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Online Text Sermon - Carnal-mindedness and its Opposite, Romans ch.8 v.6

PreacherRev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness
Sermon TitleCarnal-mindedness and its Opposite
TextRomans ch.8 v.6
Sermon ID71

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"For to be carnally minded is death: but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Romans 8,6).

1. The Terminology

2. Death or Life?

3. Cultivating a spiritual mind


Now, here, the Apostle is referring to two states of mind. One of these is the carnal mind and the other one is the spiritual mind, and he is setting the one over against the other. And then after that the Apostle goes on to describe the tendency or the result of these two different ways of thinking. He tells us that the tendency of the carnal mind is towards death whereas the tendency and the result of spiritual mindedness is both life and peace.

It is very clear that the apostle Paul is describing two different ways of thinking and that these two different ways of thinking are, first, that of the non-Christian and then, second, of the Christian. And I want to point out to you that the apostle shows that the Christian and the non-Christian do not simply think differently but their ways of thinking are the very reverse and the very opposite the one of the other. And I want to show you that because of the way the Christian and the non-Christian think, the affects of their thinking are exactly contrary the one to the other. The thinking of the Christian tends to peace and to life. But the way of thinking of the non-Christian tends to death. They are not simply different - but opposite.

Now, in opening out this passage of the Word of God, and explaining it to you, I must begin with the terms. The terms are these: carnal mindedness and spiritual mindedness. "To be carnally minded is death: but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (text). Now let's consider, then, these two expressions "to be carnally minded" and "to be spiritually minded".

Carnal mindedness can be explained best I think like this: by reminding ourselves that in the beginning when God created mankind it is said that having shaped our body from the dust of the ground, God then breathed into man - He breathed into him the breath of life and man became a living soul. Now that teaches that mankind was originally created by God to be spiritual.

'Carnal' means 'of the flesh' and 'spiritual' means 'of the spirit', the Holy Spirit. The way in which God created man and woman in the very beginning was that He made them 'spiritual'. Adam and Eve when they were first created were spiritual people. That is to say, they were under the impression of the Holy Spirit. Their minds, their thoughts, their consciences, even their bodies, were acted on and were influenced by the Holy Spirit of God who dwelt within them and who ensured that everything that they did and said was right. Now, they would have continued like that and we would be born like that if only Adam had not disobeyed God. But the effect of Adam's disobedience was that the Holy Spirit of God was withdrawn from him, and from being a spiritual being he became a carnal being. That is to say, he fell into the state of sin in which the Holy Spirit of God was removed from him. After Adam sinned, in other words, the Holy Spirit no longer dwelt within his soul or in his body.

Now that is what is meant by God when God said to Adam, In the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die (Genesis 2,17). Adam did not of course die in every sense; he lived for nearly a thousand years. But the day in which he disobeyed God was the day in which the Spirit was withdrawn from him. In other words, he didn't die physically that day, but he did die spiritually - the Holy Spirit of God was withdrawn from him, and not only from him but from us all. We are all, therefore, born 'carnal'; we are born without the Spirit; we are born without the impression of the Holy Spirit on our lives.

What, then, is the meaning of the term 'spiritual'? I've tried to say what the word 'carnally minded' means. What then does it mean to be 'spiritually minded'? To be spiritually minded means this: it means that God restores that lost Holy Spirit to us so that from being carnal we now become spiritual again. And that is what happens at the wonderful change which we refer to as the new birth. That is what takes place at the new birth. It may occur when we are three years of age, or thirty years of age, or sixty years of age. But whenever a person is born again of the Holy Spirit it is this that happens - that from being carnal we become spiritual. In other words, the Holy Spirit who was taken away from Adam because he sinned is restored to us in Christ when we become believers in Him. And that, therefore, is what happens at our new birth - the lost Spirit of God is restored to us and with that comes also this other blessing that the lost image of God in man is restored to us and we become once again those who love righteousness, and holiness, and truth. These are the marks of the image of God.

That means to say, therefore, that there are two kinds of human being living side by side in this life. They will not live side by side in the life to come, but in this world and in this life two kinds of human being now are living side by side. They're rubbing shoulders every day they live. They might be in the same office, they might be in the same classroom, they might be even in the same family - one is carnally minded, one is spiritually minded. Their tendency and ways of thinking are exactly opposite.


Now that's what Paul here in my text means when he says that to be carnally minded is death. And I must explain that. When the apostle says that to be carnally minded is death it means that those who have never been born again and therefore who think without the impression of the Holy Spirit upon their minds and souls, all their thoughts have a tendency to go down hill. They have a tendency to go wrong. They resent the Bible. They do not like the thought that God is above them. They do not like the thought that God is their Law, and their Maker, and their Judge. They do not like the thought that the Bible is God's Word telling man how to live. They do not like the thought of God's Moral Law being the standard to which they are to conform their lives.

You see how he argues his case in verse seven: "because (giving the reason) the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject unto the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8,7). So those that are carnal, who are not born again, the inevitable way in which they think is this: they do not like the thought of God being over them as their Lord and as their Judge; they do not like the Bible to tell them how they should live; and they do not like God's Moral Law as the rule of their life.

Now in every sphere of life carnal mindedness leads to death. It leads to death in society. And I have to point out to you, sadly, that this present generation in which we are living is a generation where the effects of carnal mindedness are to be seen all around us even, for instance, in culture. By culture I mean such things as art, and music, and literature. When the Christian faith is strong in society its effect is to give people spiritual mindedness: to raise their thoughts to think of God, and of Heaven, and of faith, and of Christ, and of the things which are referred to in the Bible. But when the Christian faith declines and becomes weak again, as it has done in recent years in our country, then all those things are forgotten - God is forgotten, Heaven is forgotten, faith is forgotten, Christ is forgotten, and men's thoughts sink down to low levels. And it's therefore no accident today that there are no great artists, that there are no great musicians, that there is no great music, that there are (probably) very few if any great authors of books and writers. There are no Shakespeares today, there are no Beethovens today; there are no outstanding geniuses of that kind. And the reason is: carnal-mindedness has destroyed our very culture, because "to be carnally minded is death" - it is the death of culture.

It is the same in politics. It's true to say, I think, of politicians today that they are politicians but they are not statesmen. They have no idea where to go. And the Word of God puts it clearly in these terms: it says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29,18). And that is exactly a description of our present society. You and I are living in a society where there is no vision. Our great leaders - if they are great (at least they are prominent) - do not know what to do. They have no idea which laws to bring in. They don't know how to guide society. They are wrong in their ideas of punishments and they are wrong in their ideas of permissiveness, and all of this death in which we are living today is the fruit of carnality and carnal thinking.

Now whenever God is going to bring in great blessing into the world, the way in which he does this is by giving to His people a person who has great spiritual mindedness. This is what happened in the days of the apostles. The apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ were men of great spiritual mindedness and they knew how to guide the people. They knew what to teach the people. The same is true in the days of the Reformation. The Reformation changed the world by lifting it up and it lifted up the world because it set before mankind the vision of things which are spiritual. You get a perfect picture of this, for instance, in the writings of the great John Bunyan. Now, John Bunyan was a man who was full of the Bible. And so the vision that he had he portrayed so beautifully in such a book as The Pilgrim's Progress. Now that is the fruit of spiritual mindedness. And as the apostle puts it here, the tendency and the fruit of spiritual mindedness is life and peace. It introduces men to heavenly thoughts. It shows them God! and Heaven! and the heavenly City! and angels! and miracles! and all the blessings which we associate with eternal salvation. But carnal mindedness destroys these things.

It is carnal mindedness which destroys even churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now the Church of Christ - talking about the Church as a whole worldwide - cannot be destroyed. The Church of Christ worldwide will never be destroyed. "The gates of hell," says Christ, "shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16,18). But particular churches will be destroyed: the church in such a town, or in such a country; these particular churches, or local churches, always sooner or later decline - no particular church lasts forever. And I'm pointing out to you in connection with my text that the reason why particular churches decline and die is exactly what the apostle says here: it is because of the influence within these churches of carnal-mindedness.

And this is how it works: a spiritual generation sets up a church and for a number of years all goes well because the people themselves are spiritual and they are spiritually minded, and they love the things of the Bible: they believe in God, they believe in angels, they believe in miracles, they believe in the death and blood of Christ, they believe in the gospel, they believe in heaven and hell. But as time goes by that generation passes away and another generation comes along and they only partially believe these things, and they only half accept the teaching of the Bible. They compromise spiritual mindedness with carnal mindedness and they try to hold the two together as best they can. Now the effect is that sooner or later when a still further generation comes along that the spiritual vision is lost more or less completely. Orthodoxy becomes dead orthodoxy, and dead orthodoxy always tends to become liberalism. And that is, sadly, the way in which my text is proved to be correct in terms of the churches even of the living God.

Now, spiritual mindedness is the fruit of the new birth. Spiritual mindedness is thinking God's thoughts after Him. And if you want to test whether you have a spiritual mind or whether you have a carnal mind the way to do it is to ask yourself: do you accept what God says in His Word? Are you glad to be in subjection to the authority of God? Are you pleased to have God's Lordship over your life? Are you glad to have His Word as the rule of your life? or do you have a secret resentment against that authority which God exercises over all mankind and over all that He has made?

Therefore, this God-centeredness which is referred to here is a habit of mind of the true Christian. The true Christian has this spiritual mind and the spiritual mind, wherever it thinks, thinks of God. When the Christian looks up he thinks of God. When he looks down he sees the grass in the fields and he thinks of God. When he looks outwardly and sees the state of the world he is sad because there is so little to be seen of God. When he looks into his own heart he is sad because there is so little of God in himself. When he looks backward in his life he looks back to the day when he was converted, when God came into his soul. When he looks forward in his life he looks to the time when he will be with God in glory. And I say this because in every stage and in every form of the thinking of a Christian man he thinks the thoughts of God. God is in his thoughts. He is a God-centred man. He is a God-intoxicated man.

Now, on the other hand, every unbeliever thinks about these things in a carnal way, in a different way and in an opposite way. Take even the simple things like work. Those who are unconverted they look at work as something they hate and something they resent; something they dislike. But the Christian man looks at work as God-given. The natural man thinks of his work as something which is a nuisance and he's glad to get away from it when Friday comes. The Christian man thinks of his work as the place that God has put him to glorify Him.

Or, if you like, think of marriage. The way in which the world thinks of love and marriage is to degrade it, to drag it down. The way Christians look at marriage is ennobling and enriching. So that in the way that the Christian thinks, a woman is someone to be honoured and someone to be respected, but in the way the world thinks a woman is simply a symbol of something and death is written upon all the thoughts of the natural man.

Now this is the way the Word of God shows us the fundamental difference between the way believers think and live and the way unbelievers think and live. And the effect of this gospel light upon the minds of those who believe it is to be seen in every sphere of life.

Let me illustrate it in a simple way so that the young people and the children can understand at least a little of what is being said. Years ago in England there was an Indian gentleman got on a bus - many years ago when our country was very much more Christian than it is today. The Indian got on the bus and he saw things which amazed him. And when he got off the bus and went to his friends he said to them, "I have seen three miracles today," and they wondered what he meant. He said, "The first miracle was this: I saw a man who was getting off the bus without having paid. And what he did was he took his sixpence for the bus fare and he gave it to one of the other passengers on the bus and asked him to pay the fare to the conductor; he himself got off. That was one miracle. The next miracle was that when the conductor came down the bus the man who received the sixpence gave it to the conductor! That was the second miracle. And the third miracle was that when the bus conductor received the sixpence he put it in his bag and he clipped a ticket for that price." He said, "In India not one of these three things would have happened. The man would have rushed off the bus without paying; or, the second man would have put the money in his pocket; or, the conductor would have put the money in his pocket and he would not have clipped the ticket."

Now, that simple story shows the effect of Christian influence and Christian teaching upon the mind and the thinking and the conduct of men. To be carnally minded is death - it leads to lies, it leads to deceit, it leads to stealing, it leads to crime, it leads to the destruction of society. But to be spiritually minded leads to peace, and harmony, and happiness, and love, and holiness.

Now, this spiritual mind is so important that the Word of God tells us everywhere we are to strive to increase in this grace of spiritual mindedness. God would have us grow in spiritual mindedness. Every Christian has a spiritual mind. But no Christian is perfectly spiritually minded. And so the great call and the great command of God is that you and I should grow in spirituality of mind; that more and more we should seek to put to death the carnal mind within us and to increase in the spiritual mind which comes through being born again of God's Holy Spirit.


Now what then are we to do to become more spiritually minded? What guidance has God given us to increase in this spiritual mindedness? I want to give certain directions or certain rules from the Word of God which we are to apply to ourselves, and to prayerfully desire that we might grow in heavenly mindedness.


The first one must be this: We are in our life to refer everything to the will of God. We are to refer the good things of life to the will of God and to be thankful for them - and we have so many good things from God. Thankfulness and gratitude to God is a great sign of spiritual mindedness. Now there are people that you meet in life and they are forever grumbling and they are forever complaining and they are forever sorry for this and sorry about that. My friends, if we grow in spiritual mindedness we will grow in thankfulness to God for everything. The more spiritually minded we become the more thankful we shall become and the more grateful we shall become to God, and we shall realize that we deserve nothing good - we are all sinners; we have forfeited any right to anything good from God. The fact that we have any health, or strength, or wealth, or happiness whatsoever, is the mercy of God. A spiritually minded person will thank the Lord for all those good things which God has graciously given to us.

But not only that - as we grow in spiritual-mindedness we will begin to see that even the bad and the evil things of life are ordained wisely for us by God: our bereavements are designed by God; our pains, and our ill health, and our difficulties are ordained by God; our losses and our crosses also are ordained by God. And as we grow in spiritual mindedness we are not only thankful to God for the good things of life but we become increasingly grateful and thankful to Him for the evil things of life. And we shall praise God and say with Job, "Shall we receive good of the Lord, and shall we not also receive evil?" (Job 2,10). "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1,21).

Now there is something to measure your soul by. How grateful are you, my very dear friend? If you can say that you are grateful for everything and you take everything from the hand of God then that is a sign of spiritual mindedness. And the effect of spiritual mindedness will be: increasingly you will know life and peace.

Now what else are we to do to cultivate this spiritual mind?


Well the second thing I refer to is this: If you and I are to grow in spiritual mindedness then we must balance the things that are now happening in our life with the things that we are to experience in heaven. We are to balance the trials and troubles, the sorrows and difficulties, of this present time with the glory which we are to have in heaven with God and in Christ eternally. And we are to see that the trials and troubles of this present age are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. We must see that our trials are few, and light, and that that dear man Billy Brae was quite right when he once put it so neatly like this: "God has given me troubles and sorrows with a teaspoon but He has given me joys and comforts with a ladle." God's goodness in all these things is to be recognized by the balance between our trials and our comforts, our present miseries and our future good. And so, a spiritual-minded man will always be a man who is looking forward to the future. The spiritual Christian is the one who is thinking about his coming privileges in glory with the Lord Jesus Christ.


Let me give you another, a third way, in which we need to grow in spiritual mindedness: it is the way in which we are to become horrified by the sins all around us in this world. Now as Christians living in this world we tend to become used to it; we tend to become acclimatized to the wickedness of this world; we tend to take for granted the things we see and hear; and we tend to become dull in our reactions against them. Now we must not allow that.

You recall how in Psalm 119 David put it like this: "Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law" (Psalm 119,136). Rivers of water ran down David's face. His heart was broken when he saw the state of society, the state of the world, and the way sinners live. And we must cultivate that. We must not suppress that in ourselves. We are to stir up ourselves in reacting against the awfulness of men's behavior in this world.

There was a great missionary, as you may know, to the North American Indians. His name was David Brainerd. And David Brainerd was once in the company of a man whose whole conversation was about this world. David Brainerd was one of the most spiritual men who ever lived. And when this man who was talking to Brainerd about things of this world left him, Brainerd wrote in his diary these words, "What a hell to me it would be to be in the company of such a man for long." What a hell it would be to me to be in the company of such a man who could talk about nothing but this world. You see the spiritual mind is horrified even by material talk all the time. The spiritual mind longs to fly out of this world and to talk about those great things that truly do matter.


Now a fourth consideration in cultivating a spiritual mind is this: a spiritual mind is one that is more concerned for the interests of Christ's cause than our own. And here Eli is a great example to us. Eli is not an example to us in everything. Eli was not a good father. He was too easy-going; he was too soft on his sons. Eli was not a great example in that respect but he was a great example in this respect that he trembled for the ark of God. He was more concerned for the cause of the Lord than about his own life or his own family. And so was Phinehas' wife when she gave birth to a child and gave him the name Ichabod, meaning, 'the glory has departed'. She didn't so much care about her own impending death, but she did care about the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ, and she called her newborn son Ichabod because the glory has departed, the ark of God is lost! and she was more concerned for the things of the Lord Jesus Christ than her own things (I Samuel 4,21).

Now this is an evidence, and a sign, and an indication of a spiritually minded man or woman, and I'm urging upon us all that this spiritual mindedness is what we need to grow in. This is the direction that our thinking should develop in - to become more and more like this.

"To be carnally minded is death". It destroys nations. This is how all the great civilizations of the past have perished. They have perished because they were carnal minded. They were perishing because they brought death upon themselves. It's well known that the great empires of the past like the Roman Empire they collapsed and died, not because they were attacked by armies from without, but because they crumbled morally and spiritually from within. So it is with churches. They're not so much damaged by things from without as when they crumble from within. When spiritual mindedness is lost and carnal mindedness takes over then it's only a short time before everything grinds to a halt.

"To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (text). So, here is what we are to aim at. We are to aim supremely at being spiritual men and women.

You, my friends, many of you are soon to elect those who will be elders and those who will be deacons in the congregation. And I know that you will be wise enough when you do so to pray that God will guide you to choose for the benefit of the cause of Christ those men who are most spiritual in their lives, and most upright in their lives, because it is these who will be the blessing to themselves and to others.

So, my friends, take this word to yourselves today and make it the standard and rule of your own home, and your own life, and every sphere of influence that God gives to you so that you may know the meaning of this statement that "to be spiritually minded is life and peace". And happy is that man, and happy that woman, who lives in a spiritually minded state. Happy are those who go about life with God at the centre of their thoughts and of their conversation. Such people will be a blessing wherever they go. They'll be a blessing in the workplace, and they'll be a blessing in their own homes. They'll be a blessing in the church, and they'll be a blessing in the fellowship. No wonder, therefore, as John Wesley came to that experience that he did come to of a soul which was blessed with the Holy Spirit, when he came to assurance of salvation as he did so many years ago, no wonder he cried out: "My heart is strangely warmed". It was because he experienced inwardly the wonderful transformation and effects of the Holy Spirit bearing witness with his spirit that he was a son of God. "For to be spiritually minded is life and peace".

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