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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Colossians 3:1-4 "If then you have been raised with Christ, then seek the things that are above, where Christ 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 hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."

In Colossians 3, the apostle Paul reminds his audience of what God has already done for them in Christ. They have died with Christ to both the penalty and power of sin, and likewise they participate in Jesus' own resurrection life through the indwelling of the Spirit. The old has been done away with; the new creation has arrived!

Yet Paul does not stop there, with the mere announcement of what the Gospel has accomplished objectively for the people of God. He transitions  from indicatives to imperatives, and urges his readers to respond to the Gospel by continuing to seek after God and Christ in faith and by the Spirit. Their union with the death (2:11-12, 20, 3:3) and resurrection (2:12-13, 3:1) must now be implemented in daily practice. As Paul says elsewhere, they must continue the Christian life "just as" they began it—through grateful faith that acknowledges the crucified, risen Jesus as the Lord of their lives (2:6-7).

But what does this actually look like? Colossians 3:5-17 fleshes out the implications of the believer's union with Jesus, and makes tangible both the shape and the goal of the seeking- God lifestyle. The imperatives of 3:5-11 correspond to the previous indicatives about our dying with Christ. Because you have been buried with Christ and died to sin, therefore, put the sin that remains in your life to death—and here are some examples! Likewise, 3:12-17 calls us to enact and embody our new resurrection life in Christ. Because you have been raised from spiritual death by the Spirit, therefore, put on this newness of life in your daily attitudes and actions—and here are some examples!

Thus, for Paul "seeking God" is not merely a routine of spiritual disciplines (though it is certainly not less than that, either). In fact, he warns against just such an attitude of misguided reliance upon outward spiritual practices in 2:20-23. The problem with such things is that, in isolation, they cannot deal with sin or promote true holiness of the heart.

What can? Only seeking after the glory and beauty of the crucified and risen Jesus as we set aside time to pray, to reflect, to read the Scriptures, to confess sins, and to fellowship and worship together in the body of Christ. All of these activities must be gospel-shaped along the way, and aim at conformity to the image of Jesus. That is, there is an irreducibly moral dimension to seeking after God. Our times with the Lord must be focused on reminding ourselves that sin is no longer our master, and that the Spirit has made us alive in Christ. And then we must tangibly seek to implement these convictions, by renouncing the sin that still clings so closely, and by asking for grace to become more like Jesus. Only as our hearts are set on these things, full of a distaste for rebellion against God and passionately yearning to reflect the character of Christ, can our times of seeking the Lord achieve what they are intended to—a people set apart for the Lord, zealous for good works, humble, joyful, and who exist as a contrast society—a holy people!—in the midst of a fallen society, shining as lights of the world.

Nick Nowalk
Ministry Fellow at Harvard
Christian Union