Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
In God’s eyes, the world has only two kinds of people: those controlled by their own evil nature, and those controlled by the Holy Spirit. Our text says these two groups have mind-sets completely opposite from each other.
Romans 8:5a (Holman) For those whose lives are according to the flesh think
about the things of the flesh,. . .
“According to” means being under the influence of something. The word “flesh” refers to sinful human nature. Those lives lived “according to the flesh” are those ruled by their sinful nature. In other words, the phrase refers to unbelievers.
Paul here gave us a chief characteristic of unbelievers. One tragedy of lostness is; the unsaved are the last to suspect their actual condition.
They are self-deluded, blinded by Satan. Hence, their efforts to analyze themselves are futile. People’s only hope is to accept the Biblical verdict.
The indictment here is; unbelievers “think about”, concentrate their thoughts, on the wrong objects. “Things of the flesh” refers to anything that excludes God. It includes those aspects of life done without thought of God.
In other words, lost people cherish the things of this world. Their lives are absorbed in things that fascinate their own sinful human nature. Their minds are occupied with, and absorbed in, earthly delights, pleasures, and indulgences.
This is not to say lost people always live grossly immoral lives, yet even moral and upstanding unbelievers are guilty of living without reference to God.
People who love the flesh are often cultured, educated, and refined. They commonly are enamored with the world’s art, music, architecture, politics, etc.
But it is art without God, music without God, architecture without God, politics without God, culture without God, and education without God. The good things of this world become bad things because they are used in the wrong way by unclean persons, people not cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
When God is left out, there can be no spiritual profit in a matter. Anything from which God is excluded has a tinge of Hell on it.
Be careful. The world can quickly dupe us into accepting its philosophy. Our minds can easily become secularized. Stay in the Bible and prayer. Do not spend overly much time in secular pursuits, including television, sports, hobbies, movies, etc. God is missing from them. This should make us uncomfortable.
The world is not much concerned about spiritual things. People turn away from God, as if He whom angels adore is not worthy of human attention. The same God whom angels deem a joy, people deem a burden. Angels must be amazed at the sight of sinful dust neglecting their Lord.
Some American Indians made the assumption that gold was the god of the Spaniards because they hunted so greedily after it. With similar intensity, modern Americans are pursing secularism, the removal of God from everything.
Romans 8:5b . . .but those whose lives are according to the Spirit, about the
things of the Spirit.
This refers to believers. The Holy Spirit is in every Christian. Each believer is under the charge of the Holy Spirit. Hence, saved people will live according to the things of the Spirit. Their thoughts will be concentrated on the things of God.
Believers are not limited to what comes through the five windows of the senses. God has entered our hearts, and has opened a whole new world to us. Believers want their life to be God pleasing, Christ focused, and Spirit led.
The whole course of a believer’s life is regulated by Spirit-consciousness. The Christian seeks to have no desires of his or her own. Rather, when facing a decision, they desire to know Christ’s mind, and want God’s will to be their law.
The “habit” of a believer is to be led by the Spirit. Christ-followers will be ensnared and stumble from time to time, but sin will not be the overwhelming tenor of their life. The believer does fall into sin, but does not abide in it.
Jesus did not fulfill the law in us (verse 4) that we might be lawless. He did so that we might live in such a way to prove that the Holy Spirit, not the flesh, is controlling us. The Christian has a new leader. Obvious evidence will confirm this fact. They that are after the Spirit will mind the things of the Spirit.
This text teaches us what it means to be spiritual. The word “spiritual” does not necessarily mean “immaterial,” nor does it refer only to “religious” activities. Spiritual describes anything that is ruled and directed by the Holy Spirit.
Anything done at the direction of the Holy Spirit is by definition spiritual. Everything we do should be spiritual, controlled by the Spirit. Every deed should have as its intent to please God.
Do not disparage external acts and say they are unimportant. What you do at work is spiritual if the Spirit of God directs it. Politics, commerce, recreation, and school are spiritual if those things are being done in accord with God’s will.
The whole of our being, the sum of our existence, every deed of life—these must all be meant for God and determined by God. Everything we do should express submission to, and give evidence of, the leadership of God.
This means doing good work on the job is as spiritual as coming to church. It means prayer and going to church can be unspiritual if done when God wants something else done. For instance, the same God who said “pray” also said “go.” Therefore, prayer is no more sacred than missions. We do not quit either to do the other. We do both all the time we can.
A spiritual person has learned to use physical things in spiritual ways, to do earthly tasks for heavenly reasons. “It is a great art to learn the heavenly use of earthly things” (Bishop Hall). We must press every deed into a sanctified service.
Believers want to be right with God now, not only in the hereafter. Their desire to please God is so intense that they are saddened if anything disturbs this relationship. Compared to pleasing God, everything else is relatively unimportant.
Sin is an enormous matter of concern in our lives. We stay aware of it and seek to avoid it. We think of our weaknesses a lot. We long to be free from loving things of this world. In this way we leave little bait for Satan to use in temptations.
A loving heart is in anguish until it hears the loved one say “Well done.” More than anything else, a believer should desire the smile of God. Holiness matters most. May God help us reach the point where we would gladly give up all the things of this world to sense all is well between God and us.Would we be willing to give up everything of earth in order to know without doubt for one moment that all in us is right with God? Could we lay it all aside to hear Him say “Well done”? This should not be a ridiculous thought to us, since God is to be the supreme love of our life.
We all yearn to hear praise from our Beloved. We struggle hard to please Him. May we never short-change God.We will someday stand before God. All of our life will be weighed. What if we made a glaring omission in life? What if God is disappointed in us? Let’s not let this happen. Mind the things of the Spirit as much as we possibly can.