Things of the Spirit: Confession

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

How do you practice this? What practices do you use to place your mind on the things of the Spirit?

Our church is reading through Romans together and the above question was asked on social media yesterday. Today I hope to do my best to answer succinctly (for me, that is – haha!).

Even before I read the post yesterday, I devoted some thought to this very question. And true to His glorious nature, God has provided me with an excellent example by using… me.

Specifically, He has pointed out my sin to me and provided the chance to confess.

So how do I place my mind on things of the Spirit? My answer is both simple and complex.

Simple because I don’t. My mind roves far and wide into terrain it has no business traversing. However, what I have done – and continually do to this very hour – is part of the complex answer.

First and foremost, I continually ask the Lord not to allow me to remain comfortable in sin. I pray He will give me true sorrow for my sin and genuine repentance.

Because He is faithful, He always does. Always – whether I like it or not at the moment (and I assure you, I am not always thrilled to be on the receiving end of discipline even though I find I am thankful later on).

Secondly, I spend time with Him every single day. I read his Word. I memorize it and meditate on it. I ask Him to show me my error and to bring me guidance through the Word.

And He does, because He is a good Father.

As I read this morning, several passages seized my attention. For example:

“Their throat is an open grave… The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
(Romans 3:13-14)

Aaaannndd… in reading, I find I am driven to confess. My mouth is far too often full of curses and bitterness. Take yesterday, for example…

I was talking to a friend, commiserating on some “delights” we share involving chronic pain and the feelings of frustration and depression which commonly accompany it. OK, perhaps I ought to have rejoiced in my suffering (Romans 5:3), but I have a much more unattractive sin to confess.

In the course of conversation, I switched gears and complained about something else entirely. I allowed a hurt from the past to well up as bitter words once again, and I fell far short of the glory of God. Very, very far.

So today, I not only confess (and my friend, if you read this, you know who you are! I am sorry!!) – I also repent. I want to reject my bitterness and any grudge and move forward into humble obedience to the One who died to set me free.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
(Romans 6:3, 8)

I want to die to my old nature. But to do so, I find I must not only put to death my old nature, I need to keep putting it to death.
For if you live according to your old nature, you will certainly die; but if, by the Spirit, you keep putting to death the practices of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:13, CJB

I need to continually renew my mind by re-focusing on the goodness of God and recognizing my own weakness and folly. I must be humble enough to realize I am not exempt from sin, especially when I find myself highlighting someone else’s less pleasing habits…

When others hurt me, I am driven to recognize many situations where I have been the one inflicting hurt. I need constant reminders such as this – reminders than I am no better than the one(s) who hurt me.

In so doing, I find it easier not only to repent but to forgive.

But for all of this, I need God. His Spirit living within me. His guidance, His Word of Truth, His correction, His faithfulness.

Yet I must also cooperate with Him, even when cooperation hurts or is humiliating. Even when it means publicly confessing yet another failure to tame the restless evil of my tongue.

In the end, I do all of this because He is worth every single ounce of suffering, humiliation, and even injustice I may experience. After all, He suffered all this and more for me.

If I truly love Him,  how can I believe I should not suffer the same for Him? Particularly when I am at fault!

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God…
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
(Romans 8:14, 16-17)
Lord God, renew my mind and heart! All that I am, I submit to You and ask You to set my mind on Your Spirit and not on the folly of my own weak nature, amen.

At the Risk of Redundancy, Some Thoughts on Thought

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
(2 Corinthians 10:5)

This is a unique season in my life where my days are no longer filled with endless circling like some featherless vulture, swooping periodically among my three children and snatching a stray variable out from an algebraic equation or pecking at a choppy paragraph or the occasional furtive word from the “Banned Words” list.

It isn’t that I am overloaded with free time – not by any stretch of the imagination. I am still sloooowwly working my way through a course in Biblical Hebrew, working part-time as a sort of tutor/life coach to a teen with a burden too heavy for her thin young shoulders, working one day on a second novel and the next on a non-fiction work (or articles, or proposals, etc.), and I still have a household to manage, however ineptly.

But for the first time since the birth of my son, I have a little space to breathe. And in that space, I have been contemplating the importance of my thought life.

It’s no big secret that the general moral climate of my nation has become so relaxed that one would be tempted to think it was asleep if it weren’t so darn cheeky.

After all, much that was once considered shameful and intentionally obscured by darkness is now quite literally paraded in the streets in the full light of the sun. Words that were once scandalously taboo may now be heard on any public broadcast or even read on an interstate billboard.

More sadly yet, even those who claim to be followers of Christ engage in activities and entertainments that reveal an attitude so far from holy and appropriate fear of the Almighty that it could quite easily be mistaken for something very like cursory fondness; sort of the spiritual equivalent to that nod you give the new grocery clerk when you pass them stocking an aisle.

Except me, of course. I’m apt to smile and greet them by name, because… well we won’t get into that beyond saying that I spend an inordinate amount of time at the grocery store. But I’ve mentioned that before, and now I have badly digressed…

Maybe it is because in the lackadaisical, anything-goes atmosphere of the modern age, we have forgotten the importance of the little things. We have overlooked that just because something is culturally acceptable — or even culturally encouraged — does not mean that it has ceased to be morally reprehensible.

Maybe in the breakneck information overload of inescapable connectivity and an entertainment glut where thoughtful pursuits have been largely sidelined in favor of cut-to-the-chase storylines soaring high on action but slender on plot, we have forgotten that one ought to take the time to think.

Perhaps, even, in a culture of insane rush in which news is thrust at us with fanatical shock-and-awe violence one day and forgotten the next in the melee of the next great scandal; when many people glean their news from headlines alone and their truth from a combination of popular opinion, cat memes, and “Verse-of -the-Day” apps, we have lost sight of the incredible, undeniable power of thought.

Today as I walked and thought, ruminating over Scripture I had just read and other sections that I had previously stored up in my heart, the importance of what our minds are set upon was impressed upon me.

As Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” (Romans 8:6-7)…

…and to Philippi: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)…

…and to Colossae: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)…

…and as some now-obscure computer geek once wrote, “GIGO” aka “Garbage in, garbage out.”

Certainly, there is enough information and entertainment in this world to occupy every spark of mental energy we can muster, flying past at rates so ridiculous that we have barely processed the first image or word before the next thirty come hurtling by.

But there is a lot to be said for the good, old-fashioned exercise of unhurried thought as well. Perhaps it is because my migraine-prone brain is quick to short-circuit at such speeds, but really I believe it is mainly because I like to spend time. I enjoy mulling over God’s Word, or His character, or His creation. I love contemplation, and I feel incredible satisfaction when I have time to savor it.

And not only that, but in my four decades, I have realized that without a doubt, if I do not take every thought captive to obey Christ, then each one of the irresponsible little devils goes and makes itself a slave to sin…

On that note, I will be unplugging for a few days, so I’ll catch you on the other side of the weekend!