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 (Colossians 3:1, 2).
The Most Difficult Adjustment
Two years ago my wife and I and our two small children left everything and everyone that was familiar to share the gospel and make disciples in Thailand. As you can imagine, living overseas can be very challenging and it necessitates all kinds of adjustments. These include: going from a varied Western food diet to a steady diet of rice and chicken; driving a car with the steering wheel on the right; learning a new language; understanding and adapting to the culture and customs of the Thai people; and teaching and preaching with a tie on but no shoes.
The most difficult adjustment that I’ve had to make, though, is thinking like a Thai. Whenever I’m interacting with a local and I find myself frustrated, confused, or just plain dumbfounded, it’s typically because I’m still thinking like an American. And expecting them to think like me. Many westerners, missionaries included, fail to embrace this nation and its people because they continue to think solely in Western terms. It is only when you understand how Thai people think and when you are able to put on the Thai mindset yourself that you avoid frustration and find joy in living out God’s purposes in this foreign land.
And that brings us to what the apostle Paul said to the church at Colossae: “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” (Colossians 3:1, 2, English Standard Version). We who are in Christ have been raised with him and this means that we have to adjust. Some adjustments are easy—a new routine on Sunday morning; and some are quite difficult—breaking old habits and forming new ones, making drastic lifestyle changes, loving the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul and strength and mind (Luke 10:27). But one adjustment, setting our minds on things above, is potentially the most difficult adjustment of all.
And I wonder. Is it possible that many of us, like foreigners struggling in a strange land, have failed to think differently in this new kingdom that we’ve come to live in? Is it possible that, even as we have now become citizens of Heaven, we continue to fixate on the things of earth? Is it possible that many of our struggles and disappointments in this life result from being earthly rather than heavenly minded?
What Does It Mean to Be Heavenly Minded?
The one who best exemplifies what it means to have your mind set on things above is the one who came from Heaven—Jesus Christ. While we are called to “not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds,” Jesus came into this world with his mind already fixed on “what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, ESV). This means that everything that he said and did on earth, he did with the mindset that you and I are called to put on. His mind was only and ever set on heavenly things. Jesus walked this earth as a radical realist. This isn’t to say that he lived as a pessimistic rebel without a cause. Rather, it is to say that he walked this earth keenly aware of what ultimate reality is and lived accordingly. He distinguished between the seen and the unseen, the temporal and the eternal, that which is true and that which is false, that which is of the utmost importance and that which is inconsequential, that which is worthy of giving your life to and that which robs, deceives, and ultimately destroys you.
Jesus famously said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32, ESV). It is precisely because Jesus knew the truth—because he grasped ultimate reality—that he was able to live the free life that brought his Father pleasure rather than a life enslaved to sin and darkness and devotion to the things of earth. What you know determines what you do. Your convictions cultivate your character. How you think informs how you live. And I believe the single greatest barrier to us becoming increasingly Christlike is our lack of certainty about what is really true. Put plainly, our tendency is to elevate the things that are seen and temporal and physical over that which is unseen, eternal, and spiritual. And our lives bear that out.
What Do Heavenly Minded People Do?
When your mind is set on things above, you live a life full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You become so humble and sacrificial that it shocks the world around you. You live joyfully even in the midst of the most dire circumstances. You take up a cross daily, die to yourself, and follow him. You live with an audacious faith. You become so consumed with the things that consumed Christ that even friends and family begin to wonder about you. You live with boldness and courage in the face of fear. You move through life as a conqueror, fully aware that victory is already in hand as you serve the King who has himself conquered death and is alive and reigning at the right hand of God. That’s just a glimpse of what heavenly minded people do.
But what I recognize in my own life, and perhaps you recognize this in yours as well, is that far too often I am most consumed with the things of this world. More often than I’d like to admit, I have my mind set on earthly things. And do you know the dead giveaways? My most frequently visited websites (sports, news, more news). My Facebook wall. My bank statements. The fact that I so easily find time for leisure and hobbies and everything in between but often fail to find time to read and study God’s Word. Does this remind you of anyone you know? How do we fix this?
How Do We Become Heavenly Minded?
Jesus’ declaration that his disciples’ knowledge of the truth would set them free began with the conditional clause, “If you abide in my word.” It really is as simple as this. Jesus could not have been more clear or concise. The way that you become heavenly minded is by perpetually giving yourself to the study and application of his Word. As one who is already seated in the heavenly realms, you eat from the heavenly table. This isn’t an earth-shattering revelation. It’s certainly not something you haven’t heard before. But the all-important question that we must ask is this: With what kind of frequency is this happening in my life?
May all of us hunger and thirst for God’s Word like never before and in so doing become bold, daring, and dangerous heavenly minded weapons for Christ.
Matt Miller serves as a missionary with 1015 (www.1015go.org) in Bangkok, Thailand. He and his wife Bobbi Jo are graduates of Cincinnati Christian University.