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Monday, November 18, 2019

Perfect Peace 3: Life or Death

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© 2010 Gareth Jones, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
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
Wow... "to set the mind on the flesh is death." That seems really extreme, doesn't it? By the way - when the Bible says "the flesh" it doesn't mean what we mean when we say flesh. It doesn't mean any part of your physical body, at least not directly. It means your human nature, specifically the darker part of it. The part of it that makes you want to cut someone off on the highway when they did the same to you. The part that makes you want to yell at someone when you feel angry. The part of you that wants to eat more dessert than is healthy for you.

So, setting your mind on that is equated to death. We already found out that focusing our minds on Jesus is a catalyst for peace inside, and we found out that we don't really need to be anxious about whether we have all the stuff we need (like food, clothing, shelter) because God knows and promises to provide. But this verse seems to indicate that if we focus on the wrong things, it will lead to some sort of death!

I don't believe that a person who has given his or her heart to Jesus can experience spiritual death in Hell. I think that once you've given that to Him, you can't take it back. If that's the case, and since we all know that it's perfectly possible for us to focus on sinful things, this must be a different kind of death.

The flip side (after the word "but") is focusing on the Spirit, and the result of that is not only life, but peace. Remember, in the Hebrew language, peace means not only inner tranquility, but physical health and material prosperity. Maybe the "death" here manifests itself in lack of inner tranquility, or maybe it manifests itself as getting fat because we ate too much dessert, or maybe it manifests itself in our bodies becoming sick because we spend our time being angry and bitter against others. There are lots of things that could easily fit under the heading "death" here. My personal take is that when we spend all of our time focusing on gratifying our sinful natures, eventually, the "death" will be physical - maybe actually dying early, but maybe the loss of health and quality of life. Think about this passage from Proverbs:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. - Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV
Maybe I'm wrong and living for the sinful nature doesn't cause physical sickness, but this passage pretty clearly indicates that if you're not putting all your trust in the Lord, you're missing out on some actual physical health benefits available to you. I'm not making this up - I'm just calling them as I see them!

The next time you start to get angry, or anxious, or gluttonous, or whatever Achilles heel your flesh presents to you - take a second to intentionally set your mind on the things of the Spirit. Let's see if God's health plan starts kicking in!

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