These next five weeks we will begin a new series I’m calling “tried and true.” These passages could be read over and over and yet we never fathom their depths. We have the promise in Scripture that the Spirit will use the Word powerfully in us, these passages are some of the gems that He uses in me especially in times such as these. You know, when all of life is so obviously out of our control. Or when it becomes clear that my plans are in vain. Or when circumstances attempt to usher me into anxiety or fear or despair. In Christ we can remain steadfast, firm in the faith; in Christ we have help, we have fortitude, we have perseverance. In communion with the saints we share all of that, and then our peace and joy are multiplied, though the circumstances remain.
The first passage we will share is Romans 8:6-15. The whole chapter will ever be a favorite, but the focus here is on one small portion.
Setting Your Mind
Some versions might say mind-set (the mindset of the Spirit). NASB says “the mind set on.” Setting our minds is an act of obedience, as we walk in the “obedience of faith” that Paul is teaching about in this Epistle (see Romans 1:5 and 16:26). This passage is asking you to question what you have set your mind on. If you set your mind on the Spirit, you are promised life and peace.
Be careful not to read Western philosophy into this. Paul is not differentiating between heart and mind. Mind here refers to your inner life–thoughts, feelings, affections, decisions, will. Set that on the Spirit. And peace is not “peaceful easy feeling” but actual shalom and well being with no war, no obstacle between you and your God.
Two of the main ways are: prayer, and Scripture. How can you pray such that you are not focused entirely on your own thoughts, and merely re-hashing your circumstances and feelings? What is the difference between “pouring out your heart” and grumbling? Contemplative prayer will help most, as you let Scriptures guide you. See here for an example, and do not confuse this with mystical contemplation.
I have been finding Nehemiah very helpful to my prayer life of late. The Spirit indwelling enables us to pray as Jesus taught–and we cry out without tempering our emotions, “Abba, Father!” (Father, help! Father I need… Father what should I do… Father I feel so… etc)
Concerning Scripture, you will be setting your mind whether reading, studying, meditating or memorizing. When you read, do not merely sail through the passage and move one. “Check, task done.” Think about the words. Give yourself a little recap of what you read. Meditation happens when you slow down enough to muse upon the words and phrases. See here for more on that.
A word on memorizing. When you read a passage enough to etch the words onto your heart, they are with you no matter where you are.
I’ve been memorizing 2 Corinthians 4, it has always been one that I could tell you the gist of, but memorizing the words has been such a delight to my soul. At a recent chiropractor appointment (which proved to be as amazing during a pandemic as a vacation would normally be!) I lay on the table with electric stim pads and heat. I recited the portion of the chapter I’ve completed, and spent the next few moments focused on the last verse, and meditating on that verse for a while. The shalom, or peace and well-being that flooded my soul stayed with me. This is the true joy of memorizing.
There is no “setting your mind on the Spirit” apart from thinking upon the Word, which is after all the “Sword of the Spirit.”
Verse 7 tells us that those whose minds are set upon flesh (not just bodily existence, but everything contrary to the work of the Spirit) are hostile to God. This is a matter of war and peace. We flourish when we set our minds on the Spirit, but are hostile enemies otherwise. You cannot please God, or fulfill the law when your minds are set against God, filled with ideas that have foundations other than God’s Word.
But in Christ–with His Spirit indwelling, we will be led further into obedience, we are finally free to love what God loves and seek the ancient paths!
Verses 9-10 further elaborate the mutual abiding we enjoy as those whose lives are truly in Christ. This is a great reminder of the beautiful mystery of the Trinity. Sometime, set aside some time to meditate on these verses.
Verse 12–so then, very important connecting words. So then, we have an obligation to obey, but our obedience is in the power of the Spirit, not self.
On Being Led
Do not extrapolate this verse, it must sit in this passage to be understood. He leads us in understanding, (see John 16), taking what the Father and Son have taught and making it known to us, such that we finally know what pleases God, and can put away the old and put on the new. We are being led by the Spirit to put to death what has its source in flesh; we put to death sin, lust, and everything contrary to God’s revealed will.
The Spirit will lead you to set your mind, and to know and understand Truth. He is the Spirit of truth. (Remember, John 16?). He will lead us also to mortify the old, and enjoy the resurrection of the true life we have in Christ.
Led to Pray
And so, as the Spirit leads us, we cry out. We pray. We pray from the gut–but without grumbling or disputing (Philippians 3:2:14-16; and 1 Corinthians 10:1-12). Without pride. Without shame. Without fear. We cry out “Abba, Father” because we know we are His. We belong. He loves us. We cry out expectantly, as the child in their bed having a nightmare cries out “DADDY!!!!” or as the child who falls and skins their knee “HELP!!!! OUCH!!!!!!” Or the the child out of sorts who just sniffles “Daddy, hold me.”
Close with this prayer, a time to praise God for His Word and wisdom and leading us on and drawing us near: Romans 16:25-27
Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to the obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.