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Setting Our Minds on Things Above: Unpacking Colossians 3:1-4

Inside: As we walk through Colossians 3:1-4, we will discuss the importance of setting our minds on things above, walk through what it means to live our lives hidden with Christ in God, and the transformative effect this has on our earthly and eternal lives.

As we walk through Colossians 3:1-4, we will discuss the importance of setting our minds on things above, walk through what it means to live our lives hidden with Christ in God, and the transformative effect this can have on our earthly and eternal lives.

Every podcast episode ends with the words, “Jesus is enough.” Yet, we often hear from others or the world around us that we need more than Jesus. We need a new experience, new teachings, new methods, another book, or something additional to add to our Christian experience.

However, the apostle Paul straightforwardly assures us that everything we need for life and godliness is already present in Christ.

Christ is sufficient – all life is in Him:

So if you are in Christ, this is true of you:

  • Received Him —Colossians 2:6
  • Rooted in Him—Colossians 2:7
  • Built up in Him—Colossians 2:7
  • Brought to perfection in Him—Colossians 2:10
  • Dead with Him—Colossians 2:20
  • Risen with Him—Colossians 3:1
  • Hidden with Him—Colossians 3:3

The ESV Study Bible lays out the theme of Colossians as follows: “Christ is Lord over all creation, including the visible realm. He has secured redemption for his people, enabling them to participate with him in his death, resurrection, and fullness.

The Apostle Paul authored the book of Colossians while he was a prisoner in Rome (Acts 21:17-28:31). He wrote this letter around the same time as the books of Philemon and Ephesians.

Around this time, Paul’s friend Epaphras, who likely converted to Christianity during Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, traveled back to his hometown of Colossae to share the Gospel. Later, Epaphras appeared in Rome, seeking Paul’s assistance.

There is a dangerous, heretical teaching that is threatening the church at Colossae. This letter is a response to the false teaching and to encourage and spur these believers on to maturity in Christ. We are always going to have false teachings, and one way to be able to discern truth from error is to know God’s Word.

Colossians 1:9 comes to mind when Paul is praying for the believers in Colossae:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

Scholars do not know what the heretical teaching was, and there are all kinds of interpretations and guesses. So it’s not necessary for us to know what it is because, in the end, the emphasis Paul puts on it, and we need to is to be reminded of our unity in Christ and that Christ is supreme over all.

The apostle Paul is encouraging us to mature in Christ – so we must keep battling sin, pursuing holiness, and learning to know what it looks like to be a Christian in our everyday lives. And to do this, we need knowledge of the Word of God and obedience to it.

One key theme I want to touch on today in our time is the preeminence of Christ. The apostle Paul discusses this in Colossians, specifically in verses 1:15-20, 2:9-10, and 3:1.

Before we delve into verses Colossians 3:1-4, I’d like to discuss one key theme: the preeminence of Christ.

Listen to EP 154: Setting Our Minds on Things Above: Unpacking Colossians 3:1-4

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast:

Just Thinking Podcast

Sermon on the Mount Series

Patreon Support

ESV Study Bible

The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

The Hope of Glory: 100 Daily Meditations on Colossians by Sam Storms

Colossians & Philemon for You: Rooting You in Christian Confidence (God’s Word for You) by Mark Meynell


Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

Preeminent Preeminence refers to the state of being ahead of others or being the first in something. It implies a position of superiority or distinction over other individuals or things. It signifies having the utmost rank, dignity, or importance. Synonyms include supreme, incomparable, surpassing, transcendent, and unequalled.

Jesus is preeminent, signifying He is foremost in all aspects – importance, honor, and exaltation. He is the leader, the originator, and the firstborn, which designates precedence. One commentator shared this insight: “In the culture of the Ancient Near East, the firstborn was not necessarily the oldest child. Firstborn referred not to birth order but to rank. The firstborn possessed the inheritance and leadership.”

The idea here is Jesus is first. We know this as Christians, but do we live as though Jesus is supreme over all?

Jesus is self-existent – He is the eternal Son of God. He created the Universe, and He rules over creation – He is the “firstborn of all creation” – He is preeminent.

If we grasped this truth on an everyday basis, what would it look like lived out in our lives?

We all agree Jesus is important to us, and we love Him, but He can’t rank number two or three in importance in our lives; He must be number one.

While it’s easy to focus on Jesus during solitary morning prayers and reading His Word, what about the rest of the day? One way to keep Him in our thoughts is to frequently talk and think about Him.

As one commentator observed, frequently thinking and talking about Jesus keeps the Gospel and the glory of God at the forefront of our minds.

Because the Gospel is about a person, and that person is Jesus.

God’s glory is the radiance of the fullness of who God is; that radiance is a person – it’s Jesus. Colossians 2:9 reminded us Jesus is the one in whom the fullness of deity was pleased to dwell.

Jesus is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:18).

Think about Him often, and discuss Him with your children in everyday conversations. Expressing gratitude in and through all situations is a simple way to do this.

Consider your words when you start complaining. What does that convey about God’s sovereignty over all things?

In his classic book The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer paid tribute to Frederick Faber, the Englishman who wrote the song “Faith of Our Fathers.”

Tozer said – speaking about Frederick Faber: 

“His love for the person of Christ was so intense that it threatened to consume him; it burned within him as a sweet and holy madness and flowed from his lips like molten gold. In one of his sermons he said, `Wherever we turn in the church of God, there is Jesus. He is the beginning, middle, and end of everything to us… . There is nothing good, nothing holy, nothing beautiful, nothing joyous which He is not to His servants…No one need be downcast, for Jesus is the joy of heaven, and it is His joy to enter into sorrowful hearts. We can exaggerate about many things, but we can never exaggerate our obligation to Jesus, or the compassionate abundance of the love of Jesus to us. All our lives long we might talk of Jesus, and yet we should never come to an end of the sweet things that might be said of Him.”

Christ deserves our loving adoration. He is truly the preeminent One.

R.W. DeHaan

A Quick Overview of Colossians:

In Colossians 1, the Apostle Paul emphasizes the preeminence of Christ. In chapter two, he addresses false teachings and reminds the Colossians of their resource in Christ (Colossians 2:9-15).

Chapter three begins by outlining what our primary focus as Christians should be: Christ and the life above. The remainder of chapter three provides instructions on living the Christian life.

We’re going to walk through Colossians 3:1-4 today:

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Our verse begins by recalling the theological implications discussed in the first two chapters, establishing how they should influence and affect our lives as Christians.

It reminds us that we have been raised with Christ. When Jesus rose from the dead, those of us in Christ rose with him. In Christ, we are already in Heaven – our true home. When Christ ascended to his heavenly throne and sat down, we did too.

Our address has changed. Yes, we still have our earthly address, but being in Christ transforms everything – we now have a new address and a new culture. It’s like visiting a foreign town and saying – I’m not from these parts.

What Should We Be Seeking?

So what are the things above – what should we be seeking?

First off, Christ is there – so we need to be seeking Him, thinking about Him – His character, His presence. The word “seek” here is in the present imperative, which means it’s continuous and ongoing. We are to be continually seeking the things that are above.

One way we do this is through prayer, as we ask, seek, and knock.

Seeking the things above should impact our conversations, friendships, our work, and even our play. As we continue to seek, it will enhance our fullness in Christ.

In this seeking above, we are not to focus our minds on earthly things. We tend to gravitate towards material items, but also consider prestige, power, titles, and worldly honors. This does not mean we should withdraw from the world.

We should strive for excellence and do our best in all we do. However, as believers, it’s crucial that we don’t view these achievements as the only things that matter.

Paraphrasing Sam Storms:

Thinking about “things above” doesn’t mean we should ignore our daily life and responsibilities. Paul is using these directions to show a difference in quality. The contrast between “below” (or “on earth”) and “above”, or “down” and “up”, or “here” and “there”, shows the difference between the current world, which is rebelling against God, and the future world, where Christ’s rule will be fully manifested.

What we set our minds on will determine the direction of our lives as Christians.

Does our mind regularly turn to Christ? When things are difficult? When something good happens? When we’re thankful?

We need to be praying – “Lord, help me set my mind on the things above.”

We need to hold the things of this earth with an open hand.

Hold tightly to what is eternal but loosely to what is temporal.

Memorizing these scriptures from Colossians 3:1-4 will help us be mindful and meditate on things that are above.

Love this quote from one commentator:

“Stepping outside and gazing heavenward on a star-studded evening always helps to soothe my soul after a trouble-filled day. When I peer into the night sky, I forget, at least for a moment, the cares of life on earth.”

Dennis Fisher

Ancient Israel’s prolific songwriter wrote a poem thousands of years ago that still rings true: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Ps. 8:3-4).

Thinking about the vastness of God’s universe can make our troubles seem small. But to God, our problems matter! Despite the countless galaxies He oversees, God thinks about us. More than that, He takes care of us, He loves His children, and He cares about every detail of our lives.

No wonder the apostle Paul advised new believers to set their minds on things above (Col. 3:2). In doing so, we raise our thoughts above the level of earthly disputes and focus instead on our loving, heavenly Father, who wants us to know Him, to know how to live peacefully with one another, and to know that we can live eternally with Him in a place even more beautiful than the heavens.

“The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1). Let’s join creation in praise to Him. Because God gives us everything, we owe Him all our praise.

We must seek the things above because that is “where Christ is” (v. 1). He is the exalted center and supreme sovereign of the eternal and heavenly realm. Why would we want our lives, thoughts, and actions fixed anywhere else? The beauty of heavenly things is because Jesus is there. It’s the wonder, attractiveness, perfection, strength, and brilliance of Christ who has risen that Paul points us to.

When Christ is the center of our focus, everything else comes into proper perspective.

Your Life is Hidden With Christ in God:

Jesus Christ is the head of the church, the beloved of the Father, and He is the eternal God. He deserves to have preeminence in our lives.

Colossians 3:3-4:

3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

We see our past is given in verse 3: for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When we were baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit at the moment of our conversion, we died – our old selves died – we were born again. And so, our lives are now hidden with Christ in God.

Our death with Christ was a significant event. We died to the power and influence of our former master, sin. Now, due to Christ’s completed work on the cross, we partake in His victory over sin and death.

With the Holy Spirit working within us, we can truly die to self. As you continue reading Colossians 3, ideally to verse 17 or the entire chapter, you’ll witness what death to self resembles in our daily lives.

John 3:30 provides a valuable reminder: “He must increase, I must decrease.”

The term “hidden in Christ” is in the imperfect tense, indicating it is an ongoing state.

Our lives are, and will remain, hidden with Christ in God.

Sam Storms stated:

Paul’s use of the word “hidden” is somewhat analogous (uh na luh guhs)to what we can and cannot see of a flower. The root system is concealed beneath the surface of the earth. How it derives nutrients from the soil and contributes to the growth of the stem, leaf, and flower is unseen, being something of a mystery. But the beauty of the rose is for all to behold. Its color and fragrance are ever on display for the joy of all people. Likewise, the Christian, whose strength and incentive and inner life are “hidden” from view, but whose kindness, faith, perseverance, and love are a perpetual witness to the glory of God’s grace within.

The Hope of Glory: 100 Daily Meditations on Colossians by Sam Storms

We are dead to our old life and alive to our new one, which is now hidden in Christ with God.

Our future is secure and inseparable if we are in Christ.

Our lives are now part of the “above.”

One commentator stated: “In Jesus, there is fullness. His fullness has passed into our emptiness His righteousness into our sinfulness His life into our death.

Just as we see our past in verse 3, we now see our future in verse 4: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, you also will appear with him in glory.”

Right now, our lives are hidden with Christ in God. When Jesus is revealed in His glorious body at His coming, we will also be revealed because we have bodies like His.

Philippians 3:20-21 states: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

Paul shares in Romans 8:29-31 as if it already happened: “For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined, he also called, and those whom he called, he also justified, and those whom he justified, he also glorified.”

My dear friend, being in Christ, we have a glorious future that awaits us.

We need to have minds and hearts that are not fixed on the temporal things of this world, but instead, we should pray for minds that are set on things above.

Hold the scriptures close to your heart. This is why we need to take the time to memorize God’s Word and keep it hidden in our hearts, so we might not sin against Him.

When we are reminded of these truths and that we belong to Christ, it helps to put all of life into a proper perspective.

Rainy Day Waiting and House Guest Waiting

I get it – we are in a waiting period right now. One example I read from Mark Meynell regarding waiting is that there are two types:

Rainy day waiting and house guest waiting.

Waiting on a rainy day is passive. It’s like a child who is eager to kick a ball around in the park but sits unmoved by the front window, longing for the downpour outside to stop. There’s nothing to do but sit there, staring out, bored out of your mind.

Waiting for house guests is the exact opposite. If treasured friends are coming to visit, you rush around the house tidying up and getting everything ready. If there are things – like certain foods or flowers – that you know they love, then you make sure you are fully stocked.

So, we want to be like those waiting for house guests. Jesus has revealed the values and perfection of heaven to us, and we want to do everything we can to share with those around us as part of our preparations for his return. We wait with confidence and security, not anxiety and nervousness. We are in Christ, but we are not passive in our waiting.

Anthony Ashley Cooper, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, did much to help the poorest of the poor in Victorian Britain. He passed legislation to prevent young children from being sent up as chimney sweeps or down mines to dig for coal. Towards the end of his life, this entry was in his diary:

“I do not think that in the last forty years I have lived one conscious hour that was not influenced by the thought of our Lord’s return.”

He had a mind focused on the eternal, and he had a huge earthly impact. Being in Christ and knowing our true home address will impact how we live our lives in the here and now.

May we rejoice today in anticipation of our future in Him! May we ponder and pray about what it looks like in our daily lives to be heavenly minded.

Jesus truly is enough always.