Did you know this verse was written for believers? It comes upon the heels of an amazing revelation of grace. Paul said in the previous verses that God sent his son Jesus to be our perfect sin sacrifice so that the laws requirements could be completely fulfill in us who live according to the Spirit ( Romans 8:3-4 ). But this verse tells us that believers have a choice in how they live after they are born again. We can set our minds on what we see, taste, touch and feel, or we can set our minds in agreement with the Holy Spirit and live according to God's will. If we live according to the flesh then we are subjected to it's whims. But if we live according to the spirit then we will experience the freedom that was purchased for us.
Paul is describing the dichotomy of living the Christian life apart from how you received the Lord. Modern day Christians are notorious for starting out in faith and ending up in works because they do not know any better nor are they taught any better. However, real freedom comes from living a life directed by the Holy Spirit within us as our guide not from following rules and regulations. Paul said in Colossians, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him..." ( Colossians 2:6 ). Did you receive the Lord by observing the Law or by faith? You received him by faith, for it is the only way to obtain the righteousness Jesus provided for you.
As Christians we have been freed from the sin nature once for all ( Romans 6:6-7 ). But when we are living according to the flesh, then the left over remnant of that old man becomes visible in our lives ( Romans 7:23 ). The key to overcoming these leftover effects is to live according to the Holy Spirit. When you do this then you put to death the body of sin, the leftover remains of your previous nature. Trouble arises when we don't understand how to live this way, because then we will revert back to what we know... rules, regulations and condemnation. If we live in the flesh then we are not living in the freedom that was purchase for us. Through Christ Jesus, we were designed to be completely free of everything that holds us in chains. This manifest freedom happens by heart change, through aligning ourselves with the Lord and being submissive to his will for our lives. What is his will? We find that in his word.
Paul said in Romans 12:2, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will" ( Romans 12:2 ). Through renewing our mind to God's will we will experience effortless change in life. It won't be works based, but it comes out of the overflow of our hearts. Proverbs 23 says, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he..." ( Proverbs 23:7 KJV ). And Jesus said in Luke 6, "For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks..." ( Luke 6:45 ). If we truly believe that we have been set free from the sin nature we will not live according to it. If we truly believe that we have a completely new nature in Christ Jesus then we will live that way. But this knowledge must come from a renewed mind directed by the Holy Spirit.
We have a choice, we have the answer. The answer is to live according to the Holy Spirit. When we do this we will be directed by him in everything we do. Our lives will never be ordinary, they will be extraordinary. This freedom comes from understanding this amazing truth that Christ has redeemed you from a empty way of life full of rules and regulations. You are free and called to live a life worthy of your calling. Today may you start renewing your mind to this monumental truth, and may you see it operating in your life. Amen.