Paul was a child of two worlds. He was passing through a world broken by sin, while his truest citizenship belonged to a world where God’s desired will was constantly on full display. He kept his head in the clouds, so to speak, as he walked a path littered with both obstacles and opportunities. A heavenly mindset in the final hours of his life was nothing new, for you see, Paul had lived with an eye on heaven and an eye on earth for years now.
When Paul wrote about this notion of a heavenly mindset (Col. 3:1-4)—living with your head in the clouds—he did so with emphasis. Paul was a man acutely aware of the grace of Jesus in the present moment. He knew, and made crystal clear, that before we could reach up to heaven, heaven reached down to us. The entire emphasis of the first four verses has to do with how heaven has made salvation possible on earth. Follow this sequence:
●You have been raised to new life with Christ…
●So set your sights on the realities of heaven
●You died to this life…
●And your real life is hidden with Christ in God
●Thus Christ is your life
In one sense Paul’s logic here leaves us with a sacred paradox: to live effectively on earth I must fully embrace heaven’s idea for my life. This is what Paul means when he says to “set your sights on the realities of heaven” and to “think about the things of heaven.” Heaven has purchased our salvation; therefore, our response should be to embrace heaven’s idea for our lives. Paul is teaching us that the price our salvation cost heaven should be the filter for our mindset in this journey.
C.S. Lewis brilliantly expressed this idea in his classic work Mere Christianity when he wrote:
A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’; aim at earth and you will get neither.
We are to live with this sort of heavenly mindset. Our pilgrimage has a destination, and focusing on the destination empowers us to be helpful along the way. The question then becomes, what does it really look like to journey with a heavenly mindset, to allow this idea to determine how we think? Quite simply, a heavenly mindset means:
● We have a new identity: You have been raised to new life…
● We have a new perspective: set your sights on the realities of heaven . . .
● We have a new understanding of success and purpose: Christ is your life… you will share in all his glory.
In short, people of faith have no other option than to think differently than those who see this world as their only home. For the pilgrim, heaven has “come a calling” and thus changed not only our hearts but our heads as well. We keep our head in the clouds because we don’t want our feet to get too comfortable on the ground. Heaven consumes our thoughts because we don’t want to get too comfortable with our present surroundings. Heaven captures our imagination because we long to go there, and because heaven has changed us, we know that one glad morning we will arrive on the shores of glory.
Plato defined “thinking” as “the talking of the soul with itself.” The writer of Proverbs 23:7 puts it this way, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he (NKJV).” Both Plato and the writer of Proverbs help us to understand that when we are intentional with our thoughts, it affects our whole being, and thus determines how we live.
The great reformer John Calvin also wrestled with this notion of heavenly thinking:
But if we ought to think of nothing but of what is heavenly, because Christ is in heaven, how much less becoming were it to seek Christ upon the earth. Let us therefore bear in mind that that is a true and holy thinking as to Christ, which forthwith bears us up into heaven, that we may there adore him, and that our minds may dwell with him.
Heavenly thinking causes me to live in a state of adoration for Jesus. This type of thinking determines the type of journey we will lead and the type of life we will live. Those who keep their heads in the clouds will keep their eyes on Jesus, and thus, their hearts will be full of reverence, worship, and gratitude. Those who live with their heads in the clouds know not only how to live well, but how to love well.
So I ask you, is there a better way to wander through this world?
Brent Crowe is Vice President of Student Leadership University, a Christian program that awakens student potential and equips young people for leadership. Brent’s latest book is Moments ‘til Midnight: The Final Thoughts of A Wandering Pilgrim (B&H Publishing).