Touchstone of Reality
All of God's working with us from the time that we come into the kingdom of God is to move us from the carnal to the spiritual. Sanctification is one life displacing another life. This is what is the meaning of being conformed to the image of Christ. It is God removing from us the old nature that has been crucified with Christ, but yet continues to raise its head. Romans 8:5 says, "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit."
Faith is following Jesus. Faith is really what you believe. Faith springs up and functions in right conditions. Without faith it is impossible to please God, but that faith springs up always, automatically, in the right kind of conditions. We are discussing A TOUCHSTONE OF REALITY. A touchstone is a hard black stone that's used for testing the purity of precious metals. They have better ways of doing testing today, but at that time, a touchstone was the test. If you have a gold ring, inside your ring it may read "18 carat gold." The touchstone will tell you whether that is true or not. I ask you, have you ever wished for a moral touchstone to test the purity of your heart? Pilots have instruments that can fix on a star, and tell exactly where they are at any time. Don't you wish for some instrument to be able to take your spiritual bearings? We have such a touchstone and instrument in the verse here in Romans 8:5.
In this verse, you have the infallible test of what you are, and where you are going, in every struggle of life. The beauty of this instrument is that anybody can read its register. "They that are of the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, but they that are of the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." The word translated mind here is from a word that means to attend to, to delight in, to study about, to take pleasure in, to love, and to think about. They that are of the flesh think about the flesh, love to think about the flesh, indulge in the flesh, that is the way it is.
They that are of the Spirit study the Spirit, and they love to study about the Spirit. Leave a man free, and he will go and heed what he wants to heed. Read a man's thoughts and you read a man's heart. A man's thoughts are the register which his heart makes on the touchstone. A child knows what he thinks about. A child, therefore, can take his own bearings anywhere and at all times. Mind you, it is not the thoughts that fly through the mind like birds through the air to which we are referring. These have no moral quality at all. They only tell us that Satan's darts may fly anywhere.
The thoughts that have value are those that are invited in, caught, caged, petted. Those are the ones that have the value, "Who's coming, give delight, and who's parting leave a sorrow." An unwilling thought never leaves a stain. You need to mark that down.
With this thought we are going to apply the touchstone. Take, hypothetically, two young men away from home in college. They get into the dormitory. As they begin to settle down, one looks through the directory for a church. He merely is minding the things he loves to mind. The other looks at the entertainment page to see what was on at the theatre. He is minding what he loves to mind. Each sipped what he loved to sip, but the cup in one case was self, and the cup in the other was Christ.
In the church, you have great difficulty getting people to a prayer meeting. I can say this because I've pastored a church for thirty-five years. You can plead, you can warn, all to no avail. Let the fair come to town, or a circus, and those places place will overflow with church people. People go where they love to go, and nothing stops them. I learned that over the years trying to drag people to church who didn't want to go to church. The reason they didn't want to go to church was because spiritual things never meant anything to them.
Apply the touchstone, "Adam, where art thou?" What do you think about most? What do you do most? What do you love to think about most? Where do you go and love to go? When left perfectly free, which way does the current of your thoughts run? When you press that pillow at night, and the mind becomes a free agent, where does it go? What direction?
These are not idle questions, each one of them weigh a ton. Do you mind the flesh, or do you mind the Spirit? I cannot and must not afford to be misunderstood here. It is not the minding of the things of the flesh that makes us carnal. It is the carnal mind in us that makes us mind the things of the flesh. This is the truth that the Holy Spirit wants to impart to you in this lesson. Spiritual Death is not in the doing or the thinking. Death is in the carnal mind that makes us want to think and do these things. Hence, Paul's message, "For to be carnally minded is death..." (Romans 8:6)
No matter what you do or don't do, no matter what you think or don't think, to be carnally minded is death. For six thousand years, God has been trying to turn our thoughts inward to character, and not to conduct; to being and not to doing, as a transcendent concern of man. All of this God has been working at. God's voice has rung down through the ages, "Make the tree good, and the fruit will be good." It has to begin here. In that living light God writes that word, BE. "Except ye be converted." "Be ye perfect." "Be not conformed." "Be ye holy." "Be ye transformed." To be or not to be is the question in a much deeper sense than Hamlet ever dreamed.
Our deeds, our words, our thoughts, our outward lives, supremely important as they are, borrow all their supremacy from the character within from which they spring. Out of the heart are the issues of life. We act like we do because that is what we are. The one great overriding question for us is, "What are we?" and not "What do we?" To be carnally minded is death. God has always laid the ax at the root of the tree. Man lays it at the branches. We try to chop a branch off here and there. God lays the ax at the root. "To be carnally minded is death" is God's way of declaring the great issues of life.
Is it wrong to go to the theatre? No more wrong than for Bunyan to go to the Bedford jail if you go there against your will, and have no heart for it while there. Death is in the carnal mind that wants to go there. If you sit in the church with your mind in that theatre, you may as well be there. You are dead. Death is in the carnal mind. There is no harm in the ballroom, but there is death in the desire for that ballroom.
I am so glad that God has not left it for men to settle the grade of evil there is in the carnal mind. He never left that to man. Good men will defer and dispute whether there is any evil in it at all, and the best of men hardly realize how deadly that mind is. God has declared it as always death, no matter where it is found, no matter how modified, how educated. God has declared it to be death, wherever it is found, whether it is in the most religious, or in the most profligate. It is death.
The carnal mind is death to all the love of God in the heart. Here we reach the bedrock of the investigation. God said, "...the carnal mind is enmity against God..." (Romans 8:7) it is the very soul and spirit of hatred toward God. Whatever else the carnal mind may do, it cannot love God. It can be religious, it can argue about religion, and it does that. But with all of that, it cannot love God. Likewise, the carnal mind is death to all real joy in the Lord. The carnal mind can be silly. Look at our social doings in which the real joy of the Lord is pushed aside. Pentecostal people, quote the scripture, "The joy of the Lord is our strength" perhaps as much as any scripture. They make the joy getting happy, dancing and running. I believe spiritual people do that. They were so demonstrative in the upper room people thought they were drunk. The joy talked about in the Book of Nehemiah, though, is the joy God gets out of our service to Him.
When Nehemiah said this, he was looking at walls that were torn down, gates that were burned out, a totally impossible disaster as far as man was concerned. Strength comes to us when we bring joy to God. The carnal mind is death to that, because the carnal is not going to suffer for anything. God does say, "Shout with the voice of triumph." The carnal mind would quiet that down. But the Lord leads us, and as we follow we will bring joy to God. Out of that there has to come joy to me. So God says, "...leap for joy." Joy comes out of knowing I am in the will of God, not because everything is going well. The only joy the carnal mind can know is when things are going the way it wants them to go. The real joy of God comes when I know that everything is going the way God wants it to go.
Further, the carnal mind is death to all usefulness in the church. I employ that word usefulness in an intelligent and spiritual manner. I mean usefulness that brings glory to God. A lower order of usefulness demands a carnal mind. Figs may fall from thistles, and grapes from thorns, but usefulness never sprang from a carnal mind. Nothing but death ever comes from that. There's so much of the carnal in the church today - men's programs, ideas, circus acts. All of the foolishness that man has brought into the church is a product of the carnal mind, and it can bring nothing to the church but death. "…to be spiritually minded is life and peace." (Romans 8:6)
A spiritual mind completes our union with Him who is life. There must be life. If you put one hand on my heart, and the other hand on my wrist, you will find that both beats the same. You count the heartbeats here, and you will find that the heartbeat is the same here in the wrist. If one is slow, the other is slow. The connection is co...