Attention & affections: Devotional Commentary for July 14-20
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us wisdom and insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
1Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
2Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
3For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
So far Paul taught the Colossians to guard against deceptive philosophies and familiar traditions that are contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He already expressed his confidence in their faith and in their allegiance to Jesus Christ. However, he alerted them that unless they continued to mature in their knowledge of the truth and in their understanding of the meaning and significance of their transformation in Christ, they could be unwitting prey to the strong and convincing arguments advanced by counterfeit religions.
The deepening of their knowledge of the Gospel would deliver an indispensable outcome with two significant aspects. First, they would cultivate the ability to distinguish error from truth and could, therefore, effectively guard against all forms of ungodly influences hurled at them from all sides. Second, they would know how to live as truly transformed children of God's redemption. Simply put, they would be knowledgeable, wise, and discerning.
Having thus outlined the fundamentals of his teaching, Paul now embarked on a series of instructive precepts which would set their journey on the right course. It was necessary for the Colossians to understand that the quality and the endurance of their Christian walk partially depended on their response to what the Spirit of God was doing in their hearts. While the sustenance of the believer's new life in Christ exclusively depended on the Work and Power of the Spirit of God, God graciously invites each individual Christian to have a vital part in our own spiritual growth through responsive obedience.
Therein lies the crux of the matter. Paul pointed to the heart as the home of the believer's focus, attention, affections, and disposition. Being also the temple of the Holy Spirit, where the heart sets its focus, attention, affections, and disposition is emphatically and absolutely essential in shaping the believer's response to the Spirit of God.
Paul urged the Colossians to set their hearts on the things that are in heaven where Christ is seated on the right hand of His Father. If the heart is set on Christ, then the mind, the focus, the attention, the affections, and the disposition of the believer would also be affixed on Jesus Christ. That is, if the heart is set on Christ, if the mind is seeking Christ, if the focus is directed toward Christ, if the attention is given to Christ, if the affections are lavished on Christ, and if the disposition is fully inclined toward Christ, then the believer would necessarily be responsive and obedient to God and dismissive toward all forms of ungodliness.
Paul identified two powerful reasons why such should be the case. He reiterated what he already told the Colossians when he exhorted them to stand firm in faith as the redeemed children of God. He reminded them that they were dead to their sinful past and alive in Christ in their new life in Him. Hence, he urged them not to commit their new heart to their sinful past in which they no longer lived. Instead, they should walk in their newness in Christ setting their attention and affections on the One Who set them free from bondage to the Law and from judgment.
Paul was fully aware that, to human perception, the reality of the ungodly world around them was starkly more evident than their new life in Christ. But human limitations can never justify the committal of the heart to one's sinful past or to the realm of the ungodly. The heart of the redeemed belongs to Christ. It is a possession redeemed by blood. The newness of the believer is not completely perceptible while the redeemed remain in this passing world. The new life of the believer is hidden in the risen Lord to be gloriously and fully revealed when Christ appears as the triumphant King. In the meantime, it was necessary for the Colossians and believers across the ages to acknowledge the reality of their redemption and conduct themselves accordingly. If they joined Christ in His Death and His Resurrection, then their redeemed heart must be focused on Him having being raised with Christ into a new life in God.
Following his extensive exhortation on the pitfalls of unguarded faith, Paul embarked on a series of instructive admonitions urging the Colossians to pursue the things that are pertinent to their new life in Christ. The life of a Christian cannot be exclusively relegated to a consuming task of developing a defensive posture only to ward off the erosive influences of deceptive philosophies, familiar traditions, and counterfeit religions. There are contrary forces to be resisted for sure, but also a life to be lived for the Glory of God. While commending them for their faith and their love for the saints, and while urging them to stand firm against false teachings, Paul encouraged the Colossians to be consciously aware: conscious of Who Christ is, who they are in Christ, their sinful past, the ungodly world around them, and their new life in Christ.
Paul's exhortation is everything but simple, clear, and direct. He said to set one's heart and affections on things above where Christ is. But such precepts are neither given nor perfunctory: that is to say routine. Such principles are not actionables which can be executed at will. They are behavioral challenges which demand a transformed conduct flowing out of a transformed life. So what does Paul's simple precept mean?
To set one's heart on things above means to divest one's attention and affections from earthly interests and desires and commit them to Jesus Christ. The bond between the redeemed and earthly things is eternally broken by death. The believer is dead with the crucified Christ and is, therefore, no longer alive to the former things which kept the heart enthralled. But the child of God is alive in Christ called to love the Lord with one's heart, soul, and mind. In other words, there is only one right thing to do for the redeemed: set the heart on the Lord with all of its attention and affections.
Taking our cue from Paul, let us then acknowledge that the life we now live in the flesh is not us but Christ Jesus Who lives His life in us by the Spirit. Let us partake in this glorious union through Spirit-led responsive obedience. The Word is our weapon against false teachings. The Word is our Bread and water to nurture the New Man. The Spirit is our Teacher to lead us into all truths. Simply put, let our Father have the child He redeemed for Himself. That is you and me, oh! child of God.