What is one thing, or maybe even a couple of things, in your life that you learned that changed everything for you? For me, learning to read changed everything. All of a sudden I realized I could read the hymns we were singing in church and the signs on the side of the road. It was as if a whole new world opened up to me. Everything changed again when I learned to drive. I didn’t need to get a ride anywhere. I could drive myself to school, work, and just about anywhere I wanted.
But there was something else that happened to me in ninth or tenth grade that forever changed things. I had a Sunday School teacher in my church who made it his goal to teach me about Jesus and his saving work. I'm not talking bare facts about Jesus, but about how knowing Christ and receiving the hope and salvation Christ offers changes everything: and I mean everything. And Sunday School teacher impressed upon me not simply that Jesus changes everything, but how Jesus changes everything. And one of the passages that he always took me back to was Colossians 3:1-4:
"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 mind on things that are above, not on things that are on the 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."
As we look toward another year, God is calling us remember that knowing the resurrected Christ changes everything, and three things foundationally.
First, to know the resurrected Christ means that we have a new identity.
"Who are you?" is one of the most penetrating questions anyone can ask us. And even as Christians we often define our lives by what we do or don't do. Paul, however, centers our identity in Christ. We've been raised with him; we've died with him; our life is hidden with Christ in God; we will appear with him in glory. Paul wants us to realize that our identity is not wrapped up in what we do or don't do, but in what Christ as done! The most fundamental reality about you and me going into 2017 is not that we are in a relationship (or not in a relationship), or in a certain job, or divorced, or depressed. The most fundamental reality about us is that we are "in Christ." His life means our eternal life; his death means our death to sin.
Second, as we move into 2017 we need to understand that to know the resurrected Christ means that we have, not just a new identity, that that new identity issues forth in a new mentality.
Paul gets at this by telling us that because of our new identity, we are to "seek those things which are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth" (v. 2). This doesn't mean that we are so heavenly-minded we're of no earthly good. Just the opposite. In fact, Paul spends the rest of chapter 3 telling us how this heavenly-mindedness is of much earthly good in every relationship we have. To be heavenly-minded means that the practical everyday affairs of our lives are driven by the ethic of heaven, where our Savior-King is enthroned at God's right hand. And this ethic of heaven does not change! This coming year will present the church with all sorts of challenges as the ethics of the world change and shift with popular opinion. But the ethic of heaven does not change because our God does not change.
Third, as we enter into 2017, to know the resurrected Christ means that we have been given a new destiny (v. 3-4). Unfortunately, the word "destiny" has gotten a bad rap in the Church, but it is a perfectly good word if we see such destiny as determined by a personal God who loves his church. And this new destiny includes a life now that is "hidden with Christ, in God," (v. 3) in which the world doesn’t really understand who we are, and the glorious gift we’ve been given in Christ.
But this hiddenness also carries with it the idea of protection for the future. Our eternal life is protected. And it's thoroughly protected. It’s hidden "with Christ in God." If we can put it this way, we are hidden safely in the hollow of Christ's hand and then the Father's hand is placed securely over Christ's hand. This is security better than anything this world has to offer.
And because of this security, "when Christ who your life appears, you will appear with him in glory" (v.4, emphasis mine). Jesus is so committed to his people and their salvation that his appearing will be our appearing. It is a certainty.
When the truths of these verses get into our bones, They change us now. They re-frame our lives. They helps us to hold the things of this world loosely in our hands. They remind us that the good things we will experience in the year to come are just a little taste of more glorious things to come. They also remind us that the suffering we are sure to experience in the coming year will not have the last word in our lives. They remind us, as the book of Revelation teaches, that Jesus wins, and nothing will separate us from his love.
Jesus changes everything: our identity, our mentality, and our destiny.