Consequences of Life in Christ – Colossians 3:1-4

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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

November 14, 2010

Consequences of Life in Christ

Colossians 3:1-4


Many years ago Johnny Cash had a song in which the lyrics of the chorus repeated the phrase, “No earthly good you are no earthly good, You’re so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good.” There is some truth to the song since such people have always been around in religious systems in which you have to earn your salvation. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and scribes for their neglect or perversion of the social aspects of God’s law in their pursuit of trying to earn righteousness through their religious system (Matthew 23:22). However, the reality is that the vast majority of people in the world, including a large portion of professing Christians, have the opposite problem. They are so earthly minded they are no heavenly good – or for that matter, earthly good either. Whenever a person lives their life with a focus on themselves, then they will be of no positive use to God and of little good for others.

This morning we come to Colossians 3 in which Paul begins a series of practical encouragements and admonitions in directing believers on how to live a life that is so heavenly minded that it will be of earthly good too. Paul has already set forth the superiority of Jesus Christ over creation, the church, philosophy and religion in the first two chapters. He has also given specific warning about the doctrines of the false teachers and the failure of philosophy, legalism, mysticism, ritualism and asceticism to produce a godly life. As he summarized in Colossians 2:23, “These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, [but are] of no value against fleshly indulgence.” The doctrine and practices of philosophers, religionists and false teachers seem to be wise from the human perspective, but ultimately they fail not only in making a person right with God, but they also fail in even controlling fleshly desire. Why? Because sin is a problem of the mind and heart and not just outward behavior. Self-discipline may result in restricting a behavior, but it cannot change the sinful heart, so sinful thoughts continue and sinful behavior erupts in other areas.

As Paul begins chapter three, he lays the foundation for how to live a successful and fruitful life that is pleasing to the Lord. Please follow along as I read Colossians 3:1-4. “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

These verses lay the foundation for successful Christian living by pointing out the consequences of being raised with Christ. Because of that we seek what is above where He is; think about what is above; have our lives hidden with Him; and will share in His future glory. In the rest of the chapter Paul will give specific instructions on setting aside your old life (vs. 5-11), living according to Christian virtues (vs. 12-17), and having proper social relationships (vs. 3:18-4:1).

The real key to living in godliness is Christ. Notice that in just these four verses Paul makes five references to Him – four by title and once by a personal pronoun. We are raised up with Christ (vs. 1); seek where Christ is (vs. 1); have our life hidden in Christ (vs. 3); and will be revealed with Him (vs. 4) when Christ, who is our life, is revealed (vs. 4). Our identification is with Jesus’ death (vs. 3), resurrection (vs. 1), life (vs. 3 & 4) and glory (vs. 4).

Raised with Christ Colossians 3:1

Paul begins this passage with the statement, “If then you have been raised up with Christ . . .” Paul is not questioning whether they have been raised up with Christ. The grammar here is a first class conditional statement which assumes positive affirmation of the condition. In this case, “if then you have been raised up with Christ” with an assumed affirmation of “and you have,” and so could also be translated as “since” as in the NIV. Its purpose is to present the consequences of that condition. Paul used the same grammatical form in Colossians 2:20 in which he pointed out that they had died with Christ to the elemental things of this world and so should not be submitting to the decrees of the false teachers. In this passage Paul will argue that being raised up with Christ will have consequences in what we seek, what we think, our security and our future.

What exactly is Paul referring to in saying you have been raised up with Christ? This is a continuation of the same point Paul made in Colossians 2:20 in our identification with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Just as we died with Christ, so we are also raised up with Him. This has been a theme throughout this letter because it is the heart of the gospel. God delivered us from the domain of darkness and into the Kingdom of His beloved Son through the redemption and forgiveness of sins (1:13-14) that come by His reconciling us to the Lord through the death of His fleshy body in order that we might be holy and blameless and beyond reproach before Him (1:22). Or as stated in Colossians 2:12, “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Paul makes the same point in Romans 6:4 stating, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

I pointed out this identification with Jesus’ death in our study last week. The person you used to be is crucified with Christ so that you are free from the bondage to sin, Satan and the world. Yes, we still live in this body of flesh and will struggle against them due to old habits and incorrect thinking. However, are no longer our masters (Romans 6), and so we should not submit ourselves to sinful desire, demonic oppression or worldly lusts. Instead, we are slaves to righteousness who love not the world (1 John 2:15), look for the way of escape in the midst of temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13), flee youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22) and submit to God, resisting the devil so that he will flee from us (James 4:7). All these are consequences of having died to sinful self by our identification with Jesus’ crucifixion. Remember, Jesus cancelled the decrees against our sin when they were figuratively nailed to the cross and paid for by Him in His death (Colossians 2:14). We are forgiven our sins by faith in Him.

There is also the identification of being raised up with Jesus which Paul points out here. Jesus did not just in mercy pay the debt of sin for us, He also in grace made us alive in Him (Colossians 2:13). He grants us adoption into God’s family (John 1:12; Ephesians 1:5) that we might live in righteousness before Him (Colossians 2:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21). As Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 2:17, Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature.” If you have become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are something other that what you used to be. Your spirit has been regenerated so that you are now alive to God and are to walk in newness of life. This is so radical that we use the term conversion to describe it. You are converted from an enemy of God into being His adopted child. Your conversion from spiritual death to spiritual life is no less radical than if you were attending a funeral of an old man and suddenly the lid to the coffin was pushed open and the same man jumped out of that coffin as a young man.

Because we are raised up with Christ to walk in newness of life, then there are subsequent changes in our purpose in life, the way we think, the nature of our life and its future destiny. The radical change that began with repentance from sin and placing our faith in Christ continues as our knowledge of God and His will increases so that we might walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and bear fruit. Remember, that was Paul’s prayer back in Colossians 1:9-12.

Seeking What is Above – Colossians 3:1

Since believers are raised up with Christ, the first thing Paul states in keeping with this truth is “keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” This is not an option for the true Christian for this is an imperative – a command, not a suggestion. It is also in the present tense meaning it is an ongoing quest and not something done once in the past or something that will not occur until sometime in the future. This is the logical consequence of the radical change that occurred in you when you were regenerated by the Holy Spirit to be alive in God. You have a completely different purpose in your existence than before conversion because you have a different relationship with your Creator.

What is included in this command? First, we are to seek (zhtevw / zêteô) which encompasses searching, striving, investigating and pursuing. This is an active endeavor. It is not something that will happen if you do not change what you are currently seeking or passively wait for someone to bring it to you.

If you do not change what you are seeking, you will be default simply continue to live in pursuit of the same sinful goals you had before your profession of faith. You will not grow in your knowledge of God or His will, nor will you bear fruit in godliness or serving Him. Your profession of faith will be demonstrated to be false, because nothing will indicate that there was any actual repentance. Repentance, a change of mind, must be accompanied by a change of direction or there is no evidence of any actual change of mind. The stated belief and faith is demonstrated to be false, which is the point of James 2:14-26. Faith without works is dead.

If you wait passively for someone else to do this for you, you will at best remain stagnant without an increase in the knowledge of God or His will and consequently continue to live with little or know fruit in godliness or serving the Lord. You will also be very vulnerable to the false teachers who offer means and methods for you to get what you want in some manner acceptable to you, and what you will want will be determined by self-desire instead of godly desire. We are not to “let go and let God” waiting for Him to “zap” us with a second blessing of holiness and a victorious life. We are commanded to seek the things above. (See: “Holiness” by J.C. Ryle)

We know that the “things above” are “heavenly” things since Paul relates this to where Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9) to be seated at the right hand of the power of God (Luke 22:69). From that position He intercedes for His followers (Romans 8:34) and is preparing a place for us in heaven that we might be with Him in eternity after He returns to get us (John 14:2-3). What exactly then is this pursuit of “things above” since we still live on this terrestrial earth. This verse is certainly not Paul’s advocation for the exploration of the atmosphere and space.

Jesus spoke to this issue in the Sermon on the Mount when He said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

In other words, the purpose of our existence is beyond what is offered in this world, which at best is only temporary. It is easy to get caught up in the pursuit of what the world defines as success – wealth, fame, power and pleasure – but all those things are fleeting. Solomon makes the point throughout Ecclesiastes that pursuit of such things is vanity, an empty chasing after the wind. If you gain wealth, others will do their best to take it from you and even if you keep it to the end of your life, you will leave it behind, and who knows, that may be to a fool that will squander it (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19). If you gain fame, Solomon comments, “there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man [as] with the fool, inasmuch as [in] the coming days all will be forgotten” (Ecclesiastes 2:16). If you gain power, others will strive to take it from you and you will leave it to someone else when you die. Pleasure is also fleeting and Solomon’s conclusion after pursuit of every kind of pleasure was that it to was vanity (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).

Jesus also went on to command that we are not to be anxious about the things of this world – our lives, what we are to eat, drink and put on. Instead, we are to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). This is also what it means to pursue the “things above.” God does not want us to be preoccupied with how to gain the stuff for daily life. He wants us to be preoccupied with Him, and so His promise it to provide the daily stuff of life if we will seek first His kingdom and righteousness. In other words, what we pursue in life should be done in relationship to His kingdom and walking in His righteousness. When man places his own needs and desires first, he is subject to doing things by his own wisdom and power to gain what he wants. More often than not, that will mean doing things contrary to the way God commands us to behave and with little or no regard for its impact on the kingdom of God.

People compromise their own integrity in order to gain or keep a job or make the sale. Government officials make decisions based on what will keep them in power instead of what is actually best and right before God. Even professing Christians often move from place to place with little thought as to the spiritual environment of where they will be moving and the effect it will have on them. Unless you are moving with a missionary mindset to either plant a church or build up an existing one, you had better make sure there is a good church where you plan to live so that you will have the help needed to continue to grow in your walk with the Lord. Employment is pursued based on how much can be made instead of how the Lord can use you there. Friends are pursued based on being able to climb the social ladder instead of how God can use you in their life.

Seeking the things above is to pursue the kingdom of God and His righteousness. It is to set the goal of your life to live for God’s glory instead of your own; to serve Him in building His kingdom instead of yourself in building your own. It is having your treasure in heaven instead of pursuing the things defined by this world as success.

Thinking on What is Above – Colossians 3:2

In the next verse, Paul gives another command which is related to the first. “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

If you set your goal in life to seek the things above, then you must also set your mind on the things above and no longer have it set on the things of this earth. The commandment in verse 1 in related to your volition. Set your will to choose to search, investigate, strive, and pursue what is related to God’s kingdom and righteousness. This command in verse 2 is related to the your rationality. You must turn your mind away from dwelling on the things of this world and have it dwell on the things of God.

This command is also in the present tense because it is something you have to continually do since the enticements of your own desires, the temptations of the world, and the attempts by our adversary to cause you to stumble are on going. The two commands are tied together because it is by an act of your will that you will choose what your mind will dwell upon. Your volition is to control the direction of your thoughts and this is something that must be done continually. However, the longer you do it the more it becomes your way of life and things of this world become less enticing.

Those who set their minds on the things of this earth, either actively or passively, are in great danger. In Romans 8:4-5 Paul warned that the mind set on the flesh will live according to the flesh resulting in death, but the mind set on the Spirit will living according to the Spirit resulting in life and peace. The mind set on the flesh is hostile to God. The unbeliever whose mind is blinded by the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4) is in danger of ending up with a depraved mind (Romans 1:28) unless they repent. The false teachers in Colossae promoted earthly solutions arising from false spirituality and so failed to produce godliness. Paul also gave a strong warning in Philippians 3:18-19 concerning professing believers that had become apostate because they set their minds on earthly things. They became enemies of the cross for their appetite became their god, their shame became their glory, and destruction was their final end.

You should be aware from Romans 12:1-2 that the mind is extremely important in the Christian life, for it is only as our minds are renewed – changed by God into greater godly thought patterns – that we are able to resist the pressure of the world and be transformed into living and holy sacrifices that demonstrate the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.

How is the mind renewed? Though the word of God and the Holy Spirit. This begins at salvation with repentance and regeneration. Repentance is a change of mind leading to a change of action. The Holy Spirit convicts you of your sin (John 16:8) so that you change your mind regarding self, sin and the savior. The Holy Spirit enables you to believe the truth so that you then turn away from self-righteousness and sin to faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ as the only means of forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God. The Holy Spirit cleanses you by regeneration and renews you (Titus 3:5). He enlightens your understanding and teaches you as you abide in Him (1 John 2:27). Your part is to be diligent to become able to handle accurately the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), hiding its words in your heart so that you will not sin against the Lord (Psalm 119:11). Let the Scriptures do their work of teaching, reproving, correcting and training you in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:17). The Holy Spirit uses the Scriptures to teach us about the nature, character and will of God while also convicting us to turn from sin and enabling us to live in godliness.

Setting your mind on the things above is to cause your mind to dwell on God’s word and its application in your life as directed by the Holy Spirit. As you set your mind to dwell on those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy and practice them, you gain the presence of God’s peace (Philippians 4:8-9). As you seek God’s kingdom and righteousness you will set your mind to dwell on God’s kingdom and righteousness. The result will be a perception and understanding of your purpose in life and what you should do that will be in accordance with all godliness and bear its fruit. You will have the spiritual wisdom and discernment to be walking in a manner worthy of the Lord and pleasing to Him in all respects (Colossians 1:9-10). To be heavenly minded is to understand the truths and values of heaven and put them into practice here on earth. That is why it is necessary be heavenly minded to truly be of earthly good. Consider that central to the blessing of the man described in Psalm 1 was the fact that he delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on that law day and night. He could continue to be fruitful even in difficult circumstances which means he could also be a blessing to others instead of a liability.

Where do you let your mind dwell? The manner in which you are living your life will reveal that. If you are having difficulty walking in holiness with the Lord, then consider what you think about and what you believe is important in life. If those change, then so will the manner of life.

A Life Hidden with Christ – Colossians 3:3

In verse 3 Paul brings out again our position. “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Paul once again refers to the believer’s identification with Jesus’ death. Here he puts it simply, “you died.” Your old self was crucified with Him (Romans 6:6). What you were is dead, but Paul quickly points out that we now have a life that is hidden with Christ in God. This is referring to the fact that we have been resurrected with Christ to a new self that is alive to God. Part of that reality is seen in the present in the change in our manner of life, but there is also a part which is hidden in Christ. We have become partakers in the divine nature, but the fullness of that is not seen in the present.

In a similar way to our righteousness, we have an actual spiritual position before God which will not be ours fully until we receive our glorified bodies at Christ’s return. At present, we stand fully righteous before God because we are clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Himself. In the present, we do not live in the fulness of actual righteousness for we are still living in unredeemed flesh. In the future, our positional and practical righteousness will both be actual when our Lord returns and our bodies are changed and we become like Him (1 Corinthians 15:50-54; 1 John 3:2).

Admittedly, this is disappointing in the sense that we long for those benefits now. Like Paul in Philippians 1:23 we desire to “depart and be with Christ for that is very much better.” We would prefer not to have to wait, yet, we also recognize that this is God’s plan at present for the benefit of both those who have not yet heard the gospel and in helping young believers to mature. To remain on in unredeemed flesh is necessary for the sake of others. At the same time, this spiritual position in Christ is also the very thing that gives us the hope of that future redemption of our body for which we eagerly wait (Romans 8:23).

Another ramification of having our life hidden with Christ in God is that it is safe with Him. Jesus loses none that the Father gives to Him (John 6:37). No one is able to take any of Jesus’ sheep from out of the Father’s hand (John 10:29). Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:31-39).

Having our life hidden in Christ also means that others will not see the fullness of it. That can cause some confusion and even some accusations against us since the truths that guide us are not understood by the unbelieving, and our living them out is not always as it should be. However, there is a time coming when the fullness of the Christian life will be seen as Paul explains in verse 4.

Future Glory – Colossians 3:4

When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” We will share in Christ’s future glory, for when He appears, then we also will be revealed. We do not know all the details of what that will be like except that we will be like Him for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). This is a reference to Jesus’ second coming since that is when He will appear in glory along with His saints who will then be in their resurrection bodies. The word revealed or appear here (fanerovw / phaneroô) means to “make visible,” and Paul does not make time reference about when this will occur. The only time reference is the opening conjunction, o{tan / hotan, which is translated here as “when,” but has the indefinite sense in this verse of “whenever.” At present Jesus is hidden from the physical sight of men, but at some point in the future He will return in the same way in which He ascended (Acts 1:11-13) and every eye will see Him (Revelation 1:7). What is currently hidden will be fully seen.

Paul interjects here that Christ is our life. But that is the point. Our old self died with Him in the crucifixion and we were regenerated and made alive with Him at His resurrection. Or as Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” Because of this I am seeking the things that are above and setting my mind on them. I eagerly await the return of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven (Philippians 3:20) when faith will be sight and what is hoping for will be reality. Because of that hope I seek to live a pure life in the present (2 Peter 3:4; 1 John 3:3) fulfilling the Lord’s commands in loving Him and my neighbor. So it is that by being heavenly minded I please my Lord and am of some earthly good too.


What do you seek in life? What do you set your mind on? What is your hope for the future?

If your answer to those questions are not all bound up in the Lord Jesus Christ, then do not be surprised at the lack of meaning, purpose and godliness within it. It is time to repent and follow Him.

If they are, then you can expect to see your life changed and become increasingly conformed to His image in the present even as you wait for our Lord’s return and the fulness of His redemption. God will complete the work He has started in you (Philippians 1:6).

Sermon Notes – 11/14/2010

Consequences of Life in Christ – Colossians 3:1-4


The vast majority of people are so _________ minded they are no heavenly good – or earthly good either

Jesus is ___________ over creation, the church, philosophy and religion

Sin is a problem of the mind and ____________ , not just outward behavior

The key to godliness is ___________ – Paul refers to Him five times in these four verses

Our identification is with ___________ death (vs. 3), resurrection (vs. 1), life (vs. 3 & 4) and glory (vs. 4).

Raised with Christ Colossians 3:1

A first class conditional statement – assumes positive affirmation – “___________ ”

Identification with Jesus’ death & _______________

Death with Christ frees us from ______________ to sin, Satan and the world – Romans 6

As ___________ of righteousness – we apply 1 John 2:15; 1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Timothy 2:22 and James 4:7

In _______ Jesus paid our sin debt to forgive us. In ______we are adopted into God’s family – John 1:12

We are new _____________ in Christ – 2 Cor. 2:17. A radical conversion

Being raised with Christ we ___________in our purpose of life, the way we think, our nature and destiny

Seeking What is Above Colossians 3:1

This is a present tense command and therefore an ____________ quest.

Seeking encompasses __________ searching, striving, investigating and pursuing.

Without a change of _________there will not be any growth or evidence of a living faith – James 2:14-26

This cannot be done passively, we must actively ___________ the things above

These are ___________things because Jesus is seated there at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 12:2)

Matthew 6:19-21 – Where is the location of what you treasure?

Ecclesiastes – the pursuit of worldly success – wealth, fame, power, pleasure – is fleeting __________

Matthew 6:33 – God wants us preoccupied with ________, not the things needed for daily existence

Seek the things above – ____________ kingdom and righteousness, laying up treasure in heaven.

Thinking on What is Above Colossians 3:2

If you are seeking the things above, you must also set your __________ on those things.

You must _____________ be choosing the direction of your thoughts

Those with their minds set on earthly things are in great __________- Rom. 8:4-5; 2 Cor. 4:4; Rom. 1:28

Professing _______________ can also be in danger – Colossians 2; Philippians 3:18-19

Romans 12:1-2 Only as our minds are renewed are we able to be _________________to live godly lives

The mind is renewed through the word of God and the _____________- John 16:8; Titus 3:5; 1 John 2:27

Be diligent to learn, memorize and live by the ______________- 2 Tim. 2:15; Psalm 119:11; 2 Tim. 3:17

Set your mind on God’s word and its _______________ to your life as directed by the Holy Spirit

A mind that understand the truths and values of _____________and put them into practice here on earth

The ________________ in which you live your life will reveal what you let your mind dwell upon

A Life Hidden with Christ Colossians 3:3

Your old self was crucified with Christ, but the new self was resurrected with Christ to be ______to God

The spiritual position we now have with God will not be fully realized physically until the ______returns

Full redemption now would be preferred, but God’s plan for the present is a _______to others – Phil. 1:23

Our spiritual position in Christ gives us ___________ for the future redemption of our body

Having our life hidden in Christ means it is ___________ – John 6:37; John 10:29; Romans 8:31-39

This hidden life causes confusion in the present, but it will be ________________ at Christ’s return

Future Glory Colossians 3:4

This occurs at Jesus’ ____________ coming – that is when He returns in glory with His saints.

At present, Jesus is hidden from the physical _______of men, but all will see Him at His return – Rev. 1:7

Christ is our _____________ – Galatians 2:20

I seek the things above and set my mind on them while _____________ for the return of my Lord.

This future hope results in a present action of striving to live a _________ life – 2 Peter 3:4; 1 John 3:3


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times “things above” or “heaven” is mentioned. Talk with your parents about how you can be properly heavenly minded.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. How could someone be so “heavenly minded” that they were no earthly good? What danger did the false teachers at Colossae present to true Christians? How is Jesus Christ the key to godly living? What benefits do we gain in having “died with Christ”? In what sense is the Christian “raised with Christ”? What is “conversion” and why is it a radical concept? How does a Christian continue to change after conversion? What does it mean to “seek the things above”? How do we know this refers to heaven? What is the importance of this being a present tense command? What danger is there to someone that does not do this? In what sense can we seek heavenly things when we are still here on earth? Why is the pursuit of the things the world defines as success – wealth, fame, power, pleasure – ultimately vain? What does God promise He will do if we seek Him & His righteousness first? How does that help us spiritually? What is the relationship between volition (ability to choose) and reason (ability to think)? What is the danger of having a mind set on the things on earth? How is the result of having a renewed mind? What role does the Holy Spirit play in renewing a believer’s mind? What part do the Scriptures play in renewing a believer’s mind? In what sense is the believer’s life “hidden with Christ”? What benefits does this bring? At what event will Jesus be revealed in glory along with His followers? What do you seek in life? What have you set your mind upon? What is your hope for the future?

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