be able to continue to preach the Gospel, and he encourages them to do the same.

What would you be thinking about if you were in prison?  What DO you think about every day?  As Paul closes his letter with greetings, he commends others who are laboring hard for the Gospel and encourages others to "complete the work you have received in the Lord" (4:17).  What a goal for your life and mine ... to complete the work God has given to each of us, using our gifts for the glory of our God!  Does this describe your life? There are so many distractions that take our minds off of who we are and that sometimes make us forget that we have been raised with Christ.  So right now, take a moment, remember that Jesus is on His throne at the right hand of the Father, and set your heart and mind on HIM, not on earthly things.  Practice doing that when you get up in the morning and throughout the day and see what a difference it will make in your life.

When your heart and mind are on Christ, it shows!

"Heavenly Father, even as I pray at this moment, I think of Jesus, who walked this earth, who died and rose again and ascended into heaven, seated at Your right hand, ruling over all things.  I thank You, Father, for Your wonderful grace and for the power of Your Spirit, Who works within me.  As I desire to serve You with all my heart, help me, Father, to put off the old self and to put on the new as You continue Your work in me.  May my life display the truth that I am chosen in Christ, holy in Your sight and dearly loved!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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