5For 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.
6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
It is amusing that I should have to write about “mindset” today for I have one of the most chaotic minds around. If someone were to follow me through a day they would wonder how I ever accomplished anything because I mentally flit from one thing to another all day long. Concentration is mystery to me. Since it is impossible for us to know how others think I have often wondered if this is how everyone operates and what I call “chaos” is just normal.
Mindset is in fact a topic that comes up frequently in the Bible and so it is important for us to understand it and seek God’s power in gaining control of what we think about during the day. Paul clearly sets up two different mindsets – the one controlled by the flesh and the one controlled by the Spirit. There is a sharp line of division between being ruled by the Spirit and being ruled by the flesh. We talked about that in depth during our discussion of chapter 7. And here is where the discussion takes a turn for me. I know with certainty that I am not able to bring myself to faith; this is the work of the Holy Spirit alone. I know with certainty that any good thing I do is enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. But who has control of my mind; me or the Holy Spirit? Because let me just admit there are times when I am certain it is not the Holy Spirit. He is probably not distracted by every errant thought that comes along – but I sure am. And so the internal struggle goes on daily for me. This blog was begun in an effort to bring some discipline and self-control to a chaotic mind. Sometimes it works; sometimes I struggle.
For me there are several things that bring order to this chaotic mind:
- Prayer: That constant touchstone of the faith brings me into contact with the Living God. There’s an upshot to a mind that pings around because it often lands on prayer, even if it’s only for a short time.
- Bible Study: This is where I find God. This is where focus is not really a problem. My weekly Bible study groups are the backbone of my life.
- Christian music: Almost 30 years ago I began to listen to Christian music almost exclusively. It wasn’t an easy decision. I’ve always enjoyed popular music. But once the change was made I noticed a difference. My mind was not consumed with the vacuous popular music of the day but instead I was humming words with some solid impact. My days were changed.
- Christian reading: This excludes the Bible. There are thousands of books out there that are about the faith, about the Bible, and about what it means to be surrendered to God, both fiction and non-fiction. These authors give me something to think about beyond myself and that can be very helpful.
- Christian conversation: Engaging in conversation with others who love God is a good time. I love to be challenged by how others see God and the impact that He has had on their lives. Hearing another’s take on the Scriptures can keep me entertained for a long time.
- The Disciplines: The Christian disciplines such as fasting, meditation, journaling, service, worship . . . (the list is long) are all designed to help with the whole mindset issue.
One of my daily prayers is that God would help me with focus. I want to keep Him clearly in my sights but as you can see, other things come along and distract me so very quickly. Here’s an area where God certainly empowers, but I have to participate.