A New Way to Look at Things

Colossians 3:1-4

So if you have been raised with Christ, 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 is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

How we choose to see things plays a large part in how we live our lives.  Psychologists and sociologists will tell you that once we have certain basic needs met – food, health, clothing, and shelter – and once we have a minimal amount of wealth, all of the problems that follow after this are usually problems of perception.  Let me give you a few examples of how perceptions make all the difference.  Rory Sutherland shared these in a recent TED talk I heard while traveling.

In 18th century Prussia, King Frederick wanted to introduce the potato as the second staple crop in his kingdom.  Wheat was the primary staple, but Frederick knew that if something catastrophic happened and the wheat harvest was compromised, it would throw his kingdom into chaos.  The potato would give stability and safety.  The problem was no one in Prussia wanted the potato or knew what to do with it.  They refused even under orders to grow potatoes.  Frederick decided to change the way everyone looked at potatoes.  He named it the official food of the King and grew potatoes in the royal gardens under guards – but the guards were told not to guard the potatoes too well.  As any 18th century peasant knows, if it’s worth guarding, it’s worth stealing.  The peasants broke in and stole the potatoes.  Next thing you know, people are growing and eating potatoes.  Frederick didn’t change anything other than the way people perceived potatoes.

Do you know what the most valuable jewelry in Prussia in the first half of the 19th century was?  It was jewelry made of cast iron.  Why?  During the war with the French, people of means turned in their gold and precious jewelry to support the war.  In return, they were given replicas made in cast iron.  For 50 years after the war, the highest status jewelry you could wear in Prussia was cast iron.  It wasn’t about the actual intrinsic value of the jewelry, rather it was the deep, symbolic value cast iron jewelry had in Prussia.  It said your family made a great sacrifice for the cause of the war.  It was all about how they saw things….

Eurostar is a train that travels all across Europe.  It has a line from London to Paris under the English Channel.  Several years ago, they put $6 billion pounds or about $10 billion dollars investment in their infrastructure to increase travel time from London to Paris by about 40 minutes from over 3 hours to 2 hours and 30 minutes.  Why did they do this?  Because the business travelers felt it took too long.  They had a problem with the amount of travel time so Eurostar set out to “fix” the problem.  Their fix was technical, mechanical and expensive – $6 billion pounds worth of new tracks and trains.   They never stopped to think about how changing the perceptions could have saved a lot of money.   Rory Sutherland suggested the following:  For .1% of this money, you could have put free Wi-Fi on the train.  It would not decrease the travel time but it would have made the time more enjoyable and more productive for those traveling.  For .5 to 1% of the money, you could have paid all of Europe’s male and female super models to walk up and down the aisles handing out free Champagne to all the passengers.  They would have had almost $6 billion pounds left over and the passengers would have asked for the train to be slowed down.

Life only has two forms of value.  Tangible Value (things you can buy, touch, see, hold, control, fix, and build), and Intangible Value (things that are unable to be touched, grasped; things that do not have physical presence).

We were originally created to value INTANGIBLE things.  We are created in the image of God for relationship with God and for relationship with each other.  This is why the Great Commandment is “love of God and neighbor”.  It seeks to help us return to God’s original intent for our purpose.

The problem is ever since the Fall Sin caused us to seek value in TANGIBLE things (thus kingdoms and kings, conquering territories, war, power, gold, etc.).  Sin did this to us and it continues to do it to us.  When we seek Intangible Values, we set our minds on things that are above.  When we seek Tangible Values, we set our minds on things that are on the earth.    Seeking Tangible Values disconnects us from the original intent of our created purpose.  This is why we suffer so many disappointments in life.

The biggest limitation we face in our lives is that when we are confronted with conflict and struggle in life, we look for our solutions in tangible things: technology or economy.  If technology can’t fix the problem, then money can.  If money can’t fix the problem, then technology can.  We just try to change things, we rarely change the way we look at things.  Technology and money only buy us time…they don’t bring our lives into alignment with our created purpose.

In the movie, “The Sixth Sense” with Bruce Willis, the boy Cole says, “I see dead people.”  (That is the famous line!)  But what he says after that is even more chilling, “They don’t know they are dead.  They don’t see each other.  They only see what they want to see.”  In Colossians, Paul says we have been raised with Christ.  You and I have been raised!  We are no longer subjected to the powers of this world.  We are no longer limited by death or any other human limitation.    We have been raised, yet many of us continue to live as if we do not have access to that power…we live as dead people.  We only “see” things we want to see…things that perish and keep us down.

Why do we continue to look at the world through eyes of death and limitation?  Why is it so hard to change our perspective?  Through the Resurrection, we are defined by the Risen Christ.  And our definition in Christ calls us to gain a proper perspective of this world.  We do not raise ourselves; we are raised by being united with Christ.  And if you have been raised with Christ, then you are now able to seek the things differently.  Everything is different for those of us raised in Christ, and we can experience all things new if we can set our minds on the things above.

Two recent experiences make this real for me…

There is a man who was diagnosed of terminal cancer in January.  He was given only a month to live.  He had no time left at all, but he kept going and going.  No one could figure out why until they asked him.  He wanted to make it to his sobriety birthday in April and receive his 13 year sobriety chip.  After he received it and went home, he asked a friend, “What do I do now?”  His friend said, “You can go now.”  He died two days later.  Talk the power of setting your mind on things above…

Another young man I know almost died from drugs.  Why?  He chose the wrong friends.  Why did he choose the wrong friends?  He doesn’t see himself as valuable and precious.  He sees himself as unworthy.  And by seeing himself as worthless, he got into the wrong friends and the wrong life and it almost killed him.  He is turning his life around and beginning to see himself differently.  I told him, “You are loved and precious.  You’ve got to believe it and know that it is true.  Get around good friends who can reinforce it.  You’ve got to see your life differently.”  I got a text from him at 6 a.m. this morning.  It said, “Happy Easter, because of today years ago, I know I am forgiven of all my sins.”  Talk about the power of setting your mind on things above…

Christ is Risen and YOU have been raised with Christ!  The power is yours.  Claim it by setting your mind on things above.  See the world differently – through the eyes of the Risen Lord.

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