I am always struck by that one little sentence that comes out of Jesus’ mouth: The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop (Luke 12:16). We can easily pass over those words. After all, the spotlight really shines on a farmer, right? A rich farmer. He harvests lush fields, stuffs hay into mammoth barns, and packs silos with corn, oats, and beans. He can withdraw from storage anytime he needs money. He lacks nothing— and never will again. Nothing! …except you know how the account ends. God stoops down, looks this misguided farmer in the eye. ‘You fool!’ The farmer, a fool! Why? Because of that easily overlooked sentence: The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop.
Do you grasp the significance of those words? The farmer did not crack open the seed. He did not pull out roots and pour water into each tiny root hair. He did not stretch out stalks and leaves. He did not push out cobs and pods. The farmer did absolutely nothing! The ground did everything! The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop— and arrogance thinks he controls the future of his life. That he holds in his brain and barns all he needs for life happily ever after! What. a. fool. All the wealth in his barns cannot keep secure earthly life and it certainly cannot open eternal life! How foolish to latch onto earthly things!
Still it happens. Money, power, status, pleasure exist. Their existence in this world grab at you (and me), threatening to make us fools. You (and I) live in this world, but remember this: you are not of this world. Your goals, your attitude is different. You Have Been Raised in Christ. Put to death the sinful nature and Set your mind on things above.
That might be difficult. On the one hand, you have a unique identity; you stand on God’s side. Remember what God said to you last week? [You have] been buried with [Christ] in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God… (Colossians 2:12). That means your baptism did something; it connected you to Christ Jesus. [A]ll of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:27). Picture it: God has put Jesus on you— the innocence, the blamelessness, the perfection. So, right here, right now, this moment you are spiritually clean, spotless, unstained—even while alive in this world.
That’s where the difficulty creeps in. Not everyone loves God. We have friends that do not go to church, friends that deny God’s existence, friends that mock Christianity. Co-workers cuss, spew out filthy jokes, and brag about last night’s conquests. Your family may never apologize for hurting you and they may deliberately act like the past never happened. You (and I) live among people who dislike putting God’s expectations into practice. Then there’s the life you (and I) live in this world. You (and I) need a certain amount of money for food, housing, health, vehicle, maintenance. You (and I) really enjoy trips away, activities in the woods and on the lakes. You, like me, probably crave security and comfort. You (and I) must use worldly items in order to stay alive.
That’s fine! God does not command you to avoid all non-Christian people and things and form Christian-only communities in some desolate wasteland. No, God has placed you into this world with the intention that you live in this world. What God does command is this: Put to death therefore what is earthly in you… There’s that word again: ‘earthly.’ Everything the world praises and God condemns. [S]exual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Is that what you do? Do you [p]ut to death what is earthly? Does your body belong to your spouse alone? [Grand]Parents, do you teach your [grand]children that sex is meant for marriage? Do you flee fantasies by changing channels or leaving that website? Even more, do you remind one another how to properly discuss the opposite sex? Do you work towards contentment in your marriage— not wishing that you were with ‘Joe Perfect’ or ‘Nancy Wonderful’? Experienced spouses— do you help strengthen bonds of troubled marriages? Do you remind others that the world’s view of ‘living together’ is not God’s view? Yes, God zeroes in on sexual temptations, but he does not suggest this group contains the worst sins imaginable. Instead, he takes these common temptations and lumps them into a broader category: idolatry. ‘Idolatry’: ‘Worshipping something not God.’ When our views of relationships conform to our standards instead of God’s, then we have fallen into idolatry. We are following our decisions. then who are we following? We are treating ourselves with greater respect. We lay aside God’s Word and worship our word.
That is a serious matter. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. Understand, God’s wrath is not coming against those we consider ‘bad’ or we think deserve it. God’s wrath, his damnation to hell, targets all those who trash these words in sheer rejection. That leaves one final searching question: Has this world rubbed off on you?
In these you (and I) too once walked. Yes. ‘Once.’ Maybe you still shiver at high school regrets. Maybe you cannot stop replaying foolish nights. Or, maybe you find yourself still struggling with those temptations and sins— but that’s the key: you struggle. Your attitude once delighted wallowing in moral filth, but now you have changed.
At your baptism, God drowned the sinful nature; he took those immoral desires, filled its lungs with water, stripped away its life, killed it, murdered it. He pulled you up out of the water and left the sinful nature floating behind. God raised you up morally pure, spiritually clean, past erased. You Have Been Raised in Christ.
Since you stand on the side of Christ, you live in ways that characterize someone living on the side of Christ. (1) You put to death the sinful nature. You dread living in ways God hates. You strive to do what is right because that is who you are: A person of the light. You Have Been Raised in Christ (2) So, set your mind on things above.
If then you have been raised with Christ (¥ that describes you!) 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. Literally: set your mind on heaven. Look at the place above. Consider the place you enter after earth. Remember that perfect, tear-free, pain-free place as your final goal. Set your mind on things above because this is the place that is real. Think about that: The world which we see is not truly ‘real.’ Yes, we have tangible items, real emotions, and we are bound by time. Still, this world ends when time ends. We either leave behind all our valuables, possessions, status, and goals in death, or they leave us in decay, or they leave us when Christ returns. All those things end— but you (and I) enter eternity—something that has been and always will be there.
The things of heaven are ‘real.’ Christ ascended and remains at God’s right hand. He stands on the other side of eternity where we will one day enter. 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. That picture feels unreal. When you see Jesus you will clearly see yourself as God has dressed you. Innocent. Faultless. Pure. No more struggling with temptation. No more hurting loved ones and being hurt by loved ones. No more shameful regrets haunting you; no more actions that you will regret. You will stand in glory with Christ. You can set your mind on heaven above.
Yet, you can do that now. You already live as God’s pure child. Remember, baptism whisked you into God’s believing group— maybe as an infant, in your childhood, or as an adult. You behavior on God’s side is this: Put aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Does that describe you? It does not describe me. Still, I remain a child of God. We go back to the baptismal waters and there see a reflection of who we truly are. Forgiven. Still standing on the side of Christ. Renewed in our desire to live on the side of Christ.
Christ has stripped off of you (and me) acts of jealousy, bitterness, resentment, and rage. He never brings it up again. Because of that incredible love, we are motivated to strip off jealousy, bitterness, resentment, and rage. No, not for Christ to love us more. Rather, because he already loved us and put on us a new self, created to be like him. You Have Been Raised in Christ. So, set your mind on things above.
Unlike that farmer. He harvests lush fields, stuffs hay into mammoth barns, and packs silos with corn, oats, and beans. He can withdraw from storage anytime he needs money. He lacks nothing— and never will again. Nothing! And that’s great! …except that his heart latches onto earthly things. All the wealth in his barns cannot keep secure earthly life and it certainly cannot open eternal life!
Neither can the things of this world. The money, power, and status amounts to nothing eternally. They are blessings enjoyed now. Worldly objectives of pleasure and rebellious freedom and self-reliance do not bring you (and me) closer to God. They drive us away.
You (and I) live in this world, but remember this: you are not of this world. We enjoy the items and people in this world, but we do not cherish them over the Word of our God. Set apart as people who are different, we put to death the sinful nature, continue keeping items as they are. Since You Have Been Raised in Christ, set your mind on things above. For that is life’s real goal.