Set Your Affection on Things Above
Set Your Affection
1. Defined: from the verb: φρονέω
a. From: phron = mind; understanding; thought
• Aphron = foolish
• Sophron = wise
b. to mind; to ponder; to think on; to be thoughtful of; to have a thing on one’s mind
2. Translated “affection” only in the King James Version.
a. It is not a textual issue.
b. It is likely it was translated affection in the sense of the affections of one’s mind…
c. In the Bible mind and heart are linked together.
• Affections were linked with the mind as thinking was with the heart in Bible times.
• Ex: Prov.23:7 – as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.
• The heart was considered the organ of thinking as much as the head is today.
• There IS an inseparable connection between our thoughts and our feelings.
d. This translation would not have seemed as odd in 1611 as it does today.
e. But the Greek term itself has to do with THINKING… the mind and not the emotions.
• Set your MIND on things above.
• As we set our MIND on things above, our affections will eventually become attached there too!
• Psalm 1:2 – “His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” He THINKS on God’s law BECAUSE he delights in it!
• Matt. 6:21 – For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
• For what our MIND treasures (values; delights in), it will THINK upon.
• And in time… because of those thoughts, our heart affections will become attached.
• Home is where the heart is. Our home is heaven… and our hearts ought to be there too. Our minds ought to continually go back home… to heaven; things above.
3. Present, active, imperative
a. Imperative: We are COMMANDED to think on things above and are commanded NOT to think on things on the earth.
b. Present: we are to CONTINUALLY direct our minds to things above… and to think from a heavenly perspective.
c. The fact that it is a command and requires continuous attention indicates that this is an ongoing problem in our lives as believers… and thus requires ongoing diligence.
d. God expects us to OBEY this command.
e. God has EQUIPPED us to obey this command.
f. But having a heavenly mindset is NOT automatic in the Christian life.
• There are too many things working against us!
• The world, the flesh, and the devil!
• We are constantly being dragged DOWN to earthly things… bogged down… entangled in the affairs of this life… like an insect stuck in a spider web…
• Therefore we must continually CHOOSE to think on things above. It is an act of the will.
• We can set our minds on whatever we choose to. We can set our mind on planning a vacation. We can set our minds on fixing the fence. We can set our minds on doing our homework if we choose to do so. We can set our minds on things above too… if we CHOOSE to do so.
• What we think on is our choice.
4. In this section which begins a series of exhortations, Paul begins in the head.
a. He tells us what to THINK before he tells what to do and how to behave. (The rest of the chapter deals with behavior.)
b. What is in our heads will control our behavior! The thought life is the best place to start.
c. If we are going to behave properly, we need to think properly.
d. The mind of the careless believer is the devil’s playground.
e. The mind of a thoughtful, godly believer is a taste of heaven on earth!
f. The importance of the MIND.
• The mind affects our feelings and emotions. (Think about your dog who died; think about your upcoming vacation.)
• The mind affects our actions and conduct.
• The mind affects our choices, decisions, goals, ambitions, what we seek after. It all starts in the mind.
g. Thus, before explaining what our behavior ought to be in the Christian home, in the local church, and in the workplace, God tells us what to think… on things above.
1. Note that the “things above” in vs. 1 refer to where Christ is… where He is seated… where He is ruling and reigning as Lord… where He is seated in the place of honor and glory… where He has all the preeminence.
2. Things above do not refer to future things that we will experience when we die and go to heaven.
a. Rather, it refers to the SOURCE of power, motivation, and direction in our daily lives on earth today.
b. Our minds and thoughts are to have as their source the NEW LIFE we share with Christ where He is… in heaven.
c. Our new life in Christ generates a new kind of thinking… new goals… new ambitions… new motivations… new desires…
d. And all of these new things are to come from above where Christ reigns! The source is to be heavenly and Christ centered, not earthly, fleshly, or man centered.
3. Our minds are to DWELL on things above… meditate… mull over…
a. Our minds are to reside where Christ is…
b. Our minds are to be occupied with Him… with His place of honor and glory… in heaven… not the Jesus of the gospels.
c. Our minds are to have Christ seated in the place of preeminence.
4. HOW do we THINK things above?
a. The WORD of God is where we learn of things above. Our minds are to be illuminated, enlightened, and taught from the Word… our mind is to be instructed by the mind of God revealed in the Scriptures.
• We are not to invent what “things above” means.
• If our thoughts are to be on heavenly things, we need revelation to tell us WHAT KIND of things to fill our minds with.
b. We are to think of Christ… and fill our minds with Him. We still need the word of God to tell us who He is… and what kind of thoughts we should hold concerning Him.
• Example: Jehovah’s Witnesses may fill their minds with thoughts of Christ… as they have invented Him. But their concept of Christ does not line up with Scripture!
c. Prayer: prayer is thinking on things above. It is placing ourselves before the throne of grace… prayer is seeking for God, His will, His guidance, His wisdom, His presence, His fellowship.
d. Phil. 4:8 – We are TOLD in the Bible exactly what to THINK. This runs contrary to the ways of the earth… to the thinking of the natural man.
e. Phil. 2:5 – let this MIND be in you which was in Christ Jesus (His mindset)
• This doesn’t come naturally. We have to LET it be in us!
• This heavenly mindset of Christ is to be demonstrated on earth daily… selflessness… taking on the form of a servant… willing to suffer for righteousness sake… esteeming others better than self…
5. Rom. 12:1-2 – our minds are to be RENEWED by God’s Word.
a. But BEFORE the renewing takes place, we are to put our all on the altar! (The cross!)
b. No cross… no resurrection! No altar… no heavenly thinking!
c. Until or unless we are willing to come to an end of self—and by faith keep self on the cross—then we are DOOMED to remain earthbound in our thinking.
d. No cross = no resurrection; no cross = no resurrected thought life… no thoughts on things above.
e. It is not until we see ourselves as DEAD to the world… that we will experience the power of the resurrection in our thought lives.
6. In vs. 1, we were commanded to seek those things which are above.
a. Vs. 2 tells us HOW: by directing our mind to things above.
b. When our minds are thinking on things above, our hearts will become attached to them… and then we will SEEK them!
c. What we SEEK after depends upon one’s mindset.
d. Consider the young girl who has been thinking about becoming a nurse. She has been thinking about that for many months now. It keeps on coming into her mind… and she enjoys thinking about it. She pictures herself as a nurse. It is on her mind… and the more she thinks about it, the more she desires to BE a nurse. Over time, that mindset of nursing becomes a PURSUIT. Soon she is actively SEEKING it… calling nursing schools… seeking ways to pursue that goal… and before you know it, she’s a nurse helping people in the hospital!
e. Thoughts affect the feelings and affections… and affections drive our pursuits… what we seek after.
f. Thus, we are command to develop a heavenly mindset… for that will affect our emotions and heart… and ultimately will affect what we seek after… and the zeal with which we pursue it.
g. We seek after the things our hearts become attached to.
7. Constantly be seeking and thinking on things above.
a. What is the BASIS of the exhortation? The fact that we were raised up into heavenly places in Christ.
b. Since we are raised up with Him, then SEEK and THINK that which is consistent with our position in Christ.
• When our life was on earthly BEFORE we were saved, we sought after things of the earth. We THOUGHT like the world. And we pursued the things of the world with all the gusto we had.
• Now, Paul says, seek and think heavenly thoughts with that same gusto… zeal… and drive… and do so because you have been raised!
c. When Jesus was on the earth, His disciples had a unique relationship to Him as Master/disciple. But that relationship has ended. We know Christ that way no more.
d. Christ left the earth and ascended into heaven. If we love the Lord, our hearts and minds will ascend up where He is… and will want to dwell there in His presence.
e. This is the thrust of Paul’s command.
f. Our true riches are in heaven. Our hope is in heaven. Our inheritance is reserved in heaven for us. Our spiritual blessings are in heavenly places. Our citizenship and home are in heaven. But most importantly, Christ, our first love has ascended into heaven. Everything that is near and dear to us as believers is in heaven!
g. Therefore, our MINDS should dwell there! It is only natural that it should! Our feet are on the earth—but our minds should be in glory!
Not the Things on the Earth
1. We are to think on things above and NOT on things on the earth.
a. We are to think on one and NOT on the other.
b. Paul sets forth a clear-cut choice and commands us what to choose to think on.
c. We must choose one or the other to think upon: a heavenly mindset or an earthly mindset.
d. One cannot have TWO masters… it’s one or the other. Our mind cannot have two masters either.
e. We are to be singled eyed. (single minded dedication to ONE thing… to one preeminent thing… to the exclusion of all else.)
f. We cannot have a divided heart… divided affections… a divided mind.
g. He COMMANDS us NOT to constantly think on the things of the earth.
h. We are NOT to be continually occupied with the things of earth.
i. Our continual occupation of mind and heart is to be on Christ and things above.
j. It is morally impossible to have two masters. One HAS to make a choice.
k. It is also impossible to have two mindsets. One MUST make a decision.
l. It is impossible to have two different walks: earthly and heavenly.
m. Pastor Rathbun: When a believer has one foot in the world and one foot in heaven, it makes for a very uncomfortable walk!
2. The things of earth are not necessarily evil or immoral in themselves.
a. But even good things in the earth can be used for evil purposes.
b. But when those things take precedence OVER Christ or His Word or the local church or the things of God… then they become evil.
c. Such pursuits become dangerous when they take us away from the ONE THING that is to be our preeminent pursuit: that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection!
d. Anything that hinders us from our one true pursuit in life… anything that lures us away from seeking and thinking on things above is to be rejected.
e. II Cor. 10:5 – Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
f. Christ is to be LORD of our minds. He is to have preeminence in our thought lives. Anything that interferes is to be cast down and rejected. Our minds are to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
g. Other mindsets take on a worldly nature… not because they are necessarily evil, but because they stand opposed to our seeking Christ and minding things above!
h. Anything that takes us away from seeking things above, putting Christ first, or minding things above hinders our spiritual growth.
3. Unsaved men in the world think on the things of earth. Naturally. It is the only realm they know. It is their home.
a. Phil. 3:18-19 – the enemies of the cross mind earthly things. (same word)
b. Rom. 8:5 – For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh. (same word)
c. The flesh has its own way of thinking; its own mindset; its own attitude… its own intellectual pursuits.
d. This mindset is not always EVIL or immoral. Sometimes it is quite religious.
e. Paul has revealed in the previous chapter concerning the THINKING of men: touch not; taste not; handle not; the philosophies of men; the traditions of men; ordinances of men… all of this is part of the things of the earth.
f. But fleshly, earthly thinking is always contrary to the Spirit.
g. It is always earthly… it thinks like men…
h. Sometimes true believers can THINK like the world.
4. Matt. 16:23 – Jesus sharply rebukes Peter; he can grasp only human thoughts with a focus on earthly life.
a. Savourest: the same word as “affection” in Col. 3:1.
b. Peter was rebuked for thinking about life from earth’s perspective… for thinking like a man… a natural man of the earth.
c. Vs. 21 – Jesus began to tell the disciples that He was going to go to Jerusalem, be crucified and be raised up again.
d. Vs. 22 – Peter’s reaction?
• Peter rebuked the Lord. You don’t rebuke the Lord!
• You don’t call Him Lord and then say NO WAY! You call Him Lord and say, “Yes sir. Thy will be done!”
• Peter said, “This thing shall not be!” You don’t contradict God’s word when He has spoken!
• Peter was acting on his feelings… gut feeling.
• Peter was thinking like a natural man. He didn’t want his friend Jesus to die.
• Peter was not thinking about spiritual realities, but earthly things.
• Peter was NOT thinking about God and God’s will or God’s plan.
• Peter was thinking about the natural realm… earth… his earthly relationship to Jesus Christ on earth, rather than something more important: his spiritual relationship to Him… and God’s eternal plan for the ages… which included the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ!
• We like Peter are also inclined to THINK like men of the world. God help us!
5. We are COMMANDED to think on things above and are also commanded NOT to think on things on the earth.
a. The command is to NOT THINK on things of the earth.
b. But be careful!
c. This is NOT a command to be unconcerned about life on earth at all!
d. It is NOT a command to pay no attention to our job, our family, or your health, or retirement.
e. God does NOT want us to IGNORE life on earth. That is not the point of the command.
f. Our main pursuit in life ought to be things above… storing treasures in heaven. Constantly fill your mind with that!
g. We are commanded NOT to think like the earth dwellers!
h. We are commanded to think from heaven’s perspective from the spiritual and eternal perspective… from God’s vantage point… not from man’s perspective on the earth.
i. Look at your life on earth from the vantage point of our POSITION: seated in heavenly places in Christ.
j. That results in an entirely new outlook on life!
Being Heavenly Minded is Practical on Earth
1. It does NOT mean that we are to so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good!
a. Being heavenly minded does NOT mean that we pay no attention to life on earth. How foolish!
b. Paul is not suggesting that believers withdraw from commerce, from interaction with other people, or that we withdraw from life on earth—as if we were to live in a monastery. Hardly. He just exposed the errors of asceticism.
c. Having a heavenly mindset will cause us to be even MORE diligent and careful about life on earth… not less so!
d. Being heavenly minded means we will be desirous of spiritual fruit and growth.
e. Spiritual growth occurs when we are occupied with things above.
• The branch bears fruit when it is abiding in the Vine. We grow spiritually when our minds and hearts are continually in heaven… where Christ is.
• Dwelling on our heavenly position does NOT make us useless on earth. It makes us FRUITFUL!
• When our mind is in heaven, increasing with the knowledge of God, it makes us fruitful in every good work!
f. When our hearts and minds are saturated with thoughts of Christ and things above… THEN we will be the kind of Christian God wants us to be on earth!
g. Being heavenly minded is the BASIS upon which the following exhortations are made (home; church; real life!)
2. Minding things above means that we view life here on earth from heaven’s perspective… with eternity’s values in mind.
a. We make decisions based not simply on the basis of what is expedient and profitable for this life, but what is best for the glory of God!
b. Ex: a job offer in New Mexico.
• It offers a huge raise… housing costs are much lower… a better standard of earthly living… the school system is superior… lower property taxes… no snow… what’s not to like?
• You’re thinking like a man of the earth… of this world.
• It sounds like Lot’s mindset as he looked over the lush valley of Sodom!
• What should we do? PRAY! Lord, what wilt THOU have me to do? Not my will but thine be done.
• Is there is good, sound, Bible believing church nearby? Have you investigated it?
• Will this move be for the SPIRITUAL good of me and my family?
• It’s a given that it will be to our economic best interests, but what about heavenly things?
• It’s unimaginable to me that a believer with any amount of discernment would ever move to a new area because of its pleasant location, economy, or scenery, just crossing their fingers and hoping that they will find a good, sound church there!
• That’s not living the resurrected life. That’s not acknowledging our position as seated in heavenly places in Christ. That’s savoring the things of men… and not the things above.
c. If you were standing in heaven right now (and suppose you could observe earth) and you were watching your children live their lives on earth… what would you want for them?
• Your STANDING in heaven (if you then be risen with Christ) would completely change your view of what really matters down here!
• From earth’s perspective, our desires for our children’s lives might include: a good job; good health; nice family; comfortable home; prosperous life; no trials or tribulations, trouble free… sugar and spice and everything nice!
• But from heaven’s perspective, we would view life on earth quite differently.
• From heaven we might see that tribulation works patience and patience makes us mature lacking nothing spiritually! (James 1:3-4)
• From heaven we might see that an earthly affliction is GOOD for us spiritually for it keeps us on our knees and our hearts close to God. (Ps. 119:71)
• From heaven we might see that getting our kids into Sunday sachool each week is more important than getting them into Harvard.
• We might see that suffering from an awful disease is really good training for our ministry to others who are also afflicted.
• We might see that the loss of our job was just what we needed to cause us to learn to trust in the Lord.
• We might even come to acknowledge that EVERYTHING we do in this life is designed to prepare us for eternity!
• And if that’s the case (and it is!) then this heavenly mindset will NOT cause us to withdraw from life on earth, but to be FULLY engaged… and to be diligent about all we do here… even the tiny details of life (doing a good job even when the boss is out sick!)
• We will view life in this world as a time of preparation for the Judgment Seat of Christ.
» Are you getting prepared for that day? That’s what life is all about.
» God is preparing us for eternity, teaching us of Himself… conforming us to the image of Christ.
» ALL of our works on earth are going to be evaluated in that day. Hence, heaven’s perspective gives us a GREATER appreciation for the value of life on earth.
3. A heavenly perspective will make us even MORE thoughtful and careful about the details of our lives here on earth.
a. The heavenly minded believer will see every aspect of his life on earth from eternity’s perspective.
b. He will see the spiritual significance of all he does on earth… because it is all going to be evaluated.
c. He will see the VALUE of his life on earth from a new perspective: from heaven’s vantage point.
d. A heavenly perspective will radically change the very WORST of earthly conditions.
e. Consider the servant who had to live through the degradation of slavery.
• Col. 3:22-24 – notice that Paul’s message to the slaves living under this abusive system was not, “Take up your arms and rebel against this injustice.”
• Rather, he said, “Obey your masters, and do so because you fear God not man.”
• Keep a heavenly perspective. Christ is the One you are really serving! Not that earthly master… but the heavenly Master!
• Vs. 24 – And one day you will be rewarded for living a godly life on earth in spite of man’s cruelty. You kept your mind on the heavenly prize and you will be rewarded!”
• Vs. 25 – And by the way, that master will be judged for whatever evil injustice he has imposed too! God is no respecter of persons.
• God is not impressed with wealthy landowners. But He is impressed with obedience and suffering for righteousness sake!
• Paul gives us a glimpse of heaven’s perspective of the evil of slavery that existed in Bible times.
• Having a heavenly mindset gives us a proper picture of what we are enduring here on earth.
• It also enables us to endure suffering and injustice with dignity.
• Slavery is outlawed in our land (thank God!) but we still have many other injustices to deal with in a cursed earth filled with 6 billion sinners.
• Perhaps you have been called to endure suffering for rightesousness sake… called to endure injustice…
• Earth’s perspective will give us one view of the situation… and will make us bitter and angry.
• Heaven’s and eternity’s perspective will give us any view entirely… it will transform us… it enables us to endure with longsuffering and joyfulness!
• God uses suffering, affliction, injustice, and persecution to train us… and to prepare us to stand before the Bema.
• A heavenly mindset FREES us from the drudgery of slavery to an evil master on earth… and enables us to see ourselves as serving Christ… who is seated at the right hand of God…
• And Christ who is seated at the right hand of divine power is not helpless to do anything about this injustice… but rather reigning… ruling… in Divine power and majesty… observing… taking notes… and ready to strengthen… and awaiting the time to reward faithful service… and judge all evil.
• That godly Christian slave of the first century who served an evil master could do so with dignity… with a sense of living ABOVE his circumstances… because he realized he was raised up into heavenly places in Christ… and because he has a heavenly mindset… awaiting the Bema where all the crooked things shall be made straight!
• That principle applies to unhappy marriages… to injustice in society we have to endure… to ill treatment at work because we are a Christian… and 1001 other realms.
• A heavenly perspective will transform it all—our motivation, our attitudes, our choices, our purposes,—everything!
• A heavenly mindset raises a man ABOVE the earth… above wallowing in self pity… ABOVE seeking revenge… ABOVE pettiness… ABOVE jealousy… ABOVE bitterness… ABOVE the ways of the world…
• A heavenly mindset does NOT make a man useless in his life on earth.
» It makes a slave a better slave.
» It makes an office worker the best worker he can be.
» It makes a school teacher diligent in her work.
» It makes a factory worker industrious, even when the foreman is on vacation.
» It makes the business owner honest in all his dealings… the husband faithful…
» The Christian politician a man of integrity…
• And NORMALLY, (all things being equal) that causes a Christian to do WELL in his particular field… because many in the world do not share heavenly values: honesty, diligence, justice, compassion, etc.
• Being heavenly minded will deliver a man from being self indulgent, careless, lazy, and sloppy in his earthly work.
• He will hold heaven’s values—and that will manifest itself in his practical, daily life to the glory of God.
f. Viewing life on earth from the vantage point of our heavenly position will enable us to experience the peace and rest of God where others experience worry and turmoil.
• So you are the low man on the totem pole at work? Such a lowly position could be discouraging if you saw life from earth’s vantage point. But think on things above! Be mindful of your heavenly position in Christ at the right hand of the Father! That’s your real position!
• So you live in a tiny house, drive an old car, and don’t have much money? That could be depressing from earth’s vantage point. But think on things above! In heaven we possess a rich inheritance! Joint heirs with Christ!
• Or perhaps you are doing quite well in this life and have all kinds of money in the bank, a summer home, fancy cars, the big house on the hill, and are in good health. Well, you too are commanded to think from heaven’s perspective! Those earthly trinkets are NOTHING but dust… don’t set your affection on them. The psalmist wrote, if riches increase, set not your heart upon them. Think on things above!
• It doesn’t matter so much what our earthly condition is. It is our heavenly position that matters.
• We are commanded to continually THINK from that position!
• We are commanded to view our earthly condition from our heavenly position. That will put everything in its place… in right perspective.
• From heaven, what matters is Christ. For to me to LIVE is Christ. He is to have all the preeminence.
• Nothing is more practical for life on earth than having a heavenly mindset. THINK on things above.
4. Being in heaven at God’s right hand does NOT mean that His influence in the world has ended. (Eph. 1:20-23)
a. Rather He has been moved to the place of ultimate influence over matters on earth.
b. He is at God’s right hand… the place of authority and power.
c. He is exalted ABOVE the entire angelic realm which exerts such influence on the earth.
• What a stark contrast!
• On earth, we saw Jesus tired, weak, and hungry being tempted by the devil.
• On earth, we saw angels ministering to His physical needs.
• On earth, we saw Jesus suffering because of the demonic influence working behind the scenes to have Him put to death.
• Angels seemed so superior to Him in His earthly weakness.
• Now, Christ is exalted in heaven, in a glorified human body, ABOVE the angelic realm…
• The angels are now in submission to Him as the Lord of heaven.
• No demon can try any servant of God without permission from who is above them all!
• Christ orders the holy angels to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation… and to watch over the churches.
d. He is Lord over ALL. (Eph. 1:22b – He hath put ALL THINGS under His feet!
e. He is also exalted to the place of HEAD over the Body which is on earth… as salt and light… His witness… His evangelists… from heaven Christ the Head directs His Body and members in particular to carry out His will on earth in His absence.