Morning! My name is John McCormick, Leader of Renovation U
Which is our summer theology classes
Happy New Year’s!
I’m excited to see what God is going to do this year!
And I hope you had a great Christmas reflecting on the birth of Jesus!
Making New Year’s Resolutions
I don’t know if you do this, but 40% of Americans have been thinking about what their New Year’s resolutions will be
That could be something they want to start doing
Or maybe something that they want to stop doing
If they anything like me, they’ve told themselves that they are going to eat salads every day for lunch for the whole year
Gotta eat right and get in shape!
Maybe they’ve admitted to themselves that they should use that gym membership that they’ve been paying for and haven’t used in…….. a long time
It could also be a fun resolution like wanting to travel more
Or wanting to try something new like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane
People make resolutions because we want to make something better in our lives
Resolutions give us hope that we can finally change that this year
And sometimes, they really do help us make important changes in our lives
But…. and I think you know where I’m going to go next 😊
People who study such things say that we make our resolutions and then quickly forget or abandon them
A company called Strava (which has an exercise tracking app) did a study in 2019 of over 98 million activities logged into their app
According to their research, the average American gives up on their exercise related New Year’s Resolutions on January 19th
They even went so far as to name that date “Quitters day”
Other studies suggest that over a third of us give up on our resolutions within the first week of January and over 50% will give up by February
And that only around 10% of people keep their resolutions for the entire year
That’s some pretty crazy statistics for something that millions of people are doing each year!
Keep those stats in the back of your mind this morning and we’ll come back to them
Catching up on Colossians
Now if you’re new with us over the last few weeks, you may not know that we have been studying through the book of Colossians as a church
We studied chapters 1 and 2 In October and November, before taking a quick break for a short series on the names of God
Today, we’re back in Colossians, starting with Chapter 3
Before we get there though let’s do a quick summary of what we read in the first two chapters
I’d also strongly encourage you to go back and watch the messages on the first half
Knowing the context of what we have already covered will be super helpful!
In Chapter one, we see Paul talk about the faith of the Colossians and how they have trusted in and are following Jesus
Their faith has been a blessing and encouragement to others
He also talks about how Jesus has authority over everything on Earth
In Chapter two, Paul talks about how we should live our lives following Jesus
Paul also spends time contradicting false beliefs that human teachers had been spreading in the city of Colossae
Paul tells the Colossians that all of these teachings are wrong and in fact don’t help Christians at all to resist temptation
These points are all really important because this letter is meant to be read as a whole
What Paul has said so far is leads up to chapter 3 where we’ll see Paul shift gears for the rest of the book and talk about what we’re calling the “Roadmap for the Resurrected”
That brings us to today in Chapter 3
I want everyone to follow along today, so grab your Bible or the Bible under the chair in front of you
I want to start at the verse right before chapter 3 to help us get context and then we’ll keep going into chapter 3
We’ll be on page 805 and we’ll be starting right at the bottom at the little number 23
Colossians 2: 23 – 3: 4
Set your mind
As we finished chapter 2, we saw Paul tell us that human regulations and rules aren’t going to help us follow Jesus
Paul points out the bad theology to avoid and why it is wrong
But he doesn’t leave us with warning…. he gives us a better alternative
Paul’s alternative to what the false teachers has been saying is that we are to “set our hearts” and “set our minds” on the things above
What on earth does that mean?
These phrases may not be super familiar to you, but you might be more familiar with something like: “I have my heart set on it”
Essentially “setting your heart” means that you really want something
And instead of saying “set your mind” you might say “I can’t stop thinking about it” or “I can’t get it off my mind”
Setting your mind just means thinking about something all of the time
What we see Paul saying is that we are to desire and think about “things above”
Now we’re not talking things literally above you
Instead, he’s using the idea of “above” as we see Jesus use it in a couple places
Let’s look at some quick examples:
He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.
Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.”
So this idea of “things above” is talking about Heaven and God who dwells there
The opposite of the things above are earthly things, which would include all of the things the world around us loves: money, power, alcohol, sex, drugs, etc.
A few years ago, I did a message here at Renovation Church called “Eyes on the Prize” where I talked a lot about Heaven
One of the big themes was how we have to set our eyes on Heaven where we will be with Jesus someday
Like people competing in a race, you have to be thinking about and focused on your goal
Otherwise, you’ll end up being distracted and lose the race
And that is exactly what Paul is trying to tell us here
We should really want to be in Heaven and to be with our King
We should spend a lot of time thinking about Jesus and our home with him
Paul is not just giving us some empty command though, what does it say right at the beginning of verse 1?
You have been raised with Christ
Because we have been given new life with Jesus, we are to set our hearts on the things above
We are to desire to be in Heaven, to desire to be with Jesus because of what he has done
And not like a small side desire, we’re talking the main, big desire
Paul just spent the last two chapters establishing how awesome and amazing Jesus is to give us reasons why we would want that
We are free from death and sin because of what Jesus has done
All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Jesus
Jesus who died for us single-handedly holds everything in the universe together
Paul wants us to remember that when we believe in Jesus, we are adopted through him as sons and daughters of God
This means a few things:
The sustainer of the UNIVERSE wants to spend time with you
He is making a place for you in Heaven where you will be with him FOREVER
That should make our hearts light up like fireworks!
Friends, we are no longer dead but are instead made alive for an eternity!
The great pastor and theologian Charles Spurgeon had a great metaphor that he used to explain this transition from being dead to being made alive and why we it makes us want to set our hearts on things above:
A dead person laid to rest in a crypt is okay with their surroundings…. because they are dead
But if that same person came to life, they would find that crypt dead, oppressive, and terrifying
All their whole heart would be consumed with wanting to see some sign of life
And they would work as hard as they could to get out of that place of death just so they could find something better
Friends, when we don’t know Jesus, we are the dead person in the crypt
We are dead in our sins and don’t know any different than what we see in the world
We’re content with the temporary, lackluster offerings the world has
But when we accept Jesus’ gift and start to follow him
Suddenly the things we have been wanting and desiring, the things we were okay with before, are shown to be what they really are
Empty, lifeless tombs
Having had that realization, Paul is saying that we should leave those things behind and instead seek the things that give life which are found “above”
There we will find joy, hope, purpose, freedom, the list goes on and on
With how amazing the things above must be, you’d think we’d never need reminding to think about and desire them, right?
And yet here Paul is writing this letter to people that he complimented on their faith just 2 chapters ago!
Are they doing a good job or are they not?
Paul has already told the Colossians that he is super proud of them and their faith
But he also knows that humans need constant reminders because we haven’t escaped our sinfulness
Our sin is constantly trying to get us to think about and desire only the things of this world
Our sin wants us to run away from God and do whatever it wants instead
Our sin keeps telling us that we should just get home from work so we can relax and zone out to our favorite show
Or that we should go buy that thing we want because we deserve it
Or that we should give up on that relationship because frankly it’s too exhausting
What is your heart and mind set on?
And that leads us to the question, what do you think about constantly? What is your heart set on?
Is it on Heaven? On our amazing savior Jesus and what he has done?
The awesome power of God the Father and what he has made
The seeming impossibility of the Holy Spirit, God himself, living within us?
Truthfully, I think we can all say the answer to that is sometimes no
And maybe in your life right now it’s more than just sometimes
I want you to honestly ask yourself these questions right now, what is it that fills your thoughts all of the time? What do you lay awake at night wanting so badly?
If you wrote down a list of everything you thought about or really wanted last week, what would it say?
Was it to be home in heaven? Was it to know Jesus more today than yesterday?
I sincerely hope that you had those thoughts and desires
But it’s okay to be honest and say that you didn’t
As humans we are easily distracted from the things above by earthly things
Not that all earthly things are bad, but Paul is telling us that they aren’t supposed to be our primary focus
Now I don’t know what your answers are specifically, but this week we should listen to Paul and actively set our hearts and minds on Heaven and being with our King forever!
I do want to highlight one desire that is super pervasive in our culture right now and I think is worth calling out specifically
As I was preparing for this message, God kept bringing me back to the topic of careers
And I think this is a huge stumbling block for so many Christians
As Americans, we are basically taught from birth that our careers are our identity
I submit for your consideration the phrases “what do you do?” and “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Wrapped up in both the questions is the inherent belief that “what you do” or where you are in your career makes up who you are
But should we be defined by what job we have that day?
Does it really matter if we are a secretary, an accountant, a manager, or an executive?
We even give some people important sounding names like “executive,” “president,” or “chief”
It can make it seem that those people are better, more important, or have more value just based on their job
And our culture spends a lot of time praising people who have risen high in their careers
These people have made something of themselves!
They are happy and have lots of money!
They are the ones changing the world!
But friends, let’s be honest with each other: setting your mind and heart on a career, is not going to make you happy
So often I hear in house groups or from my students in Renovation U that they are trying to get a promotion or a raise
And I follow up with the question: “why?”
This question seems to confuse people and they struggle to find an answer
They usually say something like:
To make more money
They can finally get the recognition they deserve
Or that the company doesn’t value them
But once you have that next promotion, what’s next?
Why the next promotion of course!
But when will it be enough?
As Christians, the Bible wants our main focus to be on things above
God may plan for you to be promoted, or He may not
We can worship Him and find contentment in Him either way!
And if we find our value in our job and not Jesus, what happens when we lose our job?
Setting your heart on money or career success is not going to make you happy
Instead, it will pull you into the eternal rat race of the next promotion, the next job, more money
It is so hard because we see everyone in our culture around us seeking after this
But friends, Paul is SO clear here, that we are not to focus on earthly things like this
Now I’m not saying that taking a new job or a promotion is a bad thing
In fact, if God is calling you to it, if you’re focused on him and he puts you there, it can put you in a place to do a tremendous amount of good as a believer!
The next time you start to think that the goal is to have more money or to make that next career move, instead stop, and ask God and see what he wants you to do
I feel into the career trap for a long time and honestly left me with scars
When I finally stepped back and asked God what he would have me do
He sent me to a lower paying, less stressful job
At first it hurt my pride because it seemed like a step backward
But you know what? I have LOVED my job
God knew that this was what was best for me
And it has given me space to be more present with my family and to do a ton more at Church
Have you asked God what he wants you to do?
Because friends our value, our worth comes from the fact that we are loved by God, not from a job title!
And he is what we should set our hearts and minds on
Hidden with Christ
Here is what is absolutely fascinating: God knew that we would have these kinds of struggles
He knew that the moment that Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, that they (and we) would begin fighting a losing battle
A desperate battle to find joy and meaning from something in the world
He knew that our sinfulness would blind us to the only one who could actually satisfy
And in God’s great mercy and love, he sent Jesus to die for us to give us a chance to see him
A chance to see that he is good and SO much better than what the world can offer
Paul knows that there are good things in the world
He just got done telling us in chapter 2 that the false teachers were wrong to say that we should treat our bodies harshly or give up everything in the world
But Paul knows that our focus and our what directs our thoughts changes when we believe in Jesus
Let’s read verses 3 and 4 again
Paul says that when we believe, we die to our old lives
All of the things we were chasing, all of our desires, all of our sinful impulses
We are dead to them now; they no longer rule over us as they did before
Paul goes so far as to say that Christ is our life
Not that he’s a part of our lives or that he’s important to our lives
He IS our life now
100% of our lives should be about Jesus
Check out how Paul describes his own life in Philippians
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain
While he lives, Paul is living for and focused on Jesus
And when he dies, he gets to go home to Heaven to be with Jesus forever
That is the great reward for living a life that is in Jesus
Both ways, his heart and mind are set on the things above
Paul himself is the model to us of how we should approach life
As Christians our life is supposed to be centered on Jesus
Our goal, our pursuit, our aim is to love, follow, and imitate Christ
How could we possibly do that if we set our hearts and minds on something other than who he is and being with him forever?
Like a driver on the road who takes their mind of where they are going, they will end up halfway across the state before they even realize what’s happening
We need to stay focused on where we are going to keep ourselves walking towards Jesus!
And the prize for finishing that walk faithfully comes at the end of verse 4
We will appear with Jesus in glory
Those of us that hold fast and seek the things above, we will get to appear with Jesus
And not just like an awkward sidekick, it says we will appear in glory too
How amazing is that?
We won’t just be regular humans; we will be new creations that are glorious!
And we will be with our savior and our king for an eternity in paradise
Joyful, peaceful, and free FOREVER
And therefore, Paul is saying that THIS should be your ultimate focus and goal that you live your life for
It won’t matter how far you advance in your career or how good your kid is at sports in 500 years
But THIS will.
You, and your kids, and your family coming back in glory with Jesus…that will matter
So set your mind and your focus on THOSE things!
But let’s be real about this, it’s hard in this life to not be distracted by the world and everything it offers to us
We all have a bad case of shiny ball syndrome where every cool new thing is super exciting… briefly
What can we do in the midst of that?
How can we keep our hearts and minds fixed on Heaven and on Jesus?
Remember the New Year’s Resolutions?
The same studies that show that most people give up quickly also show that some people persist
Remember the 10% that actually kept their resolutions?
What’s different for those people?
Interestingly enough, those studies show that people who set goals for themselves are significantly more likely to keep their resolution
Because they keep thinking and wanting that goal, they stay on track
Additionally, people that try to keep their resolution with a group not only increase their chances of success but also tend to exceed their goals
Friends, we are just like those people who are making resolutions
We should resolve to set our hearts and minds on the things above
To read our Bibles every day
To pray and talk with God all of the time
We should be those 10% in how we seek after the things above!
And yet, how often are we 90% that forget what we wanted to do?
Too many people hear about Jesus, are saved and are so excited about it, and then within a few weeks, a few months, or few years stop following him
He stops being what they think and desire and like a New Year’s Resolution, Jesus is forgotten
I think that there is a lesson for us in these studies
Don’t leave today telling yourself: “I just need to think about heaven more this week”
The studies say to make a really specific goal that you can achieve:
You’ll start reading the book of Matthew in the Bible each day this week at 7 am
Or that you’ll pray each night at dinner time
Paul doesn’t just say be content in Jesus, he says actively pursue thinking about him!
Secondly if you’re not in a house group, now is a fantastic time to join one
Invest your time in being in a group that will help you set your heart and mind on things above
The Bible tells us over and over again that need community in our lives
We need other Christians to encourage us, help us, and correct us when we are focusing on things of this world
And in that group, YOU could have the same effect on another believer, what a cool privilege!
We have 2 brand new groups that are starting this month! Trust God and sign up for one today.
They will be starting in just over 2 weeks!
Everyone in those groups will be new just like you, so you’ll all be on the same page
Those are good practical steps, and another is that it is to pray and ask God to give us the desire for the things above
Sometimes in our lives, we hit hard patches where God seems far away
Or where the things of this world seem better
God tells us to pray and ask him to fill us with a desire for him
Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 to seek him and we will find him
We should pray all of the time and ask him to make us desire the things above even more
No other prayer request gives God joy like when we ask him to make us want to seek him even more!
King David sums it up well in Psalm 37 when he says:
Psalm 37:4 (ESV)
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart
I believe there are some of you in this room that have spent your whole lives chasing after the things of this world
You’ve started to realize that the endless pursuit never really makes you happy
Maybe chasing after promotion after promotion has left you exhausted and stressed
Or you’ve ended up in the job you wanted, and it turns out that you hate it
You’ve chased a relationship
And being with that person wasn’t enough to make you happy
Or you got that special present at Christmas that you really wanted
And already you aren’t interested in it anymore
The great news is that you don’t have to chase after those things anymore
We all have an opportunity every single day to choose to seek something better
Today you can choose to pursue something that will truly give you joy and peace
You can choose to believe that God sent his son Jesus to this earth to die for your sins
He came to set you free from the tomb that you are trapped in without even knowing it
Paul is telling us that if you believe Jesus died for you and trust Him as your Savior, he will become your life
Every wrong thing you’ve ever done will be forgiven
And that when you die someday, you too will appear with Jesus in glory
And then spend forever with him in Heaven experiencing joy like you’ve never known before
Jesus just asks you to believe and to follow him
And when you do, he will give you a new life
In fact, let’s just have everybody close your eyes and bow your heads for a moment
If I’m talking to you right now and you feel that stirring inside of you, I want you to do something
Now is the time to believe in Jesus and receive his gift
And if you’ve never done that before
As a way to draw a line in the sand, I’m going to ask you to stand up wherever you are
Don’t worry about everyone else, they’ve got their eyes closed
This is your moment to say, yes Jesus, I accept your gift and I want to follow you
I am tired of chasing after things that leave me feeling empty
I know that you are so much better than those things
If that’s you right now go ahead and stand up
IF PEOPLE stand up
For those of you that are standing, the Bible tells us that when we accept Jesus that we are to believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths
So we want to pray with you right now
This isn’t a magic prayer, it’s just a way for us to tell God that we are going to follow him
Whether you just started believing in Jesus right now or have for a long time, let’s pray this together
Okay, repeat after me:
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
As everyone still has their eyes closed, for those of you that are standing, you just made the most important decision of your life, and I believe that requires some more information…
So here’s what we’re going to do to get you that…as everyone has their eyes closed, I want you, in just a second, to slip out of your row and head out to the lobby where it will be quiet.
You won’t walk out there alone.
There are others with you, and our follow-up team is going to walk out at the same time with you
And I, and our follow-up team are going to get you some extremely important resources & next steps to get you started on the most important journey of your life.
If you’re part of this church, and your friend or family member stood up, PLEASE come out there with them.
All right, you can all go now.
As they’re walking, I’m going to thank God in prayer.
Copyright: John McCormick
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN