The "Carnal Christian" and Reality
I often hear “Christians” say “God just wants us to enjoy life,” or “Christians don’t have to be so up tight all the time.” Not incidentally, this often comes from those who regularly indulge themselves in worldly things. But sometimes, even the most well meaning, well behaving Christians will express this. But is this really what God wants? Some Christians, or people who claim to be Christians, may regularly attend church, study God’s word, and even participate in outreach programs or mission activities. They may be able to quote Bible verses, and often pray with other Christians, or ask for prayer. However, they only display these traits around other Christians.
Enter, the two faces of “Carnal Christianity.”
These “Christians,” though very knowledgeable, and very good actors, really haven’t submitted their lives to Christ. When they aren’t around other Christians who may be holding them accountable, they become a completely different person. (Or, should I say, return to being themselves?) Take for example, the Christian that loves NFL football. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying sports, or other interests for that matter, but when it causes a believer to not act like a believer, are you really a believer? Are you sidelining your beliefs, putting them on hold, so you can fit in with the crowd you are watching the game with? Are you regularly skipping church service on Sunday mornings, because the football game is just too important? I know a person, who calls himself a Christian, who does this; He has no problem getting drunk, cussing, partying with a bunch of unbelievers, while never once extending the love or witness of Jesus Christ while, for example, watching the Superbowl. You would never know this person was a Christian if he didn’t tell you, as there are no fruits. I’ve heard from this person on many occasions that I’m just too up tight, boring, and that I “need to get a life,” because I “spend too much time” studying God’s word, and things that pertain to Christ.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” In other words, Christians aren’t supposed to integrate with the world, we’re supposed to stand apart from the world. Am I saying that we should not associate with non-Christians, or not have friends who aren’t believers? No, but I am saying that we aren’t supposed to act like them. We are supposed to be salt and light in a dark world of unrighteousness. There are only two types of people in the world, consistently described throughout Scripture: people who belong to God, who have eternal life, and people who belong to the world and their god, Satan, who will have eternal death (Acts 26:18). The Greek word translated as fellowship throughout the Bible is Koinonia, and it primarily means “association, communion, joint participation.” The Bible tells us repeatedly that we are supposed to have this fellowship only with like-minded believers, and that having it with unbelievers corrupts the mind and the soul of the believer. (Proverbs 12:26, Proverbs 13:20, Proverbs 14:7, Proverbs 24:21, 1 Cor. 15:33)
So, are you really a Christian if you are only a Christian around other Christians? Charles Spurgeon once said, “Sincerity makes the very least person to be of more value than the most talented hypocrite.” If we aren’t witnessing for Christ in our relationships with unbelievers, then we are being disobedient to God. Take a moment to think about your actions, and what they portray when you are around unbelievers. You cannot be devoted to both God, and things of the world (Mt 4:10, Mt. 6:24). As Christians, our delight is not in the world, but in God. (1st John 2:15-17)
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Our modern daily lives require us to be in constant contact with unbelievers. We have coworkers, family members, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, who are totally lost, and on their way to Hell. Jesus never tells us not to associate with these people, on the contrary, we are to love them, so much so, that we want them to know Christ as their savior too (Mark 16:15). God does not want us to sit idly by, relax and have a good time, act like unbelievers and never take the Gospel to those who need it. Sharing the Gospel is more than just talking it–it’s living it! When your boss sends you on that business trip to Las Vegas, and you’re the only Christian in the group going, how does it serve the Kingdom to drink and gamble, and indulge in the sinful activities with others who don’t believe? What motivation does an unbeliever have to know Christ if he sees no difference, no fruits from the supposed believer? Doesn’t this give the unbeliever a sense that joy in Christ isn’t enough, that we still need to “let go and let loose” sometimes in order to be fulfilled? It seems to me that this would tell the unbeliever that being a Christian is too much work, and requires breaks to be satisfied, but in reality, the true believer desires the things of God, and is repentant of their sins. The true believer is fulfilled in Christ (John 4:14), and desires to do the will of God (Luke 6:45). It is the natural desire of man to work evil, to do things that are displeasing to God (Matthew 15:19). But God has sent the Holy Spirit to live in those who are saved, and we no longer have the heart of man, but have a regenerated heart of Christ (John 7:38-39).
Now, we are still human, and all human beings will stumble, but if you find yourself regularly indulging in worldly activities, and you feel no guilt, no remorse, no need for repentance, or you don’t believe there is anything wrong with it, my plea for you is to examine your heart. Examine your faith to see if you are really in it. Desire to know the truth, and truth can be found in His word. If you can’t look back over the time since you were “saved,” and see a noticeable difference in your worldview, life and desires, and a definite growth in your relationship with Christ, you might not be saved.
The world is full of false teachers, preachers, and wolves in sheep’s clothing who claim that God isn’t concerned with our obedience to his laws, or otherwise try to rationalize a sinful lifestyle. But these people are liars and deceivers. They have even crept into the Church unnoticed, and are slowly taking over (Colossians 2:23; Jude 4). Be not deceived by this, as Jesus says in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Jesus says to these people, who act like Christians, but still serve the world, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Mt. 7:23) If you’re not sure if you’re desires are in God, please see my post on how to be saved, The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I’ll end this post with the following clip of a sermon by Pastor Clint Pressley, of Hickory Grove Baptist Church.