Things Above

Yesterday I noted that Paul explained that there are many teachings that seem wise, but in reality do not have any power to restrain someone from “sensual indulgence”, or in other words, from sin. Frequently, we might ask ourselves how we can leave sin behind, how we can, as Paul said in another place, not do what I want to do. My flesh, my sinful nature, wants to sin. It wants what I do not want, and so I must put that off, I must put it away.

But how? Paul has told us that wise-sounding religious rules of “do this” or “don’t do that” really don’t have any power to restrain us. And I think that I would certainly tend to agree.

But if not that, then what?

Paul goes on in chapter 3 of Colossians to explain that we have to look beyond the things of the world to the things above. That which comes from heaven, that which comes God, that is what we need to look toward. We need to consider those things, and if we do, if we will focus on that, then we will no longer desire those things that are of the world.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Colossians 3:1-2

The earthly things are the “sensual indulgences” of the world. They are the things that are designed to lead us away from Christ. They are the desires of our flesh that want to distract us from that which is right, that which is holy. But the things above are those things that are good and right and just. They are the things that are holy. They are the things that are of God. These are the things that we must learn to desire because they are much greater than the things of the world. These are the things that will last forever, eternally.

I should say that this isn’t to say that there is a difference in pleasure. There is great pleasure in the things above. There is great enjoyment. But these are pleasures and joys that, in addition to the pleasures and enjoyment that are temporary, are also pleasures and enjoyment that lead to eternity. They aren’t temporary.

Paul subsequently makes a list of the things that we should put off and instead look to things above. He says:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

Colossians 3:5

So, for example, let’s say that the first three in the list all pertain to sex. Does that mean that we shouldn’t enjoy the pleasures of sex? No, of course not. Paul isn’t telling us to put off sex. He is telling us to put off sex that belongs to the earthly nature. Instead, he is referring us toward sexual pleasure and enjoyment that leads to eternal life. That which God has called us to with our spouses. He calls us toward that which he has built for us, not a perversion of that which was designed.

By looking beyond that which is of the flesh, that which is of this world, we choose Christ instead. We prefer what he offers us instead of what the world offers us. We desire those things that are good because we get more pleasure, more enjoyment, more happiness, more joy out of those things. We are, instead, blessed eternally by this way of living.

This reminds me of the parables that Jesus told of the treasure in the field, or the pearl of great price. Remember what happened with the man that found these treasures? He sold everything so that he could purchase that one thing. He left everything behind so that he could purchase that which was worth so much more. He saw no value in everything else that he owned when he compared it to the value, the worth, of that treasure, so therefore he sold it all just so that he could buy that field that contained the treasure, or that pearl that was worth it all.

This is the same idea. Jesus said that the treasure is the kingdom of God. The way that we can put off sin is to prefer the kingdom. We prefer what our King says. To enjoy it more than what the world has to offer to us. This is how we can look toward the things above and leave behind the things of this world.

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