“Raised with Our Risen Lord” (Colossians 3:1-4)
Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)
Yes, indeed Christ is risen! And because he is, guess what? You are risen too! That’s our message this morning on this beautiful Easter Day: “Raised with Our Risen Lord.”
Our text is the Epistle, from Colossians, where it says that we have been “raised with Christ.” But of course that is predicated on Christ himself having been raised. If Christ has not been raised, then everything else falls apart. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, and so everything holds together. The bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the basis, the rock-solid foundation, of our entire faith and life and eternity.
Let me say it again: The death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the central fact of all of human history. Everything hinges on it. There is no greater event that has ever taken place. This is why Easter Day is the grandest, most glorious, day of the year. This is why every Sunday–the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, the day on which our Lord Jesus rose from the dead, the day on which he comes and is present with his people gathered in his name to receive his gifts–this is why every Lord’s Day is a foretaste of the new creation, the life of the age to come, the marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom, which has no end. So let’s say it again, with gusto: Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)
And yes, you are risen with Christ. God has raised you up with him. “How is that?” you say. “I’m not dead yet!” Oh, but you were! You were dead. Dead spiritually. Which means you would be dead physically too. And dead and damned and doomed for eternity.
But how were we dead? We were dead in our sins. Alienated and separated from God, our Creator. Blind, lost, and in the dark. That is our natural condition, ever since we humans fell into sin. We lost our original righteousness, our being right with God and living in communion with him and with one another. Now sin has entered the picture. We don’t love God by nature. We don’t love one another as we ought and as we were meant to do. We break God’s commandments and don’t listen to his voice. We go our own way. And with sin, death also entered the picture. Physical and eternal death is the consequence of our spiritual deadness. A hopeless mess we got ourselves into. And it affects, and infects, every single one of us. “You were dead in your trespasses,” as St. Paul says in Colossians chapter 2.
But what happened to change this sad and sorry picture? Christ came into it. The Son of God came down from heaven and entered our sorry mess. Jesus to the rescue! And the rescue takes a strange form. This same Jesus is nailed to a cross and dies. He does this to rescue you from your death. For that’s what it would take, the Son of God dying in your place and in the place of every other sinner who has ever lived. Only Jesus could atone for all that sin.
That’s what Good Friday is about. Jesus doing the rescue job on the cross. Jesus conquering our enemies by his death on the cross. Paul tells us about that, too. In Colossians 2, he says that God has “forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Yes, in Christ, the slate is wiped clean. Your debt is canceled. Your enemies are defeated–sin, death, the devil, and hell. Christ has ransomed you from all of that. He has rescued and redeemed you.
And the resurrection of Christ is the proof of that. God accepted Christ’s sacrifice for sin and raised him from the dead. Death could not hold him. The resurrection of Christ is the big absolution for all sinners. God forgives you. He pronounces you righteous for Christ’s sake.
What happened on Good Friday and Easter–for they are really one inseparable event–what happened in the death and resurrection of Christ is so monumental, so magnificent, that it changes everything. Forgiveness has the victory over sin. Life has the victory over death. The grave is shattered. Satan’s domain comes crashing down. It’s a whole new world opening up, a whole new creation.
Now how do we get in on it? We need to get raised up from our old state of deadness–dead people cannot raise themselves–we need to be raised up from the old world of death and darkness and be brought bounding into this new realm of light and life. Again, it is God’s doing, not ours. So how does God do it? Paul puts it like this. He says that you have been buried with Christ “in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him.”
See? Your old sinful self was buried with Jesus in baptism and then raised up with him. God made you alive together with Christ. This is all his powerful working, to raise Christ from the dead, to raise you from the dead, and to give you the gift of faith to believe all this, to trust in what he has done. What a great life-giving gift was given you in your baptism!
This then sets the stage for what we read in Colossians 3, our actual text today: “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. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
“If then you have been raised with Christ.” Well, based on what we heard in the verses leading up to this, Paul is making the point here that you have indeed been raised with Christ. You are baptized, believing Christians. You are new creatures in Christ, gifted with the Holy Spirit. So then, what difference does this make in our life? How does this change our way of living? We are not the same anymore. We have been brought from death to life. We are no longer in the dark. Therefore, live accordingly. Live and think and act according to who you are now in Christ. You have been raised with Christ. Be who you are now.
“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.” “Seek the things that are above,” “set your minds on things that are above.” What does this mean? Well, I can tell you what it does not mean. It does not mean that you sit around all day, staring up into the sky, waiting for Jesus to return. It does not mean that you become so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good. It does not mean that you just daydream about pie-in-the-sky in the sweet bye-and-bye. No, it does not mean that.
What it does mean is that you reorient your life with a view toward eternity. This changes your perspective. You are secure in Christ, knowing that your eternal salvation is taken care of by him. You can take risks now. You can risk loving your neighbor. You can take a risk and live generously. You can risk forgiving those who have wronged you. You can be free to help and serve your neighbor, knowing you have eternal riches in Christ.
To seek the things that are above, to set your mind on things above–this changes your priorities. You see things now from God’s perspective, and your values and your choices in life will probably change. No, they will definitely change! You’ll begin to want to know more about God’s will. That means coming to church more regularly. That means even coming to Bible class, as radical of a change that might be. You will want to share the good news of Christ with your friends and relatives. You will want to support the work of the kingdom through this congregation and through the church at large. Raised with Christ, with a new mind and a new heart, you will want to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what it is to seek the things above, to set your mind on things above.
It’s the same as saying, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Those earthly things will not be what you most seek after. Those things that the Gentiles seek after are no longer governing your life. Certainly those would include various vices, like immorality and covetousness, malice and slander. But also just living for fun and pleasure, seeking after that as your highest good–that no longer is your highest good. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” With this perspective and with new priorities, those other things will begin to fade into the background, become less important. You have a new life. Your sights have been raised. Because you have been raised. Raised with Christ, your risen Lord.
Christ himself has been raised from the dead and now is seated at the right hand of God. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. But that should not frighten you. On the contrary, this is our greatest hope, knowing that Jesus will return and raise up our dead bodies to live with him and with all his saints in glorified bodies, in a renewed and restored creation! Now that is something to look forward to! Paul gives us that note to close on: “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Dear friends, the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ changes everything! It forgives our trespasses and cancels our debt. It opens up life before us, life that will never end! The resurrection of Christ puts the power into baptism, where God raised you up and made you alive together with Christ. And now because you are raised with Christ, this changes your perspective and your priorities here in this life. Indeed, Christ is risen from the dead, and you are too!