Set your mind on the things above to live out your new humanity in Christ

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col 3:2)

It is easy to focus on the here and now. What is going on around us often steals our attention. It consumes us. The thoughts, actions, ideas, philosophies of the surrounding culture presses in on us. As believers, however, those who have been raised with Christ, we are to set our minds on the things above. In other words, we are to live according to God’s will.

Where is God’s will found? It is found in His Word. We must use God’s Word as our daily guide. If you are a believer, yet you never read God’s Word, you are incapable of setting your mind on the things above and living differently than the culture.

But those who are believers, those who have been raised with Christ, whose life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3), you should set your mind on the things above. You should be motivated to do so because Jesus came to die. He didn’t come to die in order for you to continue to be influenced by the culture as you once were.

Jesus sacrificed Himself in order for you to be different. Not just live differently when you feel like, but to literally be different. If you skip down to verse 10, you discover that our self is new. In other words, in Christ, we are a new humanity. As a new humanity, we are to live differently. We are to live according to God’s original design.

The problem with living according to our new humanity is that we live in a world pressing in on us. Since we currently live in the midst of a sinful world, we must set our minds on the things above in order to live out our new humanity on a daily basis.

Are you laboring in vain?

“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” (Ps 127:1-2)

Are you anxious? Do you lay awake at night worrying? The psalmist reminds us this morning that we should not be anxious. If the Lord wants our project, our church, our (insert what you are fretting over) to work out, it will be successful.

James, one of the apostles, picks up on this idea 1000’s of years later in his letter when he says,

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16)

It is not our will that we seek to do but the Lord’s. It is His will that we should ask He do in our prayer closet (Mt 6:10). We know our God is a good God. He doesn’t desire our harm (Mt 6:25-34). We can and should trust the Lord rather than worrying. What the Lord desires to be built will be built.

In saying we must trust the Lord and that He will build what He desires, we must not believe we are absolved from activity. We must work, putting forth effort, using the talents and gifts the Lord has provided. As we walk step by step each day, we can trust that the Lord will provide for us, as well as He will build, if it be His will.

When, then, if at all possible through prayer and counsel, we need to find what the Lord is doing and join Him in it.

The Redeemed Live Holy Lives by Gospel-driven Reflection

“When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion.” – Psalm 114:1-2

When God led Israel out of bondage in Egypt, He did so because they were His people. In the desert He tabernacles among them. His presence took up residence in the Temple, in the Holy of Holies. Likewise the nation was to be comprised of holy people who were set apart unto God. Their holiness was to mark them as different from the other nations allowing them to witness to the changing power of the One true God.

Just as Israel were to be a holy people where the Lord dwelled, we are to be holy as well. Peter expands on the idea when he writes,

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:14-16

As children of God we are to be holy just as Christ is holy. Christ is the key. Just as Israel was redeemed from physical bondage in Egypt, we are redeemed from spiritual bondage by Jesus.

“knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” – 1 Peter 1:18-19

As Christians then, we are to be holy, aligning ourselves with God’s will and focusing our attention on Jesus as the motivation to live holy lives. Until we recognize that there is no other savior but Jesus, we will always run to other gods, to idols, to those things we believe will provide what only Jesus can.

In order to pursue holiness, your focus has to be on Jesus and the gospel. Holiness is not the result of work-driven effort, but of gospel-driven reflection.

How Can We Guard Against Being a Stagnant Christian? – Part 3

Stagnating in our faith is never a good thing. It is something we need to guard against. But how?

How do we guard against being a stagnant Christian?

We guard against becoming stagnant Christians by staying focused on what awaits us

In verse 11 of 2 Peter 1 we read,

“For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pe 1:11)

The first time I traveled back home from a long week of classes at Southern Seminary my flight was delayed. We were actually loaded on the plane, about to push back when the pilot came over the intercom and said, “Folks, this is your captain speaking. A thunderstorm is rolling into the area, and we are going to have to wait for it to pass before we can take off.” What the captain thought was a passing thunderstorm turned into several passing thunderstorms. Just as soon as one moved out of the area, another would pop up. So we waited…and waited…and waited, until finally just after midnight we were able to take off.

When we finally landed and deplaned in Dallas, it was close to 2 o’clock in the morning. I was tired. I had just spent a week away from home, attending class all day, and sleeping in a foreign bed. I was ready to be home, to say the least. That’s what made that drive doable, that’s what propelled me down the highway in the wee hours of the morning — the thought of home.

That’s the same thought that should propel us to supplement our faith with these qualities, the thought of our heavenly home. The home that awaits us is greater than any home that we can have in this world. It is perfect in every respect. It’s a home free from death, disease, and corruption. A home where God will reign and rule and the corrupting influence of sin won’t be felt because it won’t be present. That is the home that awaits us. The home we will walk into one day. So keep pressing on. Your eternal home awaits.

But here is the thing, we can’t press on alone. We have to have people around us helping us, encouraging us, pushing us forward, which tells us that:

We guard against becoming stagnant Christians by surrounding ourselves with those who will stir us up

Motivational speakers abound in this country. You can find someone to motivate you on almost any topic. The reason for that is because we need motivation. We need someone to stir us up so that we will head in the right direction.

But as helpful as motivational speakers can be, Christians don’t need them. Instead, what we need are other Christians dedicated to reminding us of these qualities. We need others who will remind us that we have been given all that we need to press on, that we have a glorious eternal home for which to look forward.

Look at verses 12-15,

“Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” (2 Pe 1:12–15)

Just as Peter commits to remind his church and to make sure that they have someone to remind them when he is gone, we need others committed to reminding us, which is why we have a church family, and why we should not neglect to meet together with one another. We need one another. There are no Lone Ranger Christians. We can’t do it on our own. When we try, we end up becoming stagnant. It’s no coincidence that those who are not connected to the church, who are not active in fellowship are not growing in their faith. We need others right there alongside of us committed to encouraging us to keep running the race, and we need to do likewise. If we don’t, we are going to grill we’re going to become stagnant, unfruitful Christians for the kingdom.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are you focused on the future?
  2. Do you have others around you holding you accountable and encouraging you?
  3. Do you gather with the church often?


Post developed from my sermon How can we guard against being a stagnant Christian?

How Can We Guard Against Being a Stagnant Christian? – Part 2

I know it doesn’t look like it, but believe it or not at one time I weighed 215 lbs, and none of that was fat. It was all muscle. But that growth didn’t occur overnight. I had to hit the gym hard — 3-4 days a week for 2 hours at a time.
Along with working out regularly, I consumed a few supplements, mainly, creatine and protein powder, which helped me grow stronger. That’s what supplements are supposed to do. They are supposed to help you grow by supplementing your normal diet and workout routine.

That is not only true of our physical body but of our spiritual life as well. If we want to maintain and even grow, we must supplement our faith with godly qualities. Doing so will keep us from becoming stagnant.

Now, a word of caution here. Working these godly qualities into your life doesn’t make you a Christian. You’re a Christian through faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. You can’t short circuit the process, faith comes first, just like getting a gym membership and working outcomes before taking supplements.

But once we have faith, we can and we should work these godly qualities into our life.

What qualities are we to work into our lives?

In verse 5, we learn that we are to make every effort to supplement our faith with:

Virtue – Virtue refers to moral excellence or character, which means we are to strive to be someone who lives an upright life. One that accords with God’s Word.

Knowledge – The knowledge to which Peter most likely refers is the knowledge of God’s will. If we are going to live upright lives, we need to know God’s will, which is only gained through reading and studying God’s word.

Self-Control – There are all kinds of temptations that are going to come at us from the world. If we’re going to consistently live according to God’s will and His way, we need to exercise restraint, we need self-control. So we must add self-control to our faith.

Steadfastness – Which might also be translated as endurance. The Christian life is not a sprint it is a marathon. If we are going to continue to live for God, we need endurance.

Godliness – Which means that we are to constantly seek to embody the character of God just like Jesus did.

Brotherly Affection – Which means that we are to care for and be devoted to our brothers and sisters in Christ just like we are to our own family.

Love – Not just any love, but self-sacrificial love. The love that drove Jesus to the cross and the Father to give up His only Son. That’s the type of love we are to have for God and for one another.

These are the qualities must supplement our faith.

If we supplement our faith with these qualities, we keep ourselves from becoming stagnant Christians.

I mean how can you be stagnant, if you’re actively seeking to grow in these areas? You can’t! That’s exactly what Peter tells us in verse 8:

“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Pe 1:8)

So if you want to keep from being a stagnant Christian you need to actively work these qualities into your life. Which implies that we actually have to work at it. I like how one commentator puts it:

“We do not automatically become more virtuous as if God infused virtue into us intravenously; we need to make plans and expend effort.”

I know many of you wish that you could hook yourself up to an IV and look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a few weeks. But it doesn’t happen that way. If we want our muscles to grow, we have to work them out. We have to take supplements.

If we want our faith to grow, we have to work it out. We have to supplement it with these qualities. That’s something that we must do. These supplements are not “nice to have’s”, they are foundational.

If you aren’t working them into your life

Peter says in verse 9:

“For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” (2 Pe 1:9)

If we aren’t actively seeking to work these qualities into our life, we are living as if we are blind and as if our heart has not been cleansed from sin. But Christians are not blind. We have been made to see by Jesus. He has opened our eyes to the truth of the gospel and God’s word. As well as, our heart has been cleansed, it has been changed, we have been freed from sin’s grip on us.

As Christians, then, we should be actively working to supplement our faith with these qualities. We have no excuse! We not only know what we are supposed to do but we have the ability to do it.

Those who supplement their faith with these qualities, we are told in verse 10 that:

Assurance and growth will be ours

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” (2 Pe 1:10)

So if you are questioning your faith, if you are wondering if you are God’s child? Look at your life and see if these qualities are present. If they are, and if you are actively seeking to work them into your life, you can be assured of your salvation and you will continue to grow. But if you find that these supplements are lacking in your life, you are either not a believer or you have grown stagnant in your faith. If that is you, you’re in danger. Not only are you living without assurance and the anxiety that comes with that. But you are in danger of stumbling, falling, and never finishing the race.

Next time

Next time we will keep our discussion going regarding how to keep from becoming stagnant.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you working these qualities into your life?


Post developed from my sermon How can we guard against being a stagnant Christian?

How Can We Guard Against Being a Stagnant Christian?

When I was a kid I had a ditch by my house that would flood when it rained at high tide. It was deep and wide enough for it to become a makeshift swimming pool for the kids in the neighborhood. While many of my friends laughed and played in that water, I had to look on from the banks.You see, my mom wouldn’t let me get into that murky stagnant water. And for good reason. An article I came across recently warned that:

“While playing in floodwater looks like fun, experts warn that stagnant water left behind after a rainstorm…can be extremely hazardous. …water-borne illnesses and infections, chemical exposure, drowning and electrical shock” are some of the most common dangers.

While I don’t believe anything serious ever happened to my neighborhood friends back then, I’m thankful my mom knew the risks and wouldn’t let us dive in.

Just like stagnant water poses health risks, a stagnant faith poses spiritual risks.

As humans, we are created for growth.

Our need for growth is why many of us are attracted to books and documentaries, while many pursue degrees, and are constantly learning how to do new things. God designed us for growth. But God didn’t just design us for intellectual growth, He also and more importantly designed us to grow in the knowledge of how He would want us to live in His good creation. Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden in the cool of the day and they did that to learn more about God and His desires. As Christians, we are to continue to learn more about God as well. We are to do that so that we will grow in our knowledge of God’s will and live according to His ways.

But growth is not something that comes natural to us.

We are easily distracted by the things of this world, pulled off course, hindered, and the result is stagnancy. Slipping into stagnancy isn’t new, Christians have grown stagnant from the beginning. I don’t know if you’ve experienced a time of stagnancy in your life but I have. A time where I wasn’t growing in my knowledge of God, His word, and Christlikeness. A time when I was walking backwards instead of forwards. That’s just not good. It’s not good for us, our family, or our community.

We weren’t created for stagnancy, which is why we must continue to grow. But that isn’t going to happen on its own. We have to actively work to grow while at same time guarding against stagnancy.

Next time

Next time we will begin discussing how to keep from growing stagnant.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe your faith is stagnant?


Post developed from my sermon How can we guard against being a stagnant Christian?