Developing a Christian Mind – part 3: Spirit
3. The Christian mind surrenders to the Spirit and so submits to God’s Word
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. (Romans 8:5-7)
Having identified the problem in Chapter 7 of Romans that despite knowing God’s truth and wanting to obey it he was incapable of doing so, Paul reveals the solution in Chapter 8. Bible knowledge by itself is worthless, in fact dangerous. It can lead to self-righteousness, as we judge others for their lack of knowledge, or, conversely, to despair, as we realise how far we are from the standard of Scripture. The problem in either case lies in our ‘flesh’ (which modern English translations often express as ‘sinful nature’). We are incapable of attaining the perfect standard of the Bible and we are prone to self-justification and self-indulgence.
Although the Scriptures reveal God’s truth to us, we are unable to obey them without the empowerment of God’s Spirit. There is a struggle within us between the flesh (the sinful nature) and the Holy Spirit. They pull in opposite directions. Often our problem is not that we cannot recognise what is true or right, but that we don’t want to obey it or are led astray by desires that are counter to truth. A Christian mind is not simply one that knows God’s truth, but one that delights in following God’s leading to enact His truth. When our minds are influenced by the Spirit (‘governed by’ is probably too strong a translation), we willingly submit to God’s law. When we do so, we find that the Spirit provides the power we need to resist sin and to do what is right.
Of course, this also explains why biblical values sometimes jar with those who are not Christians. Those who do not know the power of God’s Spirit at work in their lives cannot understand that it is possible for a person to resist the strongest of desires, including those that might seem ‘natural’ to them, whenever they lead against God’s truth revealed in Scripture. Once a person becomes a Christian, the dynamic changes. There is a new power inside us should we choose to follow the leading of the indwelling Spirit. I’m not saying this is easy – as Christians we still struggle with temptation and with sin – but it is possible! We have a choice to offer ourselves to God rather than to sin.
To have a Christian mind means to follow the Spirit’s leading in submitting to God’s truth and obeying it.