Many people—some Christians, even—only attend church on Christmas and Easter, and live the rest of the year almost as if God doesn’t exist; “practical atheists” they are called. But even those who attend church regularly often fail to appreciate the overwhelming, life-changing implications of these holidays, Easter in particular. This passage, and this story, could help.
I. Living as Those Made Alive in Christ
Read the following passage carefully, and then try to answer this question: What does it mean to “Set your hearts on things above”?________________________________________________
Colossians 3:1-4:6 (NIV) Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Instructions for Christian Households
18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
21 Fathers,[c] do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
22 Slaves,* obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
4 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
II. The Risen Lord At Work in a Community.
If you might be doubting the living reality of Jesus (THE MAN WHO LIVES, said Malcolm Muggeridge in a superb book with this title) or if you doubt that God today does miracles, check this out: There is a powerful, hour-long video available on YouTube, “VIVA CHRISTO REY, The Community of Jesus,” which gives eye-witness accounts of the healing, life-giving, love-generating power of the risen Lord.
It features a Catholic charismatic community in El Paso, Texas, just over the Rio Grande river from Juarez, Mexico, where there was a huge garbage dump where countless people, including children, worked and even lived, like Tondo before.
These Christians developed A Prayer Tower, The Lord’s Farm, The Lord’s Store, a Youth Center, and other ministries which reflected a Christian communism, like that in the book of Acts, where for a while “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” Acts 4:32 Miracles of healing were common, and the film features eye witnesses to these, including that of a doctor.
Feeling compassion for the workers in the garbage dump, they decided to have a Christmas feast there. So they brought some hams and other goodies, expecting maybe 80 people. But several times that number showed up! What to do?! Then a most amazing thing happened: they did not run out of ham, because it was being multiplied, just as Jesus did a couple of times in the gospels with the loaves and fishes! In fact, there was enough food left over for everyone to bring some for others. The same thing was repeated later when these Christians brought cookies and cool-aid to prisoners in Juarez; they too were multiplied, so everyone had enough.
It was like the early church, which grew rapidly in part because of “signs and wonders” wrought through the apostles, as testimonies to the reality of the risen Lord.
Pray that we might see some of this power of the risen Christ today, here in this region, in our lives and in our churches!
*Note: Paul is not justifying slavery. It was so entrenched in the ancient world that a revolution to free the slaves would have been impossible at that time. Later Christians, like William Wilberforce in England, led the fight against slavery, as did many Christian pastors and leaders in northern U. S. This struggle can be considered as an example of “seeking the things that are above.”