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The Mind’s Desires

“With whom we all also once conducted ourselves in the cravings of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and the mind, and we were children by nature of wrath even as the rest.”

(Ephesians 2:3)

Sometimes there are little nuances in a text that can almost go unnoticed as we read through them and this verse contains one such little gem. When speaking of being children of wrath and being under the power of sin, Paul speaks of us pursuing the “desires of the flesh and of the mind.” As evangelical Christians, most of us are used to hearing the language of the lusts or desires of the flesh as a reference to sin, but in this case, Paul includes the lusts or desires of the mind as well.

By those who reject the doctrines of grace, it is suggested that the will of fallen man is just barely free enough to choose Christ. This is the kind of synergistic teaching that is found in Semi-Pelagianism, Arminianism, Wesleyanism, and modern Free-Will theologies. And with but one phrase, Paul refutes each and every one of these schools of thought. No, it is not just our flesh that is depraved, but our minds and wills too. We choose wrath and nothing but wrath until there is a gracious regenerative work done upon us by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, as John writes, Jesus did not entrust himself to men in the early days of his ministry because he knew what was in man (John 2:24-25).

You may remember that we discussed how in regeneration, the eyes of our hearts are enlightened (see discussion of Ephesians 1:18). What is important for the Christian is not to be able to discern our own will or what is right according to our own minds (that is the sin of Adam and Eve!) but what is important is that we learn to discern what is the will of God…for it is God’s will that is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). 

Without regeneration, our minds will only desire what our flesh desires; one of the changes that takes place in regeneration is that our minds desire what God desires. Indeed, that is often a struggle and we will not ever achieve that perfectly until we are in glory, but it is to be our desire. At the same time, this means that a mark of a believer — and most certainly a mark of a mature believer — is that we love the things of God and desire to think as God would have us think about matters, not as the world would do so. A worldly mind seeks pragmatic ends that achieve the desires of the person; a godly mind desires the glory of God even at great personal cost or sacrifice. How great a contrast is found between these two mind-sets. How great is the chasm between the believer and the unbeliever. And, how sad it is when churches look to the earthly wisdom of those who do not strive to discern the will of God.

Children of Wrath in the Church

“With whom we all also once conducted ourselves in the cravings of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and the mind, and we were children by nature of wrath even as the rest.”

(Ephesians 2:3)

Paul has made his point already, yet continues to drive home its significance. How do you live? Do you live like a Christian or do you live like the world? Indeed, Paul makes it very clear that we all were “of the flesh” at one time, but now that you claim Christ is your Lord and Savior, do you still live according to the flesh? Are you known as one who makes decisions based on the Truth of the Bible? Are you one who is known for your love for the brethren, or are you spiteful and vindictive when you don’t get your way? Are you one who is known by the fruit of the spirit or are you one who is known by the works of the flesh? Does being a Christian mean more to your life than informing what you do on Sunday mornings?

We could go on, but the point is made. A Christian is one who is a Christian in both word and deed, not one who just talks the talk. A Christian is one who is known by their love for other believers and who seeks to be obedient to the Law of Christ in all things. And though we will not get things perfect all of the time — frankly, we will fall short all of the time — perfection is that which we seek. We won’t enjoy it until glory, but we should hunger for it here. Too many people go to church their whole life and yet never change in these basic areas. How sad it is when the church contents itself with complacency.

Paul insists that we are to live differently than we once lived when we were children of the flesh. And before our regeneration and conversion, we all were such. May we crave holiness and not the things of this world. Can you only imagine what our cultural witness would look like if we really lived like Jesus said we ought to live?