Text: Colossians 3:1-4
1. Since, therefore, you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. 2. Set your minds on the things above, not on the things upon the earth. 3. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4. Whenever Christ, who is your life, should be revealed, at that time you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Have you ever had feelings of fear at sometime in your life? Who hasnt, right? Fear is a part of life.
Many years ago I saw fear in a young mans eyes like I have not seen before or since. His eyes bulged out of their sockets. They were white with fright. They looked like huge white plates. The reason for the young mans fright was obvious to me. He was dying and he knew it. He knew he would be dead within a few hours. He was scared to death of death.
Why was he so afraid of dying? Because he was afraid of what would happen to him after he died. I had a devotion with him. I have no way of knowing whether the good news of the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation that belongs to all who believe in Jesus did him any good or not. For he could not speak to me with a ventilator tube taped to his mouth and he died a short time later. If I see him in heaven one day, I will then know that the Spirit used my devotion to work saving faith in the young mans heart.
People like that young man are afraid of death. As a result they do not like to talk about it. They want to ignore it. Rather than face death, they try to mask it. Even funeral directors try to mask death in flowery scenes and by making the deceased look as alive and serene as they can.
People are afraid of death because they do not know what lies ahead for them on the other side of death. It was this fear that prevented Hamlet from committing suicide after pondering, To be, or not to be? That tis the question.
When pondering what may lie on the other side of death, some like to think that when they die they will be annihilated and become extinct, so they will be no better or no worse than the dead raccoon by the roadside. Others like to think that when they die they will be reincarnated, in which case, of course, they must face the prospect of returning to this world as a snake in the grass or an ant on the sidewalk, which holds out little more comfort than being annihilated.
Think what people may, within the heart of mankind is the natural fear that when they die they must face Gods judgment. This frightens people, as it did that young man. Some try to deny the existence of hell to escape the fear of their being condemned to it. But, then, how can they be sure there is no hell and they will not be condemned? Many, on the other hand, hope they will go to heaven, but they know their hope is only wishful thinking. These uncertainties plague them as they see their lives slipping away into death. Thus their perspective of death is one of uncertainty and fear and gloom After life comes death. And they know there is nothing they can do to prevent it except to try to cheat death by living as long as they can.
The Bible gives us who believe in Jesus a different perspective of life and death. We need not be plagued by the uncertainty and fear and gloom that plague the rest of mankind. We need not be scared to death of death as that young man was. We can face death calmly and confidently. Why? Because Gods Word holds out a perspective of life and death that gives us hope and confidence.
When we talk about life and death, we always talk about it in this order--life and then death. We talk about matters of life-and-death or life-and-death struggles. But in verse 3 of the sermon text we can see that the Bible discusses life and death in a different order. Verse 3 states: “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” In what order does this verse put life and death? The verse puts them in the opposite order, correct? It turns the two around. It speaks of death and life rather than life and death. This gives us a different perspective of death that holds out hope. First there is death: then there is life!
Verse 3 tells us, “For you died.” Think about this. To us who believe in Jesus Christ God’s Word says, “You died!” It is telling us that our death has already occurred. Our death is over and done with. It’s past! Death, then, is not a prospect for the future, is it?
You may be wondering how can this be. The answer lies in Colossians 2:12 that proceeds the sermon text and states: “. . . having been buried with him in baptism, in which also you were raised with him through the faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” This Bible verse states that we died and were buried with Christ in our baptism.
Romans 6:3, 4 explains this more fully. It says: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so also we may live in a newness of life.” It is a historical fact that Jesus died and was buried. By means of our baptism we died with Jesus and were buried with him.
This is a different perspective of our death, isn’t it? As far as God is concerned our death and burial have already taken place in connection with Christ’s death and burial. Through our baptism into Christ we died and were buried with him. Our old sinful self with its evil deeds and desires, which so angered God, died and was buried with Christ through our baptism.
Because of this biblical perspective of life and death, we have hope. Its not life and death for us, but death and life. The sinful, evil person that we were died with Christ. Now we can look forward to life and to living. We need not be plagued by the fear of death. Our eyes need not be white with fright at the prospect of dying, like that young mans eyes were, because as far as God is concerned our old sinful self already died in the past.
Since we died in the past, what is the biblical perspective of life for us now? Verse 3 says: “Your life is hidden with Christ in God.” We died, but we have a life at the present time, don’t we? We have a life that is hidden with Christ in God to live right now. As our baptism connected us with Christ’s death and burial, so our baptism also connects us with his resurrection and new life.
Romans 6:4, 5 state: “Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so also we may live in a newness of life. For if we have become united with the likeness of his death, certainly we will also be united with the likeness of his resurrection. . .” By means of our baptism we died with Christ and were buried with him. What is more, by means of our baptism we were also raised from the dead with him to live a new life. We have this new life to live at the present time.
Verses 1 & 2 of our sermon text explain what kind of a new life it is that we have to live now. The verses say: “Since, therefore, you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things above, not on the things upon the earth.” Because we have been raised with Christ (as we have been raised from death to life with him by means of our baptism), we should set our hearts on the things above in heaven, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. We should set our minds on the heavenly things above, not on the earthly things here. We have been given a new life to live that is hidden with Christ in God. It is a life in which our heart and mind are set on the heavenly things above. It is, therefore, a life of faith, hope, and confidence in the eternal life in heavenly glory that awaits us. It is a not a life plagued by doubts, despair, or fear. It is also a life, then, of living with and walking with God according to his holy will and living apart from such sins as sexual immorality, drunkenness, greed, anger, malice, slander, filthy talk, and lies.
We have this new life to live in the present. But what is the biblical perspective of life for us in the future? Verse 4 states: “Whenever Christ, who is your life, should be revealed, at that time you also will be revealed with him in glory.” This verse tells us that when Christ should be revealed and appear on the last day, then we will be revealed and appear with him in glory. What is the biblical perspective of life for us in the future? It is an appearing in glory with Christ.
Jesus will come in glory. When he does, by the power of his command, Come out! every grave on the face of the earth will open and every dead person will come out. All the dead will have their bodies raised from the grave. All who believed in Jesus and lived in the present time with their minds set on the heavenly things above will live in that heavenly glory with Jesus forever.
On more than one occasion I have ministered to a Christian who was dying. Unlike that young man whose bulging eyes were white with fright because he was scared to death of death, those Christians faced death with a confidence and certainty. They spoke of going home, where it would be better by far than their life on earth, for they held this biblical perspective of death and life. They were not going to die, but live, and embark upon a glorious life in heaven. They clung to Jesus’ promise that he is the resurrection and the life. They believed that he who believes in Jesus would live, even though he died, and that everyone who lives and believes in him will never die (meaning never perish in hell).
So it is for us who hold this biblical perspective on death and dying. We are not faced with life and death, but death and life. Because Jesus rose and lives eternally, so we will rise and live eternally. Amen--that is: so shall it be!