Paul is here comparing two ways of life. One way is inspired and empowered by God’s Holy Spirit. The other by man’s will. He is NOT saying physical things are bad. As a Jew, he knows God’s created world was and is essentially good. These ways of life are, however, incompatible and lead to different ends. If we set our minds on things motivated by our will, we will die. This is because we are putting our wills, our desires, our choices, our. . our. . our. . ahead of God’s will for us. This does not mean we should deny ourselves physical satisfactions but that there must be more to us than our desires.
Paul tells us that when we dwell in the Spirit, we have life and peace. Dwelling in the Spirit means that our lives are shaped and animated by God’s Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit controls our lives and operates through us. We will be obedient to God and his will and all our efforts will be directed toward the task of our Father’s purposes. We will be God’s hands and feet in this world, ministering to all in need and those who dwell on the margins of life.
On the other hand, being animated by our will necessarily involves us in the hopeless tension between pride and failure. We join the rat-race of getting and keeping – never sharing our spirit with the world outside our door. In Charles Dickens words, our spirits will never walk outside the narrow confines of our ‘money-changing hole.’ This way of life can never give us the satisfaction and joy and peace we really desire.
The choice is ours.
— George Burnett