Bringing the Presence With Us Every Day

Walking by the Spirit and not the flesh – Romans 8:5-8

“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. 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. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

When I was younger and heard preachers give sermons from this text, it was always a message about holiness and it came across like a message of condemnation.  It was like, “You better do this, or else,” or with the feeling of, “You are such a sinner!  You cannot please God because you are so fleshly and carnal!”  I would come away with a feeling like I just needed to try harder, and the question in mind of if I would ever be able to win this battle with my evil flesh!  While holiness is an important element of the Christian life, coming at this text from the perspective of “I just have to do better or else I’m in trouble” will always lead to disappointment and condemnation, and those are not things of God!  God offers life and peace, and the focus should be on the reward that is to be found, not by simply trying harder to not live according to the flesh, but on the joy that can be found when we learn to set our minds on things of the Spirit.  It is a message of hope and life!  It is something worthwhile that is available to all of us.  

Walking by the Spirit and not by the flesh is not about the hundreds of things that you are supposed to say “No” to in order to live a godly life.   Rather, it’s about the one thing that you say “Yes” to on an ongoing basis.  God is always presenting an invitation for you to come closer.  He is always desiring for you to be in His presence.  When you continually say “Yes” to the invitation, you will live by the Spirit.

How do you say “Yes”?  It starts with where you focus your thoughts.

Vs. 5 – “setting the mind” on things of the flesh or things of the Spirit – It is a reference not just to what you practice (outward acts), but on an orientation of your attentions.  It is where you are directing your thoughts and will.  It has to do with your motivations and affections.  These will be played out in your actions.  

Think about all the places you let your mind go.  You may think about work, about school, about relationships, about what you want to do later today, about dreams you have for the future, and an endless list of other possibilities.  The things you are thinking about may not be bad, and they may even be a necessary part of day to day life, but how much of that thought life do you let God participate in?

There is a habit among many Christians to compartmentalize their faith.  There are things of God, that they might even give attention to on a daily basis, but then there are things of life.  It’s not they don’t believe in or don’t love God during the day to day things, but God isn’t specifically involved in them.  

For example, I go to the store to get food.  I can think that it’s just up to me what I buy, how much I buy, and how much I spend, right?  I don’t need God to help me make those decisions, and He doesn’t really care about those things, right?   So, I shop and buy whatever I desire and spend whatever amount that the cashier rings up.  I can do all of that without even giving one thought to the things of God.  If you think that way, however, you have already (1) determined that God doesn’t care about what you eat, even though your body is His temple, (2) decided that it doesn’t matter to Him about how much stuff you get or how much you spend, even though He owns everything and you are a steward of what you have and are responsible for how you manage it, and (3) you have determined that you are the master of your life because you know best, and therefore you don’t really need God, at least for those areas where “you have it under control.”  You compartmentalize your spiritual life to the areas that are (1) obviously spiritual, like church, Bible reading, and prayer or worship time; and (2) to those areas where you feel out of control, desperate, and need His help.  

There can be different levels to which a person might compartmentalize their spiritual life:

  1. I’m only spiritual on Sundays, or when I go to church. 
  2. I practice my faith every day by spending time in God’s presence and living a holy life before Him, but there is a difference between “time with God” and just the daily things I have to do like going to work or putting gas in my car. 

If you approach life with “God in a box,” only allowing Him in certain compartments of your life, you will miss out on what God has for you and you will miss opportunities that He would like to work in and through your life.  Remember the verse in Romans said that a mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.   That “life” that is promised is a fullness of life, a fulfilled life, a life of wholeness, and completeness.  How much life and peace are you getting right now?  Would you like to have more?

A mind set on the Spirit will not be so compartmentalized.  It is a life where I remain in God’s presence and find opportunities to bring His presence into every place I go with everything that I do.  It is a life of cooperation with God where I respond to His invitation to be a part of everything I do.  That doesn’t mean that I stop doing all the day to day things I normally do so that I can just sit and pray and read my Bible all day long.  It means that I think about His perspective on the situations I face.  It means that I rejoice with Him in the joys that He has brought to me on this earth.  It means that I seek His counsel for the things that I may have previously thought I could handle on my own.  It means that I look for the times that He may desire to use me to be a blessing to others.  

As an illustration, I love my job, but it is in a secular field.  The things I do require me to have, not Bible knowledge, but technical and business understanding.  I know that my job is a gift from God because I have a Bible degree, and not an engineering degree like most others in my field.  It was only after I started getting involved in this line of work that I took business administration classes.  Everything that I do at work on a day to day basis can be done based on my intellectual knowledge and experience.  Although there are some excellent principles in the Bible that I try to apply to work, the Bible doesn’t have specific answers on how to adjust a laser or how to make a more precise cut to stainless steel tubing.  If I operate by removing God totally out of the equation, however, I am missing out on the fullness of life that God really has for me.  

I actually miss out in two ways.  

  1. My job can be very stressful at times. There are a lot of people at all levels of the organization that ask me for things and hold me accountable for things.  The workload never gets smaller, and the people don’t get easier to work with.  When I don’t include God in those days at work, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and sucked up into the vortex of all the deadlines, pressures, complaints, arguments, and miscellaneous junk that goes on every day.  
  2. God desires us as His people to carry His presence to a world that needs Him.  We are to be salt and light, providing stability and hope to a dark and dying world.  He wants that same life that He provides to us to be made available to others who do not yet know Him and who desperately need Him.

God also desires to fill me with life, while the world is only going to try to suck the life out of me.  I know that my job can be very demanding, as I’m sure that many of you experience as well, whether it be a job or school, or taking care of a family, life can be demanding and stressful.  If I am not continually allowing the Spirit to come and fill me, I can be eaten alive by the things that I deal with.  If I compartmentalize my time into time at work, and then a different time with God, I will be neglecting the wellspring of water that the Spirit would provide to refresh me throughout the day. Although I enjoy the work that I do, what God has called me to – and desires for all of His people – is to take His presence to a world that needs Him.     

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
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We are in the world, but we do not conform to the pattern of the world.  God has given us freedom and gifts in this life and on this earth, but they are not to replace Him.  He wants us to have joy in this life, and in our relationships, and in our work, but the second that they start coming in the way of Him, we lose, simply because those joys are temporal and fleeting.  The only lasting joy and peace comes from Him alone, and from abiding in His presence.  

The way to live according to these high standards is to “set your mind” on things of God, and be continually renewed by the transforming of your mind.  As you present yourself as a living sacrifice before God, your thinking patterns will be reset. 

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:1-2

Practical Steps to Renewing the Mind:

  1. Read the Word, meditate on it, review it, think about it, absorb it.
  2. Remember the promises
    1. From Scripture
    1. From Prophesy – write prophesies down so that you can review them later
  3. Remember the testimonies
    1. In your own life – set up the monuments so that you can look back at them
    1. In the lives of others – rejoice with them and recognize what God did in their life, He can do in yours as well.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

What does it look like to live in the Spirit every day?

  • Armor of God – Ephesians 6:14-17
    • Belt of truth (personal integrity, moral courage – AMP)
    • Breastplate of righteousness
    • Shoes of readiness (preparation – NASB & NKJV) that comes from the gospel of peace [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news – AMP].
    • Shield of faith
    • Helmet of salvation
    • Sword of the Spirit
  • Diligence in work – Colossians 3:23 – “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
  • Evidence of the fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23
    • Love – a respect and devotion to others that leads to self-sacrifice
    • Joy – regardless of circumstances – a blessing from God that comes from within
    • Peace  – also regardless of circumstances – a confidence in Christ 
    • Patience – “bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune or pain, without complaint or loss of temper” (Dictionary.com)
    • Kindness – Concern and care for others
    • Goodness – “Moral and spiritual excellence manifested in active kindness” (Macarthur Study Bible)
    • Faithfulness – “Loyalty and trustworthiness” (MacArthur)
    • Gentleness- “a humble attitude that is patiently submissive in every offense, while having no desire for revenge or retribution,” includes teachability and consideration of others (MacArthur)
    • Self-Control – “restraining of passions and appetites” – discipline
  • Acts 4:32-34 – 32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
    • Unity of mind and spirit
    • Power in testimony
    • Generosity