I Left My Heart Above in Heaven

July 24, 2016
Colossians 3:1-4
Abraham Hong

 

Part 1: 1953

A long time ago, in the year 1953, a little song was written about a big city. It was a lovely twelve line piece of nostalgic old-school jazz. It went on to be performed by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. And it is now widely regarded as one of the most historically significant songs of modern America. The title of the song is “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” And it went a little bit like this:

The loveliness of Paris seems somehow sadly gray
The glory that was Rome is of another day
I’ve been terribly alone and forgotten in Manhattan
I’m going home to my city by the Bay
I left my heart in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me
To be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
The morning fog may chill the air, I don’t care
My love waits there in San Francisco
Above the blue and windy sea
When I come home to you, San Francisco
Your golden sun will shine for me

What a lovely song. As the author looks forward to going home, he sets his mind on certain things: the little cable cars that climb halfway to the stars, the morning fog that chills the air, the blue and windy sea. He says that his love waits there. And, most famously, he says that his heart is there. “I left my heart in San Francisco.”

People leave their hearts in all kinds of places. You can leave your heart in an old stomping ground. You can leave your heart in the hometown where you grew up. You can leave your heart in a favorite vacation spot or a beloved restaurant. You can leave your heart in any place that has brought you comfort and joy. It’s nostalgia and sentimentality at its finest. People’s hearts can be anywhere.

In the book of Colossians, the Apostle Paul writes to believers who struggled to put their hearts and minds in the right place. The Colossians got wrapped up in a long list of worthless things that promised spiritual growth and maturity. Things that were not according to Christ. Things that were not of heaven. And so their hearts and minds were in the wrong place.

Thus, here in chapter three, Paul directs their hearts and minds toward heaven. He does this with the hope that they would be able to say, “I left my heart above in heaven.”

Part 2: United With Christ and There With Him

So here’s an interesting thought. How can a believer say, “I left my heart above in heaven” if he or she has never been there? How can we be nostalgic and sentimental for a place that we’ve never known or seen?

The answer to these interesting questions is far more interesting. Paul says that believers are, in a very real and true sense, already there in heaven with Christ. Not physically there. Spiritually there. And yet really and truly there.

How is this possible? This is possible because believers are united with Christ. We are there with the Lord because we are united with him in his death and in his resurrection.

First of all, brothers and sisters, you are united with Christ in his death. This means that we have died. Our old selves died when Christ died. The power of sin in us died when Christ died. You are united with Christ in his death. Praise the Lord!

But you are also united with Christ in his resurrection. You have been raised with Christ. This means that your new self has been born. This means that you are forgiven and loved. This means that you can grow and mature and change. You are united with Christ in his resurrection. Praise the Lord!

Brothers and sisters, you are united with Christ. You are there with him. Isn’t that amazing? Your life is hidden with Christ in God. It’s that personal. And when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Part 3: If This Then That

Given the fact that we are united with Christ and there with him, we are told to set our minds on things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. If we are united with Christ, then let our hearts be there with him. Let us be nostalgic, so to speak, for the kingdom of God. Let us be sentimental, so to speak, as we remember the wonderful promises of our Lord, especially as he prepares a place for us right now.

This is a difficult thing to do. The reason why is because we naturally set our minds on things that are on earth. But God commands us through the Apostle Paul to not do this. We must set our minds on things that we cannot see. We must walk by faith, not by sight.

So brothers and sisters, I urge you to trust in the Lord and obey his two-part command. First, set your mind on things that are above. Second, set not your mind on things that are on earth.

So when you are tempted to sin, think about how you are united with Christ and turn away from it. Set your mind on things that are above.

When you enjoy your home, think about how awesome your place in the new heavens and new earth is going to be. Set your mind on things that are above.

When conflict happens at home or at church, think about how we are all forgiven in Christ. Set your mind on things that are above.

When you enjoy a meal at a really nice restaurant, think about how much more delicious the food is going to be at the banqueting table of Christ. Set your mind on things that are above.

When you sit down in this sanctuary at 10 am on Sunday mornings, think about how you come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven. Set your mind on things that are above.

When you are lovesick or depressed and have no desire to carry on, think about how you are going to heaven and think about the joy of salvation in Christ that is better than human love. Set your mind on things that are above.

When you are scared or when you see terrible news unfold in the news, think about how your life is hidden with Christ in God and how you are safe and secure in the almighty hands of the Lord. Set your mind on things that are above.

When you bury the dead, think about resurrection. And think about Jesus Christ, who says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Set your mind on things that are above.

When you die, think about Jesus. Think about how he died too, but how he rose again and sits at the right hand of God. Think about how you also will appear with him in glory. Set your mind on things that are above.

Part 4: Epilogue

Brothers and sisters, we are like pilgrims. We are traveling to a better country. We are waiting for God’s final promises to come true. That’s the big picture. That is the Christian gospel.

What a lovely gospel. It kind of sounds like that song from 1953:

The loveliness of this world seems somehow sadly gray
The glory of myself is of another day
I’ve been terribly alone and forgotten in Manhattan
I’m going home to my city on that day
I left my heart above in heaven
High on a hill, it calls to me
To be at the right hand of God above the morning stars
The things in life may not be fair, I don’t care
My love waits there above in heaven
Above the blue and windy sea
When I come home to you, oh my heaven
Your golden Son will shine for me

End