Grace mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning I want you to take a moment to think about a question. What I want you to think about it what makes you happy? What are things in your life that bring you happiness? For me, there are many things that I bring me happiness. Again the joke is you would never know if Pastor Lane was happy or not but it is true happiness is a real thing for me. Lots of things bring me happiness. My family often brings me happiness. My job brings me happiness oftentimes. The fact that I have a home and food is a source of happiness. I have hobbies from playing baseball to fishing and hunting that bring me happiness. I would say that these are all common answers that people would give and I hope that you have some of them in your life as well.
Many of the things that would we say make us happy are very much a part of creation. In fact, everything that I just listed is part of creation. What then do we do when we hear a verse like the one we have in Colossians 3:2 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. One could most likely read that passage and come to many incorrect conclusions. I am supposed to not think about anything that has to do with creation and what some might consider a normal life. It’s the idea that really spiritual people just go off into a monastery up in the mountains and think about God and pray to Him divorcing themselves of the things of this world. Now I am not against times of prayer and contemplation and doing that for a period of time but to say that is what verses like this are calling people to would be a mistake.
What then does it mean to set your mind on things above if it is not to divorce yourself from the world? God has not called us to remove our selves from the world but rather he has created us and he has created all of the world of which was originally good and still has remnants of that goodness within it. Yet we are warned and told of things to avoid and repent of if they are a part of our lives. Colossians 3:5, 8-9 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices. In our Old Testament reading, there is a focus on working and in that work having provisions in one’s life. In the Gospel lesson, we get these words from Jesus himself Luke 12:15 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
So much of what is listed in these readings are things that are most likely related to things that may be on your list of things that make you happy. If your mind is set on things above it will order your life as it is to be ordered. Colossians 3 deals heavily with the topic of sexual immorality. If that makes you blush so be it. The relationship between man and woman is part of how God created the world and from most people, that relationship is not to be avoided but rather enjoyed in its proper context. When a marriage is healthy it will be a great source of happiness. When two people have their minds on things that are above that is the most important step to a healthy marriage. Yet in our world today just as in the world of the past our sinful minds think that we can circumvent the order of things and that we can get happiness from the activities of marriage because we know better. This is setting you mind on things below. The activities are wide-ranging from premarital sex, homosexuality, pornography, and other immoral behaviors. The thought is these actives will bring happiness when in fact they will bring despair, shame, guilt, pain, and a host of other problems. Our sinfulness is attracted to a hedonistic Epicureanism outlook on life. There is a 10-dollar term for you. What that essentially boils down to is the idea that happiness and pleasure are the ultimate good and therefore the avoidance of pain is the goal of life. It is the attitude of the man in the parable whose outlook on life was “relax, eat, drink, and be merry.” Our sinfulness seeks to avoid any type of pain or being uncomfortable because we believe it to be counter to happiness. How many of you like to have uncomfortable conversations. I know I really don’t like it. You see it is easier in the short term to just be mad at people and perhaps talk behind their back. There is even short-term psychological good that can come from this and by good I simply mean it can make you feel better in the short term. You end up avoiding pain in the short term while contributing to the pain in the long term. To set our minds on things above is to keep that which ultimately matters at the forefront of our mind at all times and seek to live accordingly and in that true happiness will occur.
Our other readings deal with the same topic but the focus is less about our relationships with people and more to do with our relationship to the stuff of the created world. Notice the Old Testament reading and Gospel reading focus on possessions and how one views them. The earthly mind sees possessions and stuff as the source of one’s happiness. If I have more then I will be happy. I have said it before most people talk about if they only had 10% more they would be happy and content. Now don’t miss hear me I think there are many people who are very happy who don’t have their mindset on things above. I think there are many people of great wealth who are very happy because they can relax, eat, drink, and be merry. Yet the readings make a very important point and that is you can eat, drink, and be merry but tomorrow you will die and if your mind has not been set on the things above there will be nothing that brings happiness after that.
The reality is that we all struggle with longing after things or people to make us happy. The reality is that we all deal with wanting something of the created world to provide for us that which only can come from above. We seek to fill an eternal longing with a created product. We seek to avoid the right way because in the short term it is hard and difficult all the while will only lead to disaster. We seek to avoid pain even if it leads to death. Our sinfulness simply wants to eat, drink, and be merry with no outlook on what is good because we only want to be happy.
I started the message off by asking what makes you happy. I hope that you have many good and sanctified answers because there is nothing wrong with being happy. I want to challenge you to a new way of thinking and instead of asking what will make you happy I want you to ask what will make God happy? That is to set your mind on things above. What made God happy is not you or me but rather His Son of whom he said he was well pleased. His Son who kept His mind on things above even when it meant costing Him His life. He prayed fervently asking for the cup to be removed yet he said not my will but your will be done. He did not avoid pain. He did not avoid suffering. Rather he endured it because He knew that it would bring about that which the Father wanted the atonement for the sins of the world. On the cross, Jesus’s mind was set on the things above. Notice he had not removed himself from the world rather he was in the midst of it and accomplishing the work set before him.
I pray that the mind of Christ would be our mind as well. That this life would not be simply about our short-term happiness but that we would focus on those things that have long term happiness in mind and that is to be with Christ forever. I pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit we do the difficult now with the things above always in mind. Amen.