Thinking on Heavenly Things

The University of Tennessee conducted a twelve year study on stress. For twelve years the experimental group and control group listened to five minute radio broadcasts. The experimental group received broadcasts that always contained at least four negative messages. At the end of the study, the experimental group was more depressed, believed the world was a terrible place to live in, was less likely to help others in need, and believed the things heard on the broadcast were certain to happen to them in the future.

The most important decision we can make every day is not what we eat or what we wear, but what we allow our minds to think. If we dwell on the emotions of hopelessness and weariness, we shouldn’t be surprised that we are depressed and down all of the time. But if we fill our minds with righteousness, then we can always find reasons to rejoice (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16).

Paul instructed the Christians in Colossae to think on heavenly things instead of earthly things (Colossians 3:1–2). John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15–17). Our problem is that we are daily bombarded with fleshly thoughts and earthly concerns. Think for a moment of all of the worldly concerns that control our minds:

Wealth: Countless hours are spent planning for a financial future. That time and effort spent planning is threatened by a weakened economy which adds anxiety and worry to the formula of planning and wisdom. All of this results in countless hours studying the business section of the paper, reading financial advice journals, watching CNBC for the latest tips, etc. Jesus said we should “lay up for [ourselves] treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19–21). When we approach wealth with the concept that it is merely a way to glorify God through good works resulting in eternal life, then we can healthy approach to wealth. One that is honorable and godly.

Government: Everyone is concerned about politics and government—regardless of which side of the political system they might find themselves. The Bible teaches us that government is a servant of the Lord (Romans 13:1–7). The authorities have been appointed to punish those who do evil. Sadly, government provides most Christians today with anxiety rather than security. Why? Because our minds are filled with conspiracies, scandals, political struggles, and other worldly aspects of government. Remember… our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20–21). That doesn’t mean we can’t be political. But when our politics rob us of our heavenly citizenship because we are more consumed with earthly government than serving the King, our thinking has betrayed us.

Sensuality: Our world promotes passion, sensuality, and lust. Paul said part of the change from earthly thinking to spiritual thinking was putting off “sexual immorality, impurity, passion…” (Colossians 3:5). Avoiding images and messages that promote such ungodly thoughts and behavior is difficult. In our society one can be tempted with a television commercial, an email, or even a sticker on the car in front of you. When our minds are dominated with flesh-based sensuality and lust, it is difficult to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:14–16). How do we overcome these concerns? Our initial plan always includes removing those thoughts. The problem is that we often view that as the complete process when it is only the beginning. In Colossians 3 as Paul is training the Christians in Philippi to change their thinking, he does not instruct them to only put off the wrong thoughts, he instructs them to put on the right thoughts as well. They were to remove earthly things (vv. 5–9) and put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and love (vv. 10–14).

If we only attempt to stop our negative thinking without replacing it with good thoughts, we will soon find ourselves filled with worldliness again—similar to the spirit who returned after being cast out because nothing good had filled the clean house (Matthew 12:43–45). Paul instructed the Galatians similarly as he warned against the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:19–21) while encouraging them to have the fruit of the Spirit (vv. 22–23).

So what does that mean? Instead of worrying about our financial future, we should trust in God’s providence (Matthew 6:25–34). Instead of being filled with anxiety about the world today, we should pray for God’s hand to be seen and long for the day we spend eternity in my heavenly home (1 Timothy 2:1–2; Philippians 4:6). Instead of giving in to this world’s sensuality and lusts, we should think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, love, and commendable (Philippians 4:8). Our mind does matter! It controls our lives and who we are—not only in this life but in the life to come. Let’s think on heavenly things!