TO CHEW ON: "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, the things of the Spirit." Romans 8:5
Paul talks about two opposing states of being here—in the Spirit and in the flesh. In another meditation on this passage, I focused on what it means to be set on the Spirit. Today let's look at what a flesh setting looks look. Of course, we're all still in the flesh physically. But being in the flesh (carnal) also has soul and spirit connotations.
To start with, our passage gives us some clues:
- There is spiritual condemnation for those who live by the flesh alone - Romans 8:1.
- It is its own law - Romans 8:2.
- In God's eyes, Jesus' death in the flesh—His perfect flesh—is the substitutionary death for us sinners and fulfilled God's righteous requirement that sin be punished - Romans 8:3,4.
- As people who have accepted Christ's death in our stead, we become people of the Spirit and now have the freedom and right to set our minds on the things of the Spirit; to live in the Spirit- Romans 8:5.
However, Paul's emphasis on the necessity of this and the possibility that even people of the Spirit may still be living under the tyranny of the flesh alerts us to that possibility for us.
A walk through scripture helps us understand what a carnal (fleshly) mindset and life looks like in attitude and behavior.
- It prefers the tangible to the intangible.
- Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of food - Genesis 25:34.
- The Israelites were ready to exchange their freedom to be able to again fill up on that fabulous Egyptian food - Exodus 16:3.
- It is sacrilegious.
- God scolds Eli for not correcting his sons, who treated the sacrifice elements with disdain - 1 Samuel 2:29.
- Paul brings up the same attitude to the Corinthians in regard to the Lord's Supper - 1 Corinthians 11:21.
- It has no thought of anything past this life - Isaiah 22:13; Matthew 24:38; Luke 17:27; Philippians 3:19.
- Its repentance is insincere - Hosea 7:14.
- It finds reassurance in false prophecy - Micah 2:11.
- It seeks God for His benefits - John 6:26. Fleshly pastors (shepherds) are in ministry to benefit themselves - Zechariah 11:16.
- It is characterized by worry over the things of this life - Matthew 6:25. Those cares choke out the working of God's word - Mark 4:19.
- It is a captive of sin - Romans 7:14.
- In the Christian who has tasted the Spirit life, this results in internal conflict - Romans 7:23, 24.
- This conflict can lead to discord with other believers - James 4:1-5.
- It is living the "works" of Galatians 5:19-21.
- The sobering end of someone who lives life solely in the flesh is spelled out in Revelation 18:9-18, i.e. they will someday find that all they had put their hopes in has burned up.
Do you find elements of your self described in the above list? Sadly, I do. Let's heed the advice of Paul and carefully guard the set of our minds, moving it off "Flesh" to "Spirit" whenever necessary.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for making a life set on the Spirit possible. Please alert me to when my mind slips into its old flesh setting of worry, envy, jealousy, anger etc. I want the Spirit setting to be the habit of my life. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.