Set Your Mind
Having spoken of Christians as people who “walk according to the Spirit,” Paul now contrasts unbelievers who “live according to the flesh.” It is obvious by the way that Paul describes these two ways of living that living according to the Spirit and living according to the flesh are mutually exclusive.
We first notice that Paul equates “living according to” with “setting one’s mind on.” We must understand that our lives are affected by what we think, what we set our minds on. And what we set our minds on will be determined by whether or not we have renewed and regenerated hearts (and why it is then so important that we guard our hearts, Proverbs 4:23). But right now, we speak of minds, and as we said before, there are two ways to “set” one’s mind that have nothing to do with one another. The first way is to set one’s mind on the flesh. This is our natural way of being and thinking, our modus operandi. We do not have to teach ourselves to think this way; we are born thinking this way as sinners. But what does setting the mind on the flesh mean? To think as the world thinks, to set one’s sights and goals on worldly things, to desire what the world desires: fame, fortune, pleasure for pleasure’s sake, licentiousness, impurity (i.e., sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman), lewdness, lawlessness, and the list goes on (Colossians 3:5-8). The end result of setting one’s mind on the flesh is willing hostility towards God and inability to submit to God’s law, all of which leads to death. That is, the unbeliever is both unwilling and unable to set his mind of matters of the Spirit and thereby please God.
But the born again believer is both willing and able to please God because God has changed his nature; he has a new way of being and thinking. To put it another way, as people born of the Spirit, we have been given the means to “set our minds” which the unbeliever does not have, namely, a new principle of spiritual life (the new man or changed nature) and the Holy Spirit within us enabling us to think as we should and desire godly things in direct contrast to worldly things (Colossians 3:12-17). Thereby the believer sets his mind on things of the Spirit and experiences life and peace. Now we must add that though we have been given this new nature, setting the mind on matters of the Spirit still requires work and habituation; that is, it requires that we train our minds that we may think accordingly. But one proof of our regeneration is this God-given desire and ability to do this. We are not of the flesh but of the Spirit. So desire, so set your mind, so walk.