Maybe some of you have seen a cartoon like this. A man has a crush on a really beautiful lady. For years he sat in his office cubicle hoping that she would notice him. It’s Valentine’s Day and so he’s thinking that today is the day. He’s finally brave enough to talk to her and he gives her a card. It’s quite the coincidence because she gives him a card too.. He holds the card to his chest and he dreams of what could be. Work is over and as he walks home there’s a whole lot of crazy stuff happening. Construction – people throwing things out of windows and all he is thinking about is his card. He takes a step…big hammer falling from the sky it misses him. Takes another two steps somebody throws a pot out of their balcony. It misses him. Somehow by the skin of his teeth this guy makes it through the obstacles – while we watch it thinking man he should have been paying attention – he should have been listening and looking up. His focus was diverted by something important but less important than his well-being.
Our Bible reading for today starts out this way, “since you have been raised together with Christ, be seeking things above.” Paul is writing to his churches in the midst of a distracting world to challenge them with a question – Do I pay attention to earthly aims or heavenly ones? Where is my primary focus?
Paul gives a big list of sins that these people should be avoiding. And really at the root of every one of those things was a lack of focus on things above. He said put to death immorality – immorality comes about because we don’t look at God’s love enough. He says put greed to death. Greed comes about because we don’t look up to God to provide. It happens in the heart because money today is more important to people than riches eternal. Anger, rage, bad language comes because people forget the price that Jesus paid for everyone in this world. All of these sins came about because of the head being pointed downward instead of up.
And so he calls for a change in focus. Twice he says it “be seeking the things above” and “be thinking about things above not upon the earth”. Focus on the end prize heaven. Because that is what Jesus has already given you.
As a kid, maybe you had a similar experience. You went to the airport or you went to the mall and you saw people who were dressed up. As a young man I saw men who had briefcases, nice suits, and they just carried themselves with a sort of confidence. I wanted to be that. So I was always excited when my mom bought me some dress clothes. It made me feel confident and made me look forward to be that man in the suit. I believed that was who I was. As much as I believed that I was that guy though. There were honestly days where I wasn’t focused on that dream. Sometimes I just wanted to wear sweat pants and look kind of grungy. My focus wasn’t always on the end goal.
See Paul is using multiple illustrations to talk about the focus of the Christian. And he says Jesus took off the clothing of the old self and made you new. That’s objectively true for us. But like that young boy sometimes you like to dress it down. Sometimes Christians like to put the old dirty clothes back on. We don’t want to focus on heaven when earth is so easy. We look forward to the life that we have in heaven but boy it’s fun sometimes to live right here. Filthy language, gossip, greed, all these different sins become a focus for us and sometimes you get so stuck that heaven forgiveness and love are things that are back in the rearview mirror.
See because of sin this quote regarding our focus is always true – “of ourselves we can no more ascend than a bar of iron lift itself up.” We are like a man in the weight room who is stuck underneath a giant weight. He can’t get up and he’s panicking completely focused on trying to lift the bar when his cell phone is sitting right next to his head to dial and see help come. Sin, this life, when we zero in on it the heaven that has been won seems to disappear.
But in reality that is not your fate. Though it is often your focus this reality remains true. Jesus Christ was always focused on saving you. You have been raised with Christ. You will be with him in glory. And my favorite Gospel verse in this section your life is hidden with Christ in God. Though you continued to focus on the world Jesus has already snatched you up for heaven. You are wrapped in his protective embrace against sin, death, and the devil. You have been placed into the hands of God where he says those things cannot harm you I took them away. You are forever in his forgiving and focused embrace.
So knowing that you have heaven already. How are you going to focus on that today and until you get there? Let me give you a football illustration.
Back in the day when the Detroit Lions actually had something to cheer about – there was a running back named Barry Sanders. And Barry Sanders would make these amazing runs! As amazing as it was, every time Barry would score a TD you know what he did? He always just handed the ball to the official. And the announcers and dads around the country would preach that’s the way to do it. Act like you’ve been there before.
Part of us being focused is simply the knowledge that we are already there. Being in the Word of God reminds you that you have heaven. Friends, that’s really what Paul is saying. Don’t get all wrapped up in earthly success, greed, and sin here. Act like you’ve been to heaven before because in Jesus it’s as sure as you are already standing there.
The cure for someone who is downward focused is to focus directly at the things that will lift you up. The focus at church? At Bible Study? In devotional life? Is to crank your neck back so that you can see the sky again – so that you can see yes its gloomy here and some of that gloom is me but Jesus shines through.
The great church Father Augustine said this about these verses. “No one longs for eternal immortal life unless he be wearied of this temporal and mortal life.” My friends are you wearied? Are you so absolutely tired of having your head down to the floor not knowing how to get out of the evil that exists here…then look up at what God has done! When Christ appears you also will appear with him in glory. See that glory of Jesus wash away your sins and propel you to keep your focus on things above. AMEN
Questions for study and discussion at home…
1.) What are some of the things that cause you personally to focus on worldly things instead of heavenly things?
2.) Develop a plan: As God to help you stick to a Bible reading plan so that you can encounter heavenly things on a daily basis
3.) Challenge yourself: When you see someone whose eyes are pointed down at sin and guilt – be prepared to give your answer to that trouble. Give them the hope that you have learned from God in this section of Colossians 3
Lord Jesus we thank you for giving us something so great to look forward to in Heaven. We praise you for making our Salvation sure. Bless us with positive attitudes and confidence as we look to you. Help us to avoid sin in this life – to refocus our existence on what you have done…your forgiveness and love. Bless us with focus upon what is most important our eternity.