- Thursday, May 26, 2005
Today we are experiencing a crisis of carnality in Christianity. Carnality is that spiritual state where a born-again Christian knowingly and persistently lives to please and serve self rather than to please and serve Christ. I believe much of what is wrong in our lives is attributable to our carnality. I'm not saying every time Christians have a problem it is because they are living in a carnal way, but I am suggesting that too many of us are experiencing failure because we are carnal, only halfway living out the Gospel.
A Genuine Christian
First, it is important to recognize that a carnal Christian is a genuine Christian. It is entirely possible to be on your way to heaven but to be no good to God on earth. Carnal Christians have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, but they refuse to submit to Christ as their Lord. When I speak of carnality, I'm not talking about non-Christians. Also, we sometimes see people who say they have been born again but are not living the Christian life. We may be tempted to say that person was never a Christian to begin with. But it's entirely possible that person is a Christian who has become lukewarm and failed in their faith. Paul says: "I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:1). Notice that Paul addresses the Corinthians as "brethren," which means they are part of the family of God. If we look back at 1 Corinthians 1:2, Paul says he is writing "to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus." These are saints and members of the church; they are set apart for God's purposes. Yet Paul proceeds to teach these Christians about their wrongs and to tell them they are, carnal.
There are many biblical illustrations of individuals who committed themselves to God, yet experienced abysmal failures. For example, King Solomon was a wise and committed king. But 1 Kings 11 says Solomon loved many women. He entered into a life of carnality reflected in the book of Ecclesiastes, which he wrote to convey the meaninglessness of life outside of a relationship with God.
My point is that getting saved 10 years ago doesn't fix you spiritually today. God gave you new life but you must live the new life He gave you for that life to be meaningful. Unless we live this Christian life day by day in a dynamic walk with God, it is possible for us to be spiritual failures.
A Stagnant Christian
The carnal Christian is a stagnant Christian. First Corinthians 3:2-3 says: "I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly." One notable feature of carnal Christians is that even though they have been saved for a period of time, they've had little to no spiritual development during that time. They still commit the same old sins; they still refuse to think biblically; they still refuse to relate to God as God demands, but they are in the same old seat every Sunday morning. Paul says these carnal Christians subsist on milk; they haven't graduated to solid food yet. Carnal Christians are spiritual babies because they don't have the capacity to feed themselves spiritual food; they have to be spoon-fed by someone else. Hebrews 5:11 says they "have become dull of hearing," with the word "dull" translated as hard-headed, like a mule. They are stubborn, refusing to learn and apply the truth of God.
When we visited Lagos, Nigeria, we were traveling by cab through the countryside on the first night of our visit. Suddenly the car stalled. It wouldn't budge. So we got out and pushed it. We soon found out the cause of the problem-the gas tank was completely empty. We got some gas, poured it in the tank, and the motor began to rev up because the engine had been fed. You see, there had to be fuel to keep going. Many of us want to give God everything-except what He really wants from us. We offer a little of this and a little of that; then we wonder why our spiritual engines don't roar. A committed life puts time and effort into spiritual development and maturity. While that car was stalled, we were not able to progress at all. So it is with a carnal Christian-he's stuck in a rut, not making any progress toward the goal.
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