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Crocuses in the City Park (Stadtpark Fürth, March 2015) Photo by Susanne Schuberth

Crocuses in the City Park (Stadtpark Fürth, March 2015)
Photo by Susanne Schuberth

In the past I read rather often that Christians tried hard to be “more spiritual” because they had observed others who seemed to have arrived at a more mature level of spirituality than they themselves. And at that point as insecurity set in, they began to ask, “How do we get there? How to become spiritual at all or even more spiritual?”
The apostle Paul defined Christian spirituality for us. He wrote in his letter to the Romans,

5 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.
6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
7 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.
8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
(Rom 8:5-10 ESV)

Putting the cart before the horse by beginning with verse 10, we see that it is even mandatory that Christ is dwelling IN us and that we do need Christ’s Spirit so that we may know that we truly belong to God (verse 9) as His beloved children who know that there is nothing to fear for them because of God’s great love (cf. Rom 8:15-16) through which we may tenderly call Him, “Abba! Father!”

The longer part of Romans 8 I quoted above shows that there is a big difference between the flesh and the Spirit of God. We also read that our flesh and its desires are always opposed to what the Spirit wants (see Gal 5:17). Alas, Romans 8:8 even says that we cannot please God if we are still in the flesh! What a saddening statement is this!! Additionally, we also know that only those who have true faith can please God as Hebrews 11:6 confirms. What a dilemma we are in if we suddenly realize that we are not yet spiritual as it is described here. In fact, we can try whatever we think that makes us more spiritual, it won’t be of any avail if it is not God’s Spirit who leads us from the inside of our whole being so that we are enabled to think, say, and do what is pleasing in His eyes,

“for all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14 ESV)

Although I know that I already quoted that part of Martin Luther’s exposition on Romans 8 in another blog article before, I decided to do it again in order to point to the importance of receiving true faith from God. Here are Luther’s notes.

Faith is a work of God in us, which changes us and brings us to birth anew from God (cf. John 1). It kills the old Adam, makes us completely different people in heart, mind, senses, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. What a living, creative, active powerful thing is faith! It is impossible that faith ever stop doing good. Faith doesn’t ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It is always active. Whoever doesn’t do such works is without faith; he gropes and searches about him for faith and good works but doesn’t know what faith or good works are. Even so, he chatters on with a great many words about faith and good works.

Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God’s grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kind of trust in and knowledge of God’s grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace. It is as impossible to separate works from faith as burning and shining from fire. Therefore be on guard against your own false ideas and against the chatterers who think they are clever enough to make judgements about faith and good works but who are in reality the biggest fools. Ask God to work faith in you; otherwise you will remain eternally without faith, no matter what you try to do or fabricate.

(Martin Luther’s Bible Commentary, “Vorrede auf die Epistel St. Paul an die Römer”)

Before closing this article, I want to return to two verses of Romans 8. We read above that those whose minds are set on the Spirit have life and peace whereas those whose minds are set on the flesh cannot submit to God’s law – which is LOVE – and thus “feel” death in their spirit (Rom 8:6-7). The mind who is set on the flesh is even hostile to God, or in other words, hates God. Therefore, we may conclude that they who enjoy peace in their life in all they do or don’t do because they simply rely on the guidance of God’s Spirit and no longer on their own ideas and plans of how life should look like, might be (more) spiritual while those who add God as a simple “helper” to complete their own conception of life are still carnally minded. Oswald Chambers helps us with finding out where we might stand here. He wrote,

Are you quarrelsome and easily upset over small things? Do you think that no one who is a Christian is ever like that? Paul said they are, and he connected these attitudes with carnality. Is there a truth in the Bible that instantly awakens a spirit of malice or resentment in you? If so, that is proof that you are still carnal. If the process of sanctification is continuing in your life, there will be no trace of that kind of spirit remaining.
If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He doesn’t ask you to make it right; He only asks you to accept the light of truth, and then He will make it right. A child of the light will confess sin instantly and stand completely open before God. But a child of the darkness will say, “Oh, I can explain that.” When the light shines and the Spirit brings conviction of sin, be a child of the light. Confess your wrongdoing, and God will deal with it. If, however, you try to vindicate yourself, you prove yourself to be a child of the darkness.
What is the proof that carnality has gone? Never deceive yourself; when carnality is gone you will know it— it is the most real thing you can imagine. And God will see to it that you have a number of opportunities to prove to yourself the miracle of His grace. The proof is in a very practical test. You will find yourself saying, “If this had happened before, I would have had the spirit of resentment!” And you will never cease to be the most amazed person on earth at what God has done for you on the inside.

Read more here http://utmost.org/am-i-carnally-minded/