These few verses in Romans 8 are fundamental to the change process that is going on in those who come to the Lord. They are the key to the changes that are being wrought in His people and are the most fundamental explanation of walking in the spirit.
Until a Christian understands this principle AND applies it in their life, they will not change. They will not be able to change because they will be blocking the power of the Holy Spirit to do the work of transformation in their life.
So let us look at these few verses and begin to understand how important they are in the context of our Christians walk.
What are you thinking about?
We see in these verses the stark contrast between those who live according to the ways of God and those who do not. Paul explains this difference in terms of those who are in the spirit versus those who are in the flesh.
And the key to these verses is…what are you thinking about.
I have made the point several times, especially in my last post, that the new covenant is not concerned with the flesh of man but the spirit. The working of the new covenant is to work on the spirits of people, and that means it works in their hearts and minds.
The old covenant law spoke to a person’s flesh saying do not touch, do not eat, do not do certain things and so on. But the new covenant speaks to the spirit of men by addressing things that cannot be seen, felt, heard or touched. The new covenant speaks about hope, faith, grace, joy and love. And all of these are not the things of the flesh but of the spirit.
So it stands to reason that a person needs to think in a spiritual way and not be focussed on the things of the flesh if they are to walk in the new covenant and to walk in the spirit.
A Mind Set On The Flesh
So in the distinction between these two diametricall opposed positions, that is, the flesh versus the spirit, we see the problems in the flesh. In verse 5 we read,
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.
In this verse we see that the issue for everyone is whether they have their minds set on the things of the flesh or the things of the spirit. It is what you think about and focus your mind and heart on that defines whether you are in the flesh or in the spirit.
A person who is focussed on the flesh is thinking about the things of this world. How to improve their lot in this life, money, status, power, holding on to what they have or how to get more of what they have or want. These are all things of the flesh because they deal with the physical things of this life.
But a person with their mind set on the spirit is looking at how they can please the Lord, how they can walk in the ways of the Lord, how they can help others when the need arises, how they can learn more and how they can listen and hear the voice of God speaking in their life.
The difference between these two positions is that the person with a mind set on the flesh is thinking “me, me, me. What’s in it for me!” They are focussed on what they can get out of a relationship, even one with God, rather than what they can put into it. They are looking for some kind of reward or gain.
But the person thinking in the spirit is concerned about their relationship with God and how they may assist others. They consider how to show love, compassion, empathy and share joy with others. They seek ways to encourage and lift up others. And they seek ways to be encouraged in the Lord and to be lifted up with Him.
When we look then at the next verse we see the importance of focussing on the spirit for the outcomes of these two polar opposites is quite drastically different. Verse 6 says,
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
Setting your mind on the flesh and on seeking the things of this world is death. It is the final death that comes for those whose only desire is for what can be got in this age. And as the bible says in Mark 8:36-37,
36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul?
A man in this age can gain everything this world has to offer. All the money, wealth, riches. All the power, accolades and knowledge. And in the end it means nothing if they do not have God. Without coming to God and seeking His will all of these things are worthless because they will exist only for this lifetime.
But as we see back in Romans 8:6 the person who has their mind set on the spirit will receive life and peace. What a fantastic promise! Not just life in the future when the Lord returns but peace…NOW!
The promise of the Lord here is that when your mind is set on the things of the spirit you will have peace.
Think about this example for a moment. The world today is in turmoil over terrorism, financial collapse and fear of wars and so on. A person whose mind is set on the flesh is going to worry that whatever they have may be lost to any of these or other similarly disastrous events. These people are NOT at peace.
But the person who has their mind set on the spirit and is walking with God knows that He will protect and save them. And that He will not allow one hair of their head to be harmed except it is in His will. And even if that person was to suffer the loss of all physical wealth and the trinkets of this life, even to suffer death for the sake of their stand in Christ, they lose nothing of value because it is not this life they are focussed on, but the things of the next life when they will be with Christ. Even death cannot separate the people of the Lord from His love. And so they have peace because they KNOW the Lord has everything in hand.
Do I worry about terrorism? Not particularly. It’s out there and it is of the flesh and of this world. But God sees it and knows what is going on even though man does not and he will only allow whatever is in His plan to occur. And if that means loss or harm to me then so be it. What I have can be replaced if he wants to do that, just as he replaced all that Job had after his testing and just as He gave Isaac back to Abraham when God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on an altar. God knew what He was doing and Abraham had faith in that.
We need to think the same way because when we do, then we have peace. The world cannot touch you when your heart, mind and spirit are set on the things of the spirit. This is why these few verses are so important to all Christians for in this day and age, we are the beacons of hope to the world. We should stand head and shoulders above the things of this world with our hearts, minds and spirits set on God.
Finally we see in verses 7-8 that a person with their mind set on the things of the flesh is truly lost. It says,
7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Look at these words. When a person has their mind set on the things of the flesh, the troubles, fears, wants and desires of the flesh, then they are hostile to God. By focussing on the flesh we make ourselves enemies of God and as verse 8 so eloquently puts it, “Those who are in the flesh CANNOT PLEASE God.”
Do you want to please the Lord God? Then focus on the things of the spirit. Do you want to know what to focus upon? Look at what it says in Philippians 4:8-9,
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Take good notice of these words for here you are being told exactly what to THINK about to please God. This is walking in the spirit in practice. These are the things we must focus and set our minds upon. Consider and compare these things to what I mentioned earlier about the things of the spirit; love, joy, compassion, kindness, faith, grace and so on. Each of these attitudes of thinking fits into those same attributes of walking in the spirit.
And once again we see in these verses in Philippians that the outcome of following this advice is that you get peace. Not just any old garden variety peace but the God of peace will be with you…and nothing can take away His peace while you remain in the spirit.
So finally I ask you once again. What are you thinking about? Are you focussing on the things of this world or the things of the spirit? Are you focussed on the comforts and pleasures or even the fears and woes of this life for all of these are fleshly thinking, or are you focussed on the better life in Jesus Christ?
What you think about determines what you do and what is important to you and in your life. Your thoughts control how you act and react. So be sure to focus on the Lord and the ways of God and walk in the spirit at all times. And whenever something comes in to upset your peace and try to take it away, remember to focus on the Lord. Pray to him over the matter, meditate on the scriptures to provide answer, speak in tongues if you have the gift, sing upbuild img and uplifting songs and so on.
These are all excellent strategies to keep your heart and mind set on the things of the spirit and to ensure you hold on to the peace of God.
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