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Today is the last message in our series on the inside story of your future life.

  • Many of you have written of spoken about how the series has been helpful to you.
  • It has been a great encouragement to me also.

Over these last weeks we have been intentional about setting our minds on things above.

  • We have thought about heaven.
  • We have filled our minds with what it will mean to be with Christ and why it is better by far.
  • It has been good for our souls.

The question today is ‘How can I keep my mind on things above?’

  • How can you continue nourishing your own soul with the hope and joy of your future life with Christ?

We’ve all heard the cheap shot about people who are heavenly minded being no earthly use.

  • Precisely the opposite is true.
  • When you set your mind on heaven will you know how to live on earth.

Suppose I said to you “Prepare!”

  • You would say – prepare for what?
  • How can I prepare if I don’t know what’s coming?

When you know what is coming you will know how to live.

Today we have a very simple text:

  • ‘Set your minds on things above,” (Col 3:2)
  • This was the motto of the school in England where Karen and I studied theology.
  • ‘Ta ano phroneite’ Set your minds on things above.

There isn’t anything here that is difficult to understand.

Christ has been raised.

  • When Jesus died, His life left His body.
  • The body of Jesus was laid in the tomb. It had to be laid there by others because there was no life in it.

But on the third day, the life of the Son of God came into His body.

  • He rose, and the body of Jesus was wonderfully changed.

If you are a Christian the life of the Son of God has come into you.

  • Paul speaks about us being ‘Raised with Christ’ (v1).
  • By nature we were dead towards God, deaf to the Spirit, and incapable of rising up to follow Christ in a life of faith and obedience.
  • But the life of Christ came into you. The Holy Spirit gave you the kiss of life. You were raised with Christ.

Since you were raised to Christ, you have a new life in Him.

  • All that he purchased belongs to you.
  • Forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, the gift of the Holy Spirit, adoption into the family of God, an everlasting home in heaven
  • Its all yours because you are His!

If all this is true of you, here’s what you must do…

  • Set your minds on things that are above (Col 3 v2).

So again, there is nothing here that is difficult to understand.  Where we need help is in how to put this into practice.

So today, I have two things

  1. First I want us to see the value of meditating on your future life.
  2. Then I want to offer some practical help for how you can do this

“Set your minds of the things that are above.”

The whole of the message today is application.  It’s the why and the how:

  • What you will gain from thinking about heaven and
  • How you can go about it

 The value of meditating on your future life

1. Meditating on your future life will change your view of money (Lk 12:13-21)

One day, while Jesus was teaching, a person in the crowd asked Him to resolve a dispute about money.

   “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me,’ (Lk 12:13).

We want Jesus to be in the middle of these things.  We want Him to be concerned about who gets what: This is your right, and that’s his etc.

  • But Jesus won’t have anything to do with it
  • ‘Who made me a judge or arbiter over you? (v14).

Fascinating.  We would say we must have a Christian ministry for this sort of thing.  Jesus says, ‘that’s not why I am here’

  • Then He said to them, ‘Take care and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’, (Luke 12:15).

Then Jesus told a story about a man who was blessed in his business.

  • He gathered a bumper crop from his fields, and stored it in barns.
  • The way we would say that today was he had a healthy 401k
  • He said, well now I can enjoy my retirement…

This is the man who lived the American dream.

  • He has worked hard. He has saved well.
  • He is a good planner. And he has his future years mapped out.
  • Places to go, friends to visit, golf courses to enjoy: This is the life he has always wanted.

There was one problem:  He did not set his mind on things above.

  • One night he died and God said to him, “You fool”
  • We all want to think that when we look into the face of God, He will say to us “Well done! Good and faithful servant
  • What would it be to look into the face of God and hear Him say ‘You fool!”

The height of folly is to live for the things of this world and neglect being rich toward God.

  • Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19, 20)
  • The more you invest in stuff here, the more your heart will be tied to this world.
  • So learn to be ‘rich toward God,’ (Lk 12:21). The more you invest in Christ’s work on earth, the more your heart will be connected with Christ’s home in heaven.

Thomas Boston has a picture that is helpful here:[1]

In this life, we are rather like actors in a theater who have a part in a play.

  • One gets to play the part of a prince. Another gets to play the part of a pauper.
  • We put on our costumes, and we play our part, but when the curtain comes down at the end of the play, all the actors go back stage.
  • The one who played the part of the prince takes off his robes. The one who played the part of the pauper takes off his rags, then both of them leave the theater by the same back door.

What difference does it make that one got to play the part of the part of the prince and one got to play the part of the pauper?

  • When they leave the theater, they go into the real world, and what matters is who they are there.

Now of course, we think this is the real world, and heaven seems rather vague to us.

  • Jesus tells us that everything here will pass away.
  • This world is a passing shadow. What lasts is in heaven.

Why would you envy your brother who has more than you when you know that both of you will leave this world by the same back door?

  • It really doesn’t matter whether you got to play the prince or the pauper here.
  • What matters is that you have treasure in the real world that will never pass away.

Meditating on your future life will change your view of money.

  • How much you need, and what to do with what you’ve got.
  • Set your minds of things above.

2. Meditating on your future life will give you strength to endure (Heb 12:2, 2 Cor 4:16-18)

How did our Lord Jesus endure the cross?

  • Hebrews 12:2 tells us that He did it ‘For the joy that was set before Him’
  • Christ endured the cross, in other words, by setting His mind on things that are above.
  • And the writer tells us that this is what we are to do:

‘Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,

despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the thone fo God (Herb 12:1, 2)

Last time Karen and I were in the UK, we had to stop for a night travelling between her family and mine.   We worked out where we thought we would be, and booked a place we thought would be OK.

  • It was terrible.

It may have been OK in the 1950s, but nothing much seemed to have happened since then.

  • The entrance from the road was overgrown, the restaurant next door had closed, and the bed seemed like it was a hand down from a camp site.
  • I was not happy about paying good money for this room. But it had been prepaid and was not refundable.

I was pacing round the room in frustration until my ever patient and longsuffering wife said

  • ‘Its only for one night…’[2]
  • That gives an entirely different perspective.

In 2 Corinthains 4, Paul speaks about how to persevere through many pressures and not to lose heart…

For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.

For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Meditating on your future life will

  1. Change your view of money. 2. Give you strength to endure.

3. Meditating on your future life will motivate you to holiness (Col 3:5ff)

It’s a good rule of thumb in studying in the Bible that if you want to know why something is important look at what went before and what comes after.

Some of the believers in the town of Colossae had been overwhelmed by the battles that every Christian faces with sin and temptation.

  • How do you deal with the lusts of the flesh?
  • There are always plenty of suggestions…

At the end of Chapter 2, Paul tells them what won’t work:

  • You cannot overcome the sin simply by disciplines, boundaries and accountability.
  • v21 Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch…
  • v23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom… but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

William Hendriksen says, “There is no material cure for a spiritual ill.”[3]

You can’t overcome sin by the power of discipline alone.

But then in Col 3 v5, Paul says

Put to death, therefore what is earthly in you,”

  • So what makes that possible?
  • Being risen with Christ and
  • Setting your mind on things that are above! (v2)

So here’s the value of setting your mind on things that are above.

  • It will change your view of money
  • It will give you strength
  • It will motivate you to holiness.

So how are we to do this?

Nobody has written more helpfully on this subject than Richard Baxter.  Baxter was a pastor in Kidderminster in England.

Baxter knew about suffering from his own experience.  J I Packer describes him as

‘a chronically sick puritan, tubercular from his teens and suffering constantly from dyspepsia, kidney stones, headaches, toothaches, swollen limbs, intermittent bleeding at his extremities, and other troubles – all before the days of pain-killing drugs.’[4]

How do you endure that kind of constant difficulty?

  • Baxter’s answer was to spend at least half an hour every day meditating on heaven, thinking on the things above.
  • He began this habit when he was 30 years old and carried it on for the rest of his life.
  • Packer says, ‘This cultivation gave him daily doggedness in hard work for God despite the debilitating effect of his sick body. He stands for all time as proof that there is supernatural strength for God’s service that is beyond human explanation.’[5]

In 1650, Baxter wrote a book entitled “The saint’s everlasting rest.”   The book was long and the language is obscure for many readers today, but it is full of spiritual wisdom.

  • At the end of his book Baxter gives directions for meditating on your future life.
  • Its really a practical guide for putting Colossians 3:2 into practice.
  • Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned from Baxter, which I hope will be helpful to you.

Directions for meditating on your future life

1. Take responsibility for directing your mind.

Set your mind on things above

This is something for you to do.

  • You must do it and you can do it.
  • You must do it because it is a command of God. He calls you to it.
  • You can do it because you are risen with Christ. His life and power are in you for this very purpose.

Setting your mind on things that are above is in your Christian job description. God has given you this assignment so commit yourself to it and take responsibility for it.

Your body has times of working and times of relaxing, and it is the same with your soul.

  • To derive benefit from a service like this, you have to engage your heart and mind. There is work involved in worship.
  • Your soul needs to be roused to action in the same way as you rouse your body to go for a walk or get on the treadmill.

Baxter points out that wise Christians are aware of the work and weariness of their spirits as much as they are of their bodies.[6]

2. Learn the art of talking to yourself

You find this all over the Psalms

  • When David says “Bless the Lord O my soul” (Psa 103:1) He is talking to himself
  • When he asks “Why are you cast down O my soul? (Psa 42:5), he is talking to himself.

Martyn Lloyd Jones often made the observation that we get into difficulties because we spend too much time listening to ourselves and not enough talking to ourselves.

Learn the art of talking to yourself.

  • Your mind needs to be set.
  • Your heart will always be a problem.
  • Every Christian must learn to be a preacher to his or her own soul.

Baxter says you need to learn to “manage your own heart.’

  • Suppose you own a business and you hire someone to do a particular job. After a couple of days it becomes obvious that the work is not getting done.
  • The new employee is wandering around the office talking to everyone else, picking up various things but not tackling the work you hired him to do…
  • You would call him into the office and have a good straight talk.

Now Baxter says, this is how you must deal with your heart.  Your heart is just like that unfocussed employee. Learn to manage your heart:

“Set upon thy heart roundly, persuade it to the work,.. don’t accept any excuses; chide it for its backwardness… bring it to the service willing or not willing…

Take up the authority God has given you. Command your heart. If you feel too weak call in the Spirit of Christ to your assistance.”[7]

“This is what you must do in your meditation to quicken your own heart:  Enter into serious debate with it; plead with it in the most moving and affecting language; use the most weighty and powerful arguments.”[8]

3. Direct your heart and will by exercising faith in God’s promises

Here’s something I have found really helpful…

“Let your faith, as it were, take your heart by the hand, and show it the sumptuous buildings of your eternal home…

“Let faith lead your heart into the presence of God, and draw as near as you possibly can.[9]

“Take a walk in the New Jerusalem every day…”

Set your mind on the promises of God, and let faith lead your heart and will by the hand…

“The understanding must take in truths, and prepare them for the will.

The will must receive them and commend them to the affections.”[10]

4. Use the joys of earth to propel your mind towards heaven

When you are hungry and enjoy a good meal, think to yourself how much greater your joy will be when your soul at completely satisfied at Christ’s table in His kingdom!

When you find pleasure in exploring the arts, or in science, or you dive into the wonders of nature, when you find pleasure in music and in technology, say to yourself: ‘If the face of human learning can be so beautiful, how beautiful then is the face of God.’

When you savor the joys of friendship and of love, think to yourself who will be the delight of the love of God.

  • Don’t let the joys of this life anchor you. Let them propel you.
  • Don’t let the joys of earth tie you down. Let them lift you up.
  • Use the blessings of this life to anticipate the greater blessings of the life to come.

Now we have the perfect opportunity to do these things as we gather round the Lord’s table.

[1] “We are all in this world as on a stage; it is no great matter, whether a man acts the part of a prince or a peasant, for when they have acted their parts, they must both get behind the curtain and appear no more.”   Human nature in its fourfold state, Page, 217.

[2] Thomas Boston: ‘If a man on a journey is not well accommodated, where he lodges only for a night, he will; not trouble himself much, because he is not to stay there. It is not his home.  You are on the road to eternity.”  Human nature in its four fold state, Page 217.

[3] Colossians, Page 139.

[4] J. I. Packer, God’s Plans for You, Page, 69

[5] Ibid, page 70.

[6] The saints everlasting rest, Page 142.

[7] Page 176.

[8] Page 163

[9] Page 158.

[10] Page 142

“Then He said to them…one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,”  (Luke 12:15).


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