Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Mind Set on the Spirit is Life

Joseph Herrin (01-03-09)

Psalms 103:7
He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.

Christians generally fall into the two categories listed in the verse above. There are those who observe the acts of God, but have little understanding of what God is doing in their lives. Then there is a much smaller number who are growing in an understanding of God’s ways, gaining discernment of why things are occurring in their lives and the lives of others.

Without a doubt, God desires that His children have understanding hearts. I believe one of the reasons so many Christians fail to discern God’s ways is that they spend so little time contemplating what God is doing among His creation. They do not consider that Yahweh has a purpose in all things, and that all things exist for His pleasure, and were created for the same.

When men become fixated on self, what they want in life, why their dreams and desires are not being accomplished, they tend to develop a pattern of murmuring and complaint rather than proceeding forth into understanding. This is observed in the lives of the Israelites who entered the wilderness with Moses. Most of them gave themselves to grumbling about their lot in life. They were self-focused, and the chief thing on their minds was satisfying the desires and passions of the flesh, and fulfilling the dreams of their soul.

Moses looked at things from a vastly different perspective. Moses spoke to God as a friend, face to face. Moses wanted to understand God, and to see Him for who He truly is, and as God granted the desire of Moses his entire perspective changed. Moses began to understand the purposes of the wilderness when others saw only unpleasant circumstances.

Deuteronomy 8:2-5
You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.

Notice Moses’ perspective of the entire wilderness experience. He understood that Yahweh has purposes in all of it. He knew it was not just a happenstance occurrence, an accident of providence. Every detail was perfectly ordered to accomplish a specific desire that resided in the heart of God.

Through interactions with many saints, and from personal experiences, I am aware that there are a great number of God’s children experiencing trials of varying kinds at this hour. Many are seeing the trials merely as something to escape out of at the earliest possible opportunity. These see the trials as unpleasant, a nuisance, and something very undesirable. Some even blame Satan for the trials, and end up rebuking the Devil. There is little comprehension that God has perfectly ordered their steps to bring them to the trials they face, and even less understanding of what God is looking for in their life.

Is this the place you are walking in? You will not pass through the wilderness successfully until you begin seeing things from Yahweh’s point of view. You must acknowledge that you were created for His pleasure, not the other way around. It is hard to kick against the goads. The length of time we spend in the wilderness is determined by our attentiveness to the purposes of God. The first generation of Israel to depart Egypt for the wilderness need not have died there. It was their stubbornness, and refusal to look at things from God’s perspective, trusting Him and His ways, that led to their deaths.

I have found that there are certain fundamental things that Yahweh must teach all of His people. They are as follows:

Apart from Christ man is totally incapable of pleasing God.
Apart from Christ man can and will do any despicable thing imaginable.
There is no basis for boasting about the goodness of the flesh man.
Adamic man is wretched, and enslaved to sin.

In Christ man is able to please God.
In Christ man can live in righteousness day by day.
There is great cause for boasting in Christ.
Christ has set His people free from sin that they might live unto God.

These things may strike you as being very basic. You may declare that you understand and agree with these things, but do you really? Have you ever compared yourself to another person and said, “I may be wicked in many ways, but I would never do that”?

People of God, I have learned not to make such boasts about what I would or would not do if left to my own fallen resources. God will prove us a liar in every area in which we boast in this fallen creation.

I often wondered why the Father allowed me to struggle for so long with various besetting sins. At the age of 13 I had my first introduction to pornography at the house of a friend who had older brothers. My flesh was immediately enticed. Though I was a child of God I found that there were desires resident in this flesh that are powerful.

For nearly two decades the Father allowed me to wrestle with these evil desires, falling into sin time and again. I would view pornography only to be immediately filled with guilt and shame. I would purpose to not do so again. I would strengthen my will. I would memorize scriptures. I would pray. And I would fall again, only to fall into depression and shame once more.

Why did God not deliver me from my torment sooner? Why did the Wilderness of Sin stretch before me for such a distance? In large part, I believe it was because I was so slow to acknowledge that nothing good dwelt in my flesh. I thought I could reform the flesh man. I thought I could muster up something good from within the depths of my being that would enable me to live a life pleasing to the Father.

Some of us spend a lot of time in a Romans chapter 7 experience before we arrive at the mind of Christ.

Romans 7:14-24
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

I found out very early that evil was present with me, but I thought with effort and determination that I could suppress it. It took me a long time to realize that my flesh was held fast in the bonds of sin and I had no hope of ever breaking free by self-will and good intentions. Such is our deception about the old Adamic nature. We look for something good in us when there is nothing good.

Some men never come to the place where they confess the truth that they are wretched men, bound as a prisoner to ever follow the sinful desires of the flesh. Some men spend their entire lives in delusion, acknowledging that they have some sin, but not confessing that they are completely sinful, with no chance of living a good life on their own initiative and by their own power.

Luke 18:19-20
And Yahshua said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.”

Christ was not denying that He was good with these words. He was asking the man if he really knew what he was saying by calling Yahshua “good teacher.” Yahshua knew that only God was good. There are no good men. In a graveyard here in Macon many headstones can be found inscribed with the Masonic slogan, “A good man gone to rest.” A theme of Freemasonry is “Making good men better.” This is Satanic deception. There are no good men. All men are slaves to sin. All man’s righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of God.

Perhaps you have been in the Wilderness of Sin for a long time. You have found the way weary, and your shoulders have begun to droop as you are losing hope of ever gaining victory over the sins that are resident in your flesh. Don’t despair. This is a positive sign. All you need do is admit what you have been observing during the entire dreary journey. You are a wretch. In your flesh dwells NO GOOD THING. You are capable of every abomination. Should God take His hand of protection away from you and allow Satan and the flesh to arise in all their power and cunning against you, you would be undone in a minute. Your flesh would resemble a land ravaged by wild beasts as raging desires drove you to do the most vile and shameful deeds. This is our heritage in Adam. God commanded Adam and Eve to “subdue the beasts and rule over them,” but they failed to do so. They bowed to the serpent and became subject to the beast nature.

Do not men act as beasts, leading others to place them behind bars for the protection of others? We would all be in such a state apart from the grace of God.

God must take all of His sons and daughters through the wilderness of sin. He must reveal to all what they are capable of. He must lead them to despair of the sin which is in their flesh. Only then will they recognize their total dependence upon God for deliverance. Only then will they be ready to acknowledge that only in God is their salvation.

Romans 7:24-25
Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God! He has, through Yahshua Christ our Lord!

Yes, God has already set me free. Paul’s statement is past tense. We need only discover what God has done, but first we must discover who we are apart from Christ.

The Christian life is like a coin that has two sides. On one side is the statement, “Apart from Christ I can do nothing.” On the other side are the words, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” God must teach His children the reality of both statements.

Many people begin to despair as they learn the first lesson. They cry out to God saying, “God I have tried and tried and tried, and I cannot change myself. I cannot rid myself of the sin which holds me captive.” Satan begins to suggest that God is unfair in asking men to live differently, for what He demands is impossible. There is always some truth in Satan’s accusations against God. What Yahweh does ask of man is impossible, if man is left to himself. But thanks be to God, He has not left us to our own efforts and abilities. He has provided a Savior!

It is at this point of despair as we understand our slavery to sin that we must perceive God’s plan for our deliverance. God has said, “I will fight for you.” Man’s part is to believe.

Romans 8:2-9
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Yahshua has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did : sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.

This passage follows hard on the heels of the apostle Paul’s earlier words. Here he explains what it is God has done to set man free from sin. Here Paul describes the difference between resisting sin by the power of the fleshly mind, and doing so by the Spirit of Christ.

It is very important to understand what is spoken of by the expression “The mind set on the flesh,” and the expression “the mind set on the Spirit.” The former is death. The latter is life. It is these things that the Christian must discern in order to go from a life of defeat to a life of victory.

The Mind Set on the Flesh

To understand what this expression means, we must see how Paul employs it here. He begins by linking it to the Law of Moses; “what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh...”

The Law sets the mind on the flesh. The Law is external. It is focused upon behavior. The Law says, “Do not commit adultery.” It draws attention to the flesh. This is its weakness. In our flesh dwells no good thing. We cannot keep the Law. David was a man after God’s heart, but he committed both adultery and murder. Many men say, “I have never committed adultery,” but Christ said that this does not make them perfect as their Father in heaven is perfect. The perfect man must also be conformed to God in his heart. To lust after a woman is the same as committing adultery. The Law stirs up the desires of the flesh by drawing the attention to what can and cannot be done.

This is where I dwelt for many a long and weary year. I saw the Law of God as declaring that it was sinful for a man to view pornography, and to lust after a woman in his heart. I therefore strove to not do these things. The more I tried, the more I failed. The mind set on the flesh resulted in death to me.

Romans 7:7-11
What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

The Law of God slew me. It showed me what a dead man I truly was spiritually. Of my own power I was unable to perform that which I desired to perform. The Law stirred up the lust in my flesh, and this lust ruled me, producing guilt and shame.

The Mind Set on the Spirit

What I have described thus far is the only experience many Christians have of seeking to overcome sin. They are subject to the Law of God. Their minds are set upon the flesh, its desires, and the effort to subdue it. Setting the mind upon the flesh will not lead to victory. One must set their mind on the Spirit to receive spiritual life with which the flesh might be rendered powerless.

Romans 7:4-6
Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

Consider what the apostle is declaring here. The former manner in which man sought to vainly subdue the flesh is no longer to be the mode of conduct and life for the saint of God. Yet this is the only manner of dealing with the flesh that most know about. Churches today do not teach about life in the Spirit. They have continued to proclaim the Law to the people of God.

Paul says we have died to the Law to be joined to another, this other being Christ. The entire focus of the mind must of necessity change. No longer are Christians to be constrained by an external law, one that is weak and ineffectual due to its focus upon the sinful flesh which it seeks to command. The Law was never intended to make men righteous. It was given to reveal to man their slavery to sin and their need of a Savior.

Galatians 3:23-25
Before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Herein is described the difference between the mind set on the flesh, and the mind set on the spirit. The mind set on the flesh is focused on works of the flesh. The mind set on the spirit is focused upon faith in Christ. We must let go of the former to embrace the latter.

The Law reveals to man what he is capable of, convicting him of depravity and sin. Faith reveals to man what Christ is capable of, producing spiritual life and righteousness in the people of God.

The mind set on the Spirit is focused upon the victorious life of Christ. He was tempted in all ways as we are, yet without sin. The same Spirit that produced in Him the divine life of the Father, He has sent forth to dwell in the hearts of His children. This Spirit produces in the Christian the desire and the power to live pleasing to the Father.

Philippians 2:12-13
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works IN YOU both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

This is the difference between the mind set on the flesh, and the mind set on the Spirit. The mind set on the flesh considers self and its actions and abilities. The mind set on the Spirit considers Christ dwelling IN YOU.

How have you been living your life as a Christian? Have you been focused upon your actions and abilities, your thoughts and desires? Or are you focused upon the reality of Christ dwelling in you, giving life to your mortal body?

II Corinthians 4:11
For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Yahshua’s sake, so that the life of Yahshua also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

The life set on the Spirit constantly reckons on Christ residing in the heart of the child of God. When faith comes, the Law is done away. By faith we confess that we have been born again of divine seed. By faith we confess that Christ dwells in us. By faith we confess that the same power that raised Christ from the dead has also raised us up from a state of spiritual death to spiritual life, quickening us, and empowering us to live righteously moment by moment.

Romans 8:10-11
If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Yahshua from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Yahshua from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Is your mind set on the Spirit? If it is then you are reckoning on Christ residing in you. You are acknowledging that the same power of divine life that enabled the Son of God to overcome every temptation resides in you. You are confessing His promise that you will never again have to obey sins demands, for you have been set free. The power of Christ’s life within you will ALWAYS EXCEED the power of sin.

I Corinthians 10:13
For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.
[Amplified Bible]

By faith the children of God confess that as Christ is in them all things have changed and become new. Their bondage to sin has been broken. Those whom the Son has set free are free indeed.

No longer are we to set our mind upon the flesh, reckoning upon the flesh’s inability to please God, and its proclivity toward sin. Now we are to “put on Christ,” and in doing so we are to judge our ability to walk righteously through new eyes. We are to confess that though we were once dead, now we are alive; once we were slaves to sin, now we are slaves to righteousness.

The mind set on the Spirit is a mind focused upon the reality of what God has done through Christ. It is a mind full of faith.

If you realize that your mind has not been set on the Spirit, then begin now to change your focus. Life will arise from death. Victory will appear where defeat has been met time and again. In order for your life to change, your thoughts must change first.

Proverbs 23:7
For as a man thinks within himself, so he is.

As a man believes Christ dwells in him with all the power to live pleasing to the Father, he will begin to experience victory where he has been met with defeat in the past. The old slave mentality that came from many years of bondage in Egypt will fall away in the wilderness as God teaches us His ways. Our confession will be, “I once was a slave in Egypt, but now I am free. I once was subject to the cruel taskmasters of the flesh, but now I have liberty in the Spirit of Christ.”

Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws
Parables Blog: http://www.parablesblog.blogspot.com

Mailing Address:
Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 5546
Macon, GA 31208

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