Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 Keeping a Heavenly Focus


This lesson will help you understand the importance of keeping a clear focus on your ultimate destination, which is heaven.
It also will offer practical help along the lines of removing old, ungodly habits and replacing them with an attitude and behavior that pleases Jesus.
There are three things required, if you are going to have an attitude that pleases God while you are on your way to Heaven.

The first is, you must--FOCUS   ON     THINGS   ABOVE (Col. 2:20; 3:1-4)

2:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments (fundamentals or basics beliefs) of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (regulations/laws),

The Apostle Paul was a prisoner (see Col. 4:10, 18) when he wrote this letter to the Christians in Colosse, a city in Asia Minor.
Although he never traveled to Colosse, Paul stated that he heard about this church from a common acquaintance named Epaphras (see 1:7-8).
As the brief letter unfolds we see that Paul wrote to confront false teachings, by upholding the truth about Christ.
Notice this warning by Paul: "And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words."
Paul went on to describe these "enticing words" as part of an effort to take the Colossian believers captive "through philosophy and vain deceit...after the {basic beliefs} of the world, and not after Christ" (v. 8).
Certainly, the ultimate answer to the false teaching Paul named is Christ, "for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (v. 9).

When Jesus died on the cross, He died for our sins, paying the debt we owed.
When we believe this good news and receive by faith His gift of eternal life, we die to our sins in the sense that sin no longer has a legitimate claim on us.
Therefore, believers are set free from bondage to sin; they are free to live the new life that is theirs because of their union with Christ.

The phrase "rudiments of the world" refers to false teaching about the necessity of keeping various man made religious rules--These rules say, "Touch not; taste not; handle not" (v. 21).
Notice the negative decree of these commands.
A Christian is aware of certain God-given prohibitions, but the primary emphasis always is positive.
However, with these religious rules this was not necessarily the case.

The focal passage for this message begins with Paul's reminder that all believers are dead with Christ.
3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

The meaning of If in this verse is "Since." The verse could be read like this: "Since ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above."

The next 3 verses continue the thought--

2Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.  
4When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

Believers are united with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
The Lord who is seated at the right hand of God the Father represents His followers in heaven.
He is there as every believer's High Priest.
So, how should this reality affect us?

Notice this command: "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."
Paul helps us gain a proper perspective regarding this present life.
We are reminded of our dual citizenship--on earth and in heaven.
But we should focus primarily on heaven because our residence there is permanent.
As Paul stated, our life is "hid with Christ in God."

The term that was translated "hid" emphasizes the ongoing and permanent effects of the believer's death with Jesus.
The Christian's life has been hidden with Christ in God, and it remains that way.
The word "hid" suggests three things:
(1) Secrecy-- the Christian's life is nurtured by Christ's presence deep within the heart.
(2) Christians can identify with the risen Lord; and
(3) There is safety since we are in Jesus.

Perhaps nothing is more helpful for keeping one's focus on the Lord than the practice of daily private worship.
Spend time early each morning reading God's Word.
Lift your heart in praise to Him through songs and prayers (Yes, it's ok to sing when you're walking outside your home and inside its walls; and, of course, we all sing in the shower.), and commit yourself to live continually under His control.
Nothing else pays such rich dividends.

We also must live with continual awareness that an event of tremendous significance is approaching--Jesus' Second Coming, when Christ, who is our life, shall appear.
At that glorious moment all believers from all the ages will appear with him in glory.
Keeping our focus on Jesus greatly influences all our values as well as our attitude toward life and the things this life offers.
Someone has said, "Don't be so heavenly minded that you're no earthly good," but this kind of "heavenly mindedness" actually makes it possible for us to influence others for Christ.
How does it do that?

In the verses that follow, Paul talked about some specific ways.

SHED THE OLD WAYS
(Col. 3:5-10)

5Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
6For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
7In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
8But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
9Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
10And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

Paul is continuing to appeal to the Colossians as he urges them to deal severely with evil practices that were present in their lives before they were saved, and are still there.

First, he called on them to mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth.
Paul was telling them to put to death all their ungodly desires and actions.
He is saying that we must not tolerate evil; all of our sinful behavior must be identified, condemned, and eliminated.

The apostle named several specific sins.
The term fornication, which refers to illicit sexual activity, comes from the same root word as the word that we get our word pornography from.
Uncleanness has a broader meaning, including morally unclean thoughts, words, and actions.
Inordinate affection, as it's used here, expresses a meaning similar to that expressed by the term "evil desire."
It's very clear that Paul was referring to sexual sins.
Covetousness is the desire for what someone else has.
Greed is idolatry because it puts one's own desires in the place of God.
However, unlike the desire for God, greed never is satisfied.
The greedy person always wants more--more sexual experiences, more material possessions, more recognition, and more of all this world offers.

Paul reminded his readers that each of them once lived in these things.
He also warned them that because of this ungodliness they may receive the wrath of God.

Paul's second appeal included a list of sinful attitudes and speech.
He ordered the Colossian Christians to put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, and filthy communication out of your mouth.

Once again, these were characteristic of their former lifestyles.
The first three of these terms describe various expressions of a bad disposition.
Anger is the displeasure shown toward another person, and wrath is more of a sudden outburst of anger.
And malice is a feeling of hatred for another--it' there in the heart when a person takes pleasure in someone else's misfortunes.

Next, the apostle named various sins of speech.
A bad temper is often expressed in blasphemy; that's a term that means to speak falsely of someone, as in gossip.
Filthy communication includes all kinds of corrupt speech such as profanity, cursing, obscenities, and foul words in general.

Paul offered a final appeal--lie not to one another.
Paul's forceful command can be stated this way: Stop lying to one another!

All these corrupt attitudes, actions, and words belong to the old man--the evil human nature every person has from birth.
We must decisively turn from such ungodliness, and put evil deeds to death, and put on the new man--the nature of Christ Him¬self.
This holy, godly, nature is continually in the process of being renewed as we gain greater knowledge of Christ and all He does for us.
We are continually being made into the very image or likeness of our Creator. ...... , ,
If we want to please God, we must put off the old ways and--

PUT ON THE NEW WAYS
(Col. 3:12-14, 17)

That's what we're told in Colossians 3:12-14.

12Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering;
13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.

The practice of taking off dirty, filthy, sweaty clothes and replacing them with clean garments is a common experience.
Paul used this figure of speech to illustrate how a believer must remove old ways of thinking, acting, and speaking, and replace them with Christlike attitudes and actions.
The reason for such a major transformation is the internal changes we experience as believers.
A person can change garments but remain the same person.
But Paul was referring to a change in one's very nature.

Think about the three expressions of God's grace that bring about this change.
They are "elect of God", "holy" and "beloved".
Because God loved us as He did, He elected or chose us to be set apart as His children.
In other words, He has saved us, and because we are saved, we should act like the people of God. 

Let's look at the various articles of the new wardrobe we should be wearing.
In the verses we just read, Paul gives us a list of eight beautiful garments we must put on and wear forever!

"Bowels of mercies" refer to expressions of tenderness toward those who are hurting.
Today we might call this empathy.

"To show kindness" means to have a gracious spirit or an attractive disposition.
When we have an accurate opinion of ourselves, we show "humbleness of mind" rather than pride.

A "spirit of meekness" is displayed when a person shows consideration for the feelings of others.

Possessing these traits doesn't make a person weak; in reality, authentic expressions of these qualities arise from strength.

Being "longsuffering" means putting up with irritating people and circumstances without becoming angry or complaining.
"Forbearing one another"--"bearing with one another"--are expressions of patience.

And all of these virtues require that we be consistently forgiving of one another.
This isn't optional: because if the Lord forgave us, we must forgive others (see Matt. 6:14-15).
The person who refuses to forgive has failed to understand and appreciate the meaning of being forgiven.
Finally, Paul referred to charity--love--as the bond of perfectness--like a belt that holds all the other garments together.
And love is above all of these things in the sense of being the most important quality.
What makes it so important?
Every Christian virtue is an expression of love!

In Paul's Letter to the Galatians, the apostle gave a list of Christian virtues very similar to the ones he named in this passage.
He called these the "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22-23).
Only the Holy Spirit can produce such beautiful garments; we put them on by yielding daily to His control.

Verse 17 gives a concluding summary for this part of Paul's letter.

17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Note his instruction: Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Christians bear the name of Christ; we are His representatives in this world.

How important is it that we give an accurate witness of His life through all we say and do.

Although Jesus remains in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father, we have His Spirit abiding in us and enabling us to be all He calls us to be.

LESSON WRAP-UP

Take time to meditate on the three main topics in this week's study.
These are worthy commands based on Scripture: Focus on Things Above, Shed the Old Ways, and Put on the New Ways.

Seek to conform more fully to these ideals from God's Word.
As you maintain the right perspective on life, your example will make a positive difference in your world.

ipsis ...,
* em-dash --

Do you have any questions or comments?

 A Christian woman experienced a most unusual dream. While sleeping, she dreamed that Christ was coming to visit her the next day at 4:00 P.M. Her dream then carried her through a time warp to the coming day. On the day of her Lord’s expected arrival, she feverishly worked to clean and prepare her house. At four o’clock, she heard a knock at the door. Quickly, the woman examined her appearance in the mirror, then swiftly walked to the door. In shock and horror, she saw a grotesque, dirty figure standing on the other side of the threshold. She feared this emaciated and disheveled individual would ruin her visit with Christ so she rudely demanded, “Who are you?” The man answered, “I am the One you are expecting.” She quickly stated, “You’re not the Jesus I know!” To which he replied, “No, but I’m the Jesus others see in you!” Whether we like it or not, our behavior paints a picture of the Lord. What image do others see on the canvas of your life?

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