Chasing empty things

BY JOHNNY O. TRAIL — What is success? The dictionary defines success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” People have varying definitions of what successful living is all about. Sadly, many are chasing a definition of success that has no spiritual underpinnings.

Those living in the age of Samuel were guilty of chasing “vain” or empty things, 1 Samuel 12:19-21. These Israelites were guilty of chasing vain things when they departed from following the Lord God with all their heart. They wanted a king so they could be like all the nations around them, 1 Samuel 8:5. The crucial point they missed was that they already had a king—Jehovah God, 1 Samuel 8:7. In their request for a human king, they rejected the king of the Universe!

Christians do the same thing when they allow their affections to be divided. Paul cautioned the brethren at Colossae against this very problem. He writes 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 (NET).

These brethren were struggling with divided loyalties. Some had misplaced their affections on things which were earthly in nature.

Divided affections are problematic in relationships and Christianity. In a dating or marital relationship, a person wants to feel as if they have been chosen above all others. Unfaithfulness causes doubt, mistrust, and anguish. The same is true in consideration of our relationship with God. He wants His people to have no others before him, Exodus 20.3-5.

This mindset was in contradistinction to the thoughts of worldly-minded people. The brethren at Colossae had repented of their former way of life. Paul encourages them to put to death the works of the flesh, Colossians 3:5-6. People who are dead in Christ do not pursue vain, worldly things.

When we “renew our mind,” our definition of success changes, Colossians 3:9-10: “Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it.”

Our renewed minds help us focus on the things that are of Christ. It is “renewed” from an old, carnal way of reasoning into the “image” of Christ.

To that end, Paul tells the brethren at Colossae in Colossians 3.10-15:

and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it. Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others. And to all these virtues add love, which is the perfect bond. Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful.

From these Scriptures, we learn several things about the nature and focus of a renewed mind.

For one, race, status, and national origins become a thing of the past. Our success is not defined by skin color or where we originate from when we are in Christ, Galatians 3:26-28. One cannot hold racism in his heart and simultaneously call himself a Christian. We are all brethren in Christ and are to show no favoritism based upon race or ethnic origin, Act 10:34.

When standing based upon outward characteristics is demolished, there is a focus upon relationship characteristics. All these qualities are to be predicated upon the principle of charity or agape love. Why does one find such a lengthy treatment of relational qualities in Scripture at various points in the text? They exist because qualities that enhance our relationship with God, the brethren, and alien sinners are never vain in their conception and implementation. If we love God, we will love our neighbors, we will teach them Christ, Matthew 28:19, and our brethren to the point of edification.

Thus, the importance of this Old Testament Scripture is further underscored, and the principles contained therein remain, Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.”

If we love God appropriately, all other things will fall into place in serving him.

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