“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.”
Romans 8:5-8 NLT
What controls our minds? We have a thought life, that we think we can control. And it is true that, to a certain extent at least, we can align our thoughts to whatever interests us in that moment of time. We might find ourselves thinking about the latest news, or the next meal. We might have a meeting with a friend or colleague planned. There may be anxious thoughts about how to pay the next energy bill, or the mortgage. Thinking about the behaviour of a family member might be causing us concern. But in all of this, to say we might have control over our minds might not be true at all. Our thoughts are driven mostly by external circumstances.
Are our thoughts sin though? Obviously, being human, there are human things that we have to think about. That’s why God gave us a mind. But Paul wrote that a mind dominated by its sinful nature would ultimately lead to death. And not just physical death, but spiritual death as well. Intermingled with all our necessary thoughts are sinful thoughts. For example, it is not wrong to plan how we can pay a bill, but sin creeps in when thoughts develop around doing something illegal to acquire the necessary funds. And before long, thoughts can become more focused on an evil way of life than a righteous one. A life “dominated by the sinful nature“.
In Genesis 6:5-6, we read, “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart”. These verses were in the preamble to the story of Noah and his ark, and we know what eventually happened to the evil people God broke His heart over. God designed our minds for good, but sin corrupted them. In Noah’s day, God eliminated the problem. In our day He provided a solution.
God’s Laws, as given through Moses, brought clarity to people’s thoughts and behaviours. But sin still prevailed. There was nothing wrong with God’s plans, but in His grace and mercy He decided to provide a lifeline to help sinful men and women to be obedient to His righteous way of life. We know, of course, that the lifeline was God’s own Son, Jesus Himself. We read in Hebrews 4:15-16, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most”.
In Hebrews 4:12-13 we read, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable”. Regardless of our circumstances, we have a loving, caring God who has provided all the resources we need to live the life He designed us to live free of slavery to sin. By living the Spirit-filled life we will find peace because no longer will our minds be fighting God because of our sins.
Dear Heavenly Father. How grateful we are that You chose to help us to live a life free of sin through the power of Your Spirit within us. We worship You today. Amen.