The Resurrected Life (Colossians 3)
by Andy Zoppelt
Revelation vs. Knowledge
“If then you were raised [past tense] with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1).
About 20 or 30 years ago, I came across Colossians 3 in my reading of the scriptures, and it was as though a finger was pointing it out and telling me that what I was reading was one of those essential truths dealing with our walk with the Lord. All our problems come from three main sources: self, the world, and the devil. Much like Romans 6 tells us how the cross dealt with self, Colossians 3 shows how our position with Christ in heavenly places deals with the power of the world. It describes an ongoing battle against our natural reasoning and feelings…something rarely acknowledged and acted on. But if we don’t understand and experience what this verse describes, we will find ourselves struggling with the “things” of the world and our flesh.
David’s revelation in Psalm 91 is very similar to Paul’s in Colossians 3: “He who dwells [seated] in the secret place of the Most High [heavenly places] shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty [Christ]” (Psalms 91:1, NKJV).
Our walk with the Lord is one based on faith. The opposite of faith is to live by our reasoning and feelings, but without faith we cannot please God. When we are confronted by the things of this world, dwelling in the secret place of the Most High or being seated with Him in heavenly places takes faith. We cannot go on feelings because they are not one of the “things” in heaven, nor are they eternal. Only what is eternal and in heaven has anything to do with reality and truth. Such a revelation is totally contrary to the logical mind and its way of dealing with life here on earth.
It is often said, “First the revelation, then the situation.” Revelation is given to infuse God’s light and life into us so that He can build His nature and power in us. A walk in the light is a walk in the revelation that God gives. To be born again is to be able to see the kingdom of heaven and to have a constant revelation of being like Him while being with Him. The old life is gone and a new source of life is flowing and growing in us, lifting us above the things of this earth.
The value we put in the revelation, by faith, becomes real in the situation. Furthermore, if we are not getting revelation in our walk, it is because we have not walked out previous revelations. If we can’t hear God, maybe it is because we are not open to hear or we limit what we want to hear. It is biblically proven that God will not give His revelation to the half-hearted and the lukewarm who serve Him for what they can get for themselves.
Too often, we seek knowledge that fills our heads, but we lack the real revelation and experience through faith that penetrates our hearts. Real living faith produces works. Faith strives to enter the narrow gate, faith holds on to the revelations God gives, and it works them out in all our trials. Real faith endures and abides in His words while living with Him in heavenly places.
Knowledge is the opposite of revelation; it operates by gaining information for the purpose of pride, establishing ourselves as smarter than others, or thinking we are in a superior position. Knowledge fills the head without changing the heart. God’s desire is not to feed us a bunch of knowledge and good ideas on how to do this or that—it is not about success, doing good, or having great works; it is about establishing His throne in us, establishing His heart and Spirit in us, thus affecting everything we do in establishing His kingdom under His rule.
How can we be seated with Christ in heavenly places when our feet are so firmly planted on this earth? This is where the battle is either won or lost. A revelation of the cross is not complete without a revelation of our resurrected life with Christ. Both are past events settled on the cross on which Jesus died.
We are not only looking forward to being seated with Christ in heavenly places in the future; we are living as though we are already seated with Him in heavenly places now, based on Jesus’ resurrection in the past (we “were raised with Christ”). It is much like the cross—we died when He died, and our death is as real as His death. So also is our resurrection as real as His. Paul says we are “raised together with Christ.”
The revelation of our sitting with Him in heavenly places is based on a true birth into the kingdom of God and a walk in obedience to His word, together with His body. Heaven is eternal, it is the place that joins us, it is the place that establishes His rule in our lives if we are to be His disciples. Heaven is important now! It is not just a future event, it is the now place.
Our Trials Can Lead to Growth
How can we be in heavenly places with Christ when the situation we are dealing with is staring us in the face and our emotions are overwhelming? In those situations, we normally find ourselves under the power of our logic, our reasoning, and the power of strong emotions. They seem so real, and they seem to demand our focus and attention and resources. The things on this earth seem so real! But things of this earth cannot and must not define reality in our lives or how we live. Faith must lift us above this earth, and we must evaluate everything from our position with Christ in heavenly places if we are to be Christians at all.
From time to time, I have found these forces mounting against me, dragging me into the hole from which they come, but it is these trials that test and prove our faith and our salvation, determining where we live. It is not achieving good works; it is God being allowed to build His life in us. Read 1 Corinthians 13 again and note that gifts, ministries, and works must be based on a love that keeps His commandments.
Faith must grow, and if our faith is growing, our experience of being with Christ in heavenly places is growing also. God establishes within us “line upon line” if He has found a receptive heart.
Eight years ago, the Lord gave me a revelation about the cross that nailed the coffin for my death to self-rule. It had been growing in me for 40 years, but one night in the midst of tragedy, it came into focus and I saw the necessity of putting my life to death if I was to go on. As a disciple, I could no longer live my life with my flesh having its opinions. From that day till this, I have endeavored to be just as dead to my flesh and my carnal nature as though I were physically dead, lying in a casket. I saw the significance of my death with Jesus when He died, and I determined that this revelation would be a working part of my daily walk with Him.
Daily, I would see the reality of my death—as real as if I was looking into a casket and seeing myself lying there dead, incapable of adding anything to my life with Jesus. By faith, I was dependent on Him raising me up. I was determined that the cross was going to be real in me, so that I might experience resurrected life in Christ. There had previously been little revelations from time to time during trials, but in this past eight years I have encountered a sweeping revelation that ties together all the previous revelations of the cross.
God then began to show me the importance of trials, and how crucial they are in my growth in Him—through Him purifying my heart of all its selfish idols. It is in suffering and through the cross that we begin to learn to establish the reality of our death, and where we learn to abandon the life of self. It is also there that we begin to experience the infilling of His presence and life. Without trials and submission to God in them, we will never grow. It is in trials that our self-life sticks its self-centered head out and seeks for control. It is in trials that we prove whether we have real saving faith or not. In trials we either get into self or we get into Christ and abide in His Word and grow. There can be no doubt that trials are allowed by the Lord to test our faith and the revelation He has given us.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience…” (James 1:2-3 NKJV)
Living on Earth vs. Living in Heaven
Religion stems from what man has established out of the “things” of this world. Religion gratifies our pride and satisfies us with earthly things—things that entertain, things that make us feel good and feel saved. Religion is lukewarm and lethargic, and prevents spiritual growth while it maintains a form of godliness. True sons will be persecuted by the church today and rejected. Even those who saw themselves on the “cutting edge” in the past will find their manna souring if they remain in religion. They have all the noise, but they wist not that the Spirit has departed (Judges 16:20).
Many so-called Christians hate the light, they hate correction, and they hate to be exposed to the light. In their pride, they have maintained their own lives filled with religious ideas and forms. Being seated with Christ in heavenly places doesn’t make sense to them. They are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good.
As long as this earth is the source of our dealing with trials, we will spend more time in pacifying and entertaining ourselves and seeking knowledge to improve ourselves. But the cross, the purpose of trials, and our place with Christ in heaven are at the root of real discipleship. By definition, a disciple is one who abides in Him.
Where we sit in life is most important and has strong influence on how we deal with life. Are we sitting in depression and the things that depress us? Are we bound to uncontrolled habits that dominate our lives? Do we see God withholding the things we desire on this earth? Are we not getting the kind of respect we feel we should be getting from others? Are we not in control? Are we being offended by others? Where we are sitting and with whom we are sitting determines our faith.
In a culture where possessions, being in control, and being looked up to are important to us, we will usually seek the “things” of this world to make ourselves happy. Our lives will be controlled and dominated by things, feelings, and selfishness—in which there is no life. We will seek pleasure, entertainment, and ease. We will seek a hassle-free life. If we don’t achieve these ends, we will get angry or depressed, and begin to grumble before the Lord, because our life is based on this world: we are “seated” on earth.
So what if we are seated instead in heavenly places with Jesus? There we will see God’s glory, His power, His purposes and His love, and His kingdom. The principles of God’s kingdom are the opposite of those on the earth. To live there, we have to lose what possessed us here, what controlled us here, and what motivated us in our earthly lives. as the song goes, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face and the things on earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." It is there we will see the benefits of the resurrected life, but we must pursue it with all our hearts. We will rejoice in suffering, be content in all situations, and give thanks in all things. The resurrected life will dominate our view of life and change our perspective. We will be in the world but not of the world.
If Then You Were Raised…
“…seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.”
What are those “things” we should seek? First, it is Him. It is Christ, and all that He is, in which we put our trust. He is with us and we need not fear anything. He is our strength, our life, our hope, our defender, our salvation, our bridegroom, our peace, our victory, our wisdom, and on and on. In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). He is Almighty; nothing can resist His power. He is the Word; in Him is all truth and reality. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the Eternal One on which everything hangs.
Seated next to such a one, what needs could we have? Should we worry, fear, or become anxious? Is there any “thing,” situation, or person on this earth that trumps Him? Faith reaches beyond this temporal world and lives by those things that are eternal. Faith asks, “Is God able?” and then rests in Him. It recognizes that God is in control and then leans on Him. How could anything be out of His control? To be in His control, we must give up our control and refuse to live by the “things” of our emotions, desires, and opinions. But if we honor Him and trust in Him, we will begin to experience the “things” of His kingdom.
“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).
This is important: where is our mind set? Is it set on the situation, or on our inability to deal with the situation? Or is our mind set on the eternally existing One, the Almighty One, our Savior and Deliverer, our Lord? Kings’ kids don’t worry when their father is the king of the kingdom If they do (pardon the language), they are stupid. Heaven is not a place of defeat. Things are not out of His control. Things are eternal in heaven. Things belong to Jesus in heaven.
Jesus kept reinforcing the importance of His life by saying time and time again: “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and “Without Me you can do nothing.” Yet many of the things we do are without Him. Being in Christ is far better than being in self. Living by Christ is better than living by self. Living by His victory is better than living by our weakness. You get the point. It is an exchanged life: exchange your life for His. Can anyone give me a reason for being defeated in Christ? Can anyone give me a reason for having victory outside of Christ? Where are we living? Where our minds are set makes all the difference.
“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (vs. 3,4).
If we are already seeing our life in Christ in heavenly places, then when He comes, that reality will become physical. If we don’t presently see ourselves in heavenly places, that reality will also become evident, to our shame. How can we go to heaven if we are not living out of the rule and resources of heaven now? How can we have the fruit of the Spirit if we are not abiding in the Vine? How can we conquer sin if we are not walking in the Spirit? Paul states the fact that true disciples have died to self and that their life is hidden with Christ in God. If those two facts are not working in our lives, then how can we be saved?
“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth [he gives the short list]: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once [in the past] walked when you [used to] lived in them” (vs. 5-7).
The word “sin” is not mentioned here, but Paul lists things that are offensive to the Lord. Could we not include all the things that distracts us from Him and the things that call for our own satisfaction to be fulfilled? The religion of our day knows little of this, because it seeks to entertain and give us good feelings and an assurance of salvation without repentance and a crucified life.
“But now [right at this moment, in this time] you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man [the new life in Jesus] who is renewed in knowledge [experience of knowing Him] according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, [Presbyterian nor Baptist,] but Christ is all and in all” (vs. 8-11).
Now, things are not as they were, we don’t think like we did, we have a new focus, and we don’t want the things we use to want. Everything has changed because we are living in a different place and living by a different Person. It is an insult to our covenant with Him for us to ever be defeated, because He has made full provision for victory. It is an insult to His power to live by the power of the situation. It is an insult to continue to sin when we have the Holy Sprit in us. It is an insult to live by our life when Christ is in us. It is an insult to live by worldly situations when by faith we can live on the basis of eternal things.
If Christ in you is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27), then tell me, what is the opposite? Certainly not anything we want.
“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in [the realm of all that belongs to] Him, not having my own righteousness [that comes from me], which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know [and personally experience] Him and [experience] the power of His resurrection, and have a common sharing of His sufferings, continuously being transformed altogether by His death, if, by any means, I may attain [and arrive] to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8-10).