For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace.
Romans 8:6 (HCSB)
Two vastly different ways of living result from two different ways of thinking. One remains in the flesh, in our fallen nature and its misshapen values. The other focuses on the Spirit, His revelation of God’s truth through the written word that he inspired, communes with him, and submits to him.
Paul spent several chapters in Romans explaining the victory we have in Christ. He gave a majestic panoramic view of the mercies of God in Christ that put an end to the reign of death. He described our experience with the grace of God as being transferred from one set of realities to another: “Through him [Jesus] we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:2). He explained in careful detail how faith in Christ has brought us into a new status, not just a new level of living but into the possession of real and genuine life, the life of God, the only true life. He described the sacrificial death of Christ as the “act of righteousness” that “brings life to all men.” He went so far as to aver in the opening verse of chapter 8: “Therefore no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus.”
Often we call these “positional truths,” meaning that we have a new position in Christ, one that is secure that is based on grace, which we have entered into through faith. But there are also “experiential truths,” that do not remove us from our position in Christ in God’s view, yet they can still have a devastating effect on our personal emotions and daily experiences in living. For a Christian to be dominated by the mind-set of the flesh is like dressing up in our finest and choosing instead to go to the garbage dump.
The mind-set of the flesh is to live as though we had never been saved at all. This “thinking” or “minding” of the flesh is extremely easy for us to fall into. I do not need to do anything in order to think fleshly – it comes from my fallen nature and is egged on by the devil himself. “Fleshly” emphasizes my personal sinfulness and “worldly” emphasizes the influence of the fallen and sinful world around me. These two realities work against the purposes of God and lead us to live in the experiential reality of spiritual death.
I mind the flesh when I complain and focus on the negative in life, when my mind is dominated by lustful thoughts and prideful imaginations, when my feelings and my comfort become the most important things to me. When my mind-set is fleshly in the presence of other Christians I will quickly find their faults rather than see them through the eyes of Christ. It is often in the name of God or in the cause of some religious issue that we use high sounding theological arguments to tear down our brother, but when we fail to see our fellow believer first as a redeemed child of God then we are thinking according to the flesh. We will quickly begin to major on minors, miss the perspective of grace, and poorly apply the truth of God we say we are seeking to proclaim. No matter how right our words may be, our own experience will be that we are living in death.
The mind-set of the Spirit is one that begins with his perspective in all things, that does not presume to really know and correctly understand anything after the flesh, or according to mere earthly knowledge. The mind-set of the Spirit takes into account as a matter of first importance the reality of God and his grace, that walks with God and heartily embraces his truth. This is the life that enjoys the freedom of the Spirit, freedom from the dominating control of sin and lust, freedom from the limited viewpoint of the world. Freedom to receive and to share the love of God.
Today begin with the thought of the love of God for you and for every person in the world. Accept that truth in faith and stand upon it. Lay aside the earthly anger that has dominated your thinking in the past, and the fear of loss of control. By the grace of Christ put aside dwelling on what others have done to you and look at the love of God in you, and see that his love is directed to you. Submit your heart to its reality, to Him as a person, and let this mind-set shape your heart and your values. You will find that you will be experiencing the life and peace of God in your daily thoughts and daily living.
Keep your mind there, adhered to Christ and his love and do not allow the earth to distract you. Small irritations, painful memories, crises of all sizes – don’t let these disturb your spiritual progress in Christ because in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us.
Lord, we know of your love because we have trusted in you. Let your care and concern for us become the chief matters that shape our thoughts and help us form our perspectives and values. Let us keep our mind on you as your Spirit guides us into your truth, that we may live in the reality of your life every day. Amen.