If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.…
If we would understand St. Paul we must often remind ourselves of his view of the Christian life as a union and identification with the life of Christ in its several stages. The apostle teaches that the Christian has to live spiritually the same life that Christ lived both spiritually and visibly. He must humble himself like Christ, his old self must be crucified, he must be buried to the world and then rise again in a new life. Now, we are to see how the Ascension follows the Resurrection; how, as it was in the human experience of Christ, so spiritually to us there must be a rising to the things above after we have come from the death of sin to the new Christian life.
I. CHRISTIAN ASPIRATION SPRINGS FROM THE EXPERIENCE OF A NEW SPIRITUAL LIFE. The resurrection must precede the ascension. Christ rose from the dead before he was received up into heaven. We have our resurrection. Without it we vainly strive to aspire to higher things. So long as the soul is dead in trespasses and sins it can have no power to rise to the heights of celestial experience. But this resurrection has taken place in every true Christian. Christianity does not satisfy itself with the death of the old life of sin. It is itself a new resurrection life. The destruction of old habits, evil pleasures, a wicked will, etc., are but the first process. The very purpose of this killing of the old is to make way for the awakening of the new life. Christ could not have risen if he had not died. He died that he might rise again. We die to sin that we may thereby rise into newness of life. The Christian lives with the energies, faculties, hopes, and aims of a new life. All is not done in the act of the new birth. This, like natural birth, is the beginning of greater things. The aspect of the new life must be onward and upward.
II. CHRISTIAN ASPIRATION AIMS AT THE THINGS THAT ARE ABOVE. It must soar above the sinful pleasures and habits of the past. It would be undoing all the work of redemption if the freed soul were to let itself be again taken captive by sin. The death agonies of repentance and the birth throes of the new life would be endured in vain if, like a sow returning to its wallowing in the mire, the soul went back again to grovel in the low and evil things of its old life. What is the use of the beautiful wings of the moth if it continues to crawl over the garbage on which the caterpillar fed? Moreover, the Christian aspiration must carry him away from the old narrow restraints and formal methods and laws of the old life. It is not for him to go back to "ordinances" (Colossians 2:20). Observe, however, that the aspiration is to be to that which is above, not merely to that which is future. The mere longing for heaven as a home of the future may degenerate into an idle sentiment. The true Christian aspiration looks upward rather than forward. It seeks the heavenly things that may be had already in some degree. Its aims are for those things which are spiritually higher and better than the things at present experienced. The Christian should prefer heavenly treasure to earthly riches; the smile of God to the favour of man; truth, purity, and love to any things that are seen and temporal.
III. CHRISTIAN ASPIRATION IS SUPPORTED BY FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST. Nothing is more difficult than active aspiration. The aspiration of sentiment that looks up may be easy. But the aspiration of life that seeks the things that are above is beyond our common endeavours. The wings of the soul are feeble. We lose ourselves in the clouds of our lower atmosphere before we have a glimpse of the stars above. Storms beat us back again to earth, weak and weary and sad. We can only safely aspire in Christ. As we die with him and rise from the grave of our old selves with him, so we ascend by continued fellowship with him. We may hold it true
"That men may rise on stepping stones
Of their dead selves to higher things." But we find in experience that the process is slow and toilsome. We want a hand above to draw us up. Now, as Christ is already in glory, when we seek to be near to Christ we approach his high estate. Two important lessons flow from this truth.
1. We cannot remain in fellowship with Christ if we grovel among the things of earth. Christ ascending to heavenly places will leave us behind and beneath his companionship unless we ascend to heavenly mindedness. The worldly minded Christian is the Christless Christian.
2. But close fellowship with Christ is the one way by means of which we may ascend to the things which are above. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.