There is a difference that Christians are challenged to recognize. This challenge is at the core of the Christian life. We are to recognize the difference between living in accord with the flesh, and living in accord with the Spirit. We are to struggle, in faith, to overcome the temptations of the flesh and to live our lives in accord with the Spirit. Though this is not easy, in faith we see the wisdom of this challenge.
Paul is eminently clear hear. “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” To be concerned only with fleeting pleasures of every conceivable kind, whether they be of the sexual kind or the kinds that are moved by money, power, and fame, are ultimately lifeless. It is to be committed to the shallow, the unsatisfying, the empty. But to live in accord with the Spirit, is to live fully. It is to live with a passion that is beyond the merely fleeting. It is to live a life inspired and energized by the unlimited power of love. It is a life charged with joy. When we live our lives in accord with the Spirit, we are able to see God in all things, especially in the people we know, love, and meet in our daily lives. To live in the Spirit is to see the world through God’s eyes. It is to be charged with love for all of creation.
Why would any Christian want to submit to a mind governed by the flesh? Such a mind is “hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” (verse 6) What kind of foolishness is that? Such a mind considers itself a law unto itself. And there is no more profound and, ironically, minute prison than the ego. Such a mind is not really free. It is subject to the whims of momentary passions and pleasures. In the end, the law will bring an end to it. The mind controlled by the flesh is a mind governed by the lie. It gives ultimate importance to fleeting things that in the end are nothing. Only the mind governed by the Spirit can know true freedom, true life and true peace.
Christians desire to live in accord with the Spirit because they know that it is “the Spirit that gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” (John 6:63) Christians understand that their lives today are directly connected to their eternal lives. We recognize that our lives are a pure, magnanimous gift from God. It is in living in his Spirit that we find the fullness of life and joy here and now. It is choosing to live in the Spirit that we belong to Christ. “If Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of the Spirit who lives in you.” (verses 10-11) We choose to live in the Spirit precisely because that is the only life worth living, now and forever.
Lord, your Spirit is life and truth. Give us the wisdom to open our hearts, our minds, and our souls to your Spirit every day so that we might continue to grow into the true fullness and beauty of this life you have given us. We ask this in your name Jesus. Amen!
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