For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
When Adam and Eve were evicted from Eden God sent an angel with a flaming sword to guard the entry to the Tree of Life in order that fallen humanity would not enter the paradise of God except through His Redeemer, Jesus Christ. The mind of the Spirit accepts that through Christ we may find forgiveness, grace, acceptance, and redemption. This is the attitude that ceases to try on its own and trusts in God and His promises found in His word. These promises assure us of His gracious reward for our faith in Him; and the mind set on the things of the Spirit trusts that they will each be completely fulfilled.
The mind of the flesh expresses itself in two ways: one is in the effort to fulfill our own lusts and pride and the other is to mount some effort in self-righteousness to merit or earn our salvation. Both are contrary to the Spirit and lead to death, but the second one is in many ways more devious than the first. The second, the attempt to please God by our good deeds imagining that these could warrant His forgiveness, is the very thing that keeps us chained to the legalistic interpretation of the Christian life.
A.W. Tozer, in his masterful The Knowledge of the Holy, draws a beautiful illustration of our sins and the much greater grace of God. He likened our individual sins to a huge mountain that abounds before us, one that we cannot fully grasp. For example, in committing some sin we have influenced someone else, who also sins. His guilt is added to ours, but it does not stop there. He also influences HHothers who influence others, and the guilt multiplies quickly to go beyond what we can measure. This great mountain of our individual guilt grows to cross cultural and generational lines, even leaps over continents and translates into other languages. It seems unstoppable, but because you and I are people, it is also finite. Eventually life on this earth will come to an end, and all of the effect of our sin will turn into a cloud of chaotic dust. Though it will require millennia to happen, eventually it surely will.
But in turning to the grace of God that arises from God’s eternal nature, that was purchased by Christ on Calvary, but has existed in the reckoning of God since before the creation of the world and will continue for times immeasurable before us – we find that as great as this mountain of our guilt is, the grace of God is infinitely greater. We cannot think very well in terms of eternity, for we are linked to the finiteness of our beginning, and we know what we can measure, but God and His grace stand outside the boundaries of time. The death of Christ has an eternal value that does not pass away with time or melt into the dust of the earth like our bodies will. The grace of God as an attribute of His Person is inseparable from God Himself and as the outer space of the universe swallows whole the largest mountains on earth, so His grace more than compensates for the guilt of our sins. It is no wonder that the Bible calls our righteous acts as filthy rags before God in His awesome holiness.
If this can be said of our righteousness in terms of our salvation, it is also true in terms of living the Christian life. The mind set on the Spirit is the mind that takes the values of God – His attributes and character, His works and His promises – and lives in the reality of these. God’s character defines the true limitations of His children, and though we may be caught up in our own weaknesses, and often will stumble when we should be running free, His plans for our lives according His limitless wisdom is the true boundary for what His children may become and experience. The mind set on the Spirit is focused on these things.
Lord, let us learn of You, of Your grace and love and righteousness, and live within the limitless realm of Your Spirit, where eternal truth shines forth and we are not dismayed or disturbed by the lies of the world. Amen.