For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
God sets before us in this verse two starkly opposite ways of life. We can go through our days with our minds “set on the flesh”– that is, set on ourselves, our thoughts and desires, earthly possessions, positions, and prestige; or set with our minds “set on the Spirit”– that is, on things above, on Christ, His kingdom, His glory, the gospel, our heavenly calling, our earthly service.
Paul says that these two opposite ways of life also have opposite outcomes. A mind set on the flesh, a life set on yourself, results in death. Both future eternal death and present lifelessness and emptiness are the fruit that such living brings. But in contrast to that, the mind set on the Spirit yields “life and peace.” Dividends of unending and ever-increasing joy are promised to the one who invests his or her mind and heart in the Spirit’s work of glorifying Christ. Abundant life, which Jesus came to give, is found in fixing your mind and heart and eyes on the Spirit of life. Blessed peace and release from striving and worry and fear are found in surrendering your present and future plans to the One who holds all things.
In Deuteronomy 30, God holds out this same choice to the Israelites. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days.” The same choice is given to us today. By the grace of God and the power of the Spirit, choose life.
Holy Spirit, I want to set my mind on You and live in the full abundance of Your life and peace. But my will is divided within me, between my sinful nature and my renewed heart. Grant me grace to choose life, empower me to set my mind on You, and fill me with all joy and peace in believing, so that by Your power I may abound in hope.
“Fill your affections with the cross of Christ, that there may be no room for sin.” ~John Owen