Romans Chapter 8 is perhaps my most favorite chapter in the Holy Scriptures.
It contains the entire message of the Gospel in a beautiful package – grace, redemption, God’s plans for us, His great, immeasurable love – all are contained in this wonderful passage of Paul’s letter to the Romans. As if he knew his letter would be chopped up into digestible bites that we call chapters, he begins the 8th chapter of his work with an exposition of sin and its effects on the mind.
Today’s Scripture contains both a practical and theological application. Again, as aforementioned in last week’s Essentials, I use the NASB, as I prefer it, despite our using the HCSB last week.
Turn in your Bible to Romans 8:5.
Or, I reckon, turn on your phone and scroll your little thumb and select the book, chapter, and verse.
Or, if you are technologically challenged by today’s or the Middle Age’s standards and cannot operate a bible app or the actual book, here it is:
“For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”
What a marvelous verse.
First, we must identify those who are set on the flesh and its desires. Those individuals are those who God has not first called to salvation and then have not responded to that call, those who have not entered into a relationship with Jesus.
Secondly, we must identify those according to the Spirit, namely, Christians, or, those who have entered into a relationship with their Maker and Savior.
What does it mean to “set [our] minds” on anything? This can be thought of threefold, but arguably even more fold than that: actions, words, thoughts.
Sin, to “set [our] minds on the things of the flesh,” is altogether our deeds, words, and thoughts that are counter to the ways of the Lord. When we look lustfully at that woman/man, think harmfully angry thoughts, and speak words of deceit, we fall into obedience to the flesh.
This verse also tells us two things about ourselves.
- when we refuse to obey God, we are of the flesh,
- we disobey God when we are in the flesh.
Wait… Those say the same things… Not entirely!
Think about this – it has to do with the state of our hearts.
When we reject the Holy Spirit’s giving us an escape hatch from sin, we live out the desires of the flesh, and those who live in the flesh (those outside of the Family of God), do not and frankly cannot honor God, they are His enemies. While meeting similar ends of disobeying God, they take two different means to arrive.
Now comes the pragmatic application.
One of my favorite phrases is “fake it till you make it.”
It applies to so many situations in life. If I cannot do something, I try as hard as I can to understand it, and then if I still cannot do it, I fake it like I can do it until I actually can. Again, its a bit confusing. Think “practice makes perfect.”
If we want to be better (not that we in our own strength actually can be better) at following the Lord, we must “fake it till we make it.” If I want to know God’s heart, I cannot will it to happen, I must spend time with Him. I must carve out time in my “busy” schedule and devote that time to Him for Scripture reading and prayer, even when I don’t feel like it.
That is counterintuitive to a culture that says – “if it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it.”
Even when my affections are elsewhere, when I spend that time with Him, He calls out my affections and aligns them to Himself, I fall more in love with my Maker when I spend that time with Him. And when that is hard, I must trudge through the dry patches in my quiet times until I reach and know His heart for me.
I believe this verse speaks to that concept. Again, we, on our own strength, cannot be righteous, it takes the imputed righteousness of God to accomplish that, but I believe that if we want to be holy, we must act holy and in so doing, with Bible study and prayer training our hearts, we will be holy.
This is not being fake with God, if we act like we walk in the Spirit, even in the dry patches of our lives, God will use that for His glory. He will eventually help us to want to walk in the Spirit again, as He helps us long for Him and trains us to walk in the Spirit.
Seek the Father, even when you do not want to, and you will continue to hear His voice, and He will continue to draw out your affections when you ask Him to. Be allegiant to Christ over sin, and God will increasingly make you holy, thus enabling and proving you to be walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh.