Romans 8:5-8 Princeton Christian Church 3 January 2021
Today we are looking at this passage Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome. Here he speaks about the weakness of the Law in regard to its ability to set us free from sin and death.
A survey was taken in which only one question was asked. That question was this: “Who controls your thinking?” our thought
The answers which came back over and over again I got back this answer…“I do…but sometimes I can’t control all the thoughts that enter my head. This happens most often after I’ve had encounters or confrontations with certain people.”
We probably all have experienced that. How people treat me sometimes influences my thoughts.
We have all walked away from some encounters thinking: I really feel encouraged. He, or she, makes a big difference in my life.
But each of us has also had encounters when our thoughts have a tendency to run in a totally different direction. Our reaction might be something like this: “What a jerk! I feel really angry right now…I feel really guilty…I feel really hurt”…or a combination of these feeling. As we replay the conversation over and over in our minds, we begin to develop a mindset that is negative and harmful to the relationship with that person and to our relationship with Christ. We might start thinking we should have said this, or that. That would have really put him, or her, in their place. A sore spot begins to form and fester.
Here’s a question. Does Satan try to influence our thinking? No doubt about it! In fact that is where lust, greed and hatred begin – in Satan’s attempt to control our minds. Temptations always begin in our desires. Then, they find a willing helper in our thoughts – our minds - if they are not controlled.
James 1 :14-15 tells us this regarding temptation and our minds: “Each one is tempted when by his own evil desire he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.”
It is vitally important that we all remember that temptation in itself is not a sin…Hebrews 4:15 tells us “Jesus was tempted in every way, as we are, but never sinned.”
Remember, Paul is writing to the church in Rome. He is writing to Christians. And he is telling them how to avoid sin, because it is possible that they might fall into sin. There are those who will say the Christians cannot sin. But, anyone who says that and believes it hasn’t read scripture and they haven’t been honest about our humanity in our earthy bodies.
Paul writes to the Galatians (6:1), “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in sin, you who are spiritual should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. This is a teaching that Christians may fall into sins. It also is a warning that as other Christians attempt to restore that one who sinned to a right relationship with Christ, they must be careful not to give in to the sin as well.
Let’s go back to the question of who owns your mind. Romans 8 is about ownership. Christians aren’t owned by sin anymore. Those chains that kept us bound to sin were broken by Jesus at the cross I like the song which includes these words:
My chains are gone, I've been set free; My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns; Unending love; Amazing grace
Paul is, as he always does, tell it to us straight, with no frills, or “make us feel good” words here in Romans 8. He gives us a clear view of the contrast between sin owning us, or the Holy Spirit’s ownership of us – and in particular, of our minds.
Let’s look at this contrast…
I. THE MIND OWNED BY THE SINFUL NATURE
Romans 8:5 clearly says, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires.”
I have read that there is a metal detector available with is very high tech. It can be set to identify the specific type of metal you want to find. So, if you are looking for gold, set it for gold. If gold is in the area, it finds gold, but ignores any other type of metal.
Because of Adam and Eve’s sin in the beginning in the garden, the human heart is set on “sin.” Our natural desire because of Adam and Eve, our disobedient grandparents causes us to seek the things that make us happy, the things that make us feel good. Our carnal minds see what we desire. That is how our thoughts work. Our minds begin to formulate a plan and a scheme to obtain or achieve what we desire. And, like the metal detector, the beeper starts going off stronger and stronger the closer I get to what I passionately desire.
Yes, I might know the law. Yes, I might know what’s right and what’s wrong…but the sinful nature says “forget that…do what you want…”
For the individual who has not been set free from the law of sin and death by the Spirit of Life, sin is the driving force for that person’s decision making. The driving force involved there is selfishness, and that leads to one destination – and that is to death.
“The mind of sinful man is death.”
Hear this: Two of the most powerful sentences in the Bible are found in our text for today. We read it earlier. Let’s hear it again. “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
If we are owned by our sinful nature we don’t just make God a little upset, or make Him unhappy…or mad every once in a while. The bold truth is this: We cannot please Him…in our flesh nature. WE CANNOT PLEASE HIM…PERIOD!!!
Paul makes it really clear in Ephesians 2:1-5: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Before Christ we had our minds set. We were living according to what the flesh wanted. We were under the ownership of the god of this world.
Like concrete which has set or set glue…someone who lives according to the sinful nature has a thoroughly hardened, predicted, set way of thinking. Sin is approached, accepted and persuaded in the same pattern of thinking over and over and over again.
Do circumstances influence my thinking? Absolutely! Do people influence my thinking? Again, absolutely! Are we prone to let our thoughts run wild when we’re depressed, stressed, or grieving? Yes, yes, and yes. Why? Because itis our nature.
There is a radical difference for those who are living their lives according to the Spirit and not according to that nature. So, let’s look at the mind which is controlled by God’s Spirit.
II. THE MIND OWNED BY THE SPIRIT
Remember that “the mind governed by the flesh is death”…It’s hostile to God…It will not submit to God’s law…and it can’t…it’s impossible to please God when we are in this condition.
But the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
Jesus clearly says, “Very truly I tell you no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:3,5-6)
We are not just sick in our sins before Christ. We are dead in our sins. Every one of us lives by the flesh. We are separated from God. And, as we have already learned - It’s impossible to clean up our acts, or lives” and please Him.
We think selfishly…and we live selfishly. It’s why Paul says this:
Romans 7:14-24 To paraphrase, Paul is basically saying, “I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. God’s law teaches me what’s right but I don’t do it. I need something more. The power of sin in me is too strong. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t there someone who can rescue me from this dead body?”
And then Romans 7:25 reveals the amazing truth of who rescues us from this dead body.
“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Our mindset (or ownership of our mind) isn’t changed because we know what’s right or wrong and then choose to do right in our own strength. Our mindset (or ownership of our mind) changes because we change the realm we live in. We see God’s Kingdom and enter it through a new birth in water and spirit.
The written code of God’s law is read, believed to some extent. But, until there is a radical transformation - a resurrection from the dead and new birth, it’s frustrating and enslaving.
Our minds cannot be filled with life and peace until they are controlled by the Spirit of God. Dead men and women will not have life until they are resurrected, and people who constantly want to be at war will not be at peace until they surrender to Jesus.
John 3:3 tells us we must be born again. Everyone in this world is God’s creation. But He only becomes your Father; You only become His child - if you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, your Savior, repent of your sins, are baptized into Him into the new life – the born again life through the Holy Spirit.
But even as God’s children, our thoughts have to be brought under His Lordship that is, under His ownership. And since our thoughts control our actions, it’s essential that we operate by Kingdom thinking instead of worldly thinking…
We can live with conformed thinking. Just like the world. Or, we can live transformed lives. By the renewing of our minds through His Word, through His Spirit daily. This is real worship. This is how we live daily in His will.
What would happen if we put our thoughts in captivity to the Word of God? Jesus says “you’ll know the truth and it will set you free.” What would happen if we stopped using the same weapons as the world and began to avail ourselves of weapons filled with divine power? We’ll start desiring what God desires. We’ll start seeing people as God sees them. We’ll start living in the realm of the Spirit and understand true life and peace.
Satan would have us live in anger, continually worrying over how we can fix situations and people. Our minds become war zones filled with turmoil.
Let’s sum all this up with Paul’s message to the church at Philippi – Philippians 4:4-9.