If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.…
I. This is the business of THE UNDERSTANDING.
1. Of late years the word "thinker" has been employed to designate those who bring their reasoning faculties to bear on abstract problems, and who give proof of this by lectures and books, and of no others. If this use is correct, thinkers would constitute a select class indeed; it would be just as reasonable to confine the term "worker" to a manual labourer. But all human beings think, and this is none the less true because the understanding apprehends what is before it indistinctly. The eye may none the less see because the objects are somewhat confused.
2. Thus the solemn question arises, "What do we think about?" For most of the day we have no choice. To give your mind to it is the condition of all good work. But there is a fixed hour when business ends and we regain liberty of thought. What do you habitually think about then? The question is important, for the instructive direction of thought at such times may tell us much about our real selves and our destiny.
3. Is it not true that the mind of many is occupied with much that does not guide it heavenwards? It is almost at the mercy of the first claimant; weighted with the importunity of sense; dissipated or distorted by passion; darkened by avoidance of God. What mean those long periods spent over a work of fiction which suggests at almost every page what it dares not describe; those long hours of sullen moodiness, or of hard thoughts of God?
4. It is sometimes thought that if thought is only active it must needs be good, and that only when it stagnates it breeds evil. But thought may be exercised on subjects that degrade it, and in proportion to its activity.
5. Easter then bids thought rise heavenward with Christ; it is the warrant and pattern of mental resurrection. Before Christ rose men had thought and written about another world; but at best the veil was only half withdrawn. Men hoped and guessed. But Christ made it clear and certain, and bade thought arise into the world beyond the stars, into which He passed to prepare a place for us.
6. Seek then in thought the things above. Seek the conversation of the wise, make the most of whatever enlarges and ennobles. In all higher and purer regions of thought you are nearer Christ (Philippians 4:8). But as you seek, cry Excelsior! Rest not until you have struggled beyond literature, science, and nature, into the kingdom of heaven where Christ the King of Glory sits.
II. This is the business of THE AFFECTIONS.
1. The affections are a particular department of desire.
(1) Desire is the strongest motive power in the soul, it is what gravitation is to matter. When we know upon what desire is set, we know the direction a soul is taking. If its objects are in heaven then the soul is moving upwards, if earthly then downwards (Matthew 6:21).
(2) Desire is the raw material which is fashioned on the one hand into covetousness, or ambition, or sensuality, or into the love of God on the other (James 1:15).
(3) Desire was meant to attach the soul to God by a spiritual attraction that should keep it, though in its freedom, true to its centre, just as the planets move ever round their central sun. And sin resembles those catastrophes which might result if it were conceivable that a planet should leave its orbit and dash wildly into space.
2. God gives to every man a certain measure of that affection which is a department of desire. It is dealt out by us partly to those whom providence has appointed to receive it — a father, mother, etc.; and also on objects which we choose to be its recipients. So we may squander it on the pleasures of sense, or compress it into high self-sacrifice. But we do not spend it twice. Since the being who loves is finite the supply is limited; and the despair of those who have given their all at the bidding of some unlawful pleasure is to find, while life is still young, but all too late, that the heart may be like a dried-up spring, "without natural affection" (Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3). That "wasting fever of the heart" is almost worse than the moral death of which, if unassuaged, it is the assured presentiment.
3. Seek, then, with your affections the things above. As truth is the prize of the understanding, so beauty is the prize of the heart. Let the Eternal Beauty woo and win your hearts. In that higher world there are many objects (1 Corinthians 2:9) to win them; but there is One above all others who has claims such as no other can have upon them. To love Him is to love a Being who sustains love (Romans 5:5; Ephesians 6:24). He is the only Being in loving whom the heart can never incur the risk of exhaustion or disappointment.
III. It is the business of THE WILL. There is at the centre of our being a power which rules all others, which, while professing obedience to reason, not seldom arranges its premises and settles its conclusions, and which gives play to affection or restrains it almost at discretion. It is not reason nor feeling which in the last resort rules the soul, and by which the great question of its destiny must be decided. Grant that the will is weakened, this weakness has been corrected in those who are risen with Christ (Philippians 4:3). Away with the faint-hearted and false notion that religious effort is an affair of temperament! Natural disposition may make things easy or difficult, but it cannot arrest the upward movement of a free, because regenerate, will. We have been made masters of ourselves by Christ, and we cannot shift the responsibility.
Parallel VersesKJV: If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.