The Living Dead

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  Romans 8:6

I was so encouraged that yesterday’s devotional sparked so much conversation.  I am so impressed by the spiritual depth and maturity of this devotional family.  Some of your notes were challenging, asking me questions to provoke thought so that I can further clarify what I believe I’m learning.  Thank you!

I’ve got my feet set pretty firmly in this new direction.  Those who live according to the flesh are unbelievers.  Those who live according to the Spirit are God’s children.  Another reason for this conclusion is because of the phrase, ‘setting your mind’, in today’s scripture.

To set my mind on the flesh is to be habitually consumed with things that offend God.  How can I focus all my attention, as a consistent way of life, on the very things enemies of God think about?  Doesn’t that make me God’s enemy?  I believe Paul is saying ‘yes’. “She who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.”  I Timothy 5:6  She is the ‘living dead!’

The unbeliever lives for himself.  He is consumed with getting his needs met his way.  He has no thought of God except for the occasional nagging at his soul that something is wrong.

The believer has been born again into a completely new reality.  God has become his father.  He is being re-parented by a perfect Parent.  Everything he used to love, and want, has been turned upside down.  His mind and heart were set in a new direction.  His heart – made new – is aware of a deep peace that he is finally right with God.  He is not perfect, but he is on the path of righteousness and his mind is habitually set on the new reality of the kingdom.

One of you sent a short email asking the question, “Where does the lukewarm church fit in?”  I don’t know yet for sure but I’m studying. One thought is this ~ If I offend my earthly Father, I’m still going to be thinking about him, perhaps even obsessed. A true child of God can not live grieving His Heavenly Father without it tearing at his soul.

Lead me into all truth.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Is It This Simple?

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 set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  Romans 8:5

Bear with me.  There is no way to interact with Romans and not engage with the deeper things of the faith.  Today’s scripture is a prime example.  Many days, I track the number of people who open these devotionals and read them.  The days the numbers are high tend to be connected to catchy emotional titles; ones that deal with fear, anger, abandonment, etc.  The days the numbers are low are usually ones where a title is more intellectual than heart-oriented.  I contend that we need both.  Material that causes us to think will lead to an emotional response if we ask God to let it penetrate our heart.

This section of Romans 8 is controversial.  Many believe that there are three categories of people; the unsaved, the carnal Christian, and the committed follower of Christ.

I have always believed that but I am searching the scriptures and asking God to show me whether or not there are only two kinds of people; believers and unbelievers.  Are those who live according to the flesh unbelievers?  And, are those who live according to the Spirit believers?  I’m beginning to wonder if that is the case.

Would you ask the question with me and would you prayerfully consider that the issue might be quite simple.  We either follow Christ or we don’t.  The notion of a church half full of ‘carnal Christians’ might mean that we will all be surprised one day to see ‘too whom’ Jesus says, “Depart from me.  I never knew you.”  Perhaps we are either ardent followers of Jesus (and have our minds set on the things of the Spirit) or we are hostile to Christ (and have our minds set on the things of the flesh.)  In a few more verses, Paul will say that those who have their minds set on the flesh are hostile to God.

I am not saying that if I sin today, I am not God’s child.  I will sin – and I have already sinned even though it’s 8:30 in the morning.  The questions I must ask myself are, “Where is my mind set?  Did I sin with no regard whatsoever to the heart of God?  Did I sin without a conscience?  Will a line of sins follow today for which I will feel no tinge of remorse?”  If the answers to these are ‘yes’, I am probably not a true disciple.

If I am a disciple, I am consistently conscious of the “One” whom I’m following.  If He never crosses my mind, then how, by definition, can I consider myself a follower?  Perhaps the church makes the issue too difficult.  Children may understand these things better than we do.  So, I continue to ask God to make things clear; clear enough to change me, challenge me, and equip me to teach the women God brings to my sphere of influence.

Lord, is it possible for a person to be backslidden and still have their minds set on you?  I know many who thought of you constantly, but sinned, and were miserable.  Oh, perhaps the test is this ~ Is the one sinning thinking of you at all?  Bring me understanding as I continue in Romans, Lord.  Amen

The Nagging Question

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 set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  Romans 8:5

Many believe that a person is in one of three spiritual conditions; he is an unbeliever, he is a committed follower of Christ, or he is backslidden. I have always followed this line of thinking but after wrestling with Romans, perhaps there are only two categories; believers and unbelievers.  Those who live according to the flesh are unbelievers.  And, those who live according to the Spirit are believers. 

Could it be that simple?  We either follow Christ or we don’t.  The notion of God’s church being largely comprised of lukewarm, backslidden people could mean that we will all be surprised one day to witness ‘too whom’ Jesus says, “Depart from me.  I never knew you.”  It is worth asking the question ~ “Are we either followers of Jesus (with our minds set on the things of the Spirit) or are we hostile to Christ (having our minds set on the things of the flesh?) In just a few verses past today’s scripture, Paul will say that those who have their minds set on the flesh are hostile to God. He doesn’t call them backslidden.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that if I sin today, I am not God’s child.  I am going to sin – and I have already sinned even though it’s yet early in the day.  The question I must ask myself is this ~ “Did I sin with no regard whatsoever to the heart of God?  Did I sin without a conscience?  Will future sins follow today for which I will feel no tinge of remorse?”  The reason King David was called a ‘man after God’s own heart’ was not that he never sinned. It was because, when he did, his heart was pierced with remorse.

If I am a disciple, I will be ever conscious of the One I embraced as LORD.  If He never crosses my mind, then how, by definition, can I say that I gave my life to Christ?

God, please make things clear. If your child sins, He will think of you and be miserable. If someone else sins and does not think of you at all, is he simply lost? Bring me understanding. Teach me. I am your child. Amen

Striving vs. Spirit-Enabled Living

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending His own Son in the likeness for sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Romans 8:3-4

Ever feel like you can’t do anything right?  If so, you likely live with some anger or it’s caused you to withdraw and never stick your neck out for any reason.

I grew up in a home with many unspoken expectations.  Children were expected to be little adults.  While the rules weren’t spelled out, you learned what they were by sensing tension and disapproval.  No running in the house. No loud playing – like yelling, laughing.  No leaving water spots on shower walls.  Never leaving a faucet dripping.  Not using too much water when you washed the dishes.  No bringing in mud or stones on your feet.  No rolling your suitcase over floor surfaces.  No asking to use a restroom while visiting someone’s house.  I never realized how ridiculous some of them were until I was an adult and started comparing notes with friends.

It’s still easy for me to be perfectionistic, savoring perfect order, working to achieve the highest of standards. A good amount of this leaked into my child raising.  (Thankfully, grandchildren give you another go-around.)

The Law was given by God, not to frustrate me, not to try to force me to be perfect, but to show me that I was not perfect, and that there was no way I could be perfect.  The Law was God’s kind way of pointing me to Himself.  The Law’s unattainability showed me my need of a Savior who could forgive my sin and then dress me in His perfection.  Jesus fulfilled the Law on my behalf.

As God’s child, my striving is over.  Spirit-enabled living is mine to enjoy.  Grace abounds and feeling like a failure should never mark my experience.  At Calvary, God took the Law, posted it on the walls of heaven, and stamped PAID IN FULL next to my name.  I didn’t earn the favor, I just accepted the gift of the pardon.

Oh Father, You were not cruel.  You were up front. You gave a Law I could not keep.  I needed Your Son.  Now, I can hold my head up high and look into Your eyes with confidence.  Amen

Listening To Inner Regrets

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  Romans 8:2

Why do we require it of ourselves? If our self-talk were to become audible for all to hear, we would shock those around us. They would hear us call ourselves idiots. They would hear us declare ourselves hopeless losers. They’d hear us lament that our sins are simply unforgiveable. They’d witness us calling ourselves liars, thieves, immoral men or women, disappointments to those who love us, and people who have no chance at a real future. This kind of self-talk is a death sentence to joy. We can’t lift our heads enough to look up.

Self-hatred didn’t originate with us. Satan accused us first before our Father in heaven. But, Jesus silenced him and reminded him that we have been forgiven and have been made perfect. Unsuccessful, Satan then came to us with the same accusations but we failed to silence him with the same truth. His labels and pronouncements stuck and our joy was stolen.

My friends, there is a cure for regret. There is a cure for crippling guilt. There is a cure for self-loathing. It’s embracing the truth that my sins no longer belong to me! They were given to Jesus 2,000 years ago. Is Jesus laid low today with the weight of them? Heavens no. After paying dearly for them, He declared that the sacrifice was finished. Right now, He is in heaven rejoicing that we are free. Why in the world should we be depressed and weighed down? It’s all based on a lie.

For every one today who suffers for nothing, remind them through Your Spirit that we are forgiven. We are free. We are loved. We are dressed in Your perfection. Amen

I Affect Them ~ Like It Or Not

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.  Romans 14:7

         This scripture is true.  First, because the Spirit of God declared it through Paul.  Secondly, because it relates to the myriad of ways I interact, or fail to interact, with other people.  I can believe that if I’m a recluse, I won’t affect others.  I’ll argue that I am protecting them from myself.  While I may be sparing them of my negative influence, I am withholding something else that could be of value.  Even the vacuum has an impact.

         Words live“The power of life and death is in the tongue.”  Proverbs 18:21 If I call my child stupid, he will absorb the label and potentially struggle for life until someone tells him the truth.  If I call another’s giftedness out of the dark and define it for him, I free him to discover his uniqueness in the family of God.  My words have life-shaping ramifications.

       Emotions live.  A sullen face repels my children and makes strangers in public shrink from me.  An angry demeanor frightens others.  A depressed countenance causes others to worry about us.  A period of grieving invites others to join me in my tears.  Even though any of these emotions might have been expressed without words, it affects others profoundly.  When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently him that is before thee.  Proverbs 23:1  I can not let myself be enamored by someone’s status and believe that the honor of their invitation will only be a positive thing.  Who they are, what they feel, what they have concealed; these all affect my entire being. Emotions have life-shaping ramifications.

         Actions live.  If I forgive when most others wouldn’t, people are stunned and consider the Gospel.  If I am chase loving-kindness in a world of narcissists, the recipient is left with a lump in his throat.  If I take out my anger at the driver of the car behind me, I potentially ruin his day.  If I privately sin, habitually, and think it’s isolated, I carry around the demonic baggage of my stronghold and pollute the fellowship of friends and family.  If I withdraw completely from those in my church, I deprive them of the unique ways God is expressed through my story.  I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.  Psalm 40:10 Actions have life-shaping ramifications.

         A life lived in the power of God brings the kingdom to earth.  That is cataclysmic.

Potential.  My eyes are open to the ways Your Spirit works through me.  Amen