By Martin Morrison.
We have already seen in Romans 8:5 – 8 that Paul is describing two kinds of people. Last time we looked at the first kind of man, the dead man walking. Strangely, we saw that it was quite possible to be a living, breathing, talking man, who is spiritually dead. In fact, if you are a believer, that is precisely what you were, until God gate crashed your life and had to bring about a second birth from the dead. We could say that we were stillborn babies, whom God miraculously brought to life!
In this same passage, Paul describes not only the marks of a dead man walking, but the marks of a live man walking. Let’s look at two of those marks.
“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”(Romans 8:5). Paul is obviously talking about a Christian, because only a Christian has the Spirit. When you are converted, when you come to faith in Christ, it is precisely that same Spirit, that has brought about your new birth, your regeneration. Remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:7). You cannot be a Christian, unless God the Holy Spirit has given birth to the new “you”. To be a Christian and not have the Spirit, is a complete contradiction in terms.
So the first mark of a true believer, is that inexplicably God has transformed your mind, so that you no longer focus on the things of the flesh, but the things of the Spirit. Previously, you had no real interest in the Bible, in prayer, in meeting with God’s people. But now, you have a real hunger to read the Bible and grow in your understanding. It’s not a duty or a chore, but a craving, even a longing for more! You get excited about having spiritual truth explained to you, which certainly was not the case before. You are excited about the Gospel, about the things of God, about the truth.
At the centre of your being, you see yourself primarily as a soul in relationship to God. At the centre of your being, you do not see yourself primarily as a wife, husband, parent, provider, lover or business person. No, you see yourself as a Christian, as a child of God, as a soul in relationship with God.
I have discovered over the years, that unbelievers are generally happy with their relationship with God, but unhappy with their material well-being. On the other hand, I have discovered that believers are generally happy with their material well-being, but unhappy with their relationship with God. It’s ironic, but true! If your New Year’s resolutions almost always begin with your relationship with God: need to pray more, need to spend more time in the Bible and so on, that’s a good sign. You are most probably a true believer.
The second sign of a believer is stated in Romans 8:6, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” So the mind of the unbeliever is death, but the mind of the believer is life.
Isn’t that exactly what happened when you came to faith in Christ? Not sure of the time or day, but unexpectedly, you had new desires, new values, new dreams. You no longer wanted to sin, even though sadly you do. You no longer wanted to do the things you did as an unbeliever. Previously, you avoided any mention or talk of Jesus, and yet now you can’t get enough of him. You see, that’s the Spirit within you bringing life. You were no longer dead, but became aware within yourself of an ability to respond and communicate with God. The difference was inside of you, not outside of you.
The greatest sin is false thinking about God. An unbeliever rejects or hates the holiness or justice of God. Consequently, there is an inner restlessness, an inner hatred of God, an inner strife and enmity. The Germans call it “angst”. And then she became a Christian. The old restlessness and internal conflict was gone. In its place is peace with God. Almost unimaginable!
I’m told that at the very centre of a hurricane there is complete peace and calm. Well, here’s a Christian woman, who is still surrounded by the turning and twisting of the world. It’s an uncontrollable hurricane outside. But now there’s peace inside. “To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace”.
The author of life and the Prince of Peace came precisely to raise us from the dead and bring eternal peace between us and God. If you have never turned to him, wouldn’t today be a good day.