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Archive for June, 2012

The Carnal Christian

June 30th, 2012

…the power of the Lord Jesus is present…

1 Corinthians 5:4

The Lord cannot and will not compromise His character with the principle of sin. The only thing He can do with sin is to condemn it, and this is what the cross was – the condemnation of sin and having the judgment of God for our sins fall on Christ.

Christ can make no compromise with sin in our lives or in the church, either. We can confuse the patience and understanding nature of God with the thought that He does not take sin seriously, but this would be a mistake on our part. His word says, for example, “Do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it cost him all the wealth of his house” (Prov. 6:30). This shows the understanding nature of God, that adverse circumstances and even unholy influences can mitigate our guilt in part, yet not in whole – we must still see sin as sin, wrong as wrong, and take all of the appropriate actions to make things right.

We should be careful with any thought that is quick to excuse our wrong behavior. We should be quick to agree with the Spirit and let Him do His entire work of conviction of sin, so that we may be purified and cleansed by Him. “If we say we have not sinned, we make [God] out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives” (1 John 1:10).

This state of being a Christian yet being in a condition of moral compromise – having sinned but being unwilling to confess the sin, or continuing in unholy behavior and being unwilling to cease – this is what Paul called “carnal” in 1 Corinthians 3. Miles Sanford wrote about the Carnal Christian:

As far as his conscience is concerned, the carnal Christian is much the same as the unbeliever. [By force of] self-effort to produce some good works for God, and the blind rationalization of comparing himself with supposedly weaker Christians, he is able sporadically to maintain some semblance of a good conscience. This very feeling, false as it is, tends to exaggerate his dependence on himself. “But ‘he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’ For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends” (2 Cor. 10:17,18). When the carnal believer’s conscience is bad, he seeks to hide from God, and even attempts to place the blame for his sinfulness on others. Yet, the Holy Spirit often works through the conscience to turn such a person to the Lord Jesus for cleansing from unrighteousness and for spiritual growth.

One of the things that God does to bring us back to Him seems harsh – to remove us from Christian fellowship – but it is done in love, to help us to see the consequences of our unholy thoughts and actions. Paul put Hymenaeus and Alexander out of the church so that they may “be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:20). Blasphemy is to speak something untrue about God, and their offense appears to have been a significant moral compromise that, in effect, lessened the character and holiness of God. To say of unholy behavior, “This is permissible for a Christian to do,” is the same as saying “God is unholy,” which is certainly blasphemy.

This was not the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is treating His inner witness to the truth of the gospel with disrespect and rejection. It was, rather, the act of a Carnal Christian, to find excuses for his wrong behavior, to not realize the seriousness of sin, to reject the calling of God that we are to be a holy people because He is holy.

Have you been excluded from Christian fellowship? Have some shut the door to you? Was it because of sin in your life? Christians can, of course, show disrespect to God by rejecting other believers for various reasons, so I would not say that rejection from other Christians is always the discipline of God. Yet I do believe that He often uses this to teach us – just as He did in Scripture. He points out our sin and leads us to full repentance that we may be cleansed and restored to Him and to His people.

The Deeper Christian Life

When you pass through the waters…

June 29th, 2012

This is what the Lord says… Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…

Isaiah 43:1-3

In the last few days and hours, crises have seemed to rock many of our friends around the world: the charges against a pastor of a large church in Singapore, the approval of Obamacare in the USA, the fatal shooting at Fort Bragg, the wildfires in Colorado, not to mention the ongoing financial crisis around the Euro, and many other personal crises. (Against all of this the loss of Germany to Italy last night, seems insignificant.)

When crises seem to multiply, when we feel overwhelmed and concerned, these are the times above all other times we need to obey the biblical mandate to be still and know that He is God. Strength to face the challenges and to fight the battles of life never comes to us when we are overwhelmed and distracted – it comes when we focus on God and rely on Him.

For most of us, I believe, to withdraw daily from the conflict to recharge our spiritual batteries, to step away from overbearing responsibilities, to meet God in His word and on our knees in prayer, is the best preparation to face the challenges of life. There can be times in true crises when we barely have the time to step away at all, but then especially I believe we should still do it. The simple fact of human nature is that we are weak and prone to panic, rash decisions, discouragements, fears, and worries. We need His strength and His perspective.

For this very reason the Bible is filled with encouragements. I know some people who choose cute little sayings instead of the meat of God’s word, but I believe that is an inferior choice. We need the strength of God’s inspired word, and not the appearance of strength from someone’s cleverness.

God says to us His people that He knows the purpose for which He has chosen us, and even before He had called us He knew every trial we would face. He will face them with us, and promises to strengthen us, encourage us, and to guide us. “Fear not, I have redeemed you … when you pass through the waters, I will be with you…” This is the word we are to embrace in faith, and place all of our worries onto His strong shoulders: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

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