(This Day’s Thought is pleased to bring you Eric Elder’s new sermon series, “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind.”
SPECIAL NOTE FROM ERIC: I recently taught an online class to show others, step-by-step, how they can self-publish their own paperback books on websites like Amazon.com, as well as make their books available in eBook format for Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and Apple’s iPads, iPods and iPhones. I recorded the full 2 hour and 10 minute class, and I’d be glad to share it with you for a donation of any size to our ministry this month. For more details about the class and how to watch it, see the P.S. at the end of today’s message. )
Setting Your Mind On What The Spirit Desires
Lesson 16 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder
What is it about rules that makes us want to break them? I was in a church one day when the pastor was talking about the benefits of a new diet he had started. He was telling us how he ate a bowl of oatmeal every morning for breakfast, and how much of a change that was from the way he used to eat. He said he previously used to sit down some nights and eat an entire 2-pound bag of peanut M&M’s in one sitting!
As surprised as I was to hear that, as soon as he said it, something sprang to life within me. I began to imagine what it would be like to sit down and eat a whole bag of peanut M&M’s, all by myself, in one sitting. It sounded crazy. I’d never even thought about the idea before. That’s a lot of M&M’s! But it sounded really good, too. (And in case you don’t know what peanut M&M’s are, they’re peanuts dipped in chocolate and covered by a hard candy shell).
The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it. Although it seemed wrong, I still wanted to do it. Somehow, his sermon on the benefits of this new diet just made me want to eat more. The very thing he was telling me not to do was the very thing I wanted to do—and it was his sermon that sparked the idea in me to do it!
When one of my daughters asked me what I wanted for Christmas that year, only one thing came to the forefront of my mind: a 2-pound bag of peanut M&M’s.
What was happening to me? Why was I now desiring something that I had never thought of desiring until I was told that I shouldn’t desire it? Wouldn’t it have been better if I had never heard that sermon at all? And what could I do about it now that I had?
The Apostle Paul describes this dilemma in Romans chapter 7 (except for mentioning the peanut M&M’s ), which also includes one of the most tongue-twisting passages in all of Scripture:
“What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
“Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:7-24).
I like the way Paul puts this. He says that the law is good, but that sin is always present, too, ready to spring into life at any moment. And when sin sees an opportunity, it seizes it, producing within us our covetous desires. The law is not the problem, sin is. And sin seems already nearby and ready to seize upon such opportunities.
It seems like a dilemma that could cripple us for life. But Paul doesn’t leave us there, and neither does God. Paul asks: “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” And then he continues with the answer to that question, as well how to win the battle over the sins and temptations that you face in life, too. Paul says:
“Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 7:25-8:11).
Paul says it clearly: the one who can rescue you from the battles you’re facing is Jesus Christ our Lord. The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is living within you, if you’ve put your faith in Him. And that same Spirit can bring the same power and the same victory to you, if you’ll set your mind on what the Spirit desires.
Jesus has already fought the hardest battle on your behalf, dying for your sins so you don’t have to. Now your job now is to set your mind on what the Spirit desires, letting go of anything that is pulling you back into your sinful desires.
If you can win the battle in your mind, you’re well on your way to winning the battle in your flesh, too.
My sweet daughter bought me a 2-pound bag of peanut M&M’s for Christmas that year. But when I got the bag and came face to face with the choice I was about to make, I did something I hadn’t expected. I changed my mind.
Whereas before I had only imagined what it would be like to indulge my desires, I now thought through what that decision would mean down the road. What if I really did eat the whole bag in one sitting? How sick would I get? How many pounds would I instantly be adding to my already growing body fat? In a matter of minutes, I had changed my mind. I decided to just eat just a few. I shared a few more. Then I put the rest away in a cupboard, to be eaten only occasionally as a special treat, or to be served to friends who stopped by.
Instead of being controlled by my fleshly desires, I set my mind on what the Spirit desires instead. And in so doing, I won the victory.
Believe me, I know there are bigger battles in life than facing a 2-pound bag of peanut M&M’s. But I also know that God is bigger than any of those battles, too. The choices you make in your mind will affect the choices you make with your body. I want to encourage you today to make good choices—to set your mind on what the Spirit desires, and not on fleshly things.
When tempted to look at someone who’s attractive for longer than you should, just look away. Leave them there. And don’t look back. When tempted to click on an inappropriate website, just let it go. Don’t click that link. Ask yourself, “What does the Spirit desire?”
When tempted to start a bad habit, remember that the best way to stop a bad habit is never to start in the first place. Just don’t do it. Don’t even get started. When fighting a bad habit that you’ve already started, just drop it. Let it go. Find a way to redirect your time and energy into something more godly and healthy.
Then call upon the Spirit of Christ who lives within you to help you do what He wants you to do. Remember:
“And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you.”
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for doing the hardest work of all in our battle against sin. Help us to do the hard work we have to do of setting our minds on what Your Spirit desires. Help us in the battles we face today so we can drop whatever might threaten to harm us, and to take hold of that which will lead us to life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
P.S. On another topic, I’ve self-published a dozen books over the years, and some people have asked me how they can self-publish their books, too. So I’ve put together an online class that shows you step-by-step how to upload your books to Amazon.com and make them available for others to buy in paperback form, or to print out copies for yourself at a very low cost. The class also includes how to publish your books in eBook format for use on Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Apple’s iBookstore for the iPhone, iPod and iPad. I taught this class live online, and I recorded the full 2 hours and 10 minutes so you can learn from it, too. If you’d like to see it, I’d be glad to send you the link where you can watch it online for yourself for a donation of any size to our ministry. Your donations really do help us significantly, plus they encourage me to continue putting together more classes like these in the future! If you’d like to make a donation online and get the link to watch the class, just click the link below:
Watch The Class
Questions for Reflection
1. Read Romans 7:7-8:11. Have you ever experienced what Paul described in verse 9 where “sin sprang to life” after hearing about something you shouldn’t do?
2. What does Paul say is the cause such experiences? Is the law at fault, or something else?
3. What encouragement do you take from the solution Paul puts forth, that if the Spirit of Christ lives in you—the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead—that He can give life to your mortal bodies as well?
4. Is there an area in your life where you could use the help of the Spirit of Christ right now to overcome a battle that you’re facing? How could simply setting your mind on what the Spirit desires help you in this area?
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