Romans 8: 4-6
Philippians 2: 19-21
These two scriptures have been in my mind since the weekend, dear brethren, when our brother serving in Brechin had before him the service and operations of the Holy Spirit. Our brother did not read this passage in Romans 8, but it connects with what was before the brethren as to the energy with which the Spirit operates in the believer to bring about what answers to Christ, what is according to Him. We read the passage in Philippians 2 on Lord’s day, and I wanted to link these two scriptures. They both refer to caring and what we care for, or what we mind. It says in Romans 8, “For they that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh; and they that are according to Spirit, the things of the Spirit”. It seems to me that that is associated with what we care for. Timothy was like-minded with Paul and he cared with genuine feeling how the saints got on. I seek to make a link between these two passages.
The reference in Romans 8 is a searching one. It challenges me as to whether I am according to Spirit. If I am, I can test that because I will mind the things that are of the Spirit. That is, I will care about and give priority to the things of the Spirit. If I am according to flesh, I will give priority to and care about the things of the flesh; what gratifies me here, what entertains me here and suits me here. The whole bent of what the apostle writes in Romans 8 is that if I do that I am promoting what leads to death. If I am here according to Spirit, and if I care about the things that are of the Spirit, I am in the line of what leads to life, life according to God, and that will become apparent. Just to link to what our brother was saying on Saturday, what is of the Spirit leads to life and will be marked by energy and will be marked by caring for what Christ cares about. That is quite a test. But the power for this is in the blessed Holy Spirit Himself. It requires displacement; it requires us to make definite committals to walk according to Spirit, to be those that are according to Spirit, so that we might mind the things of the Spirit. That does not happen by itself. It happens as a result of committal and exercise. It happens, too, as a result of judging of and approving “the things that are more excellent”, Phil 1: 10. Minding the things of the Spirit is a result of Christian exercise, giving place to the Spirit and not giving place to myself and what I want to do. What I want to do is “the mind of the flesh”, and it leads to death. The “mind of the Spirit” leads to life and peace, and it is infinitely more attractive to the mind that is governed by the Spirit. I would just encourage myself and all of us to be definitely exercised to mind the things of the Spirit, to be according to Spirit. If so, we care about the things that are according to Spirit.
I can quite understand somebody here saying, ‘But that is not how I feel. When I look within my heart, that is not the desire that I find’. That is because the flesh is in each one of us, and it always has a tendency in a particular direction. What the apostle teaches us in Romans 7 and Romans 8 is that we have to identify what is of God in us. There is what has been put there originally by the sovereign work of God in new birth and then brought to fruition in conversion. We have to identify that and feed it so that it grows and gets stronger, and we identify that as the real “I”. That is what Paul says in chapter 7. Who is the real “I”? I would encourage myself and all of us to identify what finds satisfaction and delight in Christ. If we find that our hold on Him is weakening, or our gaze is turning away, then ask the Spirit to help. That is what I have to do, ask the Spirit to help to give me these desires. That is one of the things that the Spirit does in the believer, He helps us to feel rightly according to Him. That would mark those who are according to Spirit, “they that are according to Spirit,” mind “the things of the Spirit”. So we can ask the Spirit for help to walk according to Him and mind His things, to care about the things the Spirit is engaged in.
I thought that a clear link between these two scriptures is the great matter in which the Spirit is engaged at the moment, and has been for almost two thousand years. It is to adorn the assembly, to bring about in the saints here conditions of heart and faithfulness in walk that are according to Christ, that is, what answers to Him as His counterpart. That is the Spirit’s great work. He has not been deflected from it for almost two thousand years. You might say that blessed, divine Workman has been proceeding all that time to bring about results that are according to Christ, that are true to Him according to that great pattern. And if we mind the things that are of the Spirit, if we care about them, then we need to care about - and we will, it is not a matter of need to, we will care about - the things that the Spirit is doing. In other words, we will care about the saints. We will care with genuine feeling, like Timothy, how the saints get on, as Paul did. Paul was a great workman too, but he has passed off the scene although his ministry remains. The Spirit has not passed off the scene. The Spirit’s labours continue and they are blessed labours. The Spirit is labouring with each one of us here. He is labouring on a very broad front, but He is also labouring with you and me, and we can be with the Spirit in His labours in caring for one another. It is something practical that we can do to mind the things of the Spirit, because in doing so we will be recognising and caring about what is of chief interest to Christ here. We can also say, if we care with genuine feeling how the saints get on, that we will not be caring about ourselves. So we will be marked by the mind of the Spirit that Paul speaks about in Romans 8. That is a practical example of how we can look away from ourselves and be taken up with the things of the Spirit: by caring about one another. It also means that we will not be looking at the world around, because we will be thinking about one another, and that is a fine thing too, not to be taken up with the world. To link back with what was said a minute ago, the world is really what gratifies the flesh, and if we are thinking about the world, then we are walking according to flesh and not according to Spirit. But if we are caring with genuine feeling how the saints get on, then we are not concerned about or taken up with or interested in the world and its things. The things of the Spirit on the one hand, and the things of the world and the things of the flesh on the other, stand in contrast to each other. We are to be taken up with the things of the Spirit, and a prime example, certainly in Paul’s mind as he was writing this to the Philippians, was that they might be taken up with caring with genuine feeling how the saints get on. That seems to me a very healthy, practical manifestation of walking in Spirit and being according to Spirit and minding the things of the Spirit.
It is a very attractive matter that Paul was able to send Timothy, a young brother, to the Philippians, knowing that he cared with genuine feeling how they got on. You get some sense of Paul’s sorrow when he says, “For all seek their own things, not the things of Jesus Christ”. What a view Paul had! He saw the saints as the blessed possessions of Jesus Christ and what concerns Him here. The “things of Jesus Christ” would include pre-eminently the saints, and Timothy and Paul cared for them together. They were like-minded. In their minds, the whole bent of their thinking and in their feelings - because both mind and heart come into this - they were “like-minded” and caring “with genuine feeling”. They thought and they cared in the same way as each other for the things of Jesus Christ, and that included pre-eminently the saints, and what they had in mind was the blessing of the saints. That is a completely different view from the world, or someone who is in flesh. People in the world have a view which puts themselves at the centre, but the believer is to have a view that puts Christ, and the Spirit, and the things of Christ, and the things of the Spirit at the centre. If we do that, what will be in our view will be the saints, and we will care with genuine feeling how they get on. If we do so, then we will be ready to serve them in whatever little way we might be able for. It becomes a consequence, not an automatic consequence exactly but an organic result, of what marks us in being like-minded, and in caring with genuine feeling. There will be an outflow towards one another. As we had on Lord’s day afternoon in considering this chapter in Philippians 2, that is normal Christianity. It is what the Lord Jesus has in mind as normal relationships and links among His own, and there is blessing, great blessing, in that. We can enjoy these things, but there is more to it than that. If the saints are marked by these features of genuine care for one another, then there is actually an expression of Christ seen, powerfully and really and authentically expressed in the links of Christians together. This is not on a social basis, although we enjoy one another’s company, but as a result of being minded according to the Spirit’s mind and according to the mind of the Lord Jesus, in caring with genuine feeling about the things that the Lord cares about. That is the result - features of Christ coming out into tangible and morally glorious expression.
May we be encouraged by these thoughts. For His Name’s sake.