Believer, how much do you make of your spiritual reality that you are "in Christ"?
Our hearts are easily influenced by what we see and feel. We are prone to forget that because of the work Jesus did for us and in us, we are "seated with him in the heavenly places" (Eph. 2:6) and therefore we have been blessed in him "with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Eph. 1:3). Your present reality is bigger than what you can experience with your five senses as you read this blog article. Your present reality is more complex than what you can naturally perceive about the current trial you are facing or the things that are stressing you out today. Your spiritual reality, if you have put your faith in Christ, is that you are seated with Christ in the heavenly places.
But we must choose to live in that spiritual reality. That's what faith does. Faith is "the conviction of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). That means that faith intentionally looks to what we cannot perceive with our senses and anchors our hearts there. Faith means that we "seek the things that are above above, where Christ is, seated in the heavenly places" (Col. 3:1-4). So what does this practically look like?
Here is a chart that I like to use when I am walking with someone through a Soul Care process (see below for explanation):
To use the chart, start in the center and work your way out. According to Romans 8:6, there are two polar opposite directions our minds can travel, the flesh and the Spirit, and they lead to opposite outcomes.
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6 ESV)
Here's how the chart is fleshing that out:
When dealing with sin (the two columns closest to the center), the mind set on the flesh looks at "what I can do in the the flesh." Our sin habits will feel so insurmountable that it would be impossible to overcome them. We say, "I'll try harder next time," but we know that last time that didn't work out so well. Eventually we start to think, "Well, I've lived with my sin patterns this long, I can continue living with it until I die." Sometimes we even think, "It's not so bad. God will forgive it in the end anyway. I don't need to put forth the effort to kill this sin." That's a mind set on the flesh.
In contrast, a mind set on the Spirit looks at what Christ has done. He has conquered sin and death and seated us with him in the heavenly places. Our sin has no place there, and he has already done the work to free us from it's power and bondage. Not only that, but Christ has given us his Holy Spirit (very God of very God) to lead us into all truth. We begin to see sin for what it is: an offense against a holy God on account of which the wrath of God is coming. We want no part of it because we are not destined for wrath, but for holiness.
Let's now think about how we make choices in these different directions (the next columns out from the center). When our minds are set on the flesh, we make foolish choices. We think the way we've always thought, which will always produce the same results. We are wise in our own eyes. Not only that, but we allow uninformed emotions to lead the way. Notice I use the word "uninformed," not "bad." Certain emotions like anger or sadness get a bad wrap, but they actually find their root in the heart of God. The problem is that when our minds are set on the flesh, our emotions are not being taught the truth of God's word. They are not aware of our spiritual reality in Christ.
In contrast, a mind set on the Spirit makes choices based on God's revealed word. We are constantly asking, "What has God clearly revealed in the scriptures," and then we seek to apply it. That's wisdom. This doesn't necessarily mean our emotions like sadness or anger go away either. It means they are informed by a truth and conformed into a godly expression. And yes, some of those emotions will be course-corrected as God's truth casts new light on reality.
So what are the results of a mind set on the flesh? Romans 8:6 says that the result is death. If I am a genuine believer, this is an experience of death that is inconsistent with my spiritual reality. Most believers can relate to a time when we weren't yielding to the Spirit and our bones withered away (see Psalm 32:3-4). In this state, we end up with a false view of reality because we are not looking to the heavenly realm. We become self-worshiping, seeking whatever we think will alleviate the unpleasant situation. Oh, and by the way, if we persist in this state without repentance to the end, it proves that we are not truly saved from our sin because we do not look to Christ.
But praise be to God there is a different outcome given to those who are in Christ! We must only repent (change our mind) and set our minds on the Spirit! We deal with sin and make choices following his lead. And the outcome, according to Romans 8:6, is life and peace! That life and peace is consistent with our spiritual reality in the heavenly places. It is the result of an accurate view of reality, not denying the present trials or hardships, but seeing them in light of Christ. And in the end, because only Christ can produce life and peace, he alone is worshiped and receives all the glory.
So what are you going through today? What is stressing you out or burdening your heart? What is tempting you to sin? Take a minute to think through your present circumstance using this blank chart below. What would it look like to deal with sin and make choices in this circumstance with your mind set on the flesh? What would be the results? How would it change things to set your mind on the Spirit? Once you have gone through the exercise, make the choice to live in your spiritual reality.