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The Spiritual Man

Spiritual Man

The Spiritual Man

Romans 8:5-11

by Scott Thomas, Acts 29 President

Spiritual vitality was the highest rated quality of a church planter as polled by Acts 29 pastors. What are the characteristics of a spiritually vital pastor? The following responses came through Twitter  and Facebook.

  1. No matter how busy, portrays God's grace and accessibility
  2. A rich prayer life
  3. Not afraid to be prophetic and take unpopular stands.
  4. Happy in God, loves wife, constant learner, overall discipline, humble, sleeps (evidence of peace/humility)
  5. He must love his wife.
  6. Humble, Reverent to God, Continues to grow, loves his family, and preaches from the Bible and not his opinions.
  7. Suffers well and, in adversity, points to Jesus.
  8. #1 - Humility, in my humble opinion
  9. Knowledge of and passion for global mission
  10. Meekness
  11. One who knows God's Word, provides Biblical nourishment & Biblical discipleship. Without God's Word there is no nourishment.
  12. "Chief Repenter"
  13. Like Spurgeon, "his blood runs bibline" [Spurgeon once said of John Bunyan, "Prick that man anywhere and his blood runs bibline."]
  14. One who turns from all of his own works and turns to the work of Jesus
  15. Joy in Jesus in adversity
  16. When He is surrounding himself with non-Christians & some Timothy’s to teach.

In 1681, one of the foremost Puritan theologians John Owen had a book published entitled, Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded. In 1989 it was first published in London England in an easier to read and shortened version by the title Thinking Spiritually. This is based on Owens’ work.

Church planters deal with the same problems and temptations as other people—they just do so in front of a community of people while they are struggling for identity, significance and ministry survival. A planter with a spiritually vital life has chosen a life of peace over a life of hostility and death. The two alternatives seem to suggest a simple choice. But the decision must be made every day.

“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God…” (Rom. 8:6-7a.).

Two States of Mankind: Carnally Minded or Spiritually Minded

These two opposing forces are seen as the only two states of mankind. John Owen said, “When a man…is not spiritually minded, he is carnally minded” and they have contrasting results. Carnal-minded people can expect death and hostility (8:6-7) while spiritually minded people experience life and peace (8:6).

The Greek word for “mind” in verse 5 and its noun form in verse 6 means the action of the mind, will, and affections; to give attention, regard, pursuit. One translation (ESV) accurately 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” (emphasis mine). 

We set our minds upon the spiritual or upon the flesh and we can expect its corresponding result: life or death. The Geneva Bible published in 1599 (the Bible of the Puritans) says, “For they that are after the flesh savor the things of the flesh: but they that are after the things of the spirit, [savor] the things of the spirit.” Where is our appetite satisfied? In what are you savoring? The spiritually vital pastor savors the things of the spirit.

Savoring things of the Spirit

When we savor the things of the Spirit, we are continually postured toward and repentantly focused on the things of God. We desire God as our only source of absolute joy and satisfaction. He is what we savor above all else. We are not able to maintain a mind set on spiritual things without the Helper, the Holy Spirit dwelling within us (Rom. 8:9-11).

Four Distinguishing Marks of the Spiritually Minded Person

1. I have made a noticeable commitment to progressively think more spiritually.

       Repentance to think spiritually has fruits of repentance:

  • Balance in life
  • Obedience
  • Tenacious for a personal relationship with Jesus
  • Teachable spirit
  • Servant leader
  • Graciousness
  • Humility
  • Dependently prayerful
  • Embodies the fruit of the Spirit
  • Godly wisdom
  • Remains in community
  • Resting in Christ
  • Loving others

2. I maintain a gospel frame of reference.

When circumstances, trials, stress, health problems, financial issues, even successes, we frame them in the context of the gospel: admitting sin, quickly repenting and reconciling.

3. I have a contented satisfaction in things of the Spirit over anything else.

Owen said in his preface to the book, “Men walk and talk as if the world were all, when comparatively it is nothing.” Most Christians are oblivious to the joys that come from a life of abandonment of things of the flesh in exchange for a spiritual pursuit. Romans 8:8, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

4. I display a life of peace.

As we submit to the Spirit and set our affections, our savoring, our longing and our joy on things of the Spirit, we are promised peace, rest, quietness in our souls in spite of trouble, pain and turmoil.

John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”


Owen said, “To be spiritually minded is the great distinguishing character of true believers.” A pastor must be tenacious about a pursuit of holiness, a humble heart and a teachable spirit. To experience life and peace, he is utterly compelled to set aside extended time to repent of sin, read Scripture and worship earnestly to restore his spiritual-mindedness.