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Day 16 – How the Mind Really Works (According to Romans 8)

Romans 8:5–8 (read in NIV, NLT, and CEB); Matthew 7:13–14

We like to think that our minds are completely free in every way to make whatever decision we want. But according to Romans 8:5–8 our minds operate much more like computer central processing units (CPUs). Given certain inputs, a CPU is designed to give predictable outputs. Give the input of flesh, self, world, or sin (depending on your translation), and the mind will make decisions and choices that lead to a specific outcome: death. Given inputs from the Holy Spirit, the mind will make decisions and choices that lead to a different outcome: life and peace. Dallas Willard summarizes by saying that there are two options:

  • the body controls the mind, negatively impacting our spirit, leading to spiritual death; or
  • the Holy Spirit controls the mind and impacts behavior, leading to life and peace.

If we believe this to be true, the question becomes: Why would anyone willingly allow inputs into his or her brain that lead to death rather than inputs that lead to life and peace? The answers are actually straightforward.

First, the inputs of flesh, self, and sin are loud and prevelant. There are very few places one can escape from the worldly messages of . . . well . . . the world. They are screamed in our ear constantly without any effort or intention on our part. The inputs of the Spirit are quiet and require us to be intentional in order to hear or notice them.

Second, while the inputs of flesh, self, and sin eventually lead to death, the road that leads to that death feels great, is all about us, makes us look important or cool, and is culturally normal. The inputs of the Spirit are just the opposite. It’s true that life and peace await us further down the road, but the way is often difficult, self-sacrificial, and culturally weird. Matthew 7:13–14 confirms this.

Tomorrow we will move to the topic of idols, but first let’s introduce a workable definition of “idol.” An idol, in the spiritual rather than pop culture sense, is that which our mind is most fixed on. There may be many inputs into our minds, but the one that trumps the others is our idol.

Closing Exercise

Reflect on the inputs that are commonly entering your mind. Think about their sources and how these inputs impact your life. How often are inputs of world, self, and sin entering your mind versus inputs of the Holy Spirit? Share your thoughts with your group.