Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Carnal Religious Fanatic

I Cor.3:1 - And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

Let us get something straight from the beginning, the Word of God teaches that a Christian can be carnal. Now in this post I want to deal with the difference between a carnal Christian and an unsaved person who professes to be a Christian. They sometimes appear very similar and undistinguishable to the natural eye and many times only God knows who are his. Another category of Christians are those who appear spiritual but are in reality carnal. I want to deal with some of these different blends of believers and non-believers because I believe the lines have been blurred between Christians, carnal Christians, and unbelievers.

Now we get this impression that an unbeliever has to be someone who openly rejects the Lord Jesus and is almost a Satan worshiper. Nothing could be further from the truth and in fact the Word tells us that “the devils also believe and tremble”. This is clearly warning us that even demons believe but are not saved and people can believe on some level and not be saved. “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light”. And in the end Satan will transform himself into an image of Christ Himself which the Bible calls the anti-christ so it is no wonder that many people who profess they are Christians, go to church, believe in Jesus on some level, and even do acts of devotion but are not authentic believers. Unsettling but very true.

But let us examine the phenomenon today where little children and adults alike are led in a prayer that is designed to ask Jesus into their hearts. Many people are saved by praying this prayer but it is not because of the prayer and in some cases it is in spite of this prayer. The Holy Spirit in His power and graciousness many times will draw a person to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus even while overcoming these modern day man made techniques. In America everyone calls themselves a Christian if they are not atheists or Muslims or Jews or Buddhists or any other non-Christian ethnic or religious class. But what exactly is a Christian? I have in recent years more and more used the term follower to describe a true Christian because saving faith will result in a person forsaking his former life to follow Jesus.

So today we have millions of church goers who never hunger for the Word, never pray, never witness, never are convicted of their sin, and have no outward much less inward display of being a follower of Jesus the Christ. And yet these people have been told they are Christians and that heaven is their eternal destination. This is no game and it is not a fringe issue, this is the very core of the Spiritual battle that began with Lucifer in heaven. Does it not grieve the heart of God that so many are not only unconcerned with their Spiritual condition, but that so many have false confidence that has been given to them by the leaders of the church. These are not carnal Christians, these are lost people who have a form of godliness (even that is shallow) but are in the very lifestyle that denies the power of God and His salvation. Their desires are for the flesh and it dictates their thoughts and lives. This situation is more serious than anything that has ever taken place in the oval office or the United Nations and yet the conscience of millions are being soothed while they happily journey to the lake of fire.

Now let us examine what the Bible describes as carnal Christians. Besides the Bible describing some as carnal Christians how else do we know that there are carnal Christians? Well, all of us have at some point been one. By God’s grace we haven’t stayed in that state but we were there for a while. What is a carnal Christian? It is a person who hast lost the desire to serve and worship Jesus and he now walks and lives by the desires of his own flesh. This person once did follow Jesus and was a growing believer but he now languishes in a lethargy Spiritually but gains fleshly momentum. The Word no longer excites him and he leaves it alone. Prayer has long since ceased and he no longer speaks of Jesus and His kingdom. This person still may attend church but it is strictly a perfunctory exercise that no longer offers him any vibrant and broken worship and he doesn’t care about or seek the presence of God.

He may be a preacher, a deacon, a teacher, or an elder in the church but he is still carnal. He may use some excuse to soothe his conscience like "everyone is a hypocrite" and with that he continues his reckless slide away from God. This person may be a Martha, full of activity but lacking the intimacy and humility that accompanies sitting at Jesus’ feet in adoration and worship. This person is done changing and he is never convicted of personal sin and therefore his conscience becomes seared and hardened. Now except for going to church this carnal Christian lives like an atheist. Let me ask you this question: How can you tell a carnal Christian from a lost person? The answer is you cannot. And a carnal Christian if left on that journey for a while loses the witness that he is a Christian because the Holy Spirit will not give assurance to a disobedient child.

We all battle carnality and its pull on our hearts, but a carnal Christian is one who has stopped battling, stopped pressing, and stopped seeking to please His Savior. A carnal Christian can appear spiritual. Many a preacher has ministered from the pulpit only to be revealed as a practicing adulterer during the time he was pastoring and preaching. He was carnal but appeared as spiritual. But it doesn’t have to be that blatant. A person can be an outspoken defender of the Lord Jesus and His gospel but if that person is filled with pride and shows no humility that person is a carnal Christian no matter how versed he or she is in Greek and Hebrew or how many degrees he has or how many people support his ministry. Pride automatically creates an atmosphere of carnality in our hearts and lives and if it goes unrepented of it leads to habitual carnality that appears spiritual.

So carnality is so insidious in nature that it can camouflage as outward spirituality. And now we arrive at the statement that was penned by my friend Mike Ratliff.

“Our hearts contain a horrible religious fanatic who maintains an idol and altar complex there that is dedicated to self worship“.

That man (not Mike!), that carnal but religious man, is us. He is born of Adam and works at the behest of Satan. But this fanatic is cleverly religious and has assembled an array of religious artifacts that appear to be spiritual but are nothing more than dead shells that not only cannot bring life but are continually bringing death. He claims to honor Christ but dishonors Him in everything he does. Where altars of surrender should be there are now altars of self esteem. Where the table of showbread was this fanatic now serves the carnal cake of his own words and rejects the eternal Bread of Life that can feed the spirit. The glorious light of the golden candlestick that once stood giving off the regenerating power of the gospel has now been replaced by the humanistic light of this world and all its pleasures. The altar of incense that once provided the spiritual fragrance of prayer is now replaced with the activities and dead strategies of man. At the very entrance where the bloody sacrifices were offered unto a covenant keeping God there now stands a bloodless and painless altar into which this fanatic offers his best life now and his purpose driven life and his emergent dialogue, all of which he demands that God accepts.

And do not look for the holy of holies for this religious fanatic has removed it altogether. The awesome and holy presence of Almighty God and His Christ was for former days and in these post modern days we do not need the very presence of our Lord and Savior. Watch this religious fanatic as he puts on the new and improved priestly garments. Loud and making a fashion statement this fanatic breaks the mold for priesthood. He jumps, he jokes, he tells stories, he laughs, he promises, he entertains, and he tells God’s people that God is passing out money for all of them. This kind of priest does not speak of atonement for he never speaks of sin so atonement is unnecessary.

This fanatic is pride personified and rather than openly rejecting the teachings of the Scriptures he twists them and ever so craftily changes them so as to mesh the world with the eternal and the sacred with the profane. He acknowledges God’s Word as part of the equation for truth but he subtly rejects it as the absolute authority because that view certainly places many inconveniencies in today’s modern world. And on a personal level this fanatic removes the simplicity that is found in Christ and he arranges a complex of subtle altars that operate under the radar and whose system of worship is based upon sacrificing truth and exalting each person in his own eyes.

I have heard my fanatic tell me good things about myself when all the while the Spirit was calling me to repentance. I have heard my fanatic tell me how spiritual I was and that I was so, so wonderful in my ability to point out error and prosecute false prophets. I’ve heard him many times assure me that I was very important to God and that in the kingdom battle I was indispensable. And there have been times when I have believed his lies until the Spirit of truth exposed me as prideful and through God’s forgiveness and cleansing I was made useable again. So call him what you wish, the old man, the old nature, the carnal nature, or the flesh. But I embrace Ratliff’s systematic theology which calls him a “religious fanatic”.

Nevertheless we can never look upon this fanatic as a curiosity or a well meaning but somewhat misguided fellow, no - NEVER, he is a monster of iniquity who hates God and is His sworn enemy and if given enough rope he will try and destroy and even kill you. Do not attempt to reason with him, never listen to him, there is only one way to deal with this religious fanatic - death by crucifixion. This crucifixion must be carried out daily and the two wooden planks of this cross are the double edges of the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Read and reckon yourselves dead and raised again to walk in newness of life. And if you look inside your spirits you will find the tomb of that religious fanatic and... what’s this? Here is someone in his place…

Christ in you the hope of glory!!
I am crucified with Christ nevertheless I live, yet NOT I, but Christ lives in me…


Mike Ratliff said...


As I read this post I was sure you must have known me about 3 or 4 years ago. Yes, I was that man who was in total bondage to my flesh. My horrible religious fanatic had me convinced that I was okay, but God did not let me have that peace. I was miserable because I hated my sin, but I seemed to have no power to repent. Yes, our sin nature or whatever name we want to give it is a monster of iniquity who hates God, but pretends to serve Him and lies to us to think that we are serving Him when we do religious things.

God has drawn me from that hell on earth, but I know that every time people compliment me for what I write or do or say that that evil thing in me wants me to become puffed up and take credit for it, to get people to notice me and see what a great Christian I am. I fight this horrible thing off everyday - all day. Why? I know that once I fall into that trap that the Lord's hand will be taken away and I will be doing what I do on my own and that means it will be empty and totally absent of the Holy Spirit. I pray that that never happens...again.

Great post Rick!

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

Baptist Girl said...

Hi Rick,
I agree, we all struggle sometime through our walk and practice carnality. We battle our flesh and flesh means carnal. I've said this before and I will continue to say it Pride is the thing we battle with most. Until we focus on what Christ has done and not what we have done will we be able truely be humble.

I thank the Lord ....For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth. Great post.


Rebekah said...

Hi, Rick,
This really describes the struggle I feel with hypocrisy so often. No matter how well intentioned I may be when I write or talk about the great faith we share, that pride is always hovering in the background and I have a daily, moment by moment struggle with that awful religious fanatic you mentioned that lives in me. I want so much to live for God's glory, but I find myself so often allowing distractions in or giving in to my temper or some other manifestation of my sin. I will continue to confess what I know is true, and I am so immensely grateful that my hope is in Christ's righteousness, but I also need to be very aware of the danger within when I take my eyes off Jesus and focus on myself. That's why the centering prayers and meditation techniques that are becoming increasingly mainstreamed are so dangerous. They take us within and focus on rituals and "spiritual" feelings, rather than focusing on Christ Jesus alone. Thank you brothers Rick and Mike for this very apt description and reminder.

luvvom said...

I guess I have to agree with Paul Washer on the fact that there is no such thing as a carnal Christian according to the American carnal Christian definition. Paul, the apostle, describes the carnal Christian in a much different light than what you have and what Paul W. believes are unsaved people who don't show any fruit because they are not saved. If you look at 1Cor. 3, you will see what they are fighting over and what is dividing them. It is over men of God and who they "belong" to. All these carnal Christians were fighting about whose teachings they followed(all of which spoke the true Gospel and not another gospel). They were still contending for the truth or they would not have claimed to belong to these Godly men, but instead reject the teachings of Scripture, thus, allowing them to live according to the flesh nature(drunkedness sexual imorality etc). They were probably doing what we all fall into when we think our pastors have all the right answers...i.e. I follow Paul W's teachings or I follow John MacArthur's or R.C. Sproul all of whom teach solid Biblical instruction. We put them on a pedestal instead of Christ. Paul is telling them that they are acting as babes because they are focused on the deliverer of the Gospel instead of Christ. He never stated that they were babes because they still acted like the world, loved the world, did the things that the world does. When Paul W. talked about there being no such thing as carnal Christians he wasn't saying there are no babes in Christ. He was saying that these people who call themselves Christians have no evidence of a life-changing experience with the Holy Spirit because there is no fruit in their lives. He preached from 1John and also from the Scripture that says we will know them by their fruit. Phil 1:6 states that He who started a good work will finish it. So if they are Christians they can't love the world and do the things of the world and love Christ too. When Christians sin they grieve over their sins and will be miserable until they come to repentance. 1John says, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." Besides 1Cor. 2:1, can you give me a Scripture that describes a carnal Christian this way "What is a carnal Christian? It is a person who hast lost the desire to serve and worship Jesus and he now walks and lives by the desires of his own flesh. This person once did follow Jesus and was a growing believer but he now languishes in a lethargy Spiritually but gains fleshly momentum. The Word no longer excites him and he leaves it alone. Prayer has long since ceased and he no longer speaks of Jesus and His kingdom." because I find just the opposite. I think it is just this kind of thinking that leads people into thinking that they are carnal Christians and can have their cake and eat it too.