Thursday, February 13, 2014

Signs of spiritual malnutrition

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9

TO CHEW ON: "For you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?" 1 Corinthians 3:3

A few days ago we talked about the way Paul divides people into three categories: natural (1 Corinthians 2:14), spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:15-16) and carnal (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). Today we're going to take a closer look at what it means to be carnal.  A footnote in my Bible defines it:

"The carnal man, regenerate but living much like an unregenerate is a believer with childish ways, as seen in a jealous and sectarian spirit. An immature Christian lives more for human opinion than for Christ" - Donald Pickerill,  New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1582 (emphasis added).
Paul points out attitudes of envy, quarreling and division in his readers as signs of their carnal bent. Other scriptures that talk about the carnal / earthly / natural / governed-by-human-nature outlook describe it as:
  • Living without regard to its mortality (Psalm 49:11).
  • Anti-God, refusing to be governed by His laws and principles (Romans 8:7).
  • Living dependent on human intelligence and insight alone (Ephesians 4:17). 
  •  Alienated from God because if its own wicked deeds and actions (Colossians 1:21).
  • Proud of its humanly imagined belief systems (Colossians 2:18).
  • In a tug-of-war with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:17).
  • Controlled by lust (Ephesians 2:3).
  • Controlled by physical appetites (Philippians 3:19).
  • Opportunistic, looking at godliness as a means of making money (1 Timothy 6:5).

Some of the above are references to out-and-out non-believers. But the disturbing thing is that in some cases the people Paul is talking to are supposedly Christ-followers—part of the church family. How did they get to such a state?

Malnutrition (1 Corinthians 3:2). They are stunted babies, not growing because they won't eat anything but the mildest of spiritual milk. They can't handle hearty spiritual food.

And let's not let ourselves get smug in thinking that we are immune from carnality in all its manifestations. A sidebar article in my Bible sums it up so well:

"The demanding truth of this passage is that no amount of supposed spiritual insight or experience reflects genuine spiritual growth if it is separated from our basic growth in the knowledge of God's Word in the Bible. Without this rootedness in the Word, we may be deluded about our growth. Such "rootedness" is in truth and love, not merely in learning knowledge or accomplished study. In order to experience true spiritual growth, we must spend time in the Word and separate ourselves from the hindrances of lovelessness and competitiveness and strife" - Jack W. Hayford, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1583.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to read and apply Your truths to my life. Help me to deal with sin where You by Your Word and Spirit convict me. I want my "spiritual man" to win over my "carnal man" tendencies. Amen.

MORE: A difference of degree
"The difference between the spiritual Christian and the carnal Christian is one of degree. Becoming spiritual (= mature) is a gradual process in which the enthroned Christ subdues more and more of our remaining corruption, and we become more and more in tune with his Spirit. The fruit of the Holy Spirit pervades more and more of our lives, and the old sins lose more and more of their hold. This comes to pass as we trust Christ more and more fully as the all-satisfying friend and guide of our daily lives" - from  "Rethinking the Carnal Christian"  By John Piper. 

© Desiring God. 


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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