Has anyone here ever set a goal?
We all know that we set goals so that we can accomplish tasks, get things done, or improve something in some way. It may be a simple goal like accomplishing a household chore, or could be a more difficult goal like trying to accomplish a New Years Resolution. I know, for me, goals have made my life easier. From getting through seminary to running two churches goals are essential.
One time in particular stands out though. I remember when I was in my second year of seminary I was taking my theology class, and our big assignment for the class was a paper that articulated our systematic theology being a minimum of 40 pages. Now at the onset it seemed like a daunting task that could not be completed or would probably take me the rest of my life to complete. My goal was to write and complete this paper, but the goal would have been nothing without the right mindset to get it done. A mindset that was focused on the goal at hand and was staying focused on what needed to be done. My mindset kept me focused and reminded me what I was working on.
The dictionary defines a mindset as “the established set of attitudes held by someone.” Basically a mindset is the thinking we have towards something going on in our lives. In that a good mindset is very important when it comes to accomplishing goals, and a bad mindset can hinder us in getting our goals accomplished.
People often wonder why New Years Resolution’s often fail. It all stems back to our mindset. Its not that we do not want to complete the Resolution, but as we go through life and do other things our mindset changes. We think that we can skip one day of going to the gym or we can have that one cheeseburger. “It can’t hurt anything.” However, that one day becomes two becomes three and suddenly we aren’t even thinking of our resolution anymore.
Bottom line: the mindset for accomplishing that goal or that resolution are really important. Whatever mindset you have is going to impact the outcome of whatever your goal is.
We see the importance of the right mindset as we look at our Hebrew Bible lesson this morning. We witness just what happens when if we look at the wrong goal we can lose what might matter most. Esau gives his birthright away for some lentil stew. Now I am not a big fan of lentil stew, but I am sure if I had a birthright I would not give it away for food. However, Esau has his mind set on being fed and forgets the importance of his birthright and gives it away to Jacob.
Last week we examined the first few verses in chapter 8, and we were given a glimpse on Paul’s theology of grace. We looked at what it means to be forgiven by God, and to be set free. As you can see by our primary scripture this week we are continuing right on through Romans 8.
As we continue our through this chapter we see that Paul is continuing to talk about our life under the Spirit. However, he has moved from talking specifically about God’s forgiveness, and has moved on to how our life changes and what that change means. Paul is conveying to us the right mindset we are to carry as Christians and how keeping our mind set in such a way can keep us from sin. For Paul mindset is plays a very key role, because it impacts not just bits and pieces of our lives, but instead encompasses our whole life. Rather than thinking of a mindset as something that gets us through a goal Paul is saying our mindset is a way of life. It is how we stay our mind through our living. Paul says in verse 5-6, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (8:5-6) Paul here is laying down what occurs when we live by each mindset. Showing the importance of a bad mindset vs. a good mindset.
In verses 5 and 6 and through the rest of our reading today we are introduced to two different mindsets. We have the mindset of the flesh, and then that of the Spirit. Each with their own distinctive qualities, and each lead followers down their own unique road. But we quickly learn that one is a good mindset and the other is a bad mindset.
Paul’s talk of flesh in this passage is showing us that a life without God is one of deep despair and death. Things of the flesh can come in the way of our relationship with God. Paul says in verses 7 and 8, “For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
Our bad mindset as we live our lives affects our relationship with God. It can tear us away. It leads to despair and death. Our bad mindsets in the world take us away from God, and not only affects our relationship with God but can also play badly into our relationship with others.
A close friend talks about his life before he knew Christ. He describes the many ways he sought to glorify himself. To glorify the flesh. He sought different avenues of self-gratification. He notes that while they were satisfying at the time they became less and less satisfying as time went on. One week he was invited to play drums in a church band, and slowly but surely he realized what was missing from his life. He describes his life looking back as empty, and while it was self-gratifying it was never truly anything more. The mindset of the flesh lead him towards a life of despair and spiritual and even emotional death. However, when he began to live by the Spirit and allowed Christ into his life he says that he noted a change.
When we experience new life in Christ our mindset changes to that of the Spirit. Paul says in verses 10 and 11, “But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” In bodies that otherwise experience death we are given life. We are given life through Christ. As Paul contrasts the flesh he describes the Spirit and how it gives life and peace rather than the death experienced by the flesh.
Paul offers up the mindset of the Spirit to show us what he says when he begins this chapter, and what we discussed last week. When Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We hear this statement from Paul, and we ask ourselves, “Why?” “Why is there no more condemnation?” Paul answers these question here in the verses we look at today. Paul is saying that there is no condemnation, because when we set our minds to the Spirit we experience new life.
Following Christ and giving our lives to that way is not only a change in lifestyle, but also a change of mindset. We must no longer live of the flesh mindset that we have had in our past, but we must take up a new mindset that leads us in life and peace.
However, like the goals I talked of at the beginning of my sermon, our mindset must be continually stayed on the goal lest we forget what our goal is. Like those New Years Resolutions that so often slip from our grasps as our lives move forward from January 1st so to our mindset on the Spirit sometimes slips away from our grasps as we live out our lives in Christ.
It seems often like people will make a commitment to God through a profession of faith and as the troubles and trials of the world press down on them it becomes harder and harder for them to keep their mind stayed on the Spirit. We all know well and good that it can be so difficult to be a Christian in our world today. There are so many outside forces descending on us to make us mess up or misstep. Trials and temptations that draw you away from God. They take your mindset off that of the Spirit and try to bring it back towards that of the flesh. This often happens without us even noticing. We sometimes consider our minds to be set on God, but in reality we may have strayed away from what God really wants us to do and are actually trying to gratify ourselves instead.
So we must always remember that we are all agents of God’s mission in the world. We must live according to and have our minds set on the Spirit. In that way we must not allow our mindsets to deviate, but must keep them stayed on God. Our goal in this life is being God’s mission in the world and our mindset is on that of the Spirit to ensure that we are focused on God. As we live towards this goal we must keep the right mindset. Following the teachings of Jesus. Living as he taught us to live. We must treat all as we would like to be treated. Help those who are less fortunate. Praying for this who persecute you. And overall just spread the good news and bring others to set their minds on the Spirit as well. While doing all of this keeping your own mind stayed on God and that all of this is the work that you are being called to by God and for God.
A good mindset can be everything in life. Whether you are completing a job or whether you are following God. When our mindset gets off and turns off the Spirit the consequences can be great. We can not allow the flesh to take over our mindset, but instead allow the Spirit to reign over our lives, and to guide us through. As Paul says in verse 13, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Therefore, when we allow the Spirit to dwell in us and be our mindset we continually receive new life through the one who has offered the Spirit.
Go out and keep your mind set on the Spirit and on that which God has called us all to.