If then you have been raised with Christ, 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 earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
Over the next three weeks, I am going to attempt to provide a concise sketch of Colossians 3:1-17. My hope and prayer is that this will give us greater insight into the character of a community that faithfully worships God. In seeing how the lordship of Jesus creates a culture in which people come fully alive to His glory, we can learn to thrive as we glorify God, magnify the Gospel, and edify the church in Life Together. This week we begin with Colossians 3:1-4.
What the Resurrection Is All About
Through His resurrection, Jesus is building a remarkable new society on the earth today. Because He was crucified, we were crucified with Him. Because He was raised to life, we are raised and made alive in Him. This is the sole bedrock of the church. An empty grave means Jesus is the Lord of all things and satan is toast. And this reality is demonstrated uniquely in the church today. Theologian F.F. Bruce helps us to see the motivating power of Christ’s lordship in the context of this new, Christ-focused society:
Since his people share his risen life, their interests are now centered in him; his interests, in fact, have become theirs. They must therefore pursue those things which belong to the heavenly realm where he reigns; their mind, their attitude, their ambition, their whole outlook must be characterized by their living bond with the ascended Christ. (The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. Kindle Edition.)
That’s the essence of Life Together. It’s the basis for why we gather on the Lord’s Day. And Paul is setting us up to see how such renewal plays out in the shared experience of the church. Therefore, as Colossians 3 unfolds, he will show us how life in Christ shapes the relational and ethical character of a congregation that worships together regularly. But the basis for such a community cannot be overstated.
Union with Our Ascended King
As those who have been “raised with Christ” (v. 1), we are united with Him as long as He is Lord. No one can steal His throne. So our new life, now that we are “hidden in” Him, is irrevocable. 1 Peter 1:4-5 puts it this way:
According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
That’s real security. And it has virtually endless implications for how we worship together. Jesus is “the Head of the Body, the church” (Col. 1:18) and from Him “the whole Body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God” (2:19). In other words, as He promised in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Paul is laboring to show us that God grows us through regular participation in the life of the church. Just as we are united with Him, we are also united with one another through Him. And as the human body works to grow itself, the church also grows from within through the nourishing grace of its living Head. In other words, life in the church is where our in-Christ-ness becomes a concrete, corporately experienced reality. And that transforms us for greater glory. It causes the Body to thrive. Just listen to C.S. Lewis:
We have in our day started by getting the whole picture upside down. Starting with the doctrine that every individual is ‘of infinite value,’ we then picture God as a kind of employment committee whose business it is to find suitable careers for souls, square holes for square pegs. In fact, however, the value of the individual does not lie in him. He is capable of receiving value. He receives it by union with Christ. There is no question of finding for the individual a place in the living temple which will do justice to his inherent value and give scope to his natural idiosyncrasy. The place was there first. The individual was created for it. He will not be himself until he is there. (from The Weight of Glory, pp. 41-42)
Lewis is right. This new society is not made for you, but you for it. By design, you belong here. For this is where life in Christ makes us flourish as we are knit together in love. In other words, Christ in you is God’s strategy for building up the Body. And if you will come to church this Sunday with that perspective, you will experience the gathering for all it’s worth.
Next week, I’ll write about how we labor together to express the life we now share in Christ through holy conduct. We’ll see that God has placed His people on a trajectory of putting off our old selves and putting on the character of Jesus. Until then, let us prepare our affections and imaginations to be captivated by our King as we worship Him this Sunday. As Christ in you meets Christ in the people of LifePoint, you are encountering Him at the intersection of heaven and earth. That reality creates an atmosphere in which we can really come alive in worship.
Liturgy for Sunday, February 08, 2015:
Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-2, 4-5
Song: Here For You
Song: Our Jealous God
Confession & Assurance: Hebrews 10:19-23
Song: Lead Me to the Cross
Song: Grace Alone
Benediction: Ephesians 3:16-17
How to Prayerfully Prepare for Sunday:
1. Consider how your union with Christ matters for all of life. Is it changing how you see yourself? Is it shaping the way you see others? Does it effect the way you view corporate worship? Do you see yourself as means through which God wants to minister to others this Sunday?
2. Pray that God will use you this Sunday to encourage others and glorify Christ. Ask that we, as a congregation, would set our minds on things above as we worship Jesus in Life Together.