15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15–17, NKJV)
The universe is an arranged system of celestial bodies we call the cosmos. Here, John speaks of another world or “kosmos” – the system of evil that is in opposition to God and His will. This arrangement of evil – the world – consists of the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (v. 16). The god of this world, the devil, uses these three avenues to deceive and entice souls to their eternal demise. At least one of these three elements is at the heart of every sin and false doctrine that exists. Cleverly disguised as pleasure, success, fulfillment, joy, and self-satisfaction, and many other things, Satan uses them to lure people away from God. The world offers a counterfeit love. We must love God genuinely. That means we must not love the world. It is fading away, but life everlasting is for those who do the will of God.
3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3–4, NKJV)
Combative mindsets and contentious conduct permeate society. The works of the flesh (“adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like”) are producing devastating results all around us (Galatians 5:19-21). Look at the contrast in today’s passage with the works of the flesh. Selfish ambition thrives in the arrogant heart that sees others as “less than” we are. Pride feeds the desire to look out for ourselves first – before others. When we estimate others to be better than ourselves it follows that we will not injure and harm them through the works of the flesh. (Look at that list again and see how often our sins invariably hurt others.) By developing hearts of humility we become servants of others instead of users and takers. Living for others instead of ourselves protects us from sin as it spreads the influence of righteousness. Be the salt of the earth by maintaining a humble heart that values others and becomes a blessing in their lives (Matthew 5:13).
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. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8, NKJV)
Spiritual and death proceeds from the mind that is given to the thoughts, attitudes, motives, and inclinations of the flesh. By contrast, the mind that is spiritual produces life and peace. Paul has already identified the spiritual mind as that which is set on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5). This mind walks according to the Spirit and bears the fruit of the Spirit (Romans 8:1; Galatians 5:22-23). If your mind refuses to submit to the law of God, you are yet carnal, and an enemy of God. Being “in the flesh” is tantamount to a mind that is set against the will of God and a life that does not obey the law of God. Conversely, the spiritually minded person is the one who obeys the law of God, willingly submitting to its rule and authority. Are you spiritually minded? If so, you are obeying the word of God. Do not be deceived. If you are not obedient to God’s word, then you are not spiritually minded. You are still serving the flesh, and it is past time to repent and submit yourself to the law of God (Matthew 7:21-23).
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. (Romans 8:5, NKJV)
Paul lays out a series of contrasts in Romans 8:5-9 between what it means to be carnally minded and what it means to be spiritually minded. He begins by drawing our attention to this central point: We live what we think. Whatever your mind is set upon produces how you live. If your goal is to “walk according to the Spirit,” then you must set your mind on “the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:1, 5). The “flesh” is the source of evil appetites, and carnally minded people set their minds on these things. The gospel calls us to set our minds on things above and not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:2). The gospel renews our minds (Romans 12:2). This occurs as we deliberately develop the mindset to seek and do the will of God which the Spirit has revealed in the Scriptures. Put your mind on the word and will of God, not on the wisdom and will of those who do not know God (1 Peter 4:1-2). Putting your mind in the right place translates into making choices to do God’s will in life. You live what you think!
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:2–4, NKJV)
The “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is “the law of God,” it is “the gospel of His Son” (Romans 7:25; 1:9). Life is in Christ Jesus, and the gospel is the “law of faith” by which we are justified (Romans 3:26-27). The law that gives life is set in contrast with “the law of sin and death” – the rule that sin causes death (v. 1; Romans 6:23). The Law of Moses identified sin but could not save sinners (Romans 3:20, 23; 7:10-12). The Son of God became flesh, lived without sin and condemned sin by His life and His death (Philippians 2:5-8; Roman 5:6-11). In Christ, spiritual life is granted to all who “walk according to the Spirit” (who live in and by the gospel, Romans 1:16-17; 5:1-2; 6:1-14). We are not sinners because we are humans, we are sinners because we commit sin (Romans 5:12). Now, by the gospel, we are saved from our sins and choose to serve righteousness instead of sin (Romans 6:15-18).
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1, NKJV)
Christ delivers sinners from the “body of death” produced by sin (Romans 7:24-25). Those who are “in Christ Jesus” escape sin’s condemnation.. Therefore, it is crucial to be “in Christ Jesus,” otherwise, we are still wretched, lost in sin and under its sentence of eternal death (Romans 7:24; 6:23). Scripture says plainly that baptism puts the sinner into Christ (where there is no condemnation): “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). We become children of God through the gospel (“faith,” Galatians 1:11, 23; 3:2, 23-25). The gospel commands water baptism for the remission of sins (no condemnation, Acts 2:38; 10:48). Once we are saved “in Christ Jesus” we must walk (live) “according to the Spirit.” In Christ, Christians live by the guidance of the Spirit of God, not by the impulses of the flesh. The Spirit guides us through the truth He revealed to the apostles and inspired them to speak and write (John 16:12-14; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 14:37; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Christians choose to walk according to the Spirit by following the word of God. Make that the way you live your life and escape sin’s sentence of eternal death.
But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints (Ephesians 5:3, NKJV)
The rise in cohabitation without marriage in America over the past 30 years is obvious. Reflective of a society that has cast off moral restraints, it is but one indicator of self-defined morality. The annual Gallup Values and Beliefs Survey (May 1-10, 2018) reports that 69% of those surveyed believe sexual activity before marriage is morally acceptable, while 42% said it is morally acceptable for teenagers to practice it. The morality of having a baby outside of marriage was approved by 65% of those polled, while 67% said gay and lesbian relationships are morally acceptable. In stark contrast, the Holy Spirit inspired apostle drew a red line in the sand that all sexual activity, before and in addition to marriage, is not to be professed among Christians. It is against who we are. We are saints (“holy ones”), called to be sanctified or set apart from such sins. We are not to participate in them or endorse them. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Christians must rise above the world’s definition of what is moral and refuse the allurements of the flesh (1 John 2:15-17).