The Believer’s Mind (4): A Change of Mind in Romans (2)

Mastering Your Mind

The psychologist Freud examined the relationship between the mind, brain and body and concluded that the mind is separate from the body and divided into the conscious (10%), subconscious (50-60%) and unconscious (30-40%). He said, “This works together to create our reality.” But “our reality” according to the Word of God is different.

We are body, soul and spirit according to Mark 12:30, and Romans 8 goes beyond the dualism of Freud by teaching us two vital truths about the mind: first, what it means to be “spiritually minded” (8:6) and, second, what is meant by “the mind of the Spirit” (8:27).

The change that takes place in the mind between Romans 1 and Romans 8 is seismic, and the epicentre is the life-changing presence of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is not only a person changing their mind about God but God changing their mind about themselves. Romans 8:9 is a proof text that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit the moment we are saved, and it is this powershift that sets me free from what I was in Adam. No longer am I a slave to sin but in Christ I can confidently say, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (8:1).[1] The aftershocks of this great spiritual earthquake are felt in every area of the believer’s walk, and nowhere is the change more evident than in the mind. Various metaphors are employed to describe this change of mind.

A Marriage Contract

According to Romans 6 the believer’s mind is under a new master (6:17-18), but in chapter 7 the metaphor is a new marriage. No longer am I a slave to the law and its modus operandi but I have entered the dominion of a new spiritual relationship. Paul likens the change to a marriage contract that legally comes to an end when a woman’s husband dies, freeing her to marry again. When we are saved, we die to the law and are no longer bound by that old contract because we are now “in Christ,” so that we might “bring forth fruit unto God” (7:4). Our mind, thoughts and affections are free to be taken up with Him – glorious thought! Well might we sing, “The longer I serve Him the sweeter He grows.” But why is my mind still troubled with sinful thoughts at times? Paul captured this frustration (note the present tense in verses 14-25): “How to perform that which is good I find not” (7:18).

A Major Conflict

Before salvation, sin was habitual and could not be resisted because no other operating principle was present. We were under contract to the law of sin and working for a master who only pays the wages of sin, which is death (6:23). Although that contract of employment has been nailed to the cross, the old employer is still around. He is called the flesh and would still love to have us working for him, so he keeps knocking on our door, trying to employ our mind in his wicked work. As I surf the web he is lurking to ignite my fleshly desires through image and word, or waste my time that should be spent working for my new master. The flesh responds but the spiritual mind turns away to be loyal to a new master and faithful in a new relationship. This conflict can stumble a new believer, shocked that he can still sin, but we must remember the unchanging positional truth of Romans 8:1 beautifully captured in that hymn by Charles Wesley:

“No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness Divine.”

As Paul realises he is powerless to overcome the flesh in his own strength, he cries out, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (7:24). The answer is in 7:25 – “Jesus Christ our Lord!” This conflict will be with us until the Lord’s return, but meanwhile, in Romans 8 we discover a powerful compass for directing our mind: It is the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke of this Person before leaving the upper room – “He will guide you into all truth” (Joh 16:13).

A Magnetic Compass

Why has the world such a magnetic attraction for the unbeliever? The reason is the unbeliever has only the flesh to steer him. The flesh is our fallen nature, and as two magnets attract, Paul explains, “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” (8:5). In context, it is the unbeliever in view who “walks after the flesh,” but the flesh can also kill the spiritual usefulness of a believer. The believer’s mind can be pulled by the flesh toward the world with just one wrong thought. For example, I may covet …”If only I had her house or his phone people would think more of me.” The Holy Spirit will pull us back through 1 Timothy 6:6, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” This is minding the things of the Spirit.

The word “mind” is the Greek word phronema and defines our intention and purpose of thought. Daniel intended from the start to make sure he would not obey the flesh but would obey God’s word. The flesh might have suggested to Daniel that he was far from home and no one would hold it against him if he ate the tasty Babylonian menu. But Daniel planned it otherwise. Intentions are very powerful and operate by seeking approval in order to progress. If the intention of my mind is to gain approval from man and not God, then my body and behaviour will be steered by the wrong compass.

This is the weakness in social media that appeals to the mind of the flesh by encouraging approval based on what I eat, where I holiday and what I look like. Young believers looking for a suitable wife or husband may meet someone online only to find out he or she is not a believer. The flesh says they are attractive, and if you say “no” you might not get anyone else. But the Spirit tells you not to be unequally yoked together with an unbeliever (2Co 6:14).

The spiritual mind is not only life but peace. There is a peace of mind to be enjoyed presently that comes from following the indwelling Spirit in the decisions you make. Carnal unbelievers can never master their mind, for when they are rocked by problems they often turn to an artificial painkiller such as alcohol or drugs to drown the sorrows of the mind. But believers have the Holy Spirit as their thermostat to regulate thoughts and self-control, helping us to cast our anxiety upon God so that the mind is fixed on God and His Word. The Word of God and the Spirit of God never contradict each other, and proof that we are sons of God is our willingness to be led by the Spirit of God (8:14).

A Mode of Communication

Before salvation, our perception of prayer was an essential ritual to gain favour with God. Now the indwelling Spirit has changed the direction of our minds heavenward so that we have a desire to speak to God our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet what do we ask for? We know the general objective of our prayers, but we often struggle with the detail and the outcome because of the conflict and presence of the flesh, which can colour our desires and motives so that we can easily pray outside God’s will. Does this mean God won’t get the right message? No. Romans 8 teaches us not only of the requirement to be spiritually minded but to remember our spiritual resource, “the mind of the Spirit.” God knows our needs because there are two persons interceding on our behalf. In verse 26 there is the Holy Spirit, and in verse 27, the Lord Jesus. It is the indwelling Holy Spirit that “joins” (JND) to help us in our weakness and to represent us before the throne of God. The One who sits on the throne, the Lord Jesus Christ, knows the “mind of the Spirit” and is perfectly positioned to know and meet our every need. We are very well cared for.

Did Daniel pray for God to close the lions’ mouths? If not, God knew just what was needed, for the mind of the Spirit “maketh intercession,” communicating on our behalf to God what we cannot. God doesn’t search our minds for imperfections but for the mind of the Spirit so that we are able to know His will and do it.

May God help us to master our minds by allowing Him to be the master of our thoughts.


[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.