Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)
“He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)
In democratic countries it seems almost a national pastime to complain about “the government” — any government. The government is either interfering too much or not enough; the government should help us and not them; the government should give us what we want but not raise taxes. Opinions are abundant; reality often sparse. But since most of us aren’t actually charged with the responsibility of governing, we enjoy the freedom of knowing all the answers and the assurance that things would be much better if we were in charge.
Paul reminds me that while I may not be part of a governing authority, I am solely responsible for who governs me. Paul puts two options on the ballot: the flesh and the Spirit, and says I must elect one or the other.
If I put my flesh in charge, I’ll be looking for ways to gratify myself. I’ll be preoccupied with things like a better job, more money, a bigger house, luxurious vacations, more ways to pamper myself and have fun. When my flesh is my governor, my policies will be to please myself, protect myself, and promote myself.
If I elect the Holy Spirit to be in charge of my life, I’ll be looking for what pleases God. My mind will be occupied with absorbing Scripture, praying in all situations, seeking His will and then doing it. My policies will be to please God, trust Him, and glorify Him.
Paul warns that letting my flesh take over is short-term gain for long-term pain. If I choose to make myself the god of my life, I’ll have a god who can’t save me. I’ll spend eternity without the God who the source of everything good. I’ll pay the full price for my sins.
If I’m governed by the Spirit, I’ll have life and peace. I won’t have to try to figure things out on my own; I’ll be under God’s standards and continual guidance. I won’t have to worry about being right as long as I’m right with God. I won’t have to earn God’s favor; I will please Him because my heart is His.
Who governs me? Too often I feel like a mugwump – that political anomaly with its “mug” on one side of the fence and its “wump” on the other. I want to be governed by the Spirit, but my flesh keeps pushing its way in. I take comfort from being more quick to recognize the intrusion and that I can ask for and get God’s help to overcome it. It helps enormously to know that I share this struggle with Paul, who outlines the battle it is to over come the pull of the self in Romans, chapter 7. The answer is found only in Jesus, and only in His strength can I move forward in becoming more like Him. If I have the desire and the perseverance, He will enable me.
And so my prayer is to remember John the Baptist’s realization that “He must become greater; I must become less.”
I remind myself that less is more when I experience
less striving — more depending
less frustration – more patient waiting
less judgment – more compassion
less futility – more purpose
less emptiness – more fulfillment
less worry – more trust
less anguish – more peace
less bitterness – more “betterness”
less despair – more hope
less uncertainty – more confidence
less weariness – more willingness
less of myself – more of Jesus.