Monday, July 09, 2007

Carnal Christianity? Just Give Me Jesus!!

In today’s perverse society, Christians are softening their stance more and more, accepting a little compromise here and some more complacency there until the fences we once held as Biblical standards have washed away with the flood of carnality that is sweeping through our culture. The term carnal Christian seems to describe more and more of today’s ‘church’.
I was raised in a strict Christian home. We were not allowed to go to movie theaters, to go to dances, to participate in ‘worldly’ forms of entertainment just in case we might cause someone else to stumble and fall in sin. Sunday was a day of rest and relaxation except for church. We were faithful Sunday morning and evening. Some may have thought we had no fun at all. Yet we had the greatest times. We enjoyed the pure clean kind of fun that today’s culture has forgotten about. But today, if the Christian wants to have fun, they have learned to adopt the ways of the world around them, dabbling in everything our grandparents and their pastors would have cringed at. Today, church goers think nothing of getting body piercings, tattoos, and even brands. They go to ‘events’ that make the hippie culture of the ‘70’s look tame by comparison. All across the country, it is time for the summer Christian ‘rock-fests’ where our youth can spend the weekend listening to ear blasting rhythms, dress in garb that leaves nothing to the imagination, and proudly come home with the latest CD’s. You can keep it all! Just give me Jesus!
Whatever happened to our altars? Where did the weeping go? What has happened to repentance? Does anybody blush anymore? Why do we accept carnality as the norm? Does anyone know what sin is? What are we, who know better, doing about it all? Just give me more of Jesus!
The Church
The church has changed drastically in the last 20 years. It has become a carnal, market driven mega mall. Its pastors have been trained by the culture around them as they have learned to tap into the lucrative business principles that taught them ‘bigger is better.’ Too many have sacrificed quality for quantity. Success is having the biggest church in town with a name everyone knows. Somehow I think if the apostles were to stop in for a Sunday service, they would not recognize it as a ‘Christian’ church. We have strayed from the model Paul worked so hard to establish. He would definitely label it ‘carnal.’ What is a carnal church? To be carnal means to be like the world, leaning in its direction, spiritually immature, readily accepting the values of the culture rather than the standards of God. Galatians 5 give us a list of the ‘works of the flesh’...carnality…“adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21) and this list sounds like the normal life of a ‘normal’ Christian today. Today, sad to say, too many teens and 20’s find themselves living together before marriage, thinking it is alright, acceptable to the church and therefore to God. Yet the Word of God clearly teaches otherwise. They excuse themselves by saying, “I’m only human…” as if it would change God’s mind.
I have seen and heard ‘Christians’ today whose temper tantrums, envy, abuse and jealousy have destroyed homes and marriages, but yet they fail to deal with it Biblically in repentance and humility. It’s always someone else’s fault. What do we need? We need Jesus!
Spiritual Immaturity
Perhaps I am stepping on some toes here, and you are feeling the pain. Perhaps your problem is your contentment to remain immature. The Corinthian church had the same problem. "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). They were spiritually immature and content to stay that way. These were Christian ‘brethren’ he was writing to. When we notice that our children are failing to grow, failing to mature, we become alarmed, take them to the doctor or a specialist to see what is the problem. Spiritually, we sometimes do not tend to recognize our own spiritual immaturity. There are symptoms we must recognize. Spiritual immaturity demands its own way, is self-absorbed, comfort seeking, and often demanding a diet that is unhealthy. When our churches become market driven, and seeker sensitive, rather than God centered and divinely motivated, they become breeding grounds for spiritual immaturity. If you find yourself immature and in need of growth, begin feeding on the meat of the Word of God. Let the Spirit teach you where to change. He will take you into the intimate place of prayer where He will show you in a mirror how you look to God. Though the price may be high, we must face reality. Just give me Jesus!
The Next Step
If we refuse to submit our lives to the authority of God, turn a deaf ear to the Holy Spirit, refuse correction, remain unteachable, and we continually find ourselves sliding back into the grime and filth we came from, then we must realize that we have slipped into spiritual rebellion. We’ve slowly allowed our hearts to become calloused to the tug of the Spirit. What began as perpetual immaturity develops into full blown disobedience. It is the kind of thing that brings spiritual death. It is man leaning on the natural man rather than the Spirit of God. When we do so, our world is bound to crumble. How many ‘Christians’ have been caught up in sin’s materialistic traps only to discover they are in a financial tar pit that is sucking them down into its mess. The “I-just-gotta-have-it” mentality has got to go! If we longed for Jesus the way we long for stuff, we’d have had revival in America long, long ago. Its time for believers to live within their means, to pay their tithes and offerings, to teach their children fiscal responsibility and to clean up their financial histories.
How many have dabbled in sin’s sexual seductions only to find emptiness. I heard a story recently that came from Josh McDowell, when he was approached after a youth meeting by a young woman who told him she had sex with five different men the last five nights. She asked him, “Is there anything more?” She was empty and unfulfilled. Why? Because her relationships lacked intimacy. There was no friendship… no real love…no real relationship...just animal urges being acted out. God’s plan is for one man to be committed to one woman for a lifetime relationship. Both need to work at it and keep it Christ centered. As both draw closer to God, they will also grow closer to each other. You can try doing it the world’s way and play the field, destroy the home, and wound the children, or— you can just give me Jesus!
Just Give Me Jesus!
I have lived life to the fullest. I have traveled the globe. I have had a wonderful marriage and beautiful children. I have enjoyed ministry. I have lived in beautiful homes. I have had successes. I have had disappointments. But when I look back over all the high or low points of my life, I still long for those moments when Jesus seemed the closest to me. It was not at the times of material success. Nor was it at the times of pleasure. It was not even at the peak of ministry. It was often in the darkest of days. It was in the moments when I discovered I could not handle it all by myself. Jesus seemed closest when I was lonely , when I was grieving, when I was helpless to know where to turn. He was there when money was scarce. He was there when the sun did not shine. He was there when I least expected Him. So don’t tell me I need a big salary, good looks, a fancy house, a successful ministry….just give me Jesus!
Has someone offended you? Take your eyes of your hurt and put them on Jesus. They hurt Him too and He forgave them all. Maturity chooses to love in spite of the pain. It sees the greater good. It looks to the future with eyes of faith. Carnality crumbles the human heart, but love builds it back again. Love is not an emotion...not just how you feel. It is so much more. It is a choice, a decision you make as to how you respond to others. I Corinthians 13 in the Message Bible paraphrase puts it in a way I can understand…
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies.
It tells me ‘love’ must act and do… choosing God’s way when nothing makes sense. It leaves the results with God. It keeps our priorities straight. It keeps us humble and keeps us leaning on God. It’s results are eternal.
You can choose to live a carnal life if you want to. You can enjoy your sin for a season. You can do just what everyone else seems to be doing—or—you can make a difference! You can be the man or woman God wants you to be. You can choose His pathway. You can please Him instead of yourself. I’ve made up my mind. How about you? Just give me Jesus! J. Johnson