Walking With the Spirit
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.Romans 8:1-11 NIV
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
When the ‘sinful nature’ dies and we are given new life in Jesus, our affections and desires undergo a radical change. Preoccupation with old interests cease (e.g., accumulating wealth, power, prestige, popularity, material comforts, etc.), and our desires are relocated. We don’t want the same things anymore. We want the things that the Spirit wants (e.g., the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). In a similar way, different things will begin to bother us. Sometimes they will bother us a lot (see Ro 12:9). For example we will not be able to tolerate the distress and mistreatment of the poor and oppressed. When our minds are ‘set on what the Spirit desires’ (Ro 8:5), we will feel compelled to act on behalf of the weak and needy. Dutch Second Reformation minister and theologian Willem Teellinck (1579-1629) elaborates:
“The true believer, who has been transferred by regeneration into the kingdom of grace and has been made a new creature, also receives new and holy desires. He gets a taste so to speak, for spiritual riches. While his heart was once inclined to the lust of the flesh, the delights of the eyes, or the pride of life (see 1Jn 2:16), he now fervently desires spiritual gifts (see 1 Co 14:1). Above all, he wants to be zealous in keeping God’s statutes (see Ps 119:5). He has the Spirit of prayer working within him whereby he cries, ‘Abba, Father!’ (Ro 8:15), which helps him obtain many good things! [The new creature] is infused with holy desires after heavenly things. Holy desires subdue or at least restrict and weaken intemperate desires for money, property, pleasures, and worldly splendor. They restrain the Christian from surrendering to wrong desires and stimulate him to resist evil desires with all his might. He now realizes they can cost him his life (see 1Pe 2:11), no matter how friendly and flattering they appear.”
The Christian who has been set free from ‘the law of sin and death’ (Ro 8:2) and who is walking in the Spirit has a new and tender sense of conscience, as Teellinck emphasizes:
“A tender conscience also allows the believer to experience the deep peace, comfort, and joy that can be found only in working for the Lord and in the development of true godliness. Just as a godly man feels grief and sorry when he is overcome by sin, so he feels joy and comfort when he has been careful not to sin! Rather, he has diligently applied himself to the practice of godliness, praying fervently, visiting the sick, giving gifts to the poor, or lovingly admonishing his friends to obey God rather than the world. A truly regenerated person is never happier than when he is serving the Lord. While the natural person callously wallows in sin or carelessly disregards his spiritual state, the regenerated person is drawn away from evil toward good.”