Mind the Spirit and Live!
“The minding of the spirit means life.”—ROMANS 8:6.
1, 2. What contrast does the Bible make between “flesh” and “spirit”?
IT IS no small challenge to maintain a clean moral standing before God amid a depraved society that glorifies gratification of fleshly desires. However, the Scriptures contrast “flesh” and “spirit,” drawing a clear line of demarcation between the dire consequences of allowing oneself to be dominated by the sinful flesh and the blessed results of yielding to the influence of God’s holy spirit.
2 For example, Jesus Christ said: “It is the spirit that is life-giving; the flesh is of no use at all. The sayings that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63) To Christians in Galatia, the apostle Paul wrote: “The flesh is against the spirit in its desire, and the spirit against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other.” (Galatians 5:17) Paul also said: “He who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.”—Galatians 6:8.
3. What is needed in order to break free from wrong desires and inclinations?
3 Jehovah’s holy spirit—his active force—can effectively root out unclean “fleshly desires” and destructive domination by our sinful flesh. (1 Peter 2:11) To break free from bondage to wrong inclinations, it is vital that we have the help of God’s spirit, for Paul wrote: “The minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) What does it mean to mind the spirit?
“The Minding of the Spirit”
4. What does “the minding of the spirit” mean?
4 When Paul wrote about “the minding of the spirit,” he used a Greek word that denotes “way of thinking, mind(-set), . . . aim, aspiration, striving.” A related verb means “to think, to be minded in a certain way.” Thus, minding the spirit means being controlled, dominated, and impelled by Jehovah’s active force. It signifies that we willingly let our thinking, inclinations, and aspirations come under the complete influence of God’s holy spirit.
5. To what degree should we submit to the influence of the holy spirit?
5 The degree to which we should submit to the influence of the holy spirit was emphasized by Paul when he spoke of being ‘slaves by the spirit.’ (Romans 7:6) On the basis of their faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, Christians have been liberated from domination by sin and have thus “died” to their former situation as its slaves. (Romans 6:2, 11) Those figuratively dead in such a way are still alive physically and are now free to follow Christ as “slaves to righteousness.”—Romans 6:18-20.
A Dramatic Transformation
6. What transformation is experienced by those becoming “slaves to righteousness”?
6 The transformation from being “slaves of sin” to serving God as “slaves to righteousness” is dramatic indeed. Regarding some who experienced such a change, Paul wrote: ‘You have been washed clean, you have been sanctified, you have been declared righteous in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God.’—Romans 6:17, 18; 1 Corinthians 6:11.
7. Why is it important to have Jehovah’s view of matters?
7 In order to experience such a remarkable transformation, we first need to learn about Jehovah’s view of matters. Centuries ago, the psalmist David fervently petitioned God: “Make me know your own ways, O Jehovah . . . Make me walk in your truth and teach me.” (Psalm 25:4, 5) Jehovah listened to David, and He can answer such a prayer for his modern-day servants too. Since God’s ways and his truth are clean and holy, meditation on them will be helpful if we are tempted to satisfy unclean fleshly desires.
The Vital Role of God’s Word
8. Why is it imperative that we study the Bible?
8 God’s Word, the Bible, is a product of his spirit. Thus, one vital way to let that spirit operate on us is by reading and studying the Bible—daily if possible. (1 Corinthians 2:10, 11; Ephesians 5:18) Filling our mind and heart with Bible truths and principles will assist us to withstand attacks on our spirituality. Yes, when immoral temptations arise, God’s spirit can bring back to our minds Scriptural reminders and guiding principles that can reinforce our resolve to act in harmony with God’s will. (Psalm 119:1, 2, 99; John 14:26) Therefore, we are not deceived into following a wrong course.—2 Corinthians 11:3.
9. How does Bible study strengthen our resolve to preserve our relationship with Jehovah?
9 As we continue our sincere and diligent study of the Scriptures with the help of Bible-based publications, God’s spirit influences our mind and heart, causing our respect for Jehovah’s standards to deepen. Our relationship with God becomes the most important thing in our life. When faced with temptation, thoughts about how pleasurable it might be to engage in wrongdoing are not entertained. Rather, our immediate concern is to maintain our integrity to Jehovah. A strong appreciation for our relationship with him stirs us to combat any inclination that might damage or destroy it.
“How I Do Love Your Law!”
10. Why is obeying Jehovah’s law necessary in order to mind the spirit?
10 If we are to mind the spirit, knowledge of God’s Word is not enough. King Solomon had a very good grasp of Jehovah’s standards, but he failed to live by them during the latter part of his life. (1 Kings 4:29, 30; 11:1-6) If we are spiritually-minded, we will see the need not only for knowing what the Bible says but also for obeying God’s law wholeheartedly. That means making a conscientious examination of Jehovah’s standards and diligently endeavoring to follow them. The psalmist had this kind of attitude. He sang: “How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern.” (Psalm 119:97) When we are truly concerned about following God’s law, we are moved to display godly qualities. (Ephesians 5:1, 2) Instead of being helplessly attracted to wrongdoing, we manifest the fruitage of the spirit, and a desire to please Jehovah turns us away from vile “works of the flesh.”—Galatians 5:16, 19-23; Psalm 15:1, 2.
11. How would you explain that Jehovah’s law prohibiting fornication is a protection for us?
11 How can we develop deep respect and love for Jehovah’s law? One way is by carefully examining its value. Consider God’s law that limits sexual relations to marriage and forbids fornication and adultery. (Hebrews 13:4) Does obeying this law deprive us of anything good? Would a loving heavenly Father make a law that denies us something beneficial? Of course not! Look at what is happening in the lives of many who do not live in harmony with Jehovah’s moral standards. Unwanted pregnancies often lead them to abortions or perhaps into premature and unhappy marriages. Many have to rear a child without a husband or a wife. Furthermore, those who practice fornication expose themselves to sexually transmitted diseases. (1 Corinthians 6:18) And if a servant of Jehovah commits fornication, the emotional effects can be devastating. Trying to suppress the naggings of a guilty conscience can cause sleepless nights and mental anguish. (Psalm 32:3, 4; 51:3) Is it not obvious, then, that Jehovah’s law prohibiting fornication is designed to protect us? Yes, there is indeed great benefit in maintaining moral cleanness!
Pray for Jehovah’s Help
12, 13. Why is it appropriate to pray when besieged by sinful desires?
12 The minding of the spirit certainly calls for heartfelt prayer. It is appropriate to ask for the help of God’s spirit, for Jesus said: “If you . . . know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!” (Luke 11:13) In prayer, we can express our dependence on the spirit for help regarding our weaknesses. (Romans 8:26, 27) If we realize that sinful desires or attitudes are affecting us, or if a loving fellow believer draws this to our attention, it would be wise to be specific about the problem in our prayers and ask for God’s assistance in overcoming these leanings.
13 Jehovah can help us to concentrate on righteous, chaste, virtuous, and praiseworthy things. And how fitting it is to supplicate him earnestly so that “the peace of God” will guard our hearts and mental powers! (Philippians 4:6-8) Let us therefore pray for Jehovah’s assistance to “pursue righteousness, godly devotion, faith, love, endurance, mildness of temper.” (1 Timothy 6:11-14) With our heavenly Father’s help, anxieties and temptations will not grow to the point of being out of control. Rather, our lives will be marked by God-given tranquillity.
Do Not Grieve the Spirit
14. Why is God’s spirit a force for cleanness?
14 Mature servants of Jehovah personally apply Paul’s counsel: “Do not put out the fire of the spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) Since God’s spirit is “the spirit of holiness,” it is clean, pure, sacred. (Romans 1:4) When operating upon us, that spirit is thus a force for holiness, or cleanness. It helps to keep us in a clean way of life that is marked by obedience to God. (1 Peter 1:2) Any unclean practice constitutes a disregarding of that spirit, and that can have disastrous consequences. How so?
15, 16. (a) How might we grieve God’s spirit? (b) How can we avoid grieving Jehovah’s spirit?
15 Well, Paul wrote: “Do not be grieving God’s holy spirit, with which you have been sealed for a day of releasing by ransom.” (Ephesians 4:30) The Scriptures identify Jehovah’s spirit as a seal, or a ‘token of what was to come,’ for faithful anointed Christians. And that is immortal heavenly life. (2 Corinthians 1:22; 1 Corinthians 15:50-57; Revelation 2:10) God’s spirit can direct anointed ones and their companions with an earthly hope in a life of faithfulness and can help them to avoid sinful works.
16 The apostle warned against tendencies toward falsehood, stealing, shameful conduct, and so forth. If we allowed ourselves to drift toward such things, we would be going against the spirit-inspired counsel of God’s Word. (Ephesians 4:17-29; 5:1-5) At least to a degree, we could thus be grieving God’s spirit, and surely that is something we want to avoid. For that matter, if any of us began to ignore the counsel of Jehovah’s Word, we might start to develop attitudes or traits that could result in willful sin and the total loss of divine favor. (Hebrews 6:4-6) Though we might not be practicing sin right now, we could be heading in that direction. By continually going contrary to the leading of the spirit, we would be grieving it. We would also be resisting and grieving Jehovah, the source of holy spirit. As those who love God, we never want to do that. Rather, may we pray for Jehovah’s help so that we do not grieve his spirit but are able to bring honor to his holy name by continuing to mind the spirit.
Keep On Minding the Spirit
17. What are some spiritual goals we might set, and why would working to attain them be wise?
17 A noteworthy way for us to keep on minding the spirit is to set spiritual goals and work to attain them. Depending on our needs and circumstances, our goals may include improving our study habits, increasing our share in the preaching work, or reaching out for a specific privilege of service, such as the full-time pioneer ministry, Bethel service, or missionary work. This will keep our mind occupied with spiritual interests and will help us to resist succumbing to our human weaknesses or being driven by the materialistic goals and unscriptural desires common to this system of things. This certainly is the wise course, for Jesus urged: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”—Matthew 6:19-21.
18. Why is it so important to keep on minding the spirit in these last days?
18 Minding the spirit and suppressing worldly desires certainly is the course of wisdom in these “last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) After all, “the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15-17) If a young Christian pursues the goal of full-time service, for example, this may serve as a guiding light during the challenging years of adolescence or young adulthood. When pressured to compromise, such an individual will have a clear vision of what he or she wants to accomplish in Jehovah’s service. Such a spiritual person will deem it unwise, even foolish, to forfeit the achieving of spiritual goals for the sake of material pursuits or any pleasure that sin promises to give. Remember that spiritually inclined Moses ‘chose to be ill-treated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin.’ (Hebrews 11:24, 25) Whether young or old, we make a similar choice when we keep on minding the spirit instead of the fallen flesh.
19. What benefits will we enjoy if we keep on minding the spirit?
19 “The minding of the flesh means enmity with God,” whereas “the minding of the spirit means life and peace.” (Romans 8:6, 7) If we keep on minding the spirit, we will experience precious peace. Our hearts and mental powers will be more fully protected from the influence of our sinful condition. We will be better able to resist temptations to engage in wrongdoing. And we will have divine help to cope with the ongoing struggle between flesh and spirit.
20. Why can we be sure that it is possible to come off victorious in the battle between the flesh and the spirit?
20 By continuing to mind the spirit, we maintain a vital link with Jehovah, the source of both life and holy spirit. (Psalm 36:9; 51:11) Satan the Devil and his agents are doing everything they can to destroy our relationship with Jehovah God. They try to gain control of our minds, knowing that if we give in, this will eventually lead to enmity with God and to death. But we can come off victorious in this battle between the flesh and the spirit. That was Paul’s experience, for in writing about his own battle, he first asked: “Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death?” Then, showing that rescue was possible, he exclaimed: “Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:21-25) We too can thank God through Christ for providing the means to cope with human weaknesses and keep on minding the spirit with the wonderful hope of everlasting life.—Romans 6:23.
Do You Recall?
• What does it mean to mind the spirit?
• How can we let Jehovah’s spirit operate on us?
• Explain why, in our battle against sin, it is vital to study the Bible, to obey Jehovah’s law, and to pray to him.
• How can setting spiritual goals keep us in the course of life?
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Bible study helps us to withstand attacks on our spirituality
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It is proper to pray for Jehovah’s help to overcome sinful desires
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Spiritual goals can help us to keep on minding the spirit