What Must I do to Walk in the Spirit: Carnally vs. Spiritually Minded

Romans 8:5-9 (NKJV) 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. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

We have been endeavoring to answer a question that seems to me to be causing a great deal of misunderstanding in the church. How is a Christian to live a life according to the standards of behavior set forth in the bible and not succumb to the bondage of law? Some say that grace dismisses any need to think about behavior since Jesus paid for all sin. Others say that grace is the foundation of salvation, but we must still keep the law in order to maintain Godly living. I believe both are right and both are wrong.

Paul understood grace better than any man. He knew the depths of the sin he committed before his salvation (1 Tim. 1:15.) He understood that he could never pay for those sins. He received grace as the total payment for sin. He did not deserve God’s forgiveness, yet he understood that because of the grace of God it was offered anyway, and he fully received it.

However, Paul is very clear in many places in his letters, that grace is no excuse to allow sinful behavior. In Romans 6 he says that we are slaves to sin if we yield our members, our bodies, to sinful activities. Sin is toxic to the human spirit. Grace does not make it less so. Grace gives a way to overcome sin.

In the same chapter, Paul says that we must become slaves to righteousness. He never says that we are to be free in the sense of being able to live any manner of lifestyle we want. We are called to be Holy as God is Holy.

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NKJV) 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Although there is a truth that we are positionally holy because of grace, this scripture states plainly that our holiness must manifest in our conduct. The bible, especially the New Testament is clear that we are called to live a life as free from sin as possible.

Again, how do we do that without yielding to the bondage of law. Paul is very much against that. However, I would remind you that Paul tells us in Romans 7, that to live in sin is wretchedness to a Christian. What is the solution?

We have already pointed out that the solution is stated in Romans 8:1-4 as well as in Galatians 5:16-18. We must walk in the spirit. We must find a way to bring the inner man, created in the image and likeness of God, to ascendancy. Neither my body nor my soul were designed in creation to be the dominant part of me. Both had their roles, but it is my spirit, which is vitally joined to God, that is supposed to be the controlling factor in my lifestyle and behavior. To the degree that it is, I will be free of both the bondage of law and the wretchedness of sin.

Romans 7 lays out the problem. Romans 8:1-4 states the solution. Romans 8:5-9 gives us the first area we must deal with to apply the solution. Verse six might be the clearest statement of this.

Romans 8:6 (NKJV) 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

The first area I must deal with is my mind. To be carnally minded is death. That is a clear and decisive statement. Romans is written to the church. Paul makes it clear when he is talking about the world in this book. If a Christian is carnally minded, he is allowing death to infiltrate his life.

The converse is also true. When a Christian is spiritually minded, he opens the door to the life of God. Faith, love and peace become the defining characteristics in his life. All the promises of God are yes and amen for this Christian. He will walk in freedom no matter what he may be dealing with and, I believe, he will rise above the circumstances of life as he patiently allows his spirit by the power of the Holy Spirit to guide his steps.

What does it mean to be “minded?” Look at how the Amplified Bible translates this verse.

Romans 8:6 (AMP) 6 Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever].

To be “minded” is to have our thinking dominated by something. In the natural we understand this. Take children and Christmas for example. For most of the school year they think about what they have to do in school or their playtime. Their minds are filled with all sorts of things. However, somewhere around the beginning of December, their minds will start to turn to something else. At least I know this is true in the United States.

They will begin to pay special attention to all the toy advertisements on television. They will begin to think about Christmas trees and candy and presents. As the big day approaches their thoughts are more and more dominated by the holiday. In the end they cannot concentrate in school, they become both irritable and excited at the same time. As the final days approach, they cannot sleep without “visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads.” What has happened? They have become Christmas minded.

To be carnally minded is to be dominated in our thought life by sense reason without the influence of the Holy Spirit. I would add without any controlling influence by the Word of God. We think according to what we know in the natural as opposed to the truth of God’s Word and the influence of His Spirit. The real power of this is not in what we think but how we think.

How we think determines how we evaluate information and experiences. It will affect how we respond to people. Those who were abused as children, for instance, will respond differently in most areas of life from those who had healthy family lives. Where we grew up also affects how we think. I travel to many countries. Some things that make sense to the people who live there, just do not make sense to me. The reverse is also true.

How we think is not just made up of bad experiences although they seem to have a greater capacity to cause us to think in ways that make it difficult to live healthy lives. Even the good experiences can affect how we see life and respond to things and people. It is very difficult to rise above how we think. How we think is how we are minded.

To be carnally minded is death. However, that is the more natural way for most of us to think. We live in the carnal world. How do I change my way of thinking to be spiritually minded? This is what we must answer first if we are to walk in the spirit.

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