Think on things above — and what those things are

Nothing is more key to a successful spiritual life than the mind. The spiritual life — life in Christ, as the New Testament calls it, or life in the Spirit — begins here. It is not the feeling of the heart, but the feeding of the mind, that will take us where we want to go as God’s people.

The inner human is made up of interlocking parts: the mind (thoughts), the heart (emotion), the will (decision). Sometimes these parts do not always move in the same direction. For example, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ heart said one thing (avoid the cross!), but his will said another (Your will be done!), because his mind knew the Father’s will and the nature of his mission (to give life!).

When some of our inner parts conflict, the mind must take precedence. Our thought processes are among our most treasured possessions. We must guide them to think the thoughts of God.

The mind must be trained. It requires, like muscles of the body, exercise. So it makes sense that our “perceptions [must be] trained by practice to discern both good and evil” Hebrews 5.14. We often overestimate our inherent capacity to differentiate between good and evil, between right and wrong. We must recognize our severe limitations in this area — or, better, our complete incapacity — and then depend upon God’s guidance through Scripture to see life, righteousness, and good through his eyes.

One important use of the mind is the choice of thought, or focus. Paul makes this clear in Colossians 3.1-3:

Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Keep thinking about things above, not things 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 too will be revealed in glory with him.

Paul presents two essential activities to Christians in this text. One, is to keep seeking the things above. Two, is to keep thinking about things above. Both of these imperatives are based in statements of fact about Christ: we have been raised with Christ and he reigns in glory at God’s right hand. We have been transformed in our conversion to share in his life. So the seeking and thinking are both grounded in Christ, vv. 1-3, and motivated by his future appearing, v. 4.

In these short verses Paul makes no less than four references to Christ’s person and to his past, present, and future work. We might just get the idea that he means for us to fill our minds with Jesus Christ.

This emphasis was important for the Colossians, who were setting their minds on things above, but not on the Christ. They were focused on angels and other supposed spiritual beings as part of a drawn-out process of reaching God. But if we have Christ, we are transported to where Christ is: at God’s side. Where is our life? With Christ, who is where? In God. There is no need for other beings, however high they may be considered to be on someone’s spiritual scale. Christ whisks us directly into the presence and purpose of God.

It is not enough for the mind to think about God and things above. They must be the right things above. As we do not tire of repeating, all that God has for us on earth is placed in Jesus Christ who is now reigning in heaven and will suddenly — perhaps today — swoop down and scoop up his people to be with him forever in the house of God.

If we want to think high, then, Christ must fully occupy our minds.

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