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.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:5-9)

God’s Love Is Unconditional Only To Those Who Are Regenerated And Are In Christ

Apprising Ministries reminds you that former Emerging Church rock star pastor Rob Bell became well known for his Love Wins mythology; but what people today often forget is that the Lord tells us — those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:8).

And in spite of those who are involved with Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM), which they sometimes refer to as Spiritual Formation, this is because God does not already dwell within all men as so many believe:

You, however, [who’ve been born again] are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  (Romans 8:9)

This is also what God the Holy Spirit was talking about when He said through Paul that — flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:50). You should know that the idea of being “born again” isn’t simply a catch phrase, nor is it something which only has to do with simply a new mental attitude of following God “in the way of Jesus.”

No, it is to be literally regenerated—i.e. recreated—inside — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Can you see the “if” there in Romans 8:9 and 2 Corinthians 5:17; it’s a critically important condition, because if you’re not in Christ, then you are still on the broad path, which Jesus Himself—the Creator—says ends up in in a literal place He called Hell.

Here you need to come to grips with the fact that this is true no matter how many good things you are doing on a human level, and which may even look wonderful to fellow human beings. And so now we come full circle in this short devotional teaching to — Those who are in the flesh, i.e. not born again; and therefore not in Christ, cannot please God (Romans 8:8).

In his classic commentary on the Book of Romans Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse says of our text:

This passage, as practically all of the commentators hold, is part of a contrast between the unregenerate and the regenerate. Therefore…[it] means that the mind of the unsaved man is set on the flesh and the things of the flesh.

As a result the unsaved man is in a state of hostility to God… The mind of the unsaved man will not submit to the law of God, and, much more important, it cannot be thus subject. ((Donald Grey Barnohouse, Romans, 4 volumes [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999], 3:37.))

It’s critical here that you understand what I have shown you from God’s inerrant and infallible Word—the Bible. For this is why we must continue sharing the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ Name as gently, patiently and lovingly as we can; to anyone who will listen; for you see, we as human beings can’t know for sure who is in Christ.

But not to worry; even if the person you speak with already happens to have been born again, and is now in Christ, they will certainly rejoice once again to hear the glorious message with which God saved them by His grace alone; through faith alone, in Christ’s finished work alone on the cross.

Further reading