Things That Are Above
I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! —Luke 12:4-5 (Read Luke 12)
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. 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. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
—Colossians 3:1-6 (Read Colossians 3)
Death has been at the forefront of many people’s minds throughout the pandemic. As a nation and as individuals, we’ve gone to great lengths to avoid it. In a society rapidly turning from God, it is not surprising that we have turned to self-preservation as the highest good. For those who have no hope of greater things, their only hope lies in the preservation of their dying bodies.
As Christians, we live with the hope of future glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:3-4). If you are truly in Christ, your life is sealed for eternity with Christ whether you live or die (Romans 14:8). If, however, you are not in Christ, the greatest threat to you is not the physical state of your body, but the eternal state of your soul.
Death is inevitable; it is the normal course for all to die once (Hebrews 9:27). It is not physical death that we should fear then, but eternal death justly imposed by the wrath and judgment of God. For as certain as death is, so is judgement (Revelation 20:11-15); and how much more should we fear the eternal death of one rejected by God!
The fear of death paralyzes, intimidates, and isolates. It stifles community and the fulfillment of our duties to one another. Christ, however, has freed us from this bondage through his work on the cross. With His own death and resurrection, He has freed believers from the fear of death through the hope of resurrection and the promise of eternity. Those who are in Christ can then live with the confidence modeled by Paul, and proclaim that for them death is gain (Philippians 1:21). We can take heart that through Jesus we have been given victory over death itself (1 Corinthians 15:54-58).
How often are we consumed with fear of a physical death while having little to no regard for the condition of our soul? How many precautions have we taken to avoid a condition that can do nothing to us except hasten the time of our arrival in the presence of the Lord (or fearfully, the time of our eternal separation)? How often have we carefully and exhaustively guarded our physical health from all sorts of illness while our soul languishes under the weight of sin! While the world struggles against the reality of physical death, what action have you taken to protect the condition of your soul?
In a time when the focus of the world is on physical death, we who “have been raised with Christ” can find comfort and clarity in setting our minds on the things that are above and the promise of eternity with Christ. However, If we stop at simply the knowledge of that promise, we, I believe, err greatly. We must heed the warning of Paul that follows in Colossians 3:5-6 and which is stated in Romans 8:13. That is, we must put to death the sin that is within us. Those who are raised with and are in Christ Jesus must do this through the work of the Spirit that dwells in us. We cannot live in the Spirit and continue in carnality and unrepentant and unaddressed sin; for those are things of the flesh for which God justly pours out his wrath (Romans 8, Colossians 3:6).
Let us then heed Jesus’ warning and fill ourselves with a healthy fear of God’s wrath and with the guilt of our repeated transgressions against the one who died to save us. Let us examine the state of our soul (2 Corinthians 13:5), and if we find ourselves to be in the faith let us set ourselves relentlessly against what is earthly in us. Let us work through the power of the Spirit to put to death all that is sinful in us that we may live in such a way that boldly proclaims that death is defeated!
If, however, you come to the fearful conclusion upon examination of your life that you are not in the faith, I leave you with the urging of Charles Spurgeon:
“You have had enough of resolving, come to action. Believe in Jesus now, with full and immediate decision. Take with you words and come unto your Lord this day, even this day. Remember, O soul, it may be now or never with you. Let it be now; it would be horrible that it should be never.”
—Daniel Stumpp serves on Cornerstone Leadership as a part of Discipleship Team.