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January 29, 2023

Foundations Week 4: Make Up Your Mind

It was many years ago, and I don't remember how long ago it was, that I had somebody send me a video of a pastor. It was a small video, and it was back when this person was a youth pastor. It would've been many, many, many years ago, before there were cell phones and things. Remember back in the day, if somebody was in a car, you couldn't get ahold of them? I know some of you younger folks don't even understand what that would be like, but believe it or not, you didn't just get something on your phone. You had to go to a machine, send it through the machine, then it would go over the phone lines to somebody else's machine, and they would see it. That was the way it worked back then.

So, this person told the story that this young lady had been on a bus ride, and she was going to be on the bus ride to a stop sign where they would stop the bus, and they would get out of the bus. Then they were going to get into a car with another girl's mom, and they were going to drive to youth group. So, there was no way for this girl to know what was going on in her life, but they had called the church and had conveyed that her father had passed away at work.

So, here's a girl that has no idea what's going on, has no idea what's gone on with her dad, but yet, the youth pastor knows that he's about to tell this young lady one of the most important things she will ever hear. Probably one of the most profound messages that she will ever hear. One of the most life-changing messages she will ever hear. He told the story that he just kept looking, looking, and looking for her to come in. When she came in, she was with her buddies, she was laughing, and having such a great time. Right there, in that moment, the weight of that conversation was there, and the conversation was had.

Maybe many of you have had those moments where there's a life-changing message that really speaks to you, or is profound, and you you'll never forget it. My hope and prayer is that as we engage with something that Paul wrote this weekend, my prayer is that this would be one of those moments that you would look back, I would look back, and we would look back together, and say, “Wow, that was life-changing.”

Now, whether that happens or not, it's not going to be how well I speak. It's not going to be how well I do. It's going to be whether or not God gets involved between what I say and the ears and the hearts of everyone here. But I can tell you, as your pastor, I come with a heavy heart to share a message that I believe can be a life-changing message for some of you all, and I really believe it will speak to many. I hope it speaks to all.

So, to wade into this, I want to ask you a question. The question's a little sobering, it may require a little reflection, it may take you back for a moment just because it's a pretty tough question, but it's going to get us sort of engaging some things, thinking through some things, and hopefully get us prepared for what we're going to talk about. So, here's the question that I have. How many years do we have left? Let me personalize this because I always use “we” because I don't want anybody to feel like I'm preaching at you. But this one here, I want to ask it personally. How many years do I have left? Look at yourself. You know where you're at. I'm 53 in May. What do I have, 20-30 years, 40 years if I'm lucky? I ate too many Cheetos and drink too much Mountain Dew to make it to 90, to be honest with you. And I was from Kentucky, so I don't know. You know? But 20 years, 30 years? I don't know. What about you? You may say, “Well, Chip, I'm older than you, and there are not that many years,” but some of you all are younger. You may have 30 or 40 years ahead of you, 50 years ahead of you.

I want to ask you a question. I want you to think about this because this is something that we really don't think about that often. No matter where we're at, whatever lifespan we have left, I want you to think about this. Imagine the amount of ideas that we're going to be introduced to over however many years we have left. Imagine how many ideas that you've already been inundated with in life. You've had all this stuff. What it means to be beautiful. What it means to be successful. What it means to have a great relationship. You're bombarded with all these ideas, all the time. And now, in a world where everything's digital, and everybody walks around looking at their phone or looking at their iPad, and everything is just coming as fast as it can come, and you're hit with everything — “You need this, you need that, you need this, you need that,” — and all of these things are coming as fast as they can come, and we're intaking them one at a time — boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, they're hitting, they're hitting, they're hitting.

“What does it look like to be this? What does it look like to be that? What does it look like to be successful? What does it look like to be pretty? What does it look like to have the right clothes? What does it look like to have the right house? What does it look like to be successful? What does it look like to be happy? What does it look like?”

All these things are constantly hitting. And here's what I want you to hear from me. I don't think many people outside of the walls of this church are thinking about this, and unfortunately, I don't think many Christians think about this, but here's a question to ask yourself: With all the ideas coming, telling you what you need in life, what you should do, what you should be, in the books that you read, in the podcasts you consume, and all of this stuff, let me ask you a really profound question. I don't ask this to be snarky. I don't ask this to give anybody a hard time. I ask it sincerely, as a pastor who cares.

How do we know which of those thoughts that are coming in even accord with reality? How do we know which ones are true? Have you ever thought that? Because I don't think many people think about that. I don't think many people think about the things that are coming in.

“Hold on. What? Hold on. Let me think about that. Is this reality? Is this not?”

I just think we just let stuff come in, and what happens is we just sort of go about life, maybe we seize onto one of those ideas, and we consider that to be good for us until, three years later, we realized that idea maybe wasn't that great. And nobody goes, “Oh, I got gypped. I should have maybe thought about that before I embraced it.”

But the fact of the matter is most of us do not have a grid in which we are constantly taking in those ideas that come as fast as we drive, as fast as we walk through the mall, as fast as we open up a magazine, or as fast as we turn on our phone and start flipping through social media. What's your grid? How do you know what's true? How do you know that what you're hearing even accords with reality? My thought process is that most people simply don't ever even think about that. And then what happens is we've got all these things coming in, we seize onto some of them, then we try to live our lives a certain way, and we find ourselves going from one thing to the other to the other. And when you look at most people, when you sit down with most people, the reality is you look around the world and most people don't have a whole lot of joy, and most people don't have a whole lot of happiness. Maybe, just maybe, it's because we're letting a lot of things in that, maybe, we should have some sort of grid on how we view the world.

Now, I'm going to take you back to the first century. There was a town called Colossae, and Paul wrote a letter. Every letter he wrote to every church was life-changing. Every letter he wrote, every word that he said, was important to the ones who read it. And by way of it being written to them, we read today, and it speaks to us. But in Colossae, this was a town where everybody was vying for your mind. Everybody was vying for your soul. The philosophers, the religious people, some of them that combined a bunch of stuff, but everybody had some sort of teaching, everybody had some sort of way, everybody had some sort of wisdom. Paul writes to them, as believers, and tries to say, “Hey, listen. I really want you to pay attention here to what's going on because this Jesus guy is really important. Not only is He so important, but He’s the one that created the world. Not only that, but He’s the one whom the fullness of all that is God dwells in. In Colossians 1 and Colossians 2, in Him the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form. Not only that, but Jesus is the one who holds everything together. He's the glue that holds the universe together. Right into this church, into this city, not unlike us, inundated with all kinds of things vying for your mind, for your soul, and for your life, Paul writes four verses that may just be the most profound verses in all of scripture,. They’re deep, they're dense, and they're tough. I told somebody, right before service, “I don't know if I'll be able to convey what Paul wrote adequately,” but I have prayed, and continue to pray, that I can somehow help us to understand these powerful words that were written to people who were inundated with stuff. He gave them an anchor of reality. If we can see that anchor of reality, it's life changing.

These four verses are so impactful. When I was a kid in Miami, working with the homeless, Dr. Allen Reesor, who's one of our board members — that's how long I've known him. He's had to put up with me for all those years. He made us memorize Colossians 3. We're going to read four verses, and then we'll do some takeaways. I'm praying and hoping that you'll really listen in because this is dense and deep, but I'm telling you it can be life-changing.

Here's what Paul wrote to the church at Colossae who is inundated with all kinds of things vying for their soul and for their mind.

He says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

There's so much here. I really could probably spend weeks here, but I want to try to unpack it in a way that's consumable, but in a way that also makes sense. In a way that you can maybe understand the depths of the theological things that he's seeing. When we see the words “if then,” we tend to think of maybe a question mark or whatever, so what I want to do is — this is what he's really saying. He's saying “since.” Since this. The “if then” is not bad, but I think “if then” sort of makes us sometimes think, “Well, maybe they weren't.”

No. He says, “Since you have been raised with Christ.”

This is one of the most theologically profound statements that you'll ever hear because Paul is talking to the Colossians about the fact that they have put their trust in Jesus, they have been baptized, and when they went under the waters of baptism, they came back up. He says, “And you've been raised to newness of life.”

He's like, “Since this has happened to you.”

And you may not feel that. You may be in here, right now, you're a believer, and you may go, “Man, I don't really feel like anything really happened to me. I think I'm the same dude that I was before.”

My kids at home, they taunt each other. They say, “Maybe you ought to go get baptized again,” when they're messing up or whatever. But Paul says, “Since you've been raised, whether you feel like you have, whether you think you have, whatever, if you follow Jesus, you've trusted Jesus, you've believed in Jesus, and you've followed Him in the act of baptism,” he says, “you may not feel it, you may not think it, but you've been raised with Christ. Since that's true of you, seek the things that are above.”

He tells us what those things are that are above. He says, “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is.”

Wherever Christ is, seek that. Wherever you find Christ, you're going to find something so profound to your life. You're going to find that where Christ is, He is seated at the right hand of God. The right hand of God means that He is fully divine. He is the second person of the trinity, but fully divine, seated at the right hand of power. But not only that, He is seated, which means He’s in control.

Paul says, “Listen, there are going to be so many things that vie for your soul, so many things that vie for your life, and since you've been raised, I want you to put your gaze where Christ is, above, to where you can see that He is fully God, and He is fully in control because when you put your guys down here, it's going to look really random, out of place, and you're not going to know what's going on, but you, believers, put your attention where Christ is to know that He is fully God and He is fully in control.”

Now, listen. He says, “Set your minds…”

He uses almost the same word groupings that he uses in Philippians 2:5 when he says, “Have this mind among you.”

In other words, he’s not really telling you to set your mind like, “Well, I think I will one day, and one day I won’t.”

What he's saying is this should be the mind that we have. If we've truly been raised, and we know that when we get our eyes off of Christ, when we get our eyes off of the fact that He is fully God and capable of doing exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think, and we know that He is seated, that He is in control, that things are not random, and that there's a purpose, even if we can't see it, even if it's a mystery to you and me — he says, “I want you to set your minds. I want your mind, everything you think about, make sure you're thinking about things that are above, and not on things that are on the earth.”

Now, he's telling us what to do, and the next verse is going to tell us why. But I want you to see, here, how important Paul thinks that what goes in here is. Because most of us just graze, all day long, at whatever we read, see, or watch, and we think that, somehow, it doesn't influence us, and, somehow, it doesn't pull us down, and, somehow, it doesn't take us away from the fact that Jesus is fully God and fully in control. But it does. I want you to see here, just briefly, how important Paul sees our minds.

So, to the church at Corinth, in 2 Corinthians 10:5, he says, “We destroy arguments…”

He says, “We destroy arguments and ever lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

I'm not trying to give anybody a hard time. Some of you are probably going, “Whoa, man. I don't do that at all. I mean, man, I’ll come back tomorrow. Maybe it'd be a different message or something.”

But I'm saying we, as Christians, so often say we don't really feel God, or we don't really feel like God’s at work in our lives. Maybe there's something that we're missing. Maybe what Paul is saying here is profound. Look at what he says to the church at Philippi. He says, “Whatever's true and honorable and just and pure, think about these things.”

Does anybody turn on the TV and find true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable? I'm not telling you to turn off the TV, but maybe you should. When was the last thing you listened to on your iPhone that was true and honorable and just pure. But the thing is, we fill our — he says, “No, think on these things.”

In Romans 12, the way we normally translate that, and most translations do, is, “Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

There’s an old translation that many of y'all may not be familiar with it. It's called the J.B. Phillips translation. I love how he phrases. It’s not literal, but I just love the way he phrases it.

He says, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God remold your minds from within.”

This is important. So, he just told you what to do, but now he's going to tell you why. Get ready. Have you ever rode one of those roller coasters that they pull up, they hang you there, and you're checking your thing to make sure your seat belt's good? Do you know what I'm talking about? So, just check right here because this is the why, and this is so profound, so rich, and so hard to communicate, but I want you to hear what he says.

He says, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

You have died. That person in the mirror? Dead. That person in the mirror that you're trying to fix, make more pretty, and make more — dead. Theologically dead. And we spend so much time trying to take — like, remember the movie “Weekend at Bernie's?” They’ve got the dude — we spend so much time. Paul says, “Hey, this is why I want your mind here, because you have died. You’ve died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. That's where your life is.”

So, why do we need to be thinking about where Christ is? Because that's where our life is. Our life's not here. Do you want to know what reality is? There's more reality where Christ is than what you see and feel in your life here. I'm not telling you that it's not real. I'm not telling you that pain isn't real. I'm not telling you that sickness isn't real. They're all real. But I'm telling you there's a larger reality to our life and it's that we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ and God. And to discover that hidden-ness, you’ve got to spend time with Jesus because that's where your life is.

And here’s the beautiful thing: Because our lives are hidden with Christ in God, it’s as secure as it can be because it's hidden in Christ in God. Powerful, powerful stuff.

Then he says, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

You’ll really know more of who you are, and I'll know more of who I am because my true life is hidden with Christ in God. C.S. Lewis probably says it best, when you look at these four verses. He says, “God can't give us peace and happiness apart from Himself because there is no such thing.”

Your life is hidden with Christ in God. You've died. All the stuff that we try to do, the reasons we're not happy, the reason we don't feel God, is because we're trying to do something to someone that's dead. That's why Paul always says, “Put away the old person. You're new. You’ve been recreated. You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. All the things that are true of Jesus, His experiences are true. He raised, you raised. His righteousness is your righteousness. The fact that He’s the Son, God has made you a son. You’ve been adopted.”

All of these things are so true, and yet we run around trying to bandage up a dead person. This is why this is so profound. This is why it's so important when you listen to all the things that you listen to, and they're coming into your mind, to be able to say, “Whoa, stop. What is real? What is true?”

So, I'm going to give you a couple things here. First of all, I'm going to call this reality number one. I say this, but if you're not a believer here, we're so glad that you're here. You can belong here before you believe. Hang out with us. All this stuff. We're so glad that you're here. Maybe you hear some of this stuff, like, “Man, I want some of that.”

Trust me, we want you to have some of this. I mean, that's absolutely 100%. But for those of us who are believers — this is sad, but at some point, we really have to decide about God. I mean, we decided. We said, “I'm going to follow Jesus. I believe that He died on the cross for my sins. I believe He rose again from the dead.”

But then, for most Christians, God becomes sort of this thing out there that maybe you tap into when you feel a goosebump on a Saturday night or a Sunday morning, or maybe you hear a message and it maybe whatever. But then you go about the day, all the information's coming in, you're listening to all the stuff, all the things on the radio, and you're frustrated. You find yourself doing sign language at other drivers and all that stuff. You know what I'm talking about? At some point, we sort of have to decide about God. Is God real? Is He real? If He’s real, man, that means my life would dramatically be different. For Paul, Christ is seated at the right hand of God. There’s nothing about Paul that questions whether or not there's a God.

He says, “Your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

For Paul, God is more of a reality than the things that we see. We have to decide either God objectively exists or He doesn't, and many of us, as Christians, need to revisit this because this is a Reality Check 101 because if God exists, and you and I have decided to follow Jesus, do you know what that means? That means he bought you and I with the death of His Son. We are His. We call Him Savior and Lord. I'm so convinced that most people in church love to call Jesus Savior, but we really have a hard time bowing to Him as Lord.

I'm going to tell you something. I want you to hear me. I want you to have the abundant life that Christ gives. I want you to be able to have that jail cell joy that you see in Acts 12 when Paul and Silas have been beaten, and they start singing praises to God because something on the inside is different. I want you to be like Paul where he says, “I've learned the secret of contentment. If I’ve got Christ, I’ve got everything I need.”

Jesus plus nothing is everything. We have to decide, “Does God exist?”

Not have we decided that that God exists, not have we decided, but what does that look like in reality for you and I, and then how would that change the way we go about? If we were like, “God. It’s God. It’s God,” what would that look like?

Second thing. Reality number two. If God exists, then we must properly understand what I'm going to call the parenthetical moment we believers live in. Most heresy is a misunderstanding of what's going on now. It's everything is weighted towards the future. And you've met those people who are like, “Woe is me. Christianity is the worst. Wait until the by and by.”

Then you've met the ones on TV that tell you God's going to give you everything now. Okay? Not understanding the parenthetical moment in which we live in is massive because it changes the way you listen to things, it changes the way your grid works, it changes the way you see truth. Where you live, right now. We’re told, “You have died.”

I want you to hear me, I want you to listen to this, I want you to take this to heart, and I want you to really think through this. If we have died, and that is true — which Paul says it’s true — and our life is hidden with Christ in God — if this is true, I want you to know something. The worst is behind us. Listen to me. That means the separation from God that you and I would've had for all of eternity, being dead in our trespasses and sins, as bad as it could be, enemies towards God, if we have been raised and we have died, that means worst that could have ever happened to you and me is behind us. The worst is behind you. That doesn't mean there won't be stuff in the now. That doesn't mean there won't be suffering. That doesn't mean there won't be problems. That doesn’t mean there won't be difficulties, because there will be.

Paul says, in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time not worthy to be compared with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”

But here's what I'm telling you, theologically. The worst, if you are a believer, is behind you. It's not in front of you. When you see that parenthetical moment, you realize we've died, and we live, now, a life that is hidden with Christ in God. What awaits you and I is glory, because when He appears, so shall we appear with Him in glory. And I want you to hear this truth because somebody needs to hear this. The resurrection we're looking forward to is as sure as the one that we've already experienced. He's not going to let you down. He that began a good work will continue to complete it. Do you know why? Because your life is hidden with Christ in God, and He's not going to give you up. Understanding where we live changes everything.

Third. This is the third reality. We must decide where our life is and where our life comes from. This is the question all of us struggle with because so many people are going through stuff, struggles, and it's so easy to get caught up in the world, get your thoughts here on the earth, and all the things that are going on. Even pastors. We do that all the time, even though we know better. But where does your life come from? Where is it, and where does it come from? That's why Paul tells you to set your minds on things that are above and not on things that are on the earth, because he realizes that our life is hidden with Christ in God. Our life is in Christ, not here. One moment at home with the Lord, and we will forever know we're in a foreign land. This world is not our home. We're strangers, we're exiles, we're citizens of heaven.

That's why CS Lewis said it so good. He said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

We're looking and looking for life, happiness, and joy. I'm here to tell you, as your pastor, it's not in the dead man. It's in the one who died and rose again. It's in Him, the way, the truth, and the life. In Him are the treasures of riches and glory. In Him are all the things that we need. You've died. Your life is hidden with Christ in God. That's why, here at Grace, we're continuing our Foundation series about, “What are the things that make Grace, Grace? What are the things that we do around here that make what we do important?”

Because you'll go out there and you'll see all the different plaques, and one of them will say, “Due North.”

We believe God has a plan and purpose for our lives. As your pastor, I want you to know it deeply, I want you to live it, and I want you to have the joy of the Lord in your life no matter what you're going through. As Peter says, when they see how you're going through the difficulty, the problems, the pains, and all this stuff, they're going to ask, “What gives you the hope that you have?”

I'm telling you, when we put our eyes in the right spot, when we understand where our life is, and we develop grids that will kick out things that don't accord with reality, and we will allow things in that allow us to draw closer to Christ, I'm telling you, your life will change. Your experience of Jesus will change. You’ll understand why that person you always look at and go, “Man, why are they just like — what's up with them?”

Maybe they got ahold of Jesus in a way that you can get ahold of Jesus. As your pastor, I want you to get ahold of Jesus in a way that He’s gotten ahold of you so that you have the things that you need to get through life, because God does have a plan and purpose for every single one of us.

Whether we feel it, whether we see it, whether, right now, we can embrace it, I want you to know that if you're a believer, God is at work in your life. No matter what is going on, maybe right now is the time to look up where Christ is, and to realize He’s seated at the right hand of the Father, and that He is a good God, He is in control, and you can trust Him. Would you bow your heads and bow your hearts?

Father, I pray, right now, for Your glory, and for Your glory alone. I pray, Lord, that, right now, You would start to search hearts. I pray, Lord, that You would speak to people. I pray that You would open spiritual eyes and spiritual hearts, right now. Lord, I believe there are people who need to hear this message. They need to embrace this message. It needs to be something, right now, that they say, “You know what? I need this life-changing message, and I need to start seeking the things that are above. I need to realize where my life is. I need to realize what God has done for me. I want to see that, right now. I want to make that step forward, right now.”

If that's you, would you just make your chair an altar, and just say, “God, download this into my life. Download this. Allow me to see You as a God who is at work in ways I couldn't even see, and to believe this.”

If, by chance, you're here, and you've never, ever, ever made a decision to follow Jesus, let me give you that opportunity. Jesus came and died on a cross for our sins, and rose again on the third day. He says that if we will believe in Him and trust Him, we can have everlasting life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in Him would never perish, but would have everlasting life. That's for you.

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