1. To those who set their minds on the things of the Spirit, not the flesh, pleasing God (5-8)
Now, the contrast between those who walk according to the flesh and those who walk according to the Spirit is a contrast in behaviors. The word “walk” means behavior. It's a word in the New Testament used many, many times, particularly by the Apostle Paul to describe daily conduct. What we're talking about here is conduct. So we've moved into this whole matter of behavior with the word “walk.” It flows then into verse 5. Listen to verse 5"
Ro 8:5 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.
There is as clear a definition of the distinction between a believer and a non-believer as you will find anywhere. Believers set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Non-believers set their minds on the things of the flesh. That couldn't be more clear. Again, I remind you that this is a matter of behavior. Listen carefully. Behavior based on the word “walk” in verse 4, but behavior is a product of what? The mind. Thinking. And He says then, "Those who walk according to the flesh do so because that's where their mind is set. And those who walk according to the Spirit do so because that's where their mind is set.
To put it in another way, as a man thinks in his heart, what's the rest? So is he. So is he. So what we note then is that at the point of conversion, there is a dramatic internal change. There is what we would call, borrowing the words of the apostle Paul in Romans, a new nature or a new disposition or a new principle, a new law, a new will; a new disposition, perhaps, is best.
People who live carnal, fleshly, sinful, indulgent lives do so because that's how they think.
The ones being according to the flesh is simply another way of expressing people who are dominated by the flesh. This is an unsafe person, habitually controlled by unregenerate and depraved and fallen humanness. They don't know God. They can't understand God. They're not connected to God at all. They may be religious. They may be atheistic. They don't know God. To be according to the flesh is simply to be in the flesh, and that's the way he expresses it in verse 8. "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Being in the flesh, being according to the flesh, simply means being unregenerate and dominated by sinful impulses. And it is those sinful impulses that effect sinful conduct.
The flesh is Paul's word for fallen human nature apart from God. Okay? Fallen human nature apart from God; corrupt, directed, and controlled by sinful impulses. And the flesh is so corrupt, so corrupt, that no matter how much a...a wicked person would like to change his condition, he can't do it. Jer 13:23 said Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? No more can you change your nature." The heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. You can't even understand it, let alone alter it.
So these people who are in the flesh, who are dominated by unredeemed human nature — both in the physical part and the mental part of who they are — do what their fleshly impulses tell them to do. And then when it talks about the mind being set. It's...it's an interesting word. It's from the verb phroneō. And it's a word used for the seat of all mental faculties, mental affections, expressing any form of mental activity, including emotion, will, as well as just pure intellect. Their whole mind and their emotion and their will — the whole realm of mental activity — is corrupted by the flesh.
It's really a word for a disposition, a dominant, controlling disposition. They have a deliberate mindset. The unsaved person is dominated by unredeemed carnal, fleshly impulses. They are bent toward the expression of their depraved nature. And that's what he says in verse 5. "They set their minds on the things of the flesh."
On the other hand, back to verse 5, "Those who are according to the Spirit (implied, set their minds) on the things of the Spirit." Now, here you have a whole different category of people. This is a whole different disposition. These people are in the realm of the Spirit and are drawn by the truest impulses in their heart to the Spirit. They submit to His direction. They concentrate their attention, purpose, desire on whatever is precious to the Holy Spirit. They love what He loves. That's what it means when it says, "They seek the things of the Spirit."
When you look at their life and you see someone whose behavior is indulging the flesh and whose bent and disposition is toward the flesh, you have positively defined the person.
You say, "Well, what about Christians? We sin, too, don't we?” But we resent it. It's not the truest expression of our nature. It's an invasion. It still happens, because we're not all yet redeemed. Our flesh, our humanness is still there, even though our inward nature has been changed and our longings are toward God and energized by the Holy Spirit toward what is righteous and pure and good and holy. We still have to fight the battle of that changed nature being incarcerated in unredeemed humanness. That's why in Romans 8, Paul is so anxious to have the glorification of his body.
6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Now, the results of these two dispositions are given to us in verse 6. The results are pretty clear. "The mind set on the flesh...” Literally in the Greek would be read this way, “The mind set on the flesh equals death. But the mind set on the Spirit equals life and peace." Now, this further describes the state of these two kinds of people. In the case of the mind set on the flesh, death is the result. It doesn't say it leads to death. It says it is death. It isn't that they're going to die. They're dead. They're dead right now.
Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
What does it mean to be dead that way? It means that you are totally insensitive to God. I would suggest to you that the most obvious characteristic of a dead person is the inability of that person to respond. A person who cannot respond in any way to any part of his or her environment. And that's what spiritual death is. It is an inability to respond to the divine presence. It is an inability to respond to anything in the realm of divine truth and the presence of God. They are dead in terms of being utterly insensitive. They are like a corpse in a casket with no awareness of anything going on at the funeral around them.
It is in that death a spiritual separation from God which someday will become an eternal separation of God...from God. Now, I want to make this very important. This kind of death is utterly insensitive to God, but highly sensitive to godlessness. So that the sinner in this life is highly sensitive to sin and temptation around which dominates his life, and in eternal death will be eternally insensitive and separated from God, but highly sensitive to all of the repercussions of wickedness and sin in this life and all of the consequent punishment that's meted out against them forever. They'll be completely sensitive to that.
First Timothy 5:6 defines this person as dead while she lives. It says that, "She that lives in pleasure is dead while she lives." People who live according to the flesh, who have that disposition, are currently dead to all that is divine, and they will be forever. But they are sensitive to sin now, and they'll be far more sensitive to its consequences in the life to come as they bear that eternal judgment. To be fleshly minded, equals death.
"The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace." Life, what does that mean? Alive to God. When you come to Jesus Christ, and you're changed by the Holy Spirit, you are alive to God. You are sensitive to God. You read the Word and it comes alive to you. The Spirit of God moves and prompts your heart to...to give praise and thanks to God. And you're filled with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and you sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord.
Those two things simply mean we are alive to God and, not only are we alive to God, we are alive to God without fear. What is that? We are alive to God and, at the same time, at peace with God. The life and peace he's talking about here is not just something so easily defined as, "Well, we enjoy our living, and we really have peaceful, tranquil lives." That's not the idea. The idea is we are alive to God. We're alive to His working, and His Word, and we are alive to Him and not in a hostile way. We are alive to Him and at complete peace with Him. Therefore, life takes on consummate blessedness. We're alive to God, because He gave us His life. He made us alive together with Christ, Romans chapter 6.
Jesus said, "I am come that you might have life."
What He meant was that we have a living communion with God, because we share the same life. And we have peace. That's the end of alienation. We have fellowship with God, and we're at peace with God. We made truce with God. We're in communion with Him, and that'll never change. God is never going to cast us out.
Isa 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
That we'll keep Him in perfect peace is the promise to those who have come to know Christ. What a thought. We have life. We have sweet communion with the living God. We hear His voice on the pages of Scripture. And we long to obey and respond, and we long to worship Him and to know Him better and to serve Him. We have received His grace. His love has been shed abroad in our hearts. We have been given permanent peace with God and joy forever. We have an inner assurance that all is well, and nothing can ever change our eternal relationship with the Lord.
He doesn't mean that we're never going to be disturbed in life. Even Jesus was disturbed about things. And even Paul said, "Wretched man that I am." Romans 7:24. He wasn't talking about psychological tranquility. He was talking about a relationship with God that is forever settled.
We're not in the flesh. We don't mind the things of the flesh. We are not compelled by the flesh. We, rather, are in the Spirit, according to the Spirit, minding the things of the Spirit. For us, there is a pursuit of the things of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; these are the things of the Spirit. The things of the flesh: Immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.
"I'm telling you,” Paul says, Galatians 5:21, “those who practice those things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God." That can't be more clear.
1. Do you desire to live for the Lord or the world?
2. Is your destination Heaven or Hell?