Thank you, Will, for leading us. As he mentioned, children can be dismissed with Keri and Amy right out this door to your right. For children that are staying, we have the children’s bulletins right there in the back in front of the sound booth. Feel free to pick those up at any time, they have fun activities that go along with the message.
Lauryn and I are so glad to be here for our first Missouri Easter. For those of you who are guests, my family and I moved here from the Dallas area in October, and so far we love this Texas winter we’re having up here.
Easter I think is my favorite holiday, and part of that is because I’m an adult. I remember when I was growing up my brother and I felt oppressed by our older sister, because she would run around and get all the easter eggs, and we would get so few. She was older and smarter, and could figure out where they were. So my brother and I would have to revert to crying in order to get a redistribution of the Easter eggs. But now, as an adult, I don’t have to cry to get what I want. I don’t even have to look for Easter eggs, because now I just eat the candy straight from the bag. Sometimes I miss being a child, but Easter isn’t one of those times. I like doing whatever I want, assuming I, you know, have permission from my bride.
Anyway, I also love Easter because of what we’re celebrating. It’s a big deal. I think it’s probably pretty common to wonder, though what it really has to do with me, right now, in 2016.
Something that often goes unsaid about what the Bible teaches about the resurrection, is that we, too, as Christians, have been raised with Christ. This resurrection that Jesus experienced, dying, then coming back to life, that is exactly what has happened to us as born-again Christians! This is one of the most central truths of the Christian faith, and yet, so many times we don’t quite get it, or at least we don’t really live as people who’ve been raised from the dead. We may instead consider Jesus just this nice little addition to our lives, like the icing on the cake. We often forget that the reality is that Jesus Himself is our very life.
Go with me to Colossians chapter 3. If you want to use one of the blue New Testaments under one of the seats in front of you, feel free. We’re going to be on page 102. In fact, if you don’t have one or know someone who might be able to use it, feel free to just take that blue New Testament with you as you leave. In the first few pages you’ll find some thoughts on reading the Bible for the first time, as well as where to go in the Bible to find what it says about different subjects. So feel free to take that as our gift to you. Colossians 3:1-4, page 102.
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.
So, over the last 10-11 weeks, we’ve been looking at the book of Colossians, and if you were here, you remember back to before this text, that Paul is talking about Jesus, and who exactly He is. These four verses act as a transition FROM– ok, here’s Jesus, TO here’s what it looks like to be in Christ.
The question we’re going to answer this morning is, What does it mean to live the risen life? That’s our question to sum it all up. These four verses answer that question.
- It means we’ve be raised with Christ.
Verse 1, the first part: “If you’ve been raised with Christ.” What does that mean? It means that Paul, the author of Colossians, is talking here to Christians. We receive this new life in Christ by understanding the Gospel and responding to it. So what is this gospel? What is the big deal about this whole Jesus thing? Well, let me narrow it down for us by summarizing the most central message of the entire Bible. If you were here last week, you’ll remember this:
- God created everything, including us. So, we’re accountable to Him as our loving Ruler.
- Man rebelled against Him! We wanted to rule our own lives and just do what we wanted. Every single one of us have rebelled against God. Because of that, and because God is just, we earn eternal death. We can’t do anything to reverse this on our own.
- The heart of the Gospel: God became a man, Jesus Christ, lived a life of obedience, not rebellion, therefore did not earn death at all! And yet, he died on the cross taking our place, bearing our sin and the wrath of God that you and I deserved, then he rose again defeating sin and death.
- If we turn from our sin and place our faith in Christ as our substitute, we are saved.
The heart of the Gospel is Jesus Christ our Substitute. For those of us who understand this, and have turned from our sin and truly placed our faith in Christ alone as our Substitute, we have died to ourselves, AND have been raised with Christ! How so? We were dead in our sin, completely dead, meaning we had no ability on our own to please God. The chapter right before this, verse 13, says, “You who were dead in your trespasses and sins, God made you alive with Christ!”
We have no ability on our own to truly rid ourselves from the penalty of sin nor sin itself. That’s what it means that we were dead, and now Jesus alone made us alive. He’s fixed the sin problem that we couldn’t fix.
We’ve been made right with God because Jesus took upon Himself God’s wrath, so we didn’t have to. He died for our sin, then rose again defeating death. He defeated sin and death. 1 Corinthians 15:17 says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” If the resurrection didn’t happen, we’d still have our sin and ultimately, the penalty of sin, which is death. But he was resurrected, and now we can have this new resurrected life in Christ. We will experience physical death, every single one of us. But not all of us will experience spiritual death.
But let me just be as clear as I can possibly be here as to what has made us right with God, it’s just too important not to be extra extra clear here: Living a good life doesn’t make any of us right before God. If I were to die today and God asked me, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” If I answer, “Because I’m a good person,” I will not be let in! This is one of the most clear things throughout Scripture, that people are sinful. We have rebelled against our loving Ruler. We wanted the crown for ourselves! We all wanted the crown, and the ability to rule our own lives. And yet we still think somehow that this great, loving, but just Ruler is just going to flippantly forgive us because eh, we’re decent people.
God is a just God that won’t let sin go unpunished. That may be something new for you, that God is just. It may not sound like what you hear very often on television or even in some churches. But it’s the biblical truth. Exodus 34:6-7 says, “The Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished!”
You may be like, heh? He’s forgiving but won’t let the guilty go unpunished? How in the world do those two go together? How could they possibly? He’s an absolutely just God, a good judge, and yet he’s a loving and forgiving God. You may think those two just can’t go together, but you must know something: the entire Bible is about how they go together. How?! How do they go together? Jesus!!! In Jesus God’s justice is satisfied by pouring out his wrath on his own Son, and in Jesus God’s incredible love for a sinful, rebellious world, is revealed. Justice and Love both in Jesus.
No one is saved because they’re a good person. No one! The only salvation there is is in Jesus Christ. We turn from our sin, we turn our hearts and minds from sin and from ruling our own life, and we place our faith in Christ who is our Substitute. THAT’S how we’re saved.
So, the question, am I born again? Have I been raised with Christ, and ultimately will be with Christ in heaven when I leave this earth? You must answer yes, truthfully, to these three questions. If you say yes, in truth, to these three questions, you are a child of God.
- Do you believe that you have rebelled against God, and that because of that, you deserve God’s coming wrath?
- Do you believe that Jesus came as God in the flesh, taking God’s wrath upon Himself in death, and rising from the dead defeating sin and death? More simply put, do you believe that Jesus is our substitute, and that He took God’s wrath on our behalf?
- Have you turned from your sin, submitting yourself once again to God our Ruler, and trusting in Christ alone for salvation.
If the answer to any of those three questions is no, then you don’t know Christ. You have not been raised with Christ. You’re not born again. You are not an adopted child of God. This may seem like harsh news, but I hope you realize also that it’s GREAT news, because now you know! If someone didn’t ask me these questions, straight up, then ask me to look at my life and see if there was evidence that I had submitted to God my Ruler and trusted in Christ as my substitute, I wouldn’t know Christ today.
I’d still think that because I’m a decent human being, that somehow I’ve earned God’s favor. But we were DEAD in our trespasses and sin. Let me ask you a question: Can dead people do anything?! No, they’re dead! They can’t do anything, especially bring themselves back to life! They must be brought back to life. That’s what happened to me when I died to myself and trusted in Christ alone as my Substitute. He brought me back to life! I am not the guy I once was. I’m not perfect at all, but I have a born again heart and new life in Christ. I have an entirely new purpose.
That’s the first answer to the question, “What does it mean to live the risen life?” It means, first of all, that we’ve been raised with Christ. The 2nd answer is this:
- It means we set our minds on things above.
Look at the second part of verse 1 and verse 2: “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 the earth.”
Now that we have been justified in Christ, meaning we’ve been made right before God, we’re to set our eyes and our minds and our will toward things that are above. What we’re after now, is Christ. We’re to pursue, and desire, and grow in Christ. We’re following Him!
I’ve got to say, if this whole Jesus as Substitute thing doesn’t excite you, I don’t know what will. The God of the universe died and rose again, as my Substitute, taking upon himself the punishment that I deserved! We’re to set our minds, focus our attention, throughout our lives, on Him!
I want to do a little something to help us visualize what we do when we set our minds on earthly things instead of heavenly things. Now, give me a second to put this up. I’m not really a big fan of props, but I thought, it’s Easter, and particularly with the kiddoes in the room, this might help us to understand better. OK.
Picture the majority of this string as our life after death. OK. This is our time in heaven, our eternal life after our physical death. It’s pretty long, it’s pretty huge, you get the idea. Now, imagine, comparatively, this little mark right here, is our life on earth. Why is it so small? Well, you know, eternity is a long time. So compared to eternity, the life we have on this earth isn’t very long. It may feel like a long time, but it’s really not.
Now, just for clarity, the Bible doesn’t speak too much to what heaven will actually be like. It speaks way more of the crucified Jesus reigning in Heaven, which should tell us something about why heaven is going to be awesome. Not because we’ll all be able to fly or something (I don’t know if that’s true), but because the God of the universe will be there, and we will see him in all of his glory.
Now, there are some scholars that think that when we die, we will become like God in the sense that we will no longer exist within time. OK, you want your head to explode from thinking too hard, just think about that for a few minutes. But either way, whether we will experience time like we do now or not, this string represents not just the time difference between life in heaven and life on earth, but also reality for Christians. What is that reality? We are citizens of Heaven, according to Philippians 3:20. We are children of God. That is our primary identity.
But, it seems that often Christians are too busy with earthly thing to set their minds on Christ who is reigning in Heaven. We act as if this whole Jesus thing is just a nice little addition to my life, that I’ll think about every once in a while. The problem with that is that this massive reality of Christ reigning bears so much weight for our lives here on earth. It should drastically change how we live our lives! We shouldn’t live our lives on earth, the tiny amount of time that we have, as if this eternal life doesn’t even really matter. It matters incredibly. It matters in how we lives our lives, what we do on a daily basis, it ESPECIALLY matters for those around us who have no idea about this life, this Christ who reigns.
What does it mean to live the risen life? It means first that we’re risen with Christ, we know Him, we’ve turned from sin and trusted in Him, and then it means also that we set our hearts and minds on Him. But this doesn’t happen magically. This world offers a lot of distractions. I mean, I love Netflix, but boy can it be a time-waster. Netflix isn’t intrinsically bad, but it, like so many other things, can be a huge distraction from what matters far more. So how?
How do we set our minds on Christ?
We need the Word. The Bible. We don’t set our minds on Christ by just thinking about what we think heaven will be like, or how we like to think about Jesus. We don’t just sit and meditate on whatever comes to our own brain. We start with God’s primary communication to us about who He is. We read it, we meditate on IT, we think about what it says. We grow to love Jesus as He really is, as laid out in the Word.
This is also why born-again Christians so desperately need the church, even with all its imperfections and hypocrisies. You may not like the church, because it’s full of hypocrites. I say to that, “Where better for hypocrites to be?!” And, hopefully, the Holy Spirit is changing us into being more like Christ and less like a bunch of hypocrites.
We need the Body of Christ. We need people around us who can help us pursue Jesus. We need Bible-teaching and preaching. At Raintree, if you open your bulletin to one of the last pages, it tells a bit about why we are Word-Centered. So why are we? Because that’s how we know Christ. That’s how we set our minds and even our affections on Him. That’s why any preaching or teaching that happens here will not just be some neat thoughts I have, with maybe a verse or two kind-of supporting that. No, we go to the Word to learn straight from God Himself. I can put some interesting spins on life and faith, but you don’t that, I don’t want that! We want God’s spin on things, because that’s reality.
Let me just promise you something. Without being part of a church that opens the Word and focuses on God’s revelation of Himself to us, I don’t know if any of us have much of a chance setting our minds on things above, or really pursuing Christ. We need others around us who are also pursuing Christ, knowing Him better, and becoming more like Him. God did not intend for the Christian faith to be an individualistic faith. That’s why most of the New Testament was written to churches. You ever thought about that? I want to heavily encourage you, if you’re a Christian, plug into a local body. It doesn’t have to be here, at all. But find a church that really opens this up every week, and focuses on it, and don’t assume all churches do that. Plug in, and set your heart and mind on Jesus Christ.
One of my favorite authors used this illustration before, and I want to share it with you to help summarize some last thoughts. Imagine you were drowning in a lake, and the Son of God threw you an inner tube, and it landed near you, so you somehow got your way over to it, and then sort-of paddled your way to the shore. I would hope you’d be thankful. Thank you, Jesus.
But let’s now suppose that you were dead and at the bottom of the lake. Let’s say even your family was dragging the bottom of the lake looking for you, and you had been an enemy of the Son of God for your entire life, completely rejecting him. Let’s say that he swims out, dives under the water, finds you, brings you to shore, lays you down, and just starts working on you. He works and works and works on you all day, and suddenly there’s the smallest evidence of life, and you are alive again! Then, he falls at your side dead. He exhausted himself to the point of death, for you. You were dead, you could do nothing to bring yourself back to life. But this Son of God, your enemy, gave Himself for you. Of course, if we were to finish out the illustration, Jesus too would then come back to life, and say to you, “Follow Me.”
I’m not sure that we realize that we were dead. Jesus did not just throw us an inner tube and help us save ourselves from our sin. There wasn’t this sort-of working together to gain salvation. You die on the cross, I’ll be a good person and earn my 50%, we’ll meet halfway. That’s not the Gospel. That’s not the good news.
The Good News is that you were dead, and because of Christ, you have or at least can be brought to LIFE! To not set our minds and hearts on Christ would be like saying, after all that happened at the lake, “Hey, Jesus, thanks man, I appreciate it. I’ll catch ya later, I’m going to run into town and play at the arcade…” It’d be like going on about life as if we didn’t even realize what just happened! He brought us back to life!
God wants more than just external actions that we try to give him because we think that that will make us right with him. He wants our hearts, our minds, our whole being. When we see Jesus as He really is, when we dive into the riches of the Bible and see the most glorious things beyond what we can fathom, we won’t have to try and force ourselves to love him more than anything else. It’s going to consume us.
“Set your minds on Christ and on the things above,” verse 3: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God,” meaning our glorified bodies are hidden, and will be revealed later in heaven. Verse 4- “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Paul, once again, goes back to this whole death to ourselves, and our life in Christ. Paul’s talking to Christians, and yet he brings up the whole Jesus alone being our salvation and life AGAIN. Why? Because God knows how quickly we forget! We forget that we can’t be good enough to earn salvation. We forget that God is a just God and must punish for sin. We forget that God became a man and died as our Substitute, rose again, and that that’s the only reason we’re made right with God. We forget that IN JESUS, God’s justice is upheld and his wrath is satisfied, and that IN JESUS God’s incredible love for a rebellious world is revealed. We forget that Jesus, according for verse 4, is our very life.
At some point God will bring about his new heavens and the new earth. There is a point at which God will reign over all things, and he will no longer allow rebellion. Everything we’ve ever done will be brought into account. On that day, either Jesus will say I paid for all his failures and sin, or He will say I never knew you. The biggest confirmation as to whether or not we have truly turned from sin, and placed our faith in Jesus our Substitute, is whether or not our hearts and minds are set on Jesus Christ.
I implore you, turn and trust in Christ if you haven’t. It would be the most important day of your life. Or, if you have been raised with Christ, pursue Him! Don’t let the distractions of the world stop you from the greatest purpose for which we can live. If you’ve been brought to life, don’t live like you’re dead, live the risen life.