Setting Your Mind Upon The Spirit

Setting Your Mind Upon The Spirit

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John Edmiston


Stage Two – Setting Your Mind Upon The Spirit

Romans 8:4-8 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.


After a Christian is born-again the next step is for the new believer to set his/her mind upon the things of the Spirit.


The mind set on the flesh is death and cannot please God. The mind set on the flesh is very self-centered and is always fussing and fretting, fuming, and getting angry, fighting and being ego-centric. The mind set on the flesh is all about self-gratification and so cannot fulfill the royal law of love.


The flesh is the old self-centered life that avoids the Cross. The flesh always opposes God (Galatians 5:16-18) and does not submit to God’s law. It is deeply rebellious and uses various tricks such as rationalization to get its own way.


We need to direct our mind onto the Spirit instead. When we do that the energies of God flow into us. We have life and peace. We do this by setting our minds firmly on the things of the Spirit. We make an active choice about what we will think about! Instead of junk TV, we read the Bible and have a daily devotional. Instead of gangster rap music, we listen to good pleasant uplifting music and Christian music. We start thinking about how to help others, how to serve at church and about spiritual questions. We attend prayer meetings, and we decide to pray each day.


This “setting our mind on the Spirit” starts out as a series of firm and definite choices and then eventually becomes our habitual lifestyle. At first, we have to go to war against distractions and temptations and it seems hard. Our thoughts wander, or maybe we spend too much time thinking about negative things such as insults, hardships and inconveniences.


We have to consciously replace our “stinking thinking” with higher and better thinking, with thoughts of gratitude, love, peace and kindness. This is known as the renewal of the mind.


Romans 12:1-2  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.


Our minds are not to be conformed to this world and filled with greed, selfish ambition, resentment, pride and lust. Rather we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can know the will of God.


Adam was created with a perfect mind. However, after he sinned, Adam’s human mind became unwise, and foolish and unable to know God properly. Our minds then came to love sin and selfishness and getting our own way. We went from having a God-centered mind to having a self-centered mind!


It is like one of those children’s pegboards with the shapes in it and holes for the square, the triangle, the circle, the oblong and so on. Our mind is like the pegboard and the shapes are godly ideas such as love, truth and righteousness. When Adam fell, the pegboard (our mind) became twisted and now the shapes (good thoughts) do not fit any more and twisted thoughts (such as greed) enter our minds very readily.


We need to renew our minds daily by setting them on the Spirit instead of the flesh. When we do this, slowly but surely, our minds will end up being conformed to the mind of Christ.


1 Corinthians 1:14- 16 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.


In the verses above we see that there is a huge difference between the natural man, who cannot understand the things of God, and the spiritual man who possesses the mind of Christ. Why do unbelievers struggle to read the Bible? Because they are “natural” and not born-gain. They do not yet have the Holy Spirit and the mind of Christ. Once people are born-again the Bible becomes interesting and even easy to read.


When we are born-again we receive a spiritual mind and can start to understand the things of God. However, we have to decide to use our spiritual mind, and we need to strengthen our spiritual mind by daily setting it on the things of the Spirit.


Ephesians 4:23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.


The above verse from Ephesians instructs us to be renewed in the spirit of our minds. The mind and the spirit are intimately connected. The mind is like a doorway to the Spirit. When we open the door to the flesh, the flesh comes in. When we open the door to the Spirit, then the Holy Spirit comes in.


Ephesians goes on to say, “put on the new self”. We have a nasty old self, and a loving new self. The new self is the new creation and is created after the likeness of God. Your new self is holy and good. However, you have to “put it on” like a suit of clothes.


When you get up in the morning, you need to set your mind on the things of the Spirit and decide to put on your new self, the Christian self, the self that is in the likeness of God. You have to discipline yourself to do this because your lazy undisciplined self will not do it for you! Remember you are a work in progress.


In every area of life, what you focus on determines the outcome. If you focus on anger, you will remain angry. If you focus on kindness, you will become kind. If you focus on money you will become greedy, if you focus on your work you will become diligent, and if you focus on God’s will you will become holy.


Life and peace come from a mind focused on the Spirit. Conflict and trouble come from a mind focused on the flesh. Every moment of every day you get to make this choice.



Suppose you are offended. You have two choices. You can focus on the flesh and the offense and become angry, resentful, vengeful and bitter. Or, you can focus on God, commit the matter to Him, forgive it and move on wisely. Then you will have life and peace.


If you are to make any progress in the spiritual life, you have to master the art of setting your mind on the Spirit because the mind set on the flesh simply cannot please God. This is a very basic and fundamental discipline.


One of the main things that takes our mind from spiritual things is a perception of threat. If we think we are going to starve, or be beaten or killed or not have food or shelter or be socially humiliated then we go into the well-known negative “fight-or-flight” mode which is counter-productive to rational thought.


In this mode, we focus totally on the problem or threat and tend to exclude the calmer, good, wise and creative solutions. The wisdom of the spiritual world is thrown out in a mad rush to visceral self-preservation.


Here is Jesus’ wise admonition on such things:


Matthew 6:2534  “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.


Jesus tells us where to put our minds when He exhorts us to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”. As our minds focus on the Kingdom, God mysteriously provides. Our Heavenly Father knows what we need and takes care of the anxiety and threat of daily existence.


As our mind/spirit connects with Heaven, then Heaven connects back to us in terms of daily provision. Fear does not connect with Heaven. It is on entirely the wrong wavelength. Prayer, faith and a mind set on God, do connect with God and do get the answers and the creative wisdom that we require in order to cope with daily life.

The apostle Paul sets out his version of this advice in his brief epistle to the Philippians:


Philippians 4: 6-9 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.


This well-known passage tells us much about the daily practice of setting our minds upon the Spirit so that we can receive life and peace:


  1. Refuse anxiety and move toward prayer
  2. Move into prayer and supplication
  3. Enter into thanksgiving that God is on your side
  4. God’s peace will enter the mind focused on Him
  5. The mind set on Him should think pure and noble and praiseworthy thoughts
  6. Practice the above as a routine and the God of peace will be with you


The key thing is to realize that you need to quickly move from anxiety to prayer. Anxiety solves nothing. Prayer is at least a start toward a solution. In prayer, we often get an idea that provides the solution and in prayer we find peace and once we find peace then we are aligned with the resources of Heaven. Move from focusing on the problem, to focusing on the solution.


Paul takes this one step further in the book of Colossians where he gets quite theological about the business of where we set our minds:


Colossians 3:14 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.


Our spiritual life is “up there” with Christ and not “down here” with the world. Your true self is hidden with Christ in God. Sure, we have to take care of life’s practical details, but those details are not our eternal life. If, like biblical Martha, we end up fretting and fussing so much that we miss out on Jesus, then we need to refocus.


The glory of God appears in us when we have our minds set on Him! Then His life becomes our life, and His glory becomes our glory. Not the fading glory of the world, but the eternal glory of Christ Jesus. So, we need to set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth!


The mind is the key to everything else; it is the door to Heaven when it is focused on the Spirit, or the door to Hell when it is focused on the flesh. The mind is the spiritual key to the spiritual life. However, it often is unruly and fallen. You need to renew your mind (see Romans 12 earlier) and you need to consciously focus your mind. You need to calmly walk away from anxiety. You have to deliberately walk into prayer. You need to set your mind on things above.

How does a born-again Christian set their mind on the things of the Spirit? It is a bit like budgeting. The key to budgeting is to become aware of where your money is actually going. Likewise, the key to setting your mind on the Spirit is to know what your mind is getting set on.  Get pencil and paper, and for a few hours go about and try to notice what your mind is thinking:


  1. Profitable thoughts – set on the Spirit, things above, loving thoughts, prayer
  2. Necessary thoughts – work, tasks, getting things done, functional thinking
  3. Frantic thoughts – hurry, anxiety, fretting, worrying, daydreaming, self-centered thinking
  4. Toxic thoughts – lust, rage, bitterness, revenge, scheming manipulation, egotism


Do not feel guilty; just observe your patterns of thought like an anthropologist observing a tribe in the jungle. Once you become aware of your patterns of thought then try to improve the balance.


Take your frantic thoughts to prayer. Repent of your selfish and toxic thoughts. Read your bible a bit more. Put on some edifying music. Get into a good spiritual conversation at least once a week with friends you can trust in a life group, home group or bible study. And, of course go to church and also worship at home. Using a daily devotional book can help you to have some quality time focused on spiritual things. And instead of listening to that politician who makes your blood boil, switch over to having a loving conversation with your children.






Other suggestions to turn your “stinking thinking” into godly thinking are:

  1. Work on positive uplifting things, fill your time with them.
  2. Hang around up-beat people of faith and love so you will “catch the positive vibes.”
  3. Have a list of good positive things that you want to do and focus on that list.
  4. Do not keep going over and over stressful situations in your head, it does not work.
  5. Check your perception of threat – is it actually true. Calm down.
  6. Focus on the good in people.
  7. Focus on the good in each day.
  8. Develop an attitude of gratitude.
  9. Stay simple in life and give stuff away.
  10. Live one day at a time.
  11. Praise God regularly even for small things.
  12. Praise people when you catch them doing something right.
  13. Keep edifying Scriptures near your computer and your mirror.
  14. Don’t think people are being mean when they are just being careless.
  15. Stop seeing life as a ruthless competition.
  16. Look for the solution in every problem.
  17. View difficulties as challenges you can solve with God’s help.
  18. It’s not all about the money. Many good things are free.
  19. Rejoice in your relationships.
  20. Hold onto the promises of God.
  21. Pray regularly and have a daily quiet time.
  22. See how many times a day you can be an encouragement and a blessing.
  23. Learn to see joyful abundance everywhere.
  24. Get outside into God’s creation and be glad.
  25. Decide to be joyful.


Your mind will wander from time to time. Just bring it back to the positive! Your crazy thoughts will try to run your life but they are just like rebellious children and you can eventually get them back into line. Be confident that you will slowly win the game of setting your mind upon the things of the Spirit!

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the difference between a Christian setting their mind on the Spirit and a Christian setting their mind on the flesh?
  2. How do we set our mind on the things of the Spirit?
  3. What is the role of prayer and thanksgiving in setting our mind on the Spirit?
  4. What kind of things should a Christian be thinking about?

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