PASTOR’S CORNER: Thinking through the spirit

By Rev. O.L. Johnson

Religion Writer

Thinking is a function we tend to take for granted. It is something we just do naturally without much effort and without any regard for the impact our thinking processes may have on our lives here on earth and in eternity.

In Romans 8:5, Paul takes us on a mind trip, describing two general directions our minds tend to take on a daily basis. He suggests that all our thoughts go in one of those directions depending on whether our thoughts are flesh-driven or Holy Spirit-driven.

If we analyze our thoughts, we can tell from whence it came by answering one question: what would be the likely result if I were to act on that thought?

Flesh-driven thoughts give rise to negative or selfish results, while spirit-driven thoughts produce positive or unselfish results. Generally speaking, spirit-driven thoughts are directed outward and flesh-driven thoughts are directed inward. The difference lies in whether one’s goal is to satisfy the needs of others or to satisfy the needs of self.

Paul teaches us that we all have two choices in terms of the thinking process: we can either be carnally minded, which emphasizes self, or we can choose to be spiritually minded, which focuses on the needs of others. We can see from Paul’s choice of words and the tone of the text that we are in control of the thinking process.

We choose the direction of our thoughts, and Paul is very clear as to what choice we should make. It is also quite clear in the text that we are not equipped to make those choices unilaterally.

In verse 9 he assures us that it is the Holy Spirit of God living in us that gives us the power to resist the temptation to be in the flesh or self-centered.

The Holy Spirit is our enabler. Without his presence within us we cannot consistently make the right choices in life. God does not expect perfection in our thinking, but he does expect consistency.

It is our consistent spirit-led thinking that pleases him; that gives us life; that gives us peace; and, that removes us from those he sees as his enemies.

Our ultimate goal should be to please God in all we do. We find this clearly stated by Paul in 1Corinthians 10:31. Since what we do is primarily a function of what we think, it seems right to return to our original question; what’s on your mind?

In Romans 8:5 Paul encourages us to be mentally disposed to the things of the spirit.

Since there is such a close bond between our thoughts and our behavior, we should constantly guard our thoughts, being careful about what we allow inside.

Whenever we find ourselves straying into forbidden ground, we should think on “the things of the spirit.” They will put us back on the right track — spiritual-mindedness.

Don’t be confused by the apparent non-application of our subject to the narrative. It does apply! Here’s how.

This column represents the last of my columns for The Wave, my swan song and my last biblical advice to all of you through this medium.

I have enjoyed our relationship through the years and thank you very much for taking the time each month to read the column. God bless you all; have a prosperous life — each of you.

Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church, Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in South Los Angeles.

Pastor’s Corner is a religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture in life today. The column appears monthly in The Wave and on its website,