Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Moving On

1 Corinthians 2:13-3:4
These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?

This passage lists the three different types of people in the world. Before you continue, go back and read those verses again, a little slower this time. Try to find the three people groups for yourself.

Did you find them? They are the natural man, the spiritual man, and the carnal man.

Natural men are the masses of unsaved people in the world’s system. According to this passage, they can’t receive or understand spiritual concepts. In their minds, our doctrines are simply crazy. These people are dead spiritually and controlled by their soul and by their flesh. Ephesians 4:17-19 gives a vivid description of the natural race - “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles [or unbelievers] walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

The answer for a natural man is found in John 3:7, “You must be born again.” The natural man can’t change his own nature. Only the power of God and faith in Jesus Christ can do that. Once they’re born again, they enter into the spiritual life - they become spiritual people. A spiritual person may not know everything, but they never stop learning and pursuing spiritual things. You see, that’s the main characteristic of spiritual people - they desire and pursue spiritual things. Colossians 3:1-2 describes their attitude towards everything in life, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Spiritual people don’t waste all their time doing natural things. The more they learn from God’s Word and the more they do what they know, the deeper into their spiritual walk they go.

Sadly, many believers aren’t spiritual people, but carnal. The carnal man is someone who has been born again (the people Paul called carnal in our first passage were obviously believers), but then spends all his time in the natural. Even though their spirit has been recreated, they’re still ruled by their soul - just like the natural man. If you remember, Jesus used pigs to illustrate the carnal man.

Read this next passage carefully. Romans 8:5-7 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. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is an enemy against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” When your mind is thinking carnal thoughts all the time, God calls it His enemy! Don’t be confused, carnal thoughts aren’t necessarily sinful or wicked. A carnal thought is any thought that doesn’t start with God and what He wants. According to the last phrase of verse 7, we’ll never be able to obey God when we have a carnal mind. But, when you set your mind and your desires on spiritual things (i.e. God’s Word, God’s people, and your eternity with Jesus), it brings life and peace!

There are two reasons for why a believer could be stuck in carnality.

First, they may never have been taught. There are myriads of churches in this nation that don’t spend any time in spiritual things. They may teach good life management skills (like how to manage your finances, how to treat your family, how to behave at work, and how to have a good attitude), but those are all natural things. Every believer needs to spend time in God’s Word to move into spirituality. If a believer is truly hungry for spiritual things, they’ll soon find out that there’s more to their Christian walk than what they’re being taught.

The other reason believers get caught in carnality is a little more serious. They were spiritual, they were learning, they were growing up in the Word of God - until they learned something that they didn’t want to do. As soon as they made the choice to ignore what they were taught, they began to slip into carnality. That little bit of disobedience is like yeast in a lump of dough (Galatians 5:9) - it spreads throughout the whole batch. Soon they’ll find themselves doing things they thought they’d never do! Why? Because when they stopped progressing spiritually, they began regressing carnally.

Carnality is a dangerous place for a believer to be. It’s a path that takes you backwards, not forwards. If you want to be a spiritual person, if you want to be used by God in a spiritual way, if you want the eternal rewards that are only given for spiritual things - you’ve got to grow beyond the natural realm. Listen to me, we will be rewarded for what we do in this life! What do you think will bring rewards, natural things or spiritual things? You only have around eighty years on earth to determine your eternal rewards - why would you waste all of your time doing natural things that won’t even matter tomorrow? It’s time to be spiritual people!

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