Vigilantly seeking the things that are above

We should be finding ways to enact heavenly principles in the here and now.

Today we will be looking at the topic of vigilance. When we vigilantly “seek the things that are above,” we are not only looking forward to a heavenly eternity, but we should be finding ways to enact heavenly principles in the here and now, incorporating our new, spiritual kingdom life into the life we are living now.

The apostle Paul stated it this way:

Colossians 3:1-3 – If then you were raised together with Messiah, seek the things that are above, where Messiah is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Messiah in God.

It seems that Paul was basing this concept of seeking Yeshua taught that we should always keep asking, knocking, and seeking in order to receive, to have doors opened, and to find what it is we’re searching for.

Matthew 7:7-8 – “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

According to Yeshua, this type of vigilance is rewarded with the objectives sought for. If we are consistently asking and seeking and knocking, then we will definitively obtain those things which we seek.

Paul carries this same theme of seeking and searching forward into a mindset that should continually guide us in our ongoing new life in Messiah. This seeking involves ongoing aspects of vigilance that are wrapped up in the definition of the original wording used in the text. The phrase he uses in the Colossians 3 passage means to seek in order to find a thing; to seek in order to find out by thinking, meditating, reasoning, to enquire into; to seek after, seek for, aim at, strive after; to require, demand; to crave. These types of urgent and continual qualities of vigilance carry the same intent of Yeshua’s exhortation to keep seeking until the objective is found.

Whenever I explore this passage, I am reminded of a quote by G.K. Chesterton which reads, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” To seek first the kingdom is not just a weekend activity, or one which can be pursued by sharing “amens” on Facebook, or by reading and listening to everything that the current Christian subculture puts out (everything that is, except the Bible). No, asking, seeking, and knocking is a mindset; a consistent, methodical and undeviating value to be exercised at every opportunity where God’s will has yet to be expressed.

In like fashion, Paul uses the same wording to emphasize the believer’s desperate motivation to know God and his Messiah, to learn more about the things of God and to keep one’s focus there through the trials of life. This is what he prayed about for those early believers.

Ephesians 3:17-19 – I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Philippians 3:10-11, 13-15 – …that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. …  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Messiah Yeshua. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

Can we truly say with Paul that we are “straining forward to what lies ahead…pressing on toward the goal”? This type of imagery conveys effort, discipline, and sacrifice to attain God’s purposes in this life. How we answer that question will typically uncover our progression of growth and our impact among those of our generation for him. In a moment, we will review this idea of sacrifice during this life, and how Paul expressed the concept of a sacrificial life that is lived for the Messiah.

Living a sacrificial life for God is going to be something that is different for every believer because we are all at different places in our walk with him. To Paul, placing one’s faith in the Messiah was, in no uncertain terms, a matter of life and death: death to self and traditions of men, and new life as a new self that seeks after the things of God.

Romans 8:13 – For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Colossians 3:5 – Therefore, put to death whatever is worldly in you: your sexual sin, perversion, passion, lust, and greed (which is the same thing as worshiping wealth).

This putting to death of our worldly passions and desires was considered to be an ongoing practice, one to where the believer becomes the dichotomous “living sacrifice;” that which is constantly being offered up to God, yet continually alive, as well.

Romans 12:1-2 – Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

This renewal of mind comes as we vigilantly “seek the things that are above,” not only looking forward to a heavenly eternity, but finding ways to enact heavenly principles in the here and now, incorporating our new spiritual life into the physical life we are living now. In this way, we end up “putting to death” our selfish desires and we rise to the new life of our new self, created to be like him.

When Yeshua came into this world, it was as a human baby miraculously conceived in the womb of his mother. The spiritual element of his life was present from his birth, and this was brought to fruition at his resurrection from death. In this imagery is contained the following principle: the temporary mortal aspect, the flesh, has to die before the new creation, the spiritual reality, can be fulfilled. This is why Paul instructed the early believers to recognize that they were no longer to be focused on the fleshly aspect of anything, including Messiah.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 – From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Messiah according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Paul used the example and symbolism of Messiah’s resurrection beyond the flesh and applied it to the present life of those who believed in Messiah. He was encouraging them to operate from this mindset, because it was a reality in their lives that just had not come to pass yet; it was to be realized in the fulness of time at their passing from this life into the eternal kingdom of God.

2 Corinthians 5:1-4 – For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

Life, in this sense, is eternal life: a status not only of unending existence beyond this temporary one, but a certain quality of life that is being generated within us day by day. When we are truly and whole-heartedly pursuing the things of God each day, we are becoming more and more of what God wants us to be as his representatives on this earth, and in anticipation of the life that is truly life beyond this mortal existence.

Colossians 3:9-10 – Do not speak falsehoods to one another, for you have stripped off the old self with its doings, and have clothed yourselves with the new self which is being remoulded into full knowledge so as to become like Him who created it.

2 Corinthians 4:16 – …even though our outward man is wasting away, yet our inward man is being renewed day by day.

I like how the Weymouth NT here phrased Colossians 3:10 as “the new self which is being remoulded into full knowledge…” The word that the apostle Paul uses here appears to be unique to him and only appears in these two verses: Colossians 3:10 and 2 Corinthians 4:16. It conveys the idea of renewal or renovation; something that is an ongoing process in the life of the believer. Saying that believers need to be remolded into full knowledge captures a vivid image: we need to have our substance crafted into something new in order to become useful to God. And the verse also tells us that the goal is “to become like Him who created it.” This is image-of-God language that is foundational to the theology of the kingdom. When we seek first the kingdom; when we pursue it by striving after it and craving it, reasoning through it and enquiring into it on a daily basis, it changes and transforms us. We become reshaped, remolded, and renewed in essence of being, causing us to become like our Father.

The apostle Peter phrased it in these types of terms:

1 Peter 4:1-2 – Therefore, since Messiah suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same understanding ​– ​because the one who suffers in the flesh is finished with sin ​– ​ in order to live the remaining time in the flesh no longer for human desires, but for God’s will.

Each of us only has a certain remaining time here to accomplish what God desires, and we don’t know when that eventuality will occur. If we are being led of God’s Spirit to grow in him, being molded into his image more and more each day, we should work diligently to be sure that God is receiving the benefit of his investment in us by our faithful and obedient representation of him. This is how we incorporate our new, spiritual kingdom life into the life we are living now, and how his will is accomplished in each generation.


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The challenge of staying dead

The reality of the new life in Messiah is only possible through death, death to self.

The reality of the new life in Messiah is only possible through death, death to self.

2 Timothy 2:11 – This saying is trustworthy: For if we died with him, we will also live with him…

The life of the believer is all about dying to self and living for God. The problem with this simple concept is that our self continues to want to live. Paul calls this conflict the struggle between the old self and the newness of life.

Romans 6:1-7 – What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Messiah Yeshua were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Messiah was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin.

Paul uses this metaphor of the old self dying throughout his writings:

  • Romans 6:11 – So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Messiah Yeshua.
  • Galatians 2:19 – For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live for God.
  • Colossians 2:20 – If you died with Messiah to the elements of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?
  • Colossians 3:3 – For you died, and your life is hidden with Messiah in God.

All of these references are simply speaking in metaphorical language about how that, in the believer’s life, one must forsake all previous disobedience to God with the finality of death. A dead person cannot commit sin; this is how abruptly and decisively we must act within the remaining time of our lives.

Paul continues his thought in this “trustworthy saying” that he was committing to Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:11-12 – This saying is trustworthy: For if we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him;

Paul here conveys a sense of endurance in remaining dead to those things that displease God. The word for endure literally means to “stay under,” as in remaining, persevering, bearing up under trials. However, Paul also presents Timothy with the opposite result if we choose to yield to our self and deny the One who calls us to himself.

2 Timothy 2:12-13 – if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.

This is reminiscent of the admonition of Yeshua, explaining what will be the state of those who refuse to give up their sinful actions, the breaking of God’s laws.

Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name? ‘ “Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers! ‘

This is why we are constantly reminded to endure and to bear up our trials with a persevering and faithful spirit. The writer to the Hebrews and James also provide similar encouragement under trial, even referring to the endurance of Messiah as a motivating consideration in the believers’ own endurance.

  • Hebrews 10:32 – Remember the earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings.
  • Hebrews 12:3 – For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up.
  • James 1:12 – Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

We should recognize that it is through these types of struggles that God is causing us to grow and continually be renewed to become more like him.

Colossians 3:9-10 – …you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.

As we grow in the image of God, we can then become more useful to him in the accomplishment of his purpose in expanding the kingdom of God on the earth. This is why this encouragement to remain dead to sin must become a guiding principle in our daily lives.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Living the new life of compassion

Believers have a godly responsibility to actively seek out and meet the needs of others.

Believers have a godly responsibility to actively seek out and meet the needs of others.

In the letter written to the congregation at Colosse, the apostle Paul has reached the heart of what it means to be a believer in the Messiah.

Colossians 2:6-7 – “As therefore you received Messiah Yeshua as Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Paul encourages the believers that if they have received Messiah and truly accept him as their Master and Teacher, then they should “live in him.” The next several chapters go on to describe what that life that is lived in him should look like.

One of the primary emphases that he focuses on is the believer’s disassociation with worldly entanglements. He creates an analogy of life and death, and how a commitment to the Messiah is the equivalent of dying to this world, and being lived as a new life in him.

Colossians 2:13 – “And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses…”

This new life of living in him should now take our focus off of the negative entrapments of the worldliness around us, and cause us to look “above,” to heavenly ideals.

Colossians 3:1-3 – “If then you have been raised with Messiah, seek the things that are above, where Messiah 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 hid with Messiah in God.

Colossians 3:9, 12 – … seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices … Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, hearts of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience…

All of these qualities that believers should represent stem from the ideal that we have died to our old life lived in disobedience to God and now are living a new life according to God’s Word with the goals and ideals of the Messiah.

Paul mentions one of the first qualities of this new life as a heart of compassion. The underlying Greek word conveys the idea of deep feelings of sympathy with a person’s difficulties or misfortunes. Compassion is one of the defining characteristics of God, so it is no wonder it should be one of the primary qualities of his children.

When we feel compassionless, it may be that we have lost sight of whose we are, and where our focus should be. Paul clearly says we should seek “those things that are above,” that is, the things of the heavenly kingdom of God. When we can step back and realize that there is an authority and an ideal that reigns above the struggles and injustice of the world system, we should be energized by God to have compassion on those who have not yet come this realization. Having this godly type of compassion causes us to elevate the needs of others above our own, and helps us to begin to bear fruit for God in the darkness around us.

Being dead to this world but alive to God means that we have a great responsibility; a responsibility to respond to the needs around us in godly ways. When we choose to follow the instruction of God’s Word, we become one with the life and teaching of his Messiah and should represent him in honorable and practical ways in the lives of those around us. Exhibiting his compassion is a primary way that we can share the truth of that heavenly kingdom, that there is more to this life than just cold, hard living: that in Messiah there is hope, and life, and peace.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Isaiah’s outline of the steps to forgiveness

We have the ability, through faith in Messiah, to gain the privilege of being reconciled with our Maker when we realize that our lives are not in alignment with his purposes.

Let wicked people abandon their ways. Let evil people abandon their thoughts. Let them return to the LORD, and he will show compassion to them. Let them return to our God, because he will freely forgive them.

Isaiah 55:7

People have a need to be forgiven. Whether it’s from wrongs they have committed with other individuals or whether it’s for seemingly irreconcilable errors committed in life, humans will typically reach a point within their lives where forgiveness becomes a real need. It may not be something obvious to others or sometimes even themselves, but the need exists and persists until a crisis point is reached. Once that happens, something must be done to meet this need.

In the passage today, Isaiah outlines three things necessary to accomplish this with God when we feel our life has drifted from its moorings.

First, we must abandon our wicked ways that are contrary to his efforts. The cycles and patterns of destructive behavior have to be changed with a commitment to move beyond them.

This can be accomplished through the second aspect of abandoning our evil thoughts. This is not an injunction to mindless obedience, but a directive to change our habits of thinking that are keeping us trapped in the loop of non-productive or harmful behaviors. Nothing changes until our thought patterns are revised.

The third aspect is what Isaiah describes as returning to God. While this admonition was originally spoken to those in Israel who were familiar with God but had rejected him, the same encouragement exists for us who are seeking for a measure of spiritual peace that comes from the Creator of all things. Isaiah confirms this in the context of this passage when he writes:

Open your ears, and come to me! Listen so that you may live! I will make an everlasting promise to you- the blessings I promised to David. I made him a witness to people, a leader and a commander for people. You will summon a nation that you don’t know, and a nation that doesn’t know you will run to you because of the LORD your God, because of the Holy One of Israel. He has honored you.

Isaiah 55:3-5

Isaiah alludes to the fact that foreign nations would be drawn to the God of Israel because of the example of God’s faithfulness with David, and with his people. What was future to Isaiah is the present age we are living in. Because of the faithfulness of David’s “son,” Yeshua the Messiah, we have the ability, through faith in him, to gain the privilege of being reconciled with our Maker when we realize that our lives are not in alignment with his purposes.

…he gave the right to become God’s children to everyone who believed in him. These people didn’t become God’s children in a physical way-from a human impulse or from a husband’s desire to have a child. They were born from God.

John 1:12-13

Seek the LORD while he may be found. Call on him while he is near.

Isaiah 55:6

He is near even today and able to accept and forgive all who come to him with sincere motives and a willingness to abandon their past ways and past thinking. That need for forgiveness can be met today.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

To walk in holiness, we must exchange the old man for the new man

We must present ourselves to God with each new day as those who have been resurrected from our old, sinful ways into a new life of righteousness.

… you are to put off concerning the former behavior the old man that is corrupt according to the desires of the deceit, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man, which, according to God, was created in righteousness and kindness of the truth.

Ephesians 4:22-24

The way Paul conveys this instruction to the Ephesian believers is fascinating to me. He is conveying this idea that striving for holiness or being set apart is as simple as them taking off their old desires and putting on their new practices as if they were to imagine changing out an old worn-out coat for a new and durable one.

This new way of life is set apart from its opposite: the way of the world.

So I tell you and encourage you in the Lord’s name not to live any longer like other people in the world. Their minds are set on worthless things. They can’t understand because they are in the dark. They are excluded from the life that God approves of because of their ignorance and stubbornness.

Ephesians 4:17-18

This set-apartness was to come from being united with Messiah. Paul expresses this principle all throughout the book of Romans (and elsewhere). For believers to unite with Messiah was, in essence, to die to oneself and be united to him in new life, alternatively being described as clothing oneself with him.

Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may walk in newness of life.
Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Romans 13:14 Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

Since the new man is representative of actions that represent the Messiah, then the old man being taken off, the one corrupted with its own desires, is likewise represented symbolically by Adam.

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. …

What is sown is perishable; it is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being;” the last Adam a life-giving spirit.
The spiritual, however, was not first, but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so also are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so also shall we bear the likeness of the heavenly man.

1 Corinthians 15:22; 42-49

To bear the likeness of the heavenly man was to put off the sinful desires, ignorance and stubbornness of the darkness of this world, and instead put on the righteous thinking and deeds of the Messiah by remaining obedient to him as Lord. Believers were to consider themselves as having been resurrected to new life in Messiah.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires. Do not present the parts of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and present the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness.

Romans 6:12-13

This is the walk of holiness that is set before every believer today, as well: to present ourselves to God with each new day as those who have been resurrected from our old, sinful ways into a new life of righteousness.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!

2 Corinthians 5:17

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.