You gently tip your skis over the brow of the hill. All of a sudden, gravity takes hold. Swoosh, down the slope you go. It’s a steep incline. You’re a novice. You don’t know how to stop. Trees fly by. Suddenly, a huge soft drift engulfs you like a velvet glove. Whew! You are looking at the outline of a small plane from behind. The silhouette bobs below the horizontal line in the instrument. The nose of the aircraft is down. You pull back on the wheel slightly. The little plane in the instrument shoots above the line. You’re heading up too fast. You push back on the wheel to level the aircraft. The instrument shows the plane’s attitude, whether the nose is up or down.
The Bible talks about the attitude or inclination of our hearts. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). A sinful inclination of heart speeds down the slope of sin and rebellion unable to stop before the fatal crash. The sinful attitude of heart also noses downward, away from heaven. When we incline toward evil and have affection for sin, we do not change paths. God must pull back on the wheel of our lives and level off our flight. God must catch us in the soft gloves of His abundant grace.
Romans 8:6 gives us the same picture. “The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (NASB). The word translated “mind” refers to disposition and attitude rather than to the thinking apparatus. Philippians 2:5 uses the verb form of the noun. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” You must have the mindset, the disposition, the attitude of Christ. Considering this definition, a better translation of Romans 8:6 is as follows. The mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace. Or we can put it this way. The attitude of the flesh is death, but the attitude of the Spirit is life and peace.
Verse 7 adds this note of explanation. “Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God.” The word translated “hostile” refers to “enmity.” It is the same concept we find in Genesis 3:15. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.” These are God’s words to the devil. The woman snuggled up to Satan. God promised to remedy this situation by removing enmity toward God in Eve’s heart and replacing it with love for God. In other words, God states He will change Eve’s mindset or attitude. We call this change in attitude or disposition the new birth. God sovereignly changes the inclination of the will.
Going back to Romans 8:6, Paul also contrasts the flesh and the Spirit. The flesh refers to a spiritual condition, carnality. The King James Version speaks of the carnal mind. An attitude of carnality is a “willing instrument of sin.” (Wilbur Gingrich, Shorter Lexicon). Therefore, “the mindset of the flesh is death.” Such an attitude leads one away from God and further into sin. On the other hand, the mindset or attitude born of the Spirit inclines you to follow Christ. And so, the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace.
Aircraft have an Attitude Indicator. This instrument indicates the plane’s attitude, whether the nose is up, or the nose is down, or the plane is level. Pilots learn to depend upon this instrument when flying at night or within clouds. People fly through life with their noses and eyes up toward heaven and Christ or with their noses and eyes down away from heaven and away from Christ. “The mindset of the flesh is death but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace.”
Practically speaking, if you are born again of the Spirit and confess Christ as Lord, you have the Spirit’s primary mindset, attitude, or disposition. That is, your basic inclination, sovereignly given by God, is to follow Christ. You love Him. W.G.T. Shedd makes this observation, “Love is inclination” (Dogmatic Theology, 2:208). Love is an attitude of heart and mind. Your basic attitude is that of love for Christ.
Sure, you sin. But then you have godly sorrow; you grieve over your sin. You seek God’s forgiveness. You repent. You determine, by God’s grace, to live for Christ and to please Him. When you honestly examine the bent of your heart, you must acknowledge there is a deep-seated love for Christ present within you. The origin of that love is the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, to sin and grieve for a time but fail to change signals a problem of attitude. Either way, you must understand this truth. “The mindset of the flesh is death but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace.”