Seeking and Thinking Upon the Right Things

With the new year ahead of us, many people are making all sorts of New Year’s Resolutions—new diets, new Bible reading plans, new commitments to exercise more. We have all heard of the truism: “You are what you eat.” In many ways, this statement is true! If you feed your body well, you will generally have better health and more energy. If you feed your body a steady diet of junk food, then the results are somewhat predictable. But think with me for a second about this saying’s spiritual counterpart: “How we think effects how we behave.” Perhaps in this new year, we as Christians could use a little re-focusing on how we think.

Consider the truth of Romans 6:11: “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11, ESV). If we think about the reality that we as Christians have died with Christ on the cross to the power of sin, then we can find victory as we strive to live holy lives. This sort of thinking will have a serious impact on the way we live our lives.

In a sense, we are living corpses. We are dead to ourselves and alive in Christ (Col. 2:20). We have been buried with him (Col. 2:12), have been raised up with him (Col. 3:1) and have been seated with him in the presence of God the Father (Col. 3:1). If we can get our heads around what this means, it will have a huge impact on the way that we live life now.

Colossians 3:1-3 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 things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1–3, ESV)

In this blogpost, I’d like to look a little more closely at this idea of seeking the right things and how that affects our thinking as Christians.


As we begin, it would be helpful to take some time to remember the situation the church of Colossae faced. They had this false teaching that was spreading what was a mix of Jewish ceremonialism and a false teaching that would later be called Gnosticism.

Jewish ceremonialism demanded that they follow all the rules and regulations of the Old Testament, while failing to see that those ceremonies pointed to Jesus Christ (Col. 2:16-17).

Early Gnostic mysticism demanded ascetic living, angel worship, and visions while simultaneously taking the focus off of Christ (Col. 2:18-19).

One form of Gnosticism failed to see the symbolism of the Old Testament ceremonies and rituals that pointed to Jesus Christ, while the other form placed the focus on lesser beings and self-affliction to gain greater access to God. Both forms of this false teaching led the people away from God through rituals, ceremonies and false philosophies. The motivation for seeking God was man-made traditions and rules. And both failed because they did not address the heart and the mind.

So, Paul, in these four verses (Col. 3:1-4) turned from these false teachings to the true motivation given for pleasing God and living a victorious Christian life that replaces man-made rules and traditions. This brings us back to the truth I stated at the beginning: How we think effects how we behave. In Colossians 3:1-4 we find two keys that will unlock for us the real motivation for living for Christ that deals with the heart and the mind before it deals with the flesh.

1. Seek the Things That Are Above (v. 1)

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1, ESV)

Paul begins by giving to us the counter to the false teacher’s approach that he has just finished discussing in Colossians 2. “If then” is a conditional statement that really could be translated “Since.” Since you have been raised with Christ. What has happened as a result of being raised with Christ? We died to sin according to Romans 6. And according to Colossians 2:12, we were buried with Christ in baptism (“having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” (ESV))

The very next verse (Col. 2:13) adds that not only did we die to our sins with Christ, but we were also made alive together with him at his resurrection. Paul once again reminds his readers of this fact in 3:1. Since we have been raised with Christ, Paul is saying, seek the things that are above. Really, Paul’s grammar tells us that he means, “Keep on seeking!” This isn’t a one-time deal. We are to keep on seeking. Paul is saying that since we are those who are truly spiritually alive, who have our lives in Jesus Christ. Therefore, let us place our goals, aspirations and dreams upon those things that are above, where our lives are at—with the Savior who is not on earth, but sitting at the right hand of the Father.

Whereas the false teachers were placing their sights upon earthly goals, Paul says that what we ought to seek is far above—in heaven. In other words, our values system changes when we see ourselves as being alive with Christ in heaven. We stop seeking primarily after the things on this earth because our lives are not here on earth, but in heaven with Christ. Our attachment to earthly things will be evaluated with this truth. We will have a different standard of value for material possessions because we have treasure laid up in heaven. We will not be concerned about gaining honor from men, because we are enthroned with Christ—and there is no greater honor than that. We will not seek after earthly power, because we have all power in Christ. We will not chase after fame because we have already gained the loving approval of our heavenly Father.

All of these things that men seek after are earthly things and the one who grasps the reality of what he or she has in Christ will not seek after them with the same hungering and passion as the unredeemed man. We may need and use earthly things while we are here, but we will not spend an inordinate amount of time or energy chasing them because we see their true value in the light of what we already have in Christ.

2. Set Your Mind on the Things that Are Above (vv. 2-4)

“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.” (Colossians 3:2–4, ESV)

Like the command in verse 1, this is also given in the same tense and could be translated, “Keep on thinking on the things that are above.” Keep on thinking about heavenly things. Some people say that some Christians are “Too heavenly minded to be any earthly good,” but I think that the real problem is that too many Christians are not heavenly minded enough to be any earthly good. Our eyes are on this world and not on heaven.

Paul reminds us why we ought to have this heavenly focus in verse 4. Christian, you are dead, he writes. You are no longer a citizen of earth. Sure, you need to live here for a few more years, but this planet is not your home. You are a visitor. Don’t unpack your bags! You are an alien, a foreigner in a strange, distant land, so don’t get too comfortable! This isn’t your home. Your old life—it is gone! You died. You are no longer the same person. You died and have been reborn a different person. So, don’t focus your mind on the things on this fallen earth, rather think about the things in your true home where Christ is.

When I was little boy, I went to a Christian camp in California called Indian Village. It was the first time that I had been away from home by myself, not counting staying over my grandparent’s house. I got so homesick at camp. I thought about the food at home and my toys and my bed. I especially thought about my mom and dad and my little brother. I was so unsettled, that I refused to take a shower for several days. That is until my camp counselor helped me get over the embarrassment by letting me shower after everyone had left camp for an activity and I was allowed to shower in my swim trunks. That teepee tent I slept in at night for a week was not my home, and I was not going to get used to it. I eventually settled down some and even had a good time, but I was ready to go home when the buses came!

Colossians 3:3 says that our real life is hidden with Christ, who is in heaven. Life is not here—it is waiting for us in heaven. We are somewhere between heaven and earth, as Jonathan Edwards said, not a part of either heaven or earth right now. Our feet are on earth, but our heads and hearts are in heaven.

What is our motivation for this change in our thinking? Verse 4 tells us that the motivation for living in this truth is that when Jesus Christ comes (and this is sure, although the timing is unknown), then our real life will begin, and we will really start living. We will appear with him in glory. Just as we died with Christ and were buried and were raised up with Christ, when he returns, we will share in the glory. We will see the unifying of this strange existence into one. Heaven will come down and we will no longer be torn between heaven and earth. We will then be with Christ in heaven where our hearts and minds are. Everything will be made right. We, as pilgrims, will finally be home.

What are you seeking after? Heavenly things or earthly things? If you are seeking after earthly things, you will eventually leave them all behind. You can’t take them with you, and even if you could, they would be worthless in light of the treasures of heaven.

What are you thinking on? Heavenly things or earthly things? Have you unpacked your bags and begun to settle in? Have you forgotten your true home? Are you home sick? You should be. You should have a mental picture of heaven and the Lord and it should be so vivid that you can’t be truly happy to remain here on this broken planet. May we all be like the Apostle Paul, who would stay here for the blessings that he could bring the church, but he would much rather go home to heaven (Phil. 1:21-24). Paul’s eyes were set heavenward. Where are yours?


“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Luke 18:13

God of the Publican,

Be merciful to me a sinner; this I am by nature and practice, this the Word proclaims me to be, this I hope I feel myself to be; Yet Thou hast not left me to despair, for there is no ‘peradventure’ in Thy grace; I have all the assurance I need that with Thee is plenteous redemption.

In spite of the number and heinousness of my sins Thou hast given me a token for good; The golden scepter is held out, and Thou hast said, ‘Touch it and live.’ May I encourage myself by a sense of Thy all-sufficiency, by faith in Thy promises, by views of the experience of others. To that dear refuge in which so many have sheltered from every storm may I repair.

In that fountain always freely open for sin may I be cleansed from every defilement. Sin is that abominable thing which Thy soul hates, and this alone separates Thee and me. Thou canst not contradict the essential perfections of Thy nature; Thou canst not make me happy with Thyself, till Thou hast made me holy like Thyself.

O holy God, make me such a creature as Thou canst take pleasure in, and such a being that I can take pleasure in Thee. May I consent to and delight in Thy law after the inner man, never complain over the strictness of Thy demands, but mourn over my want of conformity to them; never question Thy commandments, but esteem them to be right. By Thy Spirit within me may my practice spring from principle, and my dispositions be conformable with duty.

–The Valley of Vision

When Reading Your Bible Through the Year is Wrong

Like many Christians, I have tried to make it my practice to read the Bible on a daily basis and to read through the Bible in a year by following a reading plan. I have been blessed by this practice and would recommend that every Christian be in the Bible on a daily basis.

On this New Year’s Day, fresh reading plans will begin and new Bibles purchased will be read with great anticipation and joy. I applaud these things. What joy the Word of God brings to those who would spend time plumbing its depths! There is no better use of one’s time than reading and meditating upon Scripture.

But on this New Year day, I want to add balance to some things I have heard regarding Bible reading. We live under grace, not Law. Bible reading is important—as Jesus said, it is our daily bread for our weary souls (Matthew 4:4). But there is a hidden danger in making Bible reading into a work of the Law rather than a means of grace. Beyond the self-righteousness that can come from those who do read their “Bibles before breakfast,” and expect that all Christians should do the same or they are out of fellowship with God, there is also the danger of making the Bible another “to-do” to be checked off from our list of chores every day. Rushed reading without any thought to what the verses say or mean produces Bible illiterate people as much as not reading the Bible does.

It reminds me of a saying my wife and I had in our bedroom which read, “Always Kiss Me Goodnight.” Can you imagine waking up to your spouse and saying to yourself, “If I don’t kiss her, I can’t eat breakfast, so I better get it over with and give her a kiss.” Surely this falls short of true love and the intention of this sentiment. Reading your Bible before breakfast is good in placing your relationship with the Lord above our fleshly appetites, but this can also easily slide into legalism. And legalism is powerless over the flesh. Rules eventually fail where only the Spirit of God can bring about change.

The Word of God is written for our benefit. We might not always want to read it, but this is not so much a matter of obedience as it is a matter of the heart and how it has grown cold. If we begin with this realization, we can go before our heavenly Father in confession, asking him to warm our heart and to remind us of his love for us. We can be honest, knowing that he already knows our hearts have grown cold, and we can ask him to help us in our weakness to draw close to him.

Then, with a humble heart of faith, we can draw near, knowing that as we drink from the well of the Word, our Lord will begin to give us a thirst for him. We become like the father in the New Testament who wanted to believe that Christ could heal his son, but yet he knew how weak his faith was, so he cried out, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). We might know we need to read our Bibles, but we need to be honest when we also realize that we don’t want to, and that this is a spiritual problem that we must confess to God for his help.

Today, many Christians will begin their new Bible reading strong and with the best of intentions…but in the flesh and not in dependence upon God. This year, try something new—read your Bible in dependence upon the Spirit. Not just to begin reading it, but to continue reading through to the end. The goal is not finishing the Bible, nor is it reading it every day without fail. The goal is growing close to your Savior and God. From that relationship will flow rivers of living water.  

Christ’s Intense Love in the Storms of Life

Jesus Lover of My Soul— Charles Wesley (1740)

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,

While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.

Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;

Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.


Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;

Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.

All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;

Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.


Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?

Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;

Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,

Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.


Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;

Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.

Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;

False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.


Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;

Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.

Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;

Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

3 More Blessings of Biblical Meditation


In an earlier post on Psalm 119:97-98, I shared two blessings of meditation upon the Word of God. You can read that post here.

Spurgeon, always had great illustrations of spiritual truth from the world around him. Listen to how he relates failure to meditate on the Bible:

A sudden glance at truth without meditation upon it bringeth nothing to perfection; as a hen that soon leaveth her nest never hatcheth her chicks.”

How can she? Patience is needed, and the quiet self-denial by which she renders up the warmth of her heart, otherwise her eggs will lie as dead as stones. The value of truth will never be known by those who look at it and hurry on: they must brood over it, and cover it with their heart’s love, or it will never become living truth to their souls. We must apply ourselves to a doctrine, giving our whole soul and heart to it, or we shall miss the blessing. Herein is wisdom.

Lord, when I hear a sermon, or read in a good book, let me not be as the partridge which sitteth on eggs and hatcheth them not; but make me to see life and power in thy word, and to rejoice over it as one that findeth great spoil.[1]

Brood over the Word! Let it become living truth in your soul!

Last time in Psalm 119, I wrote that meditation upon the Scriptures:

  1. Provides an Increased Love for the Word (v. 97)

“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97, ESV)

The psalmist declared his love for the Law of God. Like a baby longs for the pure milk of the Word, so too does a Christian long for the Word of God. The more he drinks deeply, the thirstier he becomes. As we consume the Word, we internalize it, like our bodies use milk to feed our bodies, so too the Word build us up in the true faith.

  1. It Also Provides Wise Counsel Against Enemies (v. 98)

“Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.” (Psalm 119:98, ESV)

As the psalmist built spiritual muscle, he found that he was able to overcome the schemes of his enemies. They may have tried to outwit him, but he found that his meditation upon the Word allowed him to avoid the traps they laid because he knew their schemes.

In this post, I want to lay out three more of the blessings which meditating upon the Scriptures provides

  1. It Provides Better Insight Than Worldly Teachers (v. 99)

“I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.” (Psalm 119:99, ESV)

Back in v. 98, the psalmist compared his wisdom to his enemies, in this next verse he compares his “understanding” of the Scriptures to his teachers.

The NASB says “insight” here. Of course, insight and understanding have the same meaning. His knowledge goes beyond the acquisition of mere knowledge. He sees deeper and understands more than simple knowledge.

The psalmist desires and has gained deep insight into the Word of God. Wanting to know more of God through knowing more of his Word is a very good thing! We should desire to “prosper” in this way! We should long to outpace our teachers in our insight into the Word of God, not in a prideful way, but in holy desire that sees that God continues to purify and instruct his people.

Back in Ps 119:99, we see the source of this deeper spiritual insight. What could it be? Would it be reading more theology books? Could it be reading through the Bible more than others? Could it be going to church more than others? All of these have value, but his source of insight is plain—it is meditation on the testimonies of the Lord—his holy Word.

You may remember that the leaders of the Jews were sometimes called the “teachers of Israel.” Nicodemus in John 3 was called this by Jesus. Even though they knew massive portions of the Old Testament by memory and knew the ins and outs of the Law and were careful to at least outwardly obey the Law, they often did not care about understanding the real meaning of God’s Word, and so they would do things like we see in Matt 15: 1-9. There it says:

“Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”” (Matthew 15:1–9, ESV)

Have you ever seen anyone guilty of doing what they did? It happens all the time. There are people who claim to be leaders in Christ’s Church who claim to know the Word, and yet, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, they ignore what it says and put on another layer of tradition to cover the truth up.

You, brothers and sisters in Christ, have more knowledge than these teachers, and you will grow more effective when you stay true to the Word of God and refuse to compromise. You will be wiser than liberal Bible professors that deny the inerrancy of Scripture and miracles. As you meditate on the Word, as you proper in your intake of the Scriptures, gaining wisdom and insight, you will be able to say profound things to the so called wise that will confound and frustrate them, all to the glory of God

2. It Provides Practical Wisdom for Life (v. 100)

“I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.” (Psalm 119:100, ESV)

In general, the Bible has a positive outlook on those that are older and more experienced, and we should have this same attitude of respect and reverence for the elders among us. Do you remember Elihu in the book of Job? He was the young one among the group of Job’s friends/counselors.

After everyone had said their piece, and Job had responded, only then did Elihu speak. Why did he wait? Job 32:4 tells us, “Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he.” (Job 32:4, ESV). Elihu is a good example of a young man who had more wisdom than his elders. But, the younger need to learn his ways—he waited, he was respectful, and thoughtful. But he also did not stay silent when he needed to speak the truth!

In Job 12:12, Job himself said, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” (Job 12:12, ESV). Age and experience bring wisdom, and often there is nothing that will substitute for the understanding and experience of life. But old age does not automatically mean a person is wise! There are many foolish old men and women!

When the Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, he showed that stubborn sinfulness bypassed the wisdom that the people should have had from God’s Word. You see, they may have known the Word, but they foolishly ignored it, even knowing the consequences they knew were coming.

Jeremiah 8:4-9 says:

“You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord: When men fall, do they not rise again? If one turns away, does he not return? Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return. I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly; no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle. Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the Lord. “How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them?” (Jeremiah 8:4–9, ESV)

To know the Word and not obey it is knowledge without wisdom. This can lead to destruction! Jesus warned of this in Matt 7:24-27 in his parable of the wise man and the foolish man. What is the difference? One heard and obeyed, the other heard and did not obey! Who cares how old you are if you don’t obey the Lord?!

That is what Psalm 119:100 is saying. Read it again. It says, “I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.” (Psalm 119:100, ESV). Do you see it? You might be a long time in a church, you might have read the Bible 100 times. You might have been born on the steps of the church and never missed a Sunday school class, but do you obey?

Do you want to be wiser than the aged? Do you want to be a wise old man or wise old woman? Then learn the Word, and meditate upon it so that you can obey it!

3. It Provides Help to Resist Evil Temptations (v. 101)

“I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.” (Psalm 119:101, ESV)

A major metaphor in the Bible for living life is the idea of a “pathway.” A path leads somewhere. It is the idea of making one’s way in life, making decisions about which direction to go as the road forks in two different directions.

Matthew 7:13-14 uses this imagery when it reveals that there are only two ways in this world. That is it, two ways—two destinations. Jesus said, ““Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13–14, ESV)

The wide and easy way has many paths that criss-cross, making it seem like there are a lot of options out there that we can make in this life—many varying paths and many different choices. But Jesus lumps all of them together because the destination is the same—whether you choose to live for yourself, live as a good and moral person, or live somewhere in between. A life without faith in Jesus Christ is a life that will end in destruction.

Only the life lived in faith in Christ, lived as a humble disciple of the Lord, will find that they inherit eternal life. It might be hard, at times stressful and painful, but in the end, the road opens up into the presence of God himself.

The psalmist speaks in v. 101 of the “evil way,” the path, which is one doesn’t depart from, will lead to his or her destruction. How does one make sure they aren’t on this path that leads to destruction? The path is chosen in obedience to the Lord’s Word.

Think about it this way: In Vietnam there are 16.3 million acres of land that are still contaminated with landmines from the Vietnam War. More than 42,000 people have been killed by hidden mines since 1975.[2]

Can you imagine standing on the edge of a vast field in the Vietnamese countryside? Your eyes see many footpaths that cut across these fields, but you are aware of the danger of these hidden mines. How will you make your way across to the other side?

The Word of God is like a map, it lays out the path to take, where to turn, where to avoid, where to stop and wait and where to move quickly. The whole thing is laid out right here in this Book we call the Bible. How can we avoid the evil path that destroys, maims and brings immense pain and suffering in our lives and the lives of others? Follow the Word! Keep it!

How often we can foolishly set aside the Word and rush into life with reckless abandon. We say things like, “I know the Bible says I shouldn’t do this, but…” and then we justify our path and run into painful disaster.

Proverbs 5 is one of those paths that screams warnings about adultery, but how many have ignored all the warnings and been undone by its devastating wreckage? Listen to me, YOU ARE NOT DIFFERENT, YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL. YOU WILL BE DESTROYED BY YOUR SIN. It is true for me and you. Stay on the pathway God has laid out. Meditate on the path in the Word, and meditate upon the examples in Scripture of those who were foolish enough to ignore God and were destroyed because of it.


So can you see how practical and necessary meditation on the Bible is for the Christian life?

        1. It Provides Better Insight Than Worldly Teachers (v. 99)
        2. It Provides Practical Wisdom for Life (v. 100)
        3. It Provides Help to Resist Evil Temptations (v. 101)

In God’s Battle Plan for the Mind, David Saxton wrote:

“Though many believers excel at Bible study, some are not as skilled at putting the truth into actual practice. Reflexive meditation seeks to solve this unfortunate dilemma by asking, “What have I personally done with this truth that I have learned?” As Thomas Manton aptly expressed, “The fruit of study is to hoard up truth, but the fruit of meditation is to practice it.”[3]

Like Spurgeon’s hen, we need to sit upon the Scripture until it is fully hatched in our souls. To change the metaphor, the Holy Spirit will take our efforts, those seeds of his Word, and he will plant them deep in our hearts so that they will sprout up and grow strong and produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. It begins with the Word and meditation.

[1]C. H. Spurgeon, Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden, Distilled and Dispensed(New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1883), 66.


[3]Saxton, David W.. God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation (Kindle Locations 1005-1008). Reformation Heritage Books. Kindle Edition.