A Righteousness by Faith #35: Who’s minding your mind?
The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6
Something has happened to you because of righteousness by faith. You think differently. Your mind has begun—and will continue—to line up with what God wants for you, which is life and peace.
It is so tempting to read serenity into this statement about the mind. So many people are looking for peace of mind in their harried and harassed world. Ideas like safe places, positive thoughts or mind vacations express our longing to escape the twin demons of anxiety and fear so we can relax and breathe.
But this word picture in Romans goes much deeper than just a temporary reduction of your personal angst. It tells you that what controls your mind has changed: that you are being guided toward life and peace by the Spirit. That no matter what your world throws at you, you will be progressively becoming whole. And you will see this because the Spirit has been given to you.
The word ‘flesh’ depicts what it means to be outside of the new covenant God offers people through Jesus. It includes both those who had no religion and those that did. Both the Jewish and Gentile believers in Rome at one time lived under the governance of the flesh. So whatever their minds had guided them to do—whether to live in strict adherence to the holy law or revel in a hedonistic life—they had been living out death.
This is what Paul means by “the mind governed by the flesh is death.” It’s not about thinking about death all day, picturing tombstones and caskets in your mind. The mind controlled by the flesh means that a person is trying to live out his or her life on their own terms, believing that what they choose to do gives them significance. They are playing out the godhood myth of the Fall: “We can reign over our own lives. We can make the decisions that will shape our world and make our mark in it!”
The lie of this slogan wears thin in time. All that people gain from doing their own thing this side of the grave is temporary honors, fleeting satisfaction, but nothing that smacks of eternal glory. Everything that people pursue to give their lives meaning is, in the words of The Preacher in Ecclesiastes, ‘vanity.’ You think getting what the flesh has put into your mind is going to make your life worth it all—like that once in a lifetime vacation or seeing a statue built in your honor. But when you have it, it does nothing eternal for you. It has filled a little of your earthly journey’s time, but when you are gone, you leave it all behind.
Listen to how the Preacher of Ecclesiastes ends his book on this note—‘seek the Lord while you are young, before the days of troubles come.’ Like Paul, he learned that security and finding wholeness in life is rooted in living with God in charge of your choices and life direction.
But unlike the Preacher, Paul—and you—live on the other side of the resurrection. You have the Spirit, which is God’s empowering presence within you. When you were in the flesh, you were convinced in your mind that you could make a difference. Now you know the truth. The goodness of life and peace are had by those whose minds are under God’s reign, who now live in the relationship that all humans were made for. Your significance is not found in the things you do, the things you produce, or even the exemplary life you live. By the Spirit, you now are able to live out the image of God in which you were created. When you go to work, you bring God’s reign with you. When you gather with your family, His reign shapes your home life and fills it with His love. When you are tempted by the lies of the enemy, your mind can say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and live a self-controlled, upright and godly life in this present age because your mind is governed by the Spirit.