The Crucial Choice: Flesh or Spirit
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. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6)
The crucial choice that believers in Christ face day by day is between living by the flesh or living by the Spirit. The difference is facing life by our resources and perspectives or by God’s resources and perspectives. “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.” When a Christian deals with life by his flesh, he typically thinks about “what I want out of my life” or “what I can accomplish with my life.” Conversely, when a Christian deals with life by the Spirit, he typically thinks about “what God wants for my life” or “what God can accomplish through my life.”
The consequences related to this choice are monumental. “For to be carnallyminded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” When a believer allows his mind to be set in a carnal direction, he will be thinking about worldly self-indulgence (“what I can get out of this”) or religious self-accomplishment (“what Ican do for God”). The result of either carnal perspective is “death” (spiritual deadness). On the other hand, when a follower of Jesus sets his mind on heavenly matters, he will be considering issues of humility (“how much I need the Lord“) or faith (“how great the Lord is”). The results of such spiritual thoughts are “life and peace” (spiritual vitality and spiritual tranquility).
Another analysis of these two options can be seen in the contrast between the “works of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit.” When we put our hope in our own capabilities, our flesh produces deeds such as “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21). Contrariwise, when we place our expectations upon the Lord, His Spirit brings forth through us fruit like “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”(Galatians 5:22-23).
Consider this fundamental truth. These “flesh-Spirit” choices are what all of us will face every day of our lives. The persistency of these issues is inherent in the fact that God offers only two options for every issue of life; namely, “live according to the flesh” or “live according to the Spirit.”
O Sovereign Lord, I bow to Your wisdom and authority that offer these two choices alone. Lord, I renounce the natural path of my flesh which brings severe, but deserved, consequences. I gladly embrace the supernatural path of Your Spirit, which brings the undeserved results of Your grace at work in me, Amen.
“Are We There Yet?”
And Jesus said unto him, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mar_12:34)
Standing at the west end of Monumental Park with a group of happy pilgrims taking in the sights and sounds of God’s amazing Grace, we heard a fellow in our group call out and ask, “Are we there yet?” His voice was a bit strained, and betrayed a measure of mild exasperation.
“What do you mean?” a fellow traveler asked.
“The Place called Grace – are we there yet?”
Everybody was stunned. I must admit that I myself was a bit perplexed at this fellow’s disconnection to the moment. How could he not know where we were?
“Dude, we’ve been here for quite awhile!” somebody else in the group replied.
Realizing this guy needed help, I then said, “At the start of our Journey I told you all that we would be traveling far to a place that is nearby; and once we are there, you will realize that we’ve actually been here all along. Remember me saying that to you?”
“So, are you saying we have arrived?” the fellow then asked.
“You’re the only one who can answer that,” I replied. “Grace is a place where you experience a power because you have met a Person.”
That Person is the Lord Jesus, the King of Grace and Glory. The power is the incomprehensible influence of His redeeming presence in all things, at all times. And the Place of Grace is everywhere humble men and women live freely to do God’s will fully.
“So, let me ask the question a different way,” I then said. “Have you arrived?”
The perplexed brother stared at me in silence.
Perhaps a short story will serve to illustrate my meaning.
Years ago at a youth camp the guest speaker presented a compelling message for surrendering our all to Jesus Christ. What made his talk so compelling was the glow upon his face. This was real to him; and we could tell. He was “standing in a place called Grace.”
At one point in his message he told us about an experience he himself had at this very camp years earlier when he was a student. He had taken a walk into the woods after an evening meeting and found a spot where he fell on his knees and cried out to God, “Oh, God! Do in me anything You need to do, so You can do through me everything You want to do!”
The power of the Holy Spirit fell upon him as he prayed, and he rose to “walk in newness of life; empowered to love and serve the Lord.”
We were riveted by his story. One student approached him after our evening meeting and asked, “Preacher, can you take me to that spot?”
“Certainly,” the camp preacher said, “Follow me.” And they headed off into the woods. After they had walked for several minutes, the student asked, “Are we there, yet?”
“We’re getting close,” the preacher said. And they walked on further. And again, after some distance was covered, the student asked, “Are we almost there?”
“It won’t be much longer,” the preacher said. “It should be just a little bit further.”
They walked on deeper into the woods, getting farther and farther from camp. The young man grew increasingly restless, and asked once more – “Are we close to that spot?”
“It shouldn’t be too much further,” the preacher said.
After several minutes of more hiking, the student fell to his knees and cried out in desperation, “Oh, God! I can’t wait any longer! Do in me what you did in this preacher!”
God’s presence suddenly flooded the young man’s heart, as he wept for joy. And the preacher smiled and said, “There’s the spot, right there!”
Get it? Grace is a place where you experience a power because you have met a Person. Nobody knows but YOU when that moment occurs. It is that moment when you realize that you cannot, and you will not, live another day outside this place called Grace.
So let me now ask the question — “Have you arrived there yet?”r