What Should We Think of the Carnal Christian?

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The following quote by a well-known evangelical leader aptly introduces the problem at hand in seeking to answer our question for today’s study:  “Many who regularly occupy church pews, fill church rolls, and are intellectually acquainted with the facts of the gospel never strike one blow for Christ.  They seem to be at peace with His enemies. They have no quarrel with sin and, apart from a few sentimental expressions about Christ; there is no biblical evidence that they have experienced anything of the power of the gospel in their lives.” 

Nevertheless, and in spite of the evidence against them, they consider themselves to be “carnal Christians.” This is just what their Biblically uninformed teachers have taught them to believe. As “carnal Christians,” they believe they will assuredly go to heaven one day, but with a few rewards.”  Well, what should we think of the “carnal Christian?”  Does the Bible actually teach that there are really two types of Christians: “Spiritual” Christians (characterized by obedience) and “carnal Christians” (characterized by disobedience)?  Absolutely not! Yes, it is a given that Christians can and will act carnally at times because we are still sinners, but is it scripturally sound to say that a true believer can be continually characterized by hypocrisy? Our Lord Himself said in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”  What is this power that God gives to His blood-bought sheep (John 10:11, 15) at the point of conversion? It is the power to say “no” to sin (1 John 3:9), flee youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22), deny ungodliness and worldly desires (Titus 2:12), and abstain from wickedness (2 Timothy 2:19).  In other words, when God saves a man or woman He makes them entirely new people (2 Corinthians 5:17)! This new life in Christ issues results in an increasing desire to pray (Psalm 109:4), read His Word (Psalm 119:97), grow in Christ (1 Peter 2:2), bear much spiritual fruit (John 15:5-8), and be with the saints every time they gather (to fellowship, praise God, serve, receive the preached Word, and pray; Acts 2:41-47; Hebrews 10:24-25).  Recently, I spoke to someone who professes Christ and condones the unbiblical theory of the "carnal Christian."  I knew he did because of what he shared with me about the church he attends.  He was very proud to tell me that his church had 1,200 members.  I replied, “Do you mean that y'all have 1,200 worshippers each Lord's Day in your worship service?” He said, “Why no, we have about 350 that come on a regular basis.” It doesn't take a mathematician to figure out that 850 members still enjoy in that church the social status of church membership, without having church interfere with their weekend schedule. What? Does the New Testament smile upon “inactive church members,” while the other 350 faithful members pick up the slack? Absolutely not (Hebrews 10:24-25)! Furthermore, the 350 are not to be totally commended, for a large portion of them never reach out to those in need or weep over the perishing, never-dying souls, who live all around them. Billy Graham once said that 95% of all professing Christians will never lead one soul to Christ. Many are content to be known as regular “church-goers.”  The chief mistake here is not the unfaithfulness of these church members, nor the carelessness of those church-goers, but the erroneous leadership of their pastors, teachers, and other church leaders who allow this week after week. Such teachers do not really care for the souls of their people (1 Peter 5:2).  If they did, they would preach that a Christian is a changed man who worships with changed people.  True teachers will feed those entrusted to their care so they can know and obey Christ (John 21:15-17).  Instead, “inactive church members” are often allowed to dominate many church rolls, especially here in the South. This clearly communicates to those who do attend church that God is not serious about obedience and lulls self-deceived hypocrites into thinking that heaven awaits them. O “carnal Christian,” repent and come to Jesus!  Come with a broken heart.  Christ will receive you!  Then, find a church and a pastor who will love you enough to feed you the whole counsel of God’s Word (Acts 20:20, 28) and who will also hold you accountable. Remember the words of the apostle John: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).  

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