As a child, and even as a young adult, I spent most of my time in the city. Now, the city has its advantages, but stargazing is not one of them. The city lights obscure your view of the heavens, so that only the brightest stars are visible. But that all changed for me a little over three years ago, when I moved to a rural community in Texas. As we settled in, there were two things I noticed: it is quiet, and it is dark. Now, when I go outside at night and look up, I see a star-filled sky. On clear, cool nights, that is one of thing I like to do – gaze at the heavens above.
In Colossians 3, Paul calls us to do just that, although not physically. 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. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth." (Col. 3:1-2)
Called to An Upward Gaze
In these verses, Paul calls Christians to set their minds on the things above. In calling us to an upward gaze, Paul doesn't mean for us to neglect our earthly responsibilities; instead, he calls us to gaze upward as a means to fight against our fleshly desire for sin. In this way, setting our minds on the things above becomes a gospel-motivation for sanctification.
The Benefits of Union with Christ
As believers, we are united to Christ in the likeness of His death and resurrection. Although our union hasn't yet resulted in an experiential resurrection, it has resulted in a positional resurrection (Rom. 6:2-11). United with Christ in faith, we are already raised from the dead and seated with Him in the heavenly places. Our current position in Christ allows us, in this life, to enjoy some of the privileges and blessings of the life to come, including a repaired relationship with and access to the Father; true peace, joy, and love; a change in Masters and kingdoms; freedom from the sting of death; and power over sin (Heb. 4:14-16; Col. 1:11-14, 20; 1 Cor. 15:55; Ps 110:1; Eph. 1:15-22; 2:4-7).
A Cycle of Sanctification
As we set our minds on the things above, we are reminded of our freedom from and power over sin, as well as of our future sinless reality. That reminder should motivate us to kill sin in our lives. Killing sin in our lives allows us to experience the blessings and joy of the life to come. As we are experiencing a taste of our life to come, we should be motivated once again to set our minds on the things above, which will start the cycle over again. In this way, we enter into a cycle of sanctification, which is driven by our understanding of the gospel, instead of shame, guilt, or legalism.