In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There is no one so holy that they do not need to be reminded of the true teaching of Christ from time to time. There is no one who never needs to be reminded by God’s law of what He requires, or reminded by God’s Gospel of what He has done in Jesus Christ for each one of us.
Before God I am either spiritual or of the flesh. Every person is born “natural” and “unspiritual.” There is no natural knowledge of who God truly is. There is natural knowledge of God, but it is only from the outside. The natural person regards everyone and everything, including Christ, according to the flesh, as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:16. So when things are going well, the flesh thinks well of God and of other people. When things are going badly, the flesh thinks evil of God and other people. Naturally, we think according to our flesh, we speak according to our flesh, we live according to our flesh. To think according to the flesh is death. And the mind that thinks according to the flesh is hostile to God and cannot and will not submit to God’s Law. Therefore, Paul says, those who are natural and unspiritual cannot please God (Romans 8:6-8).
But, Paul says, if you’ve been given the Spirit of God, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit. The old has gone, the new has come. Like clothes filthy after living in the dust and mud of the earth, the rags have been washed from you, and you’ve been clothed in garments that can never fade or wear out. You have been literally “re-minded,” given a new mind that thinks according to the Spirit, rather than according to the flesh. Therefore, Paul says, “Lay aside the former conduct of the old man, the one being corrupted according to deceitful passions, to be renewed by the Spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, the one being created according to God in righteousness and the holiness of truth” (Ephesians 4:22-23). New creation, new man (who is Christ), new mind. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, [such that he] can instruct Him? But we ourselves have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
The logic of the world and the flesh are no longer native to us. It’s sort of like switching operating systems on a computer. You use one kind of operating system, things work and flow one way. You use a different kind of operating system, things work and flow in a different way. You are still you, but you are only really you when you are in Christ. So it’s not you who lives naturally, according to your own self, but Christ who lives in you, according to the Spirit of God.
But while you are in the Spirit before God, and the Father sees you according to His Son Christ, so that none of your sins are counted against you, the flesh clings, like the remnants of an old way of thinking. We are constantly being tempted away from the mind of Christ and pulled toward the old mind that is turned in on ourselves, trying to resurrect the deceitful passions that corrupt and destroy. The old man with the old mind, who thinks in the old way, is a grave robber, always trying to bring up what’s been buried and keep it artificially alive.
That’s the war we feel between the natural mind and the mind of the Spirit. Paul, like us, knows it all too well: according to the mind of Christ, we delight only in God’s law and God’s Word and God’s Work. But: “I see another law in my members, at war with the law of my mind and taking me captive by the law of sin which is in my members. … Therefore, in my mind I myself am enslaved to the law of God, but in the flesh to the law of sin” (Romans 7:23, 25).
Two laws, two minds, two people. But the Lord who crucified the flesh with its way of thinking, the Lord who buried that old man in His own grave, the Lord who was raised from the dead, standing victorious over dead death and dead sin, He keeps reminding us and reminding us and reminding us: you are not your own. You were bought at the price of My own blood. My crucifixion is your crucifixion, and My resurrection is your resurrection. He keeps thinking His thoughts and speaking His Words, and then we think and speak after Him. He creates the pattern in us and the new man thinks along the new lines. This is how the Spirit puts the old man back in the grave and raises up the new man to live according to God in the righteousness and holiness of His truth.
Lent, in particular, is a firm reminder that the old ways of thinking are always there, always like ruts that are easy to fall back into. This evil and adulterous age is always pushing down, pressing in, trying to conform us to its way of thinking. But God’s thoughts move in a contrary direction, transforming, re-minding, bringing us to the renewal of our minds that we might look again to the good, holy, and finally perfect will of God for you and me: the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, in which we will think only the thoughts of God, speak back to Him only His Words, and love one another with Jesus’ own perfect love.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 2/20/18