Set Your Mind on the Supremacy of Christ

Oct 27

Set Your Mind on the Supremacy of Christ

Colossians 3:1-17

Preached at Main Street Church on October 27, 2019

Our Problem: We search for life where it cannot be found

Proposition: Since true life is found in Christ we must set our minds on his supremacy.

  1. Since true life is found in Christ we must die to ourselves (v. 1-11)
  2. Since true life is found in Christ we must commit to his community (v. 12-17)

Last week we were in chapter 2 where Paul deconstructs the false teaching that was infecting the first century Christians at Colossae.  He told them not to be taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world.  My goal last week was to contextualize that by deconstructing the human traditions and elemental spirits, and philosophies of our present moment that seek to shape our view of the world.  Consumerism, individualism, utilitarianism, and autonomy, are all packaged together in the post enlightenment narrative of progress. This narrative tells us that advances in technology, scientific knowledge, and individual freedoms will ultimately guide us to progress in every area of life—morally, sexually, and societally—and that progress will inevitably lead us to a utopia if we can just progress beyond old fashioned ways of thinking that hold us back in our quest for utopia.  This narrative smacks of what some scholars call ‘Western Supremicism’ because it arrogantly assumes that the rest of the globe will certainly conform to Western mores to be as ‘woke’ as we are—socially and sexually—if they could just catch up with how much we have progressed. 

But all of our progress has led suicide to be “the second-leading cause of death among people ages 10-34” in the United States, an increase in the number of mass shootings, an increase in anxiety levels across all age groups and ethnicities according to a new national poll, and according to a U.N. Report, in 2019 Americans are the unhappiest they’ve ever been, and this is despite a low unemployment rate and the steady growth of income per capita over the last few decades.  Yes, our culture has made progress, but that progress hasn’t taken us where we thought it would.  We’re lost.

Our culture is aching for true meaning and belonging—for true life—and that meaning and belonging can only come in a community where Christ has supremacy as King.  In a society where we have convinced each other and ourselves that we are the completely autonomous arbiters of our own individuality, we have eagerly plunged into the ocean of absolute personal freedom only to find ourselves drowning in meaningless. 

True meaning, life, and identity can only be found in in the supremacy of Jesus Christ.  No president, or social, political, or economic philosophy possesses the supremacy of authority to lead us into a true utopian kingdom, only Christ possesses that supremacy, and he is the King of the Kingdom of God.  If you are a believer, this is the life you have been called to:

Colossians 3:1-17: “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. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

In this passage Paul tells us since true life is found in Christ, we must set our minds on his supremacy.  In fact, the key to the whole Christian life, and the life of the church is to set our minds on the supremacy of Christ in all things.  Paul gets very practical with what setting our minds on the supremacy of Christ looks like.  Setting our minds on the supremacy of Christ isn’t some mystical routine that we do in our private devotions.  Setting our mind on the supremacy of Christ is a publicly noticeable, relational outworking of our knowledge of and relationship with Jesus.  And Paul gives us two ways that we must set our minds on the supremacy of Christ:

  1. Since true life is found in Christ we must die to ourselves (v. 1-11)
  2. Since true life is found in Christ we must commit to his community (v. 12-17)

Paul introduces both of these ideas in the first four verses of chapter 3.  If then you have been raised with Christ,” Meaning, if you have died to yourself, and found true life in Christ, then you must, “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”  The right hand of God denotes complete supremacy, primarily, the authority to make intercession with God the Father.  In Matthew 28:18 Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” And the fact that Christ is seated at the right hand of God implies that his work has been completed.  In the OT the Tabernacle and the Temple were filled with furniture for the priests to utilize in making intercession for God’s people, but one piece of furniture was conspicuously absent—there was nowhere to sit.  That was indicative of the fact that the work of OT priests was never finished— they continually made sacrifices for sin, and that is contrasted with the Great High Priest, Jesus who, according to Heb. 9:12, “entered once for all into the holy places…by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

So Paul is saying, since true life is found in Christ, we must set our minds on his supremacy.  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” He continues this point in v. 2: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Many Christians read this verse through their western worldview and interpret it to mean a distinction between the spiritual and the physical.  They take it to mean, don’t think about physical things like the planet, and your body and material reality, but just meditate on spiritual things like what you think heaven will be like.  That would almost be the opposite of what Paul meant here.  When Paul contrasts “things that are above,” with “things that are on earth” he is not making a contrast between physical and spiritual, but he is highlighting a contrast of supremacy and subordination.  He’s not saying physical things on the earth don’t matter, he is saying that they are subordinate in contrast to the supremacy of Christ, so we must set our minds on the supremacy of Christ.  Paul explained previously in 2:15 that God “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them (above them) in (Christ).”  In 2:11 Paul says, “(He) is the head (above) of all rule and authority.”  So in these first four verses of chapter 3 Paul is not calling us to forget about the world, he is calling us to set our minds on the supremacy of Christ over (above) the world.  Since true life is found in Christ, we must set our minds on his supremacy. 

This gets even clearer in v. 3: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”  Due to the form of our pronouns in English you can’t see this, but each time the word you or your is used in v. 3 and 4, it is plural, which is striking when you consider that the noun for ‘life’ in v. 3 and 4 is singular.  For you (all) have died, and your (plural) life (singular) is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your (plural) life (singular) appears, then you (all) also will appear with him in glory.”  Which shows us that true life in Christ is found in commitment to Christ’s community.  ‘My’ life is not hidden with Christ in God.  And OUR ‘lives’ are not hidden with Christ in God—OUR LIFE (singular; one life) is hidden with Christ in God. Which means that my life is inextricably connected to your life, and to everyone who has been raised with Christ in salvation.  Since true life is found in Christ, we must set our minds on the supremacy of Christ, and we do that by dying to ourselves, and committing to his community. 

The result is that when Christ does return to establish his kingdom on the earth, we will appear with him in the glory of the true utopia of the kingdom of God.  Progress or technology or earthly political power or American liberty will not lead us to utopian glory.  Only when the true King, Jesus returns, “When Christ who is our life appears, then we will also appear with him in glory.” Which is why we must set our minds on his supremacy by dying to ourselves and committing to his community. 

The Supremacy of Christ Is Seen in His Authority Over All Things

Christ’s supremacy is seen in his authority over all things.  Christ has supremacy over Satan, who can do nothing without his permission.  Christ has supremacy over demons who cowered before the incarnate Christ during his earthly ministry.  He has supremacy over nature, and with a word can stifle storms or call down lightning from heaven. “The foundations of the world are laid bare at his rebuke” (Psalm 18:15) He has supremacy over all wisdom knowledge, “his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:5). He has supremacy over sickness, making the lame walk, the dumb talk, the deaf hear, and the blind see.  He has supremacy over animals and plants, causing a giant fish to swallow Jonah, a plant to give him shade, and then a worm to eat the plant.  He spoke through a donkey and shut the mouths of lions.  He has supremacy over kings, raising them up and bringing them low, their hearts like water in the hand of the Lord that he turns wherever he will.  He has supremacy over the nations which are like a drop from a bucket and are accounted as the dust on the scales before him.  He has supremacy over everything that will take place in the future, declaring the end from the beginning.  He has supremacy over all people, arriving in triumph and glory with all those who believe in him when he returns. And He has supremacy over death, triumphing over it through the cross, and granting life to everyone who believes in Him.  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

Since true life is found in Christ we must set our minds on his supremacy.

1. Since True Life Is Found in Christ We Must Die to Ourselves

The first way we set our minds on the supremacy of Christ is by dying to ourselves.  Paul clarifies that with these lists of five.  It was common in first-century Greco-Roman rhetoric to put things in lists of five, and then conclude the list with a summary statement.  It’s like how we have three point sermons.  It just signified completeness; Paul has two separate lists of five in this section. The first list is “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness,” which he summarizes as idolatry.  Idolatry is putting something in God’s place, and Paul lists five types of sins that put our desires in God’s place; idolatry.  It is idolatry that warrants God’s wrath—or God’s judgment—and he says, “In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.” Since Christ is supreme, we die to ourselves and idols of our culture.

Then he gives another list of five, “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” And he summarizes these by saying “do not lie to one another.”  This might seem like an odd summary at first, but what Paul is getting at is that our lives used to be characterized by belief in lies.  Jesus reveals in John 8 that the essence of Satan’s being is that he is a liar and the father of lies, and when we give in to our sinful desires and live according to them, we are demonstrating our trust in the very same lie that Satan told Eve in the garden.  He is saying, we used to live that way, v. 8 “But now (we) must put them all away,” and live and speak in such a way that corresponds with the truth of Christ’s supremacy, and not the lies of our sinful culture. 

Setting our minds on the supremacy of Christ means dying to ourselves by putting to death our idolatry, which is our personal desire for things that try to take God’s place, and by putting to death the things in our life that lie to others about who God is. 

One of the biggest lies in our culture is that true life is found in unfettered embracing of your personal desires, and living ‘your truth’ with no regard for the supremacy of Christ.  But true life is actually found in dying to our personal desires and embracing the truth of the supremacy of Christ.  It is putting to death my personal individual image that I am trying to construct, and “putting on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”  When we die to our radical individualism that seeks meaning and expression in externals we find true life in the body of Christ.  That’s why Paul says in v. 11,  “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”  When you die to yourself, external things—like ethnicity, tribe, or social status—don’t determine your meaning or your identity, Christ does.  Since true life is found in Christ, we must set our minds on his supremacy, and we do that by dying to ourselves. 

For the last several years I’ve grown tomatoes in my backyard.  This spring I found that one of the tomatoes from last year had fallen off the vine and into a partially open bag of potting soil.  When I went to use the bag this year I discovered a small tomato plant already growing inside of it.  I cut the bag around the plant and left it where it was, and that tomato plant grew to be about 7 feet tall and gave us more tomatoes than any other plant, so many that we were giving them away. 

From that one individual tomato came an abundance of life—baskets full of tomatoes from a massive plant—but in order for that to happen, the original tomato and the seeds within it had to die.  Every farmer and backyard gardener knows that for new life to grow, the old life must die.  That’s why Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24-25).  Since true life is found in Christ, we must set our minds on his supremacy, and we do that by dying to ourselves.

You will not experience the fruit-producing, growth-giving life of Christ unless you die to yourself.  Since Christ is supreme, we must die to our idolatry.  Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”  Which means, don’t try to find life in those things, instead, die to them.  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).    True life isn’t found in expressing my individual desires, but in the supremacy of Christ—I am not my own. 

Our culture seductively tells us that giving into our desires and identifying ourselves by our desires will make us authentic people who are being true to ourselves—that is just a repackaged version of Satan’s lie to Eve in the garden.  It’s the lie that says giving into your desire will bring enlightenment rather than enslavement.  Paul says we used to walk in that idolatry, “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.”  Meaning that if you are a Christ-follower, your life must be reflection of Jesus, not your own individuality— “seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”  Dying to ourselves means getting to know Jesus so we look more and more like him, and less and less like the idolatrous, lie promoting world.

This doesn’t mean that Christians are perfect-far from it! We are still sinful people in a sinful world, but Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).  We must die to our selfishness with our time.  We must die to any prideful ambitions.  We must die to our insecurity that seeks the praise of people.  We must die to our desire to define ourselves by externals like a social tribe, our economic status, or our personal style.  And the only way to die to ourselves is to set our minds on the supremacy of Christ, who took the wrath of God that we deserved in our place on the cross, and conquered sin and death by rising from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of God with the name that is above every name.  If you have been raised with Christ, set your minds on the supremacy of Christ.  Since true life is found in Christ, we must set our minds on his supremacy, and we do that by dying to ourselves.

2. Since True Life Is Found in Christ We Must Commit to His Community

Paul already made clear in the first four verses of chapter 3 that life in Christ is life in a community.  We have a singular life experienced in a corporate community.  Here he is telling us that life in Christ is not just experienced in dying to ourselves, but life in Christ is experienced by committing to Christ’s community. 

He starts by giving another list of five: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,” Then before his summary statement of this list he interjects v. 13 “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” And his summary statement for the list is v. 14: “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  Everything in v. 12-14 is a radical expression of commitment to a community.  You don’t show compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance or forgiveness to people you aren’t committed to.  Dying to ourselves inevitably leads us into a commitment to Christ’s community, where we experience true life together.  Since true life is found in Christ, we must set our minds on his supremacy, and we do that by committing to his community. 

Paul solidifies this idea in v. 15 “And let the peace of Christ (have supremacy) in your (plural) hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. (In one community!) And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (that is, have supremacy in your hearts), teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,” That means, whatever you do, in word or deed, give Christ supremacy in all of it. “giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Since true life is found in Christ, we must set our minds on his supremacy, and we do that by committing to his community. 

This February Psychology today released an article entitled, “Loneliness: A New Epidemic in the USA” The article read: “Cigna and Ipsos (4) surveyed 20,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, and almost half report feeling alone (40%) or left out (47%). One in four (27%) feel they are not understood. Two in five (43%) feel relations are not meaningful and they feel isolated (43%). Generation Z (those born after about 1995) was found to be the loneliest generation. And social media use alone is not a predictor of loneliness. In all the findings, a lack of meaningful human connectedness is paramount.”

Friends, the church of Jesus Christ is perfectly poised to give real community to lonely people.  Our radically individualized, compartmentalized, and hyper-mobile culture has had the unintended consequence of leaving people extremely lonely, and the Jesus intends his community—the church—to be the place where lonely people find belonging, feel understood, have meaningful relationships, and ultimately, experience the family of God.  Our vision at this church is “to see our communities flourish as God intended.”  God does not intend for people to be lonely!  In Gen. 1-2 When God made everything he said it is good, it is good, it is good, it is very good, but there was one thing, before any sin ever came into the world that he said was not good: it is not good that man should be alone! God designed us for community, specifically, for his community, the church.  And being part of a community takes commitment. 

We understand commitment in other areas of life.  For instance, if this January you say you want to improve your fitness and lose 20 pounds, we understand that for that to happen you have to commit to something.  You have to commit to a regular workout routine; you have to commit to a regular time to do that routine; you have to commit to a calorie restrictive diet, commit to eating certain amounts—if you want your fitness to improve and your old image to change that takes commitment! 

The same goes for community.  If you are lonely, you’ve got to commit to Christ’s community.  You can’t expect to experience deep, meaningful community if you don’t commit time to it; it doesn’t work like that.  We have to commit to getting together with each other.  And you know as well as I do that if we don’t schedule it, it’s not going to happen! We have small groups in our church for the distinct purpose of commitment to Christ’s community, and I encourage you to get involved in one.  Maybe you ought to lead one.  That means people in your house, messes, uncomfortable silences, but if we are going to combat the epidemic of loneliness in our culture we must commit to Christ’s community.  Since true life is found in Christ, we must set our minds on his supremacy, and we do that by committing to his community.  When Christ is supreme in our hearts we teach and encourage one another, together in community.  When Christ is supreme in our lives we are patient and kind with one another.  When Christ is supreme in our community, lonely people are invited into a vibrant life in Christ.  Since true life is found in Christ, we must set our minds on his supremacy, and we do that by committing to his community.

The only way we as human being can experience life as God intended is if we set our minds on the supremacy of Christ, and we do that by dying to ourselves and committing to his community.  The supremacy of Christ shows us that true life is not found in ourselves, but in him—that we must take our eyes off ourselves and put them on Christ—we must die to ourselves.  The supremacy of Christ shows us that true life is not found by ourselves, but in Christ’s community—and we must take our minds off ourselves and set them on Christ—we must commit to his community.  Our culture has searched for true life by following their own path, and it has left millions of people lost, searching for the way home.  Only when we set our minds on the things that are above—on the supremacy of Christ—will we find the true way to life.

When I was about six or seven years old my family and I went on a hike in the high desert mountains behind my grandparents house in onyx California, about 100 miles from Death Valley. About halfway through my brother and I, impatient with the slowness of our grandparents and parents, set off from the group, blazing the trail ahead.  We would stop every now and then to make sure we were still within sight of the group, but soon we went too far up the mountain and we couldn’t see the group, and the wind began howling blowing our cries for help into the wilderness.  My brother and I finally admitted to each other what we had been too scared to admit: we were lost.  I was scared.  I cried a little bit.  After sitting on a rock with my brother and trying to figure out what to do, we saw my grandparents dog.  She had found us.  She was a good dog and always went home, so we decided to follower her.  It was almost like she knew we were lost, and she would go down the mountain a bit and then wait for us to catch up, and continue doing that until we reached the bottom, and ultimately, she did in fact lead us back to my grandparents house where only my grandma was, and our parents and aunts and uncles were all out looking for us.  Eventually they all got word that we were okay and came back to the house.  Fortunately, everyone was so relieved that we were okay that we didn’t get in trouble. 

The next time we went out for a hike I had committed to staying close to my grandpa.  No blazing the trail ahead of the group for me.  We were hiking in a different spot than before, and I was enjoying seeing the new territory.  Suddenly my grandpa called my name with the frightening voice of authority that only a grandpa has.  He said, “Casey, that’s why you got lost.  I’ve been watching you this whole time, and you’ve spent our entire walk looking down at your feet.  The only way to know where you are and where you’re going is to keep your eyes up.” 

Friends, truer words could not be spoken to our lost culture.  We’ve spent so much time looking down at our own feet that we’ve lost all bearing on where we are, and we don’t know how to get home.  But if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above.  Pick your eyes up off your feet and put them on Christ.  Look up!  Look up for direction, look up for belonging, look up for life!  Since true life is found in Christ, we must set our minds on his supremacy in all things.  Let’s take our eyes off of our feet, and put them on Christ.