Let's define terms before bite into a new section of Romans 8.
Paul has been repeatedly using the terms flesh and mind together as well as body and spirit.
To help understand I'm going to add actions and thoughts, physical and heart
Flesh = body = actions = physical
Mind = spirit = thoughts = heart
Now read the passage and I'll meet you below...
8:5 "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, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."
When we first come to Jesus or even begin to recognize we need Him the process starts in our thoughts/mind/spirit. Our mind usually begins to seek Him out because our actions/flesh/body are out of control in some way.
The section we read today describes a process, not an event, and it begins in the mind.
Can we talk about our wild kittens again for a bit to illustrate? Those kittens were cold and hungry. Both of those are physical/flesh/body issues. We fed them and put blankets out for them. As a result their thinking began to change. Complete fear changed to less fear but still lots. They ran away still when we came near but not as far. Eventually they would eat with us very close but you couldn't touch them.
Why did they run which is a physical/flesh/body/action? They ran because in their minds they were still not convinced.
The mind determines action.
Now fast forward. Three kittens live in our house now. One (Lucy) has for months. The other 2 (Tiffany and Tina) for about a month.
All three will let us hold them to some degree. All three will purr. But of the three which one(s) do you think aren't scared at all? Lucy for sure. She has lived in our love longer and it has had a deeper effect on her mind which affects her actions. Tiffany and Tina came in at the same time, siblings raised by the same mother in the same situation yet they are very different. Tiffany started purring the 2nd day we had her. Tina took almost 2 weeks to purr. She is much more timid by nature. She has required more love since there is more fear to conquer...
What is also interesting is that loud noises or a sudden movement will still cause Tiffany and Tina to run and hide but Lucy takes it all in stride.
Love conquering fear is a process. Changing our minds about God, His character, and our relationship to Him is a process. The process begins in our mind and filters to our body. Jesus said "Out of the abundance of our heart our mouth speaks". Our words and actions are a byproduct of our minds and hearts.
This is why religion is often ineffective. Too often religion works on the actions/flesh/body/physical level. It tries to work on behaviour without first working on the heart/mind/spirit/thoughts.
Those kittens did not need behaviour modification. They did not hiss and scratch and bite us because they were mean. They did it because they were afraid. They needed a change of heart and mind about us. We had to demonstrate our love to earn their affection.
Do you see it?
While we were still hissing and scratching and biting God demonstrated His love by sending His Son. This demonstration of radical love gave us pause to rethink (mind/heart/thoughts/spirit) our picture of God. The more we consider Him the more our thinking changes which leads to changes in behaviour.
If you find yourself battling wrong behaviours what you need is to spend more time considering Him. Once He has your thoughts the miraculous process of going from wild to wildly in love has begun and the best part is you are entirely His through the whole process.
Those kittens are learning to trust our love more every day but they were as much ours and safe on the first day as they will ever be.