Seeking the Things that Are Above
We return to Paul’s letter to the Church at Colossae, and to the same theme we previously discussed. That day I discussed how so many Christians are guilty of looking for something more than what the Christian faith provides – for instance, ascetic practices, worship of angels (which violates the First Commandment), and visions. And as for visions, Hebrews 1:1 tells us that God did indeed speak to the prophets long ago through many ways but that in these latter days, God has spoken to us definitively by His Son, who is “the exact imprint of His nature” (1:3). Therefore, we are to hear the Word now in the pages of Scripture as His Holy Spirit breathes to us its meaning as we hear its words in a saving and spiritual way. Today, we note that Paul recites more of these rules which some were imposing on others, rules concerning food and drink, festivals, new moons, and even Sabbaths. (As for Sabbaths, it is hard to tell if Paul meant the one day in seven as prescribed in the Fourth Commandment, or the imposition of the special Sabbaths of the Jewish calendar. I tend to think the latter as the former is one of the ten moral laws.) Paul further relates how these rules regarded matters such as “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch.”
The trouble with all of this is that it entirely misses the point – which is Christ who is the substance of our faith. Indeed, Paul says that all this other is related to the “sensuous mind” as it focuses on the body and the things of this world. Yes, it appears religious but it has no power to stop the indulgence of the flesh; indeed, it furthers it by serving it.
Paul’s remedy is what we need to hear: “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Why? Because “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” But what does this mean and how does one do it? Abiding by rules and regulations is so much easier! I don’t profess to be an expert on this but I believe it is about meditating on Christ himself – who he is as the Lord who assumed our humanity that he could take our place; who intercedes on our behalf before the Father even now; who will return to receive us unto himself; who is our very life. All wisdom and knowledge abides in him who is God’s word to us revealed in Scripture. So if one wants to fast, if one wishes to honor a day, well and good, but do so unto the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:31). Understand that these are means to the end of knowing and serving our Lord. The substance belongs to Christ. And as he said to Peter, “You follow me” (John 21:22).