A Certain Hope in Uncertain Days: 30 Days of Hope-filled Focus
Day 9: Keep Looking Up
Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on the things that are on earth.”
The term translated “set your minds” means “to direct one’s mind to a thing, to seek, to strive for.” The KJV has it, “Set your affection on the things above.” The term is in the present tense calling for the ongoing maintenance of this perspective.
The same term is used in Philippians 3:19 in reference to the contrary perspective of the “enemies of the cross of Christ” who have their “minds set on earthly things.” The believer, on the other hand, is a citizen of heaven and from there awaits “a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: (Philippians 3:20).
God commands us to keep our minds set on the things above. And we see here that there is a choice. We can either set our hearts and minds on things above or things that are on the earth. Those are the two options availed to us. We should also note that the unbeliever doesn’t have those two choices. Lacking salvation he has neither the ability nor inclination to set his mind heavenward. But, by the Spirit, we as believers, do.
In his classic allegory “Pilgrim’s Progress,” John Bunyan wrote of Christian’s visit to a room in which he saw two children. One, named Patience, was calm and contented; the other, Passion, was ruled by restlessness and impatience. A bag was brought in and its contents—a hoard of glittering treasures—was emptied near Passion, who seized upon the bright jewels in frenzied pleasure, laughing at empty-handed Patience. But soon the scene changed, revealing a much-altered Passion. He had squandered all his treasures, and now he stood clothed in nothing but rags and sunk into gloom. Patience, however, still maintained an attitude of calm hope. Interpreter explained to Christian, ‘Passion is like the person who wants to have his fill in pleasure while he lives on earth. Patience is like the traveler to Zion, who turns his back on worldly pleasures and waits with patience for the unfading joys of heaven’.” Passion was like Demas, who, being “in love with this present world,” made the tragic decision to desert the Apostle Paul (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:10).
We are not simply given the command—God doesn’t just say “look there.” He gives us the reason why. We are to “set our minds on things that are above” because that’s where Christ is and that’s where we are destined to be (Cf. Colossians 3:3-4). He who loved us and died for us is even now in heaven. Our hearts lie there with Him. We yearn to be united with Him in unfettered intimacy. Paul had his affection set on things above. He wrote of his desire to be with Christ inasmuch as he viewed that to be “far better” (Philippians 1:23; Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:4).
If we happen upon something that is gruesome or detestable or difficult to look at—we tend to look away. If, on the other hand, we see something that is beautiful or attractive—it captures and captivates our attention. Now the world is not beautiful in a spiritual sense (in its sin it is downright ugly). But if we look to Jesus, what do we see? We see our glorious Savior and Lord who is altogether perfect and appealing in every way. We are, in a sense, like a hot-air balloon. It tends upward and only remains earthbound as long as it is tethered. Every believer is indwelt by the Spirit. The Spirit’s work is to glorify the Son by revealing Him to us and in us. By the Spirit we “tend upward.” Our earthly bodies alone tie us down. It is in the Spirit-led contemplation of Christ that our hearts are drawn to that which lies heavenward (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:18, 5:6-7). By the Spirit we “groan” in anticipation of the glory of heaven (Cf. Romans 8:23; 2 Corinthians 5:4).
J. C. Ryle once wrote, “Keep on looking unto Jesus. Faith shall soon be changed to sight, and hope to certainty. Looking to Jesus on earth by faith, you shall end with seeing Jesus eye to eye in heaven. Those eyes of yours shall look on the head that was crowned with thorns, the hands and feet that were pierced with nails, and the side that was pierced with a spear. You shall find that seeing is the blessed consequence of believing, and that looking at Jesus by faith, ends with seeing Jesus in glory, and living with Jesus for evermore. When you awake up after His likeness, you shall be satisfied.”