Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Carnal-minded Christian, the Spirit & scripture

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 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, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?

Review of what we have studied over the past couple of days
In this amazing passage of 1 Corinthians 2:1-3:4, Paul is writing about how three types of people treat the Holy Spirit and the scriptures.  In summary form we have observed two of those types of men thus far:

1. The spiritual Christian digests the Spirit's words. 1 Cor 2:1-7, 10-13, 15-16
2. The natural non-Christian dismisses the Spirit's words. 1 Cor 2:8-9, 14

The "spiritual" Christian is called "spiritual" due to the fact that when we look at him as a soul, with a spirit, clothed in a body, this individual has his body and soul in subjection to whatever the Holy Spirit in his human spirit is saying.  Thus he is able to compare spiritual things with spiritual and to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying to him from the Word of God.  He has taken his soul, made up of his mind, emotions, will and conscience and along with his physical bodily drives placed them in order with the scripture and whatever the Holy Spirit is saying in his human spirit. 

The "natural" non-Christian or unbeliever is termed "natural" due to the fact that though he too has a human spirit, it is dead.  He only operates out of his soul, darkened and dominated by sin and the natural drives of his physical body.  The natural unbelieving man may very well be creative, intelligent, religious and morally upstanding in the community and still be lost.  Without the Holy Spirit setting up home in the human spirit, all that an unbeliever can go on is his reason, emotions, will and conscience.  He is natural, soulish and sinful in his bent and orientation.  The unbelieving person has no time for the things of God, since to him, this world is all that matters. 

In today's blog we are going to consider a Christian who for whatever reason has decided to operate out of his soul more than his spirit.  This Christian still has the indwelling Holy Spirit, however the Spirit of God has been "quenched" (1Thess 5:19) or "grieved" (Ephesians 4:300 due to the Christian holding onto unconfessed sin. (Ephesians 4:31) 

The Carnal-minded Christian dilutes the Spirit's words 1Cor 3:1-4
So what is a "carnal Christian"?  We must be careful not to view carnality as reason for condoning or giving excuse for compromise in a Christian life. If we describe a hypocrite as somebody who is acting opposite of what they are, then a carnally-minded Christian is a hypocrite in reverse, acting like something that they are not.  Carnally minded Christians still have the indwelling Spirit, however in a certain area they have compromised, given ground to the enemy and to the world. (1 John 2:15-17) Paul told these Corinthians that he could not speak to them as "spiritual", that is, as to Christians who are in fellowship with the Spirit in their human spirit.  To be "carnal" through and through is what an unbeliever is - that is - fleshly, operating completely out of the physical body and soulish realm.  What Paul is saying here is that these people are "like" or as "mere men".  They are not lost, however they are not acting saved either. 

Illustration: Three bags of potatoes
Lets say I gave you three bags of potatoes.  The first bag is full of good, robust potatoes. The second bag is full of rotton, moldy potatoes.  The third bag is full of good, robust potatoes, with one potato being mold and rotten? What would you do?  I'm sure the first bag would be no issue, the second bag would be tossed out, since it cannot be used.  But what about the third? Would you not say that those good potatoes are still useful and that the bad one needs to be tossed?  Its not that the third bag is lost, rather it just needs to be rid of the bad potato.  So it is with the carnally minded Christian.  He or she needs to deal with the compromising area so that functionally and experientially they can live like they truly are - a forgiven and saved individual who is called to grow progressively in sanctification. 

Illustration: Who owns the fence?
The story is told of a large white fence and several people grouped together at the one end.  They were debating as to who owned the fence.  One proud individual said with a loud voice: "well I know one thing, I'm going to sit on the fence.  I'm pretty certain that Jesus owns this fence, since its is beautiful, white, high and long.  Soon Jesus came along and said to the crowd: "come and follow me, for narrow is the gate, and few will find it.  However broad is the gate and wide is the road that leads to destruction."  It wasn't too long that the devil came along up behind the crowd and slithered in and among the people until he got right up next to the proud man sitting on the fence.  As Jesus began to walk off, some of the people followed him, leaving the fence behind.  The remaining ones looked on the other side of the fence and saw a beautiful wide road running parallel to the fence, and so they decided to go on that road alone.  However the proud man remained, deciding that he was satisifed in sitting on the fence.  As the Devil got closer to him, he whispered in the man's ear and said: don't you know, not only do I own the road running along the fence, I own the fence as well!  Needless to say, the man leaped off the fence and ran after His Lord, repenting and saying to Jesus: I forsake the fence and I follow you.  

Carnally-minded Christians cannot truly remain in their mindset
Paul's whole point in addressing those in the Corinthian church who tried to "sit on the fence" was not to create an excuse for their actions, but rather to call them to repentance.  He warned them that with such compromise, failure to grow significantly in their Christian life (3:1-3); arguing over who is the better teacher (3:4) and squabble over minor issues had to stop.  They were positionally still saved, however in experience and function they were in their soul thinking, feeling or choosing to act like lost people.  Paul warned them that if they did not change their course, God the Father would excercise Fatherly discipline and turn them back to Himself in repentance. (1 Cor 3:19-21; 2 Timothy 2:24-26)

Closing Thoughts
As we close out today's blog, let us understand that in this world, we only have two types of people: lost and saved.  Among those who are truly born-again are those Christians who are "spiritual", that is, they are subjecting their soul and body in line with what the Holy Spirit is saying in their human spirit.  Practically speaking, they are getting in order with God's words and digesting everything they hear and living it out.  The carnally minded Christian has compromised in a certain area or areas.  They are those who though still saved and still having the indwelling Spirit of God, are those who have grieved Him. We need to gently and humbly approach such fellow-saints and urge them to repent and forsake the pattern of sin they have become involved, praying of course that we won't fall into such disrepair. (Galatians 6:1-2) Natural-minded unbelievers are those who are souls with dead human spirits clothed in a body.  These need to be evangelized, urged upon to believe and repent and be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:15-21)

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