Romans 8:5-8

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, June 22, 2015 0 comments
by Katie Erickson

“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. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8)

How do you live your life? Do you live focused on yourself and your own wants and needs? Or, do you focus on others around you and try to help them get through life? Or, do you focus on what God desires for your life?

This brief passage helps us understand what it’s like to live in different ways. If you’ve been following my blog posts for the last few months, you may have noticed that Paul (the writer of the letter to the Romans) uses a lot of contrasts to make his points. We see another contrast here: the flesh versus the Spirit.

The Greek word for flesh is “sarx,” and it doesn’t just mean your physical skin. Sarx has the idea of the part of us that strongly desires to sin and to be disobedient to God. Our sarx is caused by original sin, and the fact that there is no person (except for Jesus) who is sinless (Romans 3:23).

On the other hand, there’s the Spirit. You’ll notice that the word Spirit is capitalized, which shows us we’re not talking about just any spirit, but about the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, the oldest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament were written in all capital letters (now, the commonly used Greek texts are primarily in lowercase); but when translating it into English, the context makes it clear that it’s the Holy Spirit that’s being discussed here.

Paul makes it clear that we have two choices: death or life. (Sound familiar?) Choosing the lifestyle of the flesh (sarx) brings death. Choosing the lifestyle of the Spirit brings life. Sounds like an easy choice, right? Maybe in theory, but in practice it’s a lot more difficult.

The lifestyle of the flesh is from a mind focused on the flesh and the world. The lifestyle of the Spirit is from a mind focused on the Holy Spirit. The word “mind” here refers not just to the gray matter inside your head, but it’s your mindset, your will, and the direction of your life. Which is it easier to follow - the things of this world, or the things of God? We as human like things we can see and touch, so it’s so much easier to follow and to do what we can see and touch. It’s so much easier to follow the ways of the world, but as we see in this passage, that will only bring us death.

Our desire is to follow Christ fully, but we still have our flesh that doesn't allow us to do that 100%. All of us struggle with this! Know that you’re not alone in your struggles; every other person who’s trying to follow Christ has a constant, daily struggle with following Christ instead of following the world’s ways. Even the Apostle Paul struggled with this - go read Romans 7:15-18 if you don’t believe me.

While we know that on this earth we will never be able to do God’s will 100% of the time, that is our goal. Our goal in following Jesus Christ is to be controlled by His Spirit rather than by our flesh, our sarx. If we live in the flesh, that’s the opposite of what God desires for us. God will always love us, but we can only truly please Him if we are walking with His Spirit.

But how do we do that? How do we live the life of the Spirit instead of the life of the world? The easier-said-than-done answer is to be in relationship with God. Pray with Him. Read His Word. Get to know Him. Be encouraged by other followers of God. When faced with any choice, try and discern what God would have you do to be obedient to Him. At the risk of sounding cliche, ask yourself what would Jesus do? Essentially, keep your mind focused on the things of God and be in relationship to Him, and you’ll be controlled by the Spirit rather than the flesh, and you’ll receive eternal life through Christ instead of eternal death. And who wouldn’t want that?

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