The natural man has no spiritual discernment, which is given from God’s Spirit. The spiritual man does have spiritual discernment. The spiritual man walks in spirit and in truth – he has the mind of Christ. But what of the carnal believer – born again but not spiritual? What of the Christian whose spiritual growth is stunted due to carnality?
Paul says this to the carnal Corinthian Christians: “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 is envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” 1Cor 2:14
How should we live the Christian life? Once the the natural man is born from above, he should live as a spiritual man. The one taken from the old creation, should forever live as a new creation. The one that was “of your father the devil”, at once should live as a child of God. BUT… There is an inevitable ‘but’ in the life of every Christian. There is an inevitable ‘but’ in your life and in mine. There is a half way house – an obstacle to overcome – and it all depends on self-will.
The intermediate position is the one of carnality.. one governed by the flesh. Paul speaks to the Corinthian Christians as ‘”carnal” – as babes in Christ. They had received the supernatural birth but were carnal and still “walking as men”. A newborn babe must grow and a child must develop into a man, and so too the Christian. A babe in Christ must grow into spiritual maturity. But the carnal man is a fleshly believer. The carnal believer is one that remains a babe in Christ.
One evidence of carnality is stunted spiritual growth.. a halting of the blossoming bud. One indication of a believer’s fleshly life, is stunted Christian development. This is not a comfortable thing to know for any believer, and this is not a pleasant matter to consider.. for the old sin nature overshadows the new life in Christ. The ‘old man’ dominates the ‘new life’.
The epistles of Paul are replete with warnings and helps to keep the ‘old man’ in the place of death: know ye not that your body is the temple of God, and He dwells in you? 1Cor.6:19. The teachings of Paul overspill with ways to immobilise the exulted, carnal self, and Paul voices the open secret of his life… it is no longer I but Christ lives in me. Gal.2:20
To many, Paul’s words fall like caustic soda on the ears of the carnal self, for self-examination and introspection is a cruel task to the ego-centric carnal man – as we search out to uncover dark areas in our lives that need to be examined; as we study our own failures, weaknesses and proclivity towards carnality; as we search out our hearts to discover where our own weaknesses are hidden – as we discover what form the multi-headed gorgon of our own carnality takes. No, carnality is not a comfortable message to give nor to receive.
And David also recognised the difficulty of self. He cried “search me Oh God”, but God’s examination and scrutiny into the recesses of life is even more traumatic. As we cry out, “seek out all the hidden depths in me that are displeasing to You”, and as we give Him permission to root out wrong attitudes, actions and perspectives, He will search out the depths of our hearts for things that grieve His Spirit – for our whole Christian life is a process of being conformed into His image..
But this is no agreeable undertaking. This is very painful to the very core. All this was exemplified in the lives of so many men and women of God.. from Job to Paul; from David to Peter; from Sarah to Mary; from Jeremiah to John – all had to deal with the ego-centric, carnal self.
This marriage of spirit with Spirit in this life is the preparation for our future. Our heavenly bridegroom loves us with an everlasting love, but He is the Head. Our future wedding to The Lord requires deep adjustments now. The carnal-self must stay crucified and remain in the place of death. Christ must be placed in the centre of self’s throne. I must decrease and He must increase – no matter what it takes…
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