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Setting Your Mind
By David A. DePra
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Col 3:1-4)
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Rom 8:5-7)
What does the Bible mean when it uses the phrase, "set your mind, or affections?" To answer, we have to take the phrase in two parts. We first have to understand the Greek word translated MIND, and then we have to understand the meaning of the word SET.
The word translated MIND in the NT does not mean brains. Neither is the meaning limited to the idea of thought or thinking. It really has to do with a person’s volition or will. My MIND – under this use of the word – is my intent or purpose. Indeed, we might even say that we are to set our intent upon, or set our purpose upon – whatever we are talking about. This is the meaning behind the word MIND.
We can see this usage of the word elsewhere. For example, we are told to, "have this mind in ourselves, as was in Jesus Christ." We are told to have, "the mind of Christ;" to, "arm ourselves with the same mind," as Christ. This is talking about the moral attitude, indeed, the relationship, between Jesus Christ and His Father – that was Jesus’ MIND towards God -- and then, as the outcome of the MIND Jesus had towards God – it would refer to HIS MIND towards everything else.
Thus, in a very real sense, a person’s MIND is who they are in intention. It is their commitment of themselves; the purpose that governs them. We are not here talking about how they have come to have the mind that they have – we are only talking about what the word means. The MIND, in Biblical use, in many respects, is the REAL US.
Now, Paul tells us that we are able to SET OUR MINDS ON – and then the alternatives of either flesh or Spirit are given. Note that: We can SET OUR MINDS ON – or to put it another way, we can choose to LIVE UPON and be GOVERNED BY one basis or another.
The meaning here is not merely that of focused thoughts or thinking. This is not so much about what occupies our thinking each day – Paul is not talking about whether we are thinking about that which is of the flesh vs. that which is of the Spirit. Of course, this would be loosely included, because if our intentions are being set upon a certain way, we will be thinking about it. But rather than limit this to what thoughts we are having, it is more accurate to see it as the REALM WHICH GOVERNS US. To set my mind upon the flesh means that I am allowing the flesh or natural to govern me. To set my mind upon the Spirit means that the Truth in Christ Jesus governs me.
So when Paul uses the phrase, "set your mind upon," or the phrase, "set your mind upon the things….," he is talking about what we adopt as our basis for living: Flesh or the Spirit. He might as well have said, "Live your life on the basis of either the flesh or the Spirit." In other words, if I, "set my mind," upon the flesh, or things of the flesh, I have accepted the natural realm as the basis for my living. I am walking according to my natural perception. I am determining truth according to my natural thinking, and according to outward circumstances. But if I set my mind on the basis of the Spirit, then I am detached from the natural, and living on the basis of Jesus Christ.
Now, all of this is verified in what is really the summation of the passage: Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God." The word translated LED in this verse can mean GOVERNED. We are governed by what we SET OUR MIND UPON. For once we set our mind upon the flesh or Spirit, then our mind – and all that comprises it – becomes governed by either. For a saved person, this is, of course, voluntary. But it is nevertheless a fact.
All through the NT we are told about two realms: That of the flesh, or natural, and that of the Spirit. Each realm is real. Neither is a product of our imagination.
The realm of the flesh is not so much a realm that is void of anything spiritual – rather, the realm of the flesh is the realm that is void of God -- there are actually plenty of evil forces that operate in the realm of the flesh. The realm of the flesh includes the natural world, the physical realm, the physic realm, the demonic realm, indeed, we might simply say that the realm of the flesh is all that is OUTSIDE of the realm of the Spirit of God.
As it pertains to a human being, every dimension of the human being who is born in Adam is of the flesh realm. It is not only the realm into which we are born, but we are actually born OF IT – we are a product of it. This is just another way of describing the KIND of creature we are. In Adam, we are a natural man – born OF the flesh. That is all we can be. And we are utterly VOID of God. Thus, our emotions, our psychic dimension, our human spirit, our intellect, and of course, our natural body, are FLESH by nature. When we are born in Adam there is NO Truth and NO life in us. Of course not. There is no Jesus in us.
But if there is one important thing to note about the realm of the flesh it is this: The natural world, the physical, the psychic, the demonic – and all that a human being is in Adam – ALL of these reside within that same realm of the flesh. They were merely components of the same realm. This is exactly why Satan makes his approach through, and works through, those components of our human makeup. Satan approaches man through his emotions, natural intellect, and psychic capacities. He approaches through the human spirit. And to a greater or lesser degree, we give him access through our affinity with the world – to the extent that we give ourselves over to the realm of the flesh, Satan has access.
Now, if you think this through, you can see the folly of trying to solve the problem of sin or Satan by doing good works. No. Doing good works while still a creature of the natural realm will do nothing to change that fact. You will be nothing more than a spiritually dead human being who does good works. No. The only solution is to be BORN FROM ABOVE in Christ Jesus.
To be born from above, we must first relinquish our old life through repentance. But in doing so, we put our faith solely in Christ. And if our faith is solely in Christ crucified, we are made one with Him in His death. And we are likewise made one with Him in His resurrection. In short, we are MADE ONE WITH HIM, period! This is salvation. Our salvation is found in the fact that we are made ONE with Life Himself. Because we are one with Life we are alive.
Here we see why Christianity is, "Christ in us, the hope of glory." It is why is Christian is one in whom Christ dwells, or, if you prefer, one who dwells in Christ. Christ is in us by virtue of making Himself one with our human spirit.
Now, the union of our human spirit with the Spirit of Christ is the NEW MAN IN CHRIST. This is the NEW CREATION in Christ Jesus. And this new man is eternally alive with the incorruptible resurrection life of Christ. That is why – and it is the only reason why – we are no longer of the realm of the flesh. We have been born OF THE SPIRIT, and are therefore essentially spiritual new creations in Christ.
Can we see that when we talk about being born of the flesh vs. being born of the Spirit that we are actually talking about two different KINDS of human beings? We may look the same physically. But that is not where our new birth resides. A person who is born anew from above really is a NEW creation IN Christ – because of Christ in us we are of another realm. We are NEW creations, yes, but we are a DIFFERENT KIND of creation. Instead of being completely void of God we are ONE with Him through His Son.
Setting the Mind
We can now see a little more as to what it means to set one’s mind on the flesh vs. to set one’s mind on the Spirit. This is talking about what realm governs me – it is talking about what realm frames my perception – indeed, it is talking about what realm I use to frame my perception EVEN OF GOD. Which realm is my standard for Truth? To set one’s mind upon the flesh, or upon things below, means that MY LIFE is BASED upon that realm. I live WITHIN it.
For example, let’s take something simple: SIN. How is a Christian supposed to respond to his own sin? What are we to do with our sin? We all know the answer to that – put faith in the finished work of Christ upon the Cross. But how many of us, despite knowing this, and despite DOING it again and again, never seem to get free of condemnation and fear regarding our sin, not to mention our complete lack of victory over sin. What? Is Christ REAL or isn’t He? Why doesn’t our faith seem to work?
You will agree that Jesus Christ died for every sin we will ever commit. It is finished. THIS IS THE TRUTH. And there is nothing – especially our sin – that can ever change this Truth. Yet the guilt, condemnation, or fear that we experience when we sin CONTRACDICTS this Truth, doesn’t it? In fact, we might say that everything about our natural makeup – emotions, psychic, and even our natural mind – can seem to function contrary to this Truth. This Truth never changes, but so much IN US cannot seem to flow with it. Indeed, there are times when we don’t feel, sense, or think in a manner that flows with the Truth. We literally function – whether we like it or not – contrary to the Truth.
Why does this happen? We are told in Romans 7 and 8. All of what I have just described – those dimensions of our being that function contrary to the Truth – are of the natural. And the natural mind – the natural man – is contrary to God. Indeed, is at enmity against God. We are told that those who are in the flesh cannot please God. The flesh cannot submit to God. CANNOT. We need to read that, see it, and believe it. Thus, all that we experience in ourselves that is contrary to the Truth is functioning exactly as God says it does. There is nothing unbiblical here. That which is born of flesh IS flesh. And it will act like flesh.
But here is the problem: We usually don’t realize that these reactions and functions that are contrary to the Truth are of our natural man. Or if we do realize this, perhaps we don’t think our natural man should act that way if we are truly saved. So all of these reactions in us that run contrary to the Truth become, to us, a stumbling block. We think THEY are evidence that we are lost, condemned, or out of the will of God. And if that is the case, then we will doubt our relationship with God.
The Truth is, all of this is the result of a faith that is IN OURSELVES. We may never suspect this, but when we look for evidence IN OURSELVES of the Truth – then our faith is IN ourselves. But we are looking for the spiritual man in the natural man. We are trying to find evidence of the Truth in that which God has already told us is utterly UNTRUE.
Christ in us is the only Truth we are going to find. And Christ in us is NOT US. What do I mean by that? Well, in this day and age we are more and more being taught that salvation is a matter of God doing things TO US. Or a matter of God giving THINGS to us. Or a matter of God imparting to us something that will make us better people. No. Salvation is not a THING, or something that God does TO US. Salvation is Christ in us. And Christ is NOT US.
Paul wrote, "We have this Treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." Note the distinction between the Treasure and the earthen vessel. The Treasure is NOT the earthen vessel, and the earthen vessel is not the Treasure. In other words, we are one with Christ in Spirit – but Christ in us is nevertheless still Christ – He is still an individual Person who is one with us.
This is vital to see because what it means is that we are in total error if we are looking for evidence of righteousness or looking for evidence of LIFE in the earthen vessel – if we are looking for that kind of functionality in our natural man. No. Only in Christ – yes, the Christ who is IN US – is the source of all these things. Our faith must therefore be IN HIM – even when our natural man acts contrary. He never changes. He is the Truth.
At some point, we are going to have to, "step outside of ourselves," and, "step outside of how we feel, and outside of what we sense," and ask: What is the Truth? We will find that the Truth is not determined by what we think it is, nor is it determined by anything about us. The Truth is Christ. And the only way we are going to know the Truth is to know Him. Thankfully, God is working on that.
What I am saying is this: The Truth is not found in us. It does not come from us. The source of all Truth is OTHER than us and is completely outside of us. The Truth is found in Him. Thus, if you want to know the Truth you have to know HIM. You have to have Christ formed in you. Then you will not only know Him and the Truth, but you will know what is NOT of the Truth, i.e., of YOU. That is the only way to come through this matter.
Practically speaking, what this means is that when our thinking and our natural makeup begins to react and function in a way that is contrary to the Truth, we can step outside of that and put our faith, and set our minds, upon Christ. Now, you will note that I did NOT say that we must FIGHT our natural makeup and try to make it behave. No. If you do that, you will be putting yourself under a law and the problem will just get worse. Rather, treat your natural makeup as nothing more than background static – it is there and will always be there, but set your mind – tune into – the Truth in Christ. This is a matter of what GOVERNS you. If you do put your mind upon the Truth, then you will be walking in the Truth, for Christ has already died for your sin. You are simply putting your faith in Him.
I think that the reason we continually demand that our natural makeup act like Christ is because we still haven’t come to the end of our own working. We want our flesh to behave because our faith is in our flesh, rather than upon Christ. This is exactly why God has to bring us to the end of ourselves. Only then will we STOP looking to ourselves for life, and STOP trying to make what is dead to come alive. We will then recognize the distinction between ourselves and Christ and put our faith solely IN HIM.
So we see that it is possible to set one’s mind upon the Truth – to rest one’s faith upon Christ – even if everything else is presently in chaos. But don’t turn this into a religious routine or a law to keep. Don’t turn it into a mind game, or an emotional condition. No. It is other than all of that. This is a relationship with Christ in the Truth. I set my mind on things above because it is in keeping with the Truth in Christ to do so. It is the only way to walk in the Light. Law has nothing to do with it. This is about the Truth.
Many years ago I was in a terrible trial. I began to despair. Everything I believed about God was being called into question. Things had happened that I did not believe could happen if a person trusted God. I began to wonder if God was with me at all. I found myself locked into an awful emotional and spiritual condition. All that I could presently see and know and perceive was contradiction to the Word of God. Sure, I wanted to believe God despite everything, but I did not want to lie to myself. The facts were the facts. And they seemed to be inescapable: I had trusted God and it had turned into disaster.
What happened next had happened before – many times before over the years. But not quite as profound as it would happen this night. It dawned on me that it is entirely possible for a saved person to get themselves into a condition of despair and emotion that is based on his understanding of the facts and of God – and that this condition can become so real and overwhelming that it actually becomes the window through which they view everything including God. When you gather up all that you can presently see and know and add it all up the conclusion to which you come is terrible. But it is all you presently know. But it is likewise possible for every bit of that to be IN ERROR. For the Truth is not based upon our ability to see it. It is not based on anything about us. The Truth is OTHER THAN us – it is outside of us, perhaps our present perception, and our present knowing. I began to understand that no matter how my present understanding seemed to contradict the Word of God that it was wrong. It was an indication as to just how much I needed to know Christ, and how much unbelief had gripped me through fear.
I thought of a passage out of Ephesians wherein Paul speaks of how unbelievers live, "in the futility of their own mind." In other words, they live upon the basis of the resources they are able to find in themselves and in their understanding – which is fully void of Truth. And it is futile. They live without Truth and have no way possible to get it on their own, and worse, they don’t know this. They think that what they know is all there is to know – or that they can muster up what is necessary to attain that knowledge. The futility is found in the fact that if you have a darkened mind you might talk about light but cannot make light. And you may never realize what is happening to you.
Someone once said that the worst possible condition for us is to be blind and NOT KNOW IT. It is one thing to be blind but to know you are – at least you can desire sight, and even cry out for it. But it is entirely another matter to be blind but to think blindness is normal. Or to think that blindness is sight. This is total deception. I won’t even think I have a problem. This is why the first impact of the work of God’s Spirit is to make us understand that we are blind. At that point, we may not initially see any thing more than the fact we are blind – no pun intended. But at least we will realize, at that point, that there is MUCH MORE OUTSIDE of our present sight. We may not yet see the Truth, but at least we know that what we see ISN’T the Truth.
That is sort of what dawned on me that night. I saw that no matter how real my feelings were making my present thinking and sight seem – no matter how the circumstances seemed to back this up – that the Truth was OUTSIDE of that; it was OUTSIDE of my present vision. For me, that was a big deal. For I began to realize that Jesus Christ was much bigger than my present understanding of Him. (A big news flash!!?) I realized that the Truth was not limited to how I framed it. I could be wrong about all of this – joyously wrong – for there was something that would change everything and enable me to see.
Paul said, "Now we see through a glass darkly." The dirt on this glass through which we see God is our own nature, bias, fears, and unbroken will. The dirt, in other words, can be unbelief. Yet the God we are looking at through such a glass darkly is not changed. He is the same as always. It is our vision that needs adjusted – the glass needs cleaner – the Truth. Then we will see what has ALWAYS been the Truth.
The solution to all of this is not to dig in the Bible and find verses – although it won’t hurt you to do so. I’m just saying that even if you get them all down pat it will not enable you to see the Truth. Neither is the answer to give up. The answer is to see Christ. You have to have a revelation of Him.
This is taught everything in scripture. But I will point to one from the OT. Job, as we all know, had endured great suffering – and it had been God-ordained suffering. God Himself had stated that Job was NOT suffering because of any sin. It is only at the end of this book that we find out why God subjected Job to this trial. At the end of the book of Job, after all of the reasoning, arguments, and the endless questions by Job – don’t we all ask, "Why???" – after all of that, did Job get an answer? I mean, did God come down and feed Job INFORMATION and EXPLANATION? No. Did God feed Job all of the Bible verses that would explain his trial? No. Rather than information or explanation what Job received was REVELATION. He said so. He said, "Now I see You." That was the reason for the trial – to set him free from himself so that he could see God.
Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." The pure in HEART are those who say to God, and mean it: "Whatever it takes, Lord, do your purpose in me. I no longer want to possess my own life." The pure of heart are those who do not come to God except for His will and purpose. And if we do, we will eventually see Christ. The trials get us there. But that is the purpose.
So when we speak of all of these matters of settings one’s mind or affections on things above, and when we talk of realizing that we must not lean upon our own understanding, it is vital that we understand that we are not talking about mental gymnastics. We aren’t talking about getting a psychoanalysis, or about figuring out what makes us tick. This isn’t about developing an emotional condition, or about rousing up our imagination in a more healthy way. Rather, it is about seeing Jesus Christ. Nothing else will work. Only the true knowledge of God through Jesus Christ will do.
If you want to know how to know whether something is OF YOU or OF GOD, you will have to see Christ – then you will know what is OF HIM. If you want to come to see the difference between SOUL and SPIRIT – the Word of God, Jesus Christ must be introduced. He will cut between the two. For hundreds of years Christian people have tried to fashion this or that system of law, principle, and religious routine that is geared to getting us through to God. But in the end, Jesus simply said, "I am the Way." It is only through knowing Him and walking with God solely on the basis of Christ that we can so much as get started.
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: (Eph 1:17)
To walk in the Spirit, rather than the flesh, means to live upon the basis of CHRIST. This will mean that we will not live on the basis of our natural makeup. That won’t govern us. Neither will circumstances govern us. Rather, we will live according to Christ as we learn Christ. There is simply no other outcome of walking in the Light.
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