by Mike Ratliff
τὸ γὰρ φρόνημα τῆς σαρκὸς θάνατος, τὸ δὲ φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος ζωὴ καὶ εἰρήνη· (Romans 8:6 NA27)
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but he mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. (a personal translation of Romans 8:6 from the NA27 Greek text)
Discernment work is no fun. I wonder at some who seem to thrive on it. I do not. I will take up the sword when necessary and will not hesitate to take that firm stand, but my heart yearns for that time of peace like I am in right now as I am working my way through Romans 8:1-11 in light of my reading Matthew Mead’s The Almost Christian Discovered. The other side of discernment work for me is dealing with the inevitable spiritual assaults that come through our enemy’s servants. Their nagging little cuts and slices are nothing compared to the power of our Lord. They are simply those ugly voices of small people who are being used to echo the accusing of our enemy as he attempts to derail us from exposing one of his favorites. Let us never forget that our God is Sovereign and Satan can do nothing to us unless God allows it.
First, some very good news; my physical therapist discharged me today. Over the last few weeks, we talked a great deal. She is a Christian and has marveled at how fast my shoulder has healed. She told me that they have never had anyone with my condition heal this fast. In any case, I told her today that the power of prayer is truly amazing. She totally agreed. I have nearly 100% range of motion back. In those areas where it is less, the range of motion is about 98% so I am getting there. The pain is residual and since I work out every day lifting weights and stretching, I should heal up very well. I see the surgeon next week for follow up. God is very good.
However, today I have been under some very heavy spiritual oppression. The contacts I have had from most of you has been great, but I have also received some very hateful and sarcastic input from some others that seemed to be designed specifically to bring on a great deal of negative introspection. Combine that with some conflict at work prior to me going to see my physical therapist I was definitely experiencing a deficit of peace even to the point of wondering if continuing in this ministry was really worth it. Why was that happening? I sat there at my desk and was amazed at those thoughts. Why was this happening? I left work, came home, changed clothes, and went to the see my physical therapist. All of that negativity was gone. What changed?
As I got prepared to put this post together, I checked my email and for comments on the blog. There it was. There was a comment in the spam folder from a fellow that I do not allow to comment here. He was accusing me of using the Word of God to attack Rick Warren instead of taking people to the Cross. Of course, he really ignored the fact that the subject of the post he had a problem with was ABOUT RICK WARREN…I stopped. Did this oppress me? No, I was fine. Why did this simply roll off my back when earlier attacks seem to sting and cut?
Carefully read the verse (Romans 8:6), which I placed at the top of this post. Why am I totally at peace now, but when I was at work I was not? Why was I totally at peace when I was at the therapist, but not earlier? Why did everything just the least bit negative send me into a funk earlier today, but this evening I am bulletproof? It is not because of the good news from the therapist. This started way before I even went into the weight room. Earlier today, my whole focus was on how angry I was at how some things were being done at work and how I was going to have to do a great deal of extra work because others were not doing there part. I was letting that anger drive my emotions. What is that? Isn’t that what we do when we set our minds on the flesh? This verse tells us that that is death.
What does it mean to set our minds on the flesh? It means to think continually about and/or constantly desire the things characteristic of fallen, sinful human nature, that is, to think just the way the unbelieving world thinks. This is elevating or emphasizing what the world thinks is important, pursuing what it pursues, in disregard of God’s will. Yep, that was the path I was on this morning and God made sure that I had no peace and no joy in the midst of it. It was ugly. Right in the middle of it, I received hateful emails and comments from people obviously controlled by their emotions and their flesh as well and so it went. It was like circling a drain. I thought eating lunch would help. Nope, it did not help at all. I did not turn this around, or God did not allow me to turn this around, until I started driving home to get ready for my appointment.
I left a bit early. I took the long way home. I stayed off the interstate. I drove through a city park. I prayed. I worshiped. I prayed some more. I became thankful. When I got home, it was like a new day. By the time I got to therapy, it was a new day. When I got home from after my discharge, I was full of joy and I knew I had to write about what God had done in and through this today. I opened that spam comment and it was like nothing at all. If I had got that this morning, I probably would have sent the guy a heat-seeking missile back at him, but I do not care. God knows my heart and that is to obey Him in all things.
Here is Romans 8:1-11 from the ESV:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 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 set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:1-11 ESV)
This is the Apostle Paul’s glorious exposition of the new life of the Spirit that all Christians enjoy because of Christ’s saving work. However, as I shared above, we can get our hearts set wrongly and then the peace of God becomes a memory. It is an ugly thing my brethren. Let us keep our hearts set on the things of the Spirit and remember that what the earth has is nothing compared to what we have awaiting us in eternity.
Soli Deo Gloria!