5 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, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. (Romans 8:5–7, NKJV)
Many people are trying to be spiritual. To do so, they turn to gurus who tell them the key to being spiritual is a quest for enlightenment that connects with one’s inner-self and with the world. They become convinced the meaning of life is within themselves as they yearn for spiritual fulfillment. This humanistic approach to spirituality vividly contrasts to what the Spirit of God says it means to be spiritual. To be spiritual is to set one’s mind on the things the Spirit of God has revealed, and then “live according to the Spirit” (see Romans 8:1-2). The things of the Spirit comprise His revelation of God’s mind (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). The carnal mind refuses to subject itself to God’s law; it thinks the way of man is in himself (Jeremiah 10:23). The spiritual person submits to the law of God precisely because his mind is set on the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13-16). This leads to life and peace. What the world calls being spiritual is in fact, carnal. And, what Christ calls spiritual is rejected by human enlightenment. Which will you be today; carnal or spiritual?
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24, NKJV)
The apostle has contrasted walking in the Spirit with fulfilling the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17). He has pointed out the kind of life the flesh prompts men to pursue (the works of the flesh), with its fatal result (“those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of heaven,” Galatians 5:19-21). The character and conduct formed by the Spirit’s instruction and guidance is fruitful and robust, free from law’s condemnation (Galatians 5:22-23). Those who belong to Christ extinguish the flesh as the controlling factor of their lives (Galatians 2:20). Christians deliberately and methodically eliminate the influences and cravings of the flesh, so the fruit of the Spirit can thrive in their hearts and lives (Colossians 3:5). It is no accident that Christians bear the fruit of the Spirit. Through repentance, the heart has been conditioned to serve a new Master, Christ Jesus. The heart that is humble, repentant and responsive to the gospel is the perfect soil for bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Luke 8:15).
5 Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. 6 For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.” (Jeremiah 17:5–6, NKJV)
The philosophy of secular humanism believes humans are the center of all things, and that from human beings will come the answers to our survival. The Humanist Manifesto II (1973) says, “As nontheists, we begin with humans not God, nature not deity.” They are materialists, who deny we have immortal souls. Humanists believe “No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.” The humanist rejects God and trusts in himself and the strength of human reason and intelligence to save and sustain humanity. Such hearts have departed far from the Lord God. The secular humanist, who “makes flesh his strength,” is like a desert scrub brush, inhabiting a parched landscape of denial, doubt and death. Life becomes a spiritual wasteland when one rejects God, the Giver and Sustainer of life. Jesus refreshes the soul with truth and eternal life. We put our trust in Him and His power to save (John 7:37-39; 14:6).
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; For dust you are, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19, NKJV)
Adam’s mortality would become evident as he labored to eat and to survive on this earth. Eventually, Adam would die (Genesis 5:5). God’s creative purpose was for human beings to forever dwell with Him in the close fellowship of holiness. But, Adam and Eve’s sin separated them from their fellowship with God (Genesis 3:22-23; Isaiah 59:2). And, so it is that our sins separate us from God, too (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Adam’s flesh was created from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). Because of sin’s intrusion into this world, back to the dust Adam’s body (along with those of all his descendants), would return (Ecclesiastes 12:7). But, God also gave Adam a spirit, made in His image, that continues to exist beyond the grave (Genesis 1:27; Ecclesiastes 12:7). God’s plan of redemption in His Son, Jesus Christ, redeems both the body and the spirit (John 11:23-26). The gospel of Christ is the good news of how God defeats sin and death, giving the redeemed eternal access to the tree of life in the garden of God – forever freed from sin and its curse of death (Revelation 22:1-5).
20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:20–23, NKJV)
Billions of people do not regard sin as sin. That word has been all but stricken from the lexicons of languages around the world. What Jesus said here reminds us that we are dual beings, made of both flesh and spirit; both mortal and immortal. The inner person – the person possessing identity, volition, conscience, intelligence and emotions – is identified as the heart, from which comes our words and actions. Jesus identified sexual immorality of all sorts (including adultery, homosexuality and premarital sex) as sin that comes from the heart. Oppression of one’s neighbor, whether by murder, thievery, covetousness or deceit, is also sinful. See how pride is considered evil along with all the rest. Sin is real, and we must define sin the way Jesus does. If not, we will likely call evil good, and good evil (Isa. 5:20). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1–2, NKJV)
Christ suffered for us; “the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). His suffering in the flesh compels Christians to equip ourselves with His mind or attitude; the decision to do good and, if need be, “to suffer for doing good” (1 Pet. 3:17; 4:1). Contrary to the “health and wealth gospel” taught by false teachers, being a Christian does not free one from suffering. The devoted Christian accepts a life of suffering for doing the will of God. In verse two, Peter says such suffering includes no longer living to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Our devotion is to the will of God. Even when your former companions in sin think you are odd, and speak evil of you for no longer joining them in sin, remember that you have “ceased from sin” and cannot continue to practice it (1 Pet. 4:3-4, 1). Peer pressure is powerful, but we must see it for what it is; the attempt of sinful people to draw us into sinning along with them. Resist. Suffer (when it comes to that). Live for the will of God. Do not live for the lusts of men.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Romans 13:14, NKJV)
Having already told Christians to wake up and clean up, the apostle now tells us to grow up (Rom. 13:11-13). While it is true we put on Christ when we “first believed” (when we were baptized into Christ, Gal. 3:27), we must continue to clothe ourselves with the Lord. Successful godly living requires spiritual growth in order to make decisions that glorify God and avoid sin. If we fail to grow up in Christ it will become easier to provide for sin. Do not plan to sin. Guard your heart against lustful thinking and cast off the darkness that gives occasion to fulfilling sinful desires. Starve the flesh of sinful lusts; put it to death. Be clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ. Be filled with and comforted by His righteous truth. He abundantly provides all things for life and godliness. Remember, salvation is nearer than when you first believed (Rom. 13:11).