A few weeks ago I was dealing with one of Makaylan's tantrums when God spoke very candidly to my spirit. As adults, we like to think of ourselves as greater than a 2-year-old, but many times we act just like them. We might not physically act out with kicking and screaming, but spiritually we close our hearts and resist God. We ask for something, and He says, "No" or, "Wait." And the temper tantrum begins. The Bible calls this a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. Romans 8:5-8 says, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."
So how can we, as children of God, begin to put our spiritual temper tantrums under His control?
-- We must set our minds on the things of God.
We live in a world that is constantly battling for our attention. The world tells us that we can do whatever we want because we are the ones in control of our lives. As a teenager, I remember my mother telling me to choose my friends wisely. Why should we do that? Because we end up acting like and becoming like the company we keep. In this passage, Paul is reminding us that our lives will be controlled by either the flesh or the Spirit. It is our choice to make. If we want to be men and women who are controlled by God's Spirit, then we must set our minds on the things of God. This is not just thinking about God or godly things (though that helps), but it means having a mindset that is in harmony with God. In order to know what God says and how He acts, we must be in His Word and meditate on His Word. For example, if you struggle with gossip (or any other sin regarding your mouth), then mediate on what God has to say about how He can control your tongue (James 3:1-12). If you struggle with anxiety, meditate on how God takes care of birds and flowers (seemingly insignificant things), so He will certainly take care of you (Matthew 6:25-34). To know God's mind, we must be in His Word.
-- We must submit to God's law.
I used to hate the word "submission." I am fiercely independent, and I did not like the thought of someone controlling me. The word "submission" has a very negative connotation in our culture. As stated earlier, we live in a culture that teaches us that we are in complete control of our life and should submit to no one. My view of submission changed when I began to have a biblical understanding of submission. In Scripture, the word used for "submit" is usually a word that means a willful submitting of oneself to another. God has all authority to force our obedience, yet He desires for us to willfully submit to His commands out of love for Him. God knows that the world will bring nothing but death, and He wants to save us from experiencing the heartbreak that comes from living a life that is controlled by the flesh.
This Christmas we bought our daughter a Disney Princess 4-wheeler that goes an exciting 2 mph. We live at the end of a cul-de-sac, so we often let her ride it in the circle. A few days ago a car was coming, so we removed her from the toy. Immediately, she began to resist, but I held her tight. After the car passed, I "explained" to her that she could have been hurt, and I needed her to obey mommy when cars were around. I did not take her off her toy because I was trying to be mean or show some sort of tyrannical control over her, but I did it because I love her and did not want her to get hurt. God knows that if we set our minds on the things of the flesh, then we will be destroyed. Jesus reminds us, "The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they (you) may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).
Submitting to God's law is only accomplished as we set our minds on the things of God, trusting that He knows what is best for us.
-- We must seek to please God.
If you are allowing your mind and actions to be controlled by the Spirit, then you will want to please God, and God will find much pleasure in you. Romans 8:8 says very bluntly that if we are living in the flesh, then we do not please God. If you read a little further in the passage, you will see that if you are a child of God, then you do not have to live according to the flesh (vs. 12-13). So many times I hear myself saying, "I couldn't help it. I had to give in to this particular sin." No, I do not! Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on a criminal's cross, and then rose again in order for me and you to have a choice. We do not have to be controlled by our emotions. We do not have to give in to the temptation to sin. We do not have to give in to the emotions of a spiritual temper tantrum. We can live a life that seeks to please God. And that is exactly what God is calling us, as children of God, to do.
So, I ask you: Are you prone to spiritual temper tantrums? Do you find yourself quarrelling with God over a particular command? Are you pushing against Him because of the particular life season He has for you? If so, I want to encourage you to immerse yourself in God's Word, and you will discover that He has nothing but life and peace to offer you. My prayer is that we would be children of God who have hearts that are submitted to Christ and His Lordship. May we grow into mature men and women who have our minds set on the things of God.
This column first appeared at BiblicalWoman.org, a blog of Southwestern Seminary. Amanda Walker is in the Doctorate of Educational Ministries program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Her greatest joy is serving alongside her husband who is the University Minister at Cook Baptist Church in Ruston, Louisiana, and being the mother of two daughters. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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