Conquering Carnal Christianity

Bible Book: 1 Corinthians  3 : 1-23
Subject: Carnal Living; Christian Living; Spiritual Living

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 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; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? 5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. 18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; 20 and again, “The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. 23 And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (NKJV)

I told you last week that what we really need to understand about the carnal man is how the man gets in that condition. There are three kinds of people in the world.

i. One is the natural person

The natural person is one who has never been saved, never repented of sin and has never received Christ. That man does not possess the spirit of God. That person is under condemnation already, but God does not wish for the natural person to remain that way. Christ died for each of us, and He would have all to be saved. Yet, there are people who reject the Lord, are lost, and are referred to as the natural man.

ii. The second kind of person is the spiritual man

The spiritual person is one who has been saved, who has received God's Holy Spirit because of that salvation, and has Christ living in him. That person is allowing Jesus Christ to reign in his or her life. The spiritual person is in full submission to Christ and desires nothing more than to please Him in all he does, thinks or says.

iii. The third person is a carnal person.

This is the person we are interested in today, because this is the one that represents so many of us. The carnal person is one who is saved but lives for self and the world - even though he may not be aware that he's doing so. The Holy Spirit is living in that person, however this person does not allow the Holy Spirit to reign and rule in his or her life. Jesus is not Lord of his life. The carnal person is ruled by his own flesh, mind and emotions, rather than by the Spirit of God.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth concerning members in that church who were carnal. They were like babies who were born but never matured. Such people are not spiritually mature and as a result they are not ruled by the spirit of God.

Here is a question - how in the world does a Christian become carnal? When a person is saved, he or she has submitted everything to God through Christ. Yet, at some point many seem to turn back to living in a worldly manner. What causes carnal Christianity to exist in the world and in the church? I ask you, if you are a Christian, what can cause you to become a carnal Christian? There are three things which, if you forget them, will result in your becoming or remaining in the carnal Christian life and thereby will result in a lack of happiness in Jesus, a lack of fulfillment in service to Jesus and will cause you to be disappoint the Lord. Now, be aware that you must keep the three things I’m going to mention today in your memory and in your heart.

I am reminded of the story about a former dictator of Greece who had received a new plane. It was a hydroplane that could only land on the water and only take off from the water. After some instructions the dictator, who was a pilot, went out to fly this plane. He climbed in with the instructor beside him and he took off in the airplane. He flew it very well, so he flew over his native country and back out over the ocean. Then he started back in toward land to set the plane down. As he approached land, the instructor with him said, "Your excellency, I do not think you realize sir that this is a hydroplane and you cannot land it on the land. You must land it on the water." So the dictator landed the plane on the water and then turned to the instructor and say, “Thank you so much. We would have been killed had you not told me and informed me that I was flying a hydroplane." Then, getting out of the plane, he promptly opened the door and stepped out into the ocean. He forgot! He had landed so many times on the land that he forgot he had landed the plane on the water. We must remember certain things so that we do not fall into the ocean of carnal living.

Three things cause us become and remain carnal. Forgetting these things will destroy your Christian witness, joy and power. What are they? Let me name them.

I. Forgetting the Divine Presence

First of all, if we forget the Divine Presence we will fail the Lord spiritually. Notice what the apostle Paul said. He wrote to the people at Corinth and said, "By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other that the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." Here the apostle is pointing out something to the Corinthians. He is telling them that Jesus Christ is the foundation. That is where your Christian life began.

Your Christian life began when Christ saved you, and at that point Jesus literally came into your life and took possession of you, thus He dwells in you. Paul writes to the Corinthians reminding them of this fact, but also to show them a great mistake they were making.

The Corinthian Christians were bragging about the particular teacher, preaching or leader who fed them spiritually. One liked Apollos, another liked Paul, yet another liked Cephas (Simon Peter). Paul reminded them that their Christian life did not begin with a human leader but began because of Jesus Christ. He was reminding them how important it is to remember that Jesus is everything in the Christian life.

There is a story of a man who went to his preacher and he said, "I have been to you two or three times with my spiritual problems and every time I come to you and spend forty-five minutes with you I feel stronger. I feel like I am going to make it. Then, when I get away from you, I begin to forget again and I go back to my old habits. The preacher said, "Are you telling me that if I stayed with you all the time you could be strong?" He said, "Yes, yes that is it! If you were with me and went with me on my job I believe my language would be better. If you were with me, I believe I would treat my wife and children better. If you were just there." The preacher said, "My friend, God is doing something much greater than that, he has put Jesus with you constantly."

You see, we forget that He is there. We are not conscious of the presence of Christ with us in the person of the Holy Spirit at all times!

Did you know that some people act oddly around preachers? Did you know that? Of course, some preachers act funny around people, but when a preacher is around people act strange. They guard everything they say because they want to do the right thing. I heard about the man one time who went to a home to visit and the father was trying to really impress the preacher with his spiritual life. He said to his son, "Before the preacher leaves, go in there and get that book that your mom and dad love to read all the time." He meant for the son to bring the family Bible, but the boy went in and brought back Guinness Book of World Records - the book he had actually seen his parents reading all the time! People often try to impress the preacher. Listen to me, you don’t need to impress the preacher. You ought to be walking in the awareness of Jesus and seeking to please Him all the time - after all, He sees everything you do!

We forget that Jesus is with us. When you are on that job, Jesus is with you. When you are in your home, Christ is with you. When you are talking about your neighbor or your friends, Jesus is with you. When you curse and speak profanely, Christ is with you. What causes us to be carnal? We forget that He is with us. When we forget that we can make a serious mistake by allowing ourselves to think physically, emotionally, personally rather than spiritually. When we do that, we are carnal Christians!

Paul reminded the Corinthians that Jesus is the foundation. He is with you and you ought to live like Christ is with you. Just think of how you would live if you had Jesus with you at every moment! The Corinthians forgot Christ was with them and they became carnal because of it. The power of God was not in their lives, even though they had good ambitions and good intentions. They were destroying the work of God because they forgot Jesus Christ was with them.

Now, there is another thing about the Christian life that we are prone to forget.

II. We Forget the Divine Payment To Come

The Corinthians had forgotten the divine payment that was to take place one day before the throne of Christ. Notice what Paul says as he continues to write. In verse 12, "If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."

Paul reminded the Corinthians, and us, that there is coming a day when believers are going to face a Christian judgment, which in the Bible is known as the Bema Seat Judgment.

There are several different judgments in the Bible and we are not going to discuss them today, but I want you to remember with me that there is a judgment to come that is specifically designed for Christians. One day we going to stand before God and He is going to look at our works, and He is going to put the fire of His judgment upon our Christian works. When He does that everything we have ever done for Christ, whether it is to sing in the choir, preach a sermon, sing a solo, teach a Sunday School class, make a visit, pray before Him, read the scripture, or give tithes and gifts, all of it is going to be judged with the fire in the eyes of Christ. What is that going to mean? This means that everything we have done for Him that was of a wrong motive will be burned away. That is what the Bible says.

It would be like this. Let's imagine that I come before God and stand there with all the works I have done in my Christian life. Let us just say, for the sake of example, that I have a great amount of works. I stand with all these works before the Master at the Christian judgment. At that point, I’m not going to be judged as to whether I am going to heaven or hell - if one is saved he is going to heaven. The Christian judgment is not about heaven or hell. So, what is it about? The Christian judgment will be about the motive of our works – the way we lived our lives after we were saved. So, let us say that I’m there before the Lord and my wife Jayne is there beside me. Jayne has a lot less works that I, so she is standing there before the Lord with her small about of works for Christ and I have the great mass of works. Then Jesus puts his eyes of judgment upon both of us and everything we have done as believers. He judges everything we have done that was with a wrong motive or in a wrong manner. Imagine at that moment that I am left with something about the size of a pea in my hand. In other words, my works and life as a Christian was lacking and that almost all my works are burned away because of that. Whereas, when God burns away those things in Jayne’s hand she has both hands full of silver and gold, because her works were with the right motive and purpose. That, my friend, is what will happen to many of us on that day of judgment to come. Some, who appear to have done so much for Christ, will end up practically empty-handed, while those less known to the public will receive a great reward. It is not how much you’ve done, but the kind of motive you had when you did it!

I want to ask you, if you stood before God right now, how much of your Christian life do you think would be rewarded? If Christ burned away everything destroyed with your tongue, your thoughts, your worldly life, or your pride, what do you think would remain? It is possible that many of us are going to stand practically empty handed before the Savior on that day. Paul reminded the Corinthians that there was a day coming when they were going to answer for their Christian lives. They were not going to answer to the preacher or their friends, but to the One who died at Calvary to grant them eternal life. This is a sobering fact.

I remember when I was in high school years ago that a friend and I were wrestling in the library. You are not supposed to wrestle in the library, you are supposed to wrestle in the gymnasium and read in the library, but we were wrestling in the library. The principal came by and he saw us just as my chair went out from under me and I fell in the middle of the floor in the high school library. He called us both into his office. He was notorious for his discipline of high school students, so the friend and I decided before we were to appear before him that we were going to stick together. Neither of us, we agreed, would tell on the other. We were going to take a stand and we were going to tell him that it was an accident. We had this enormous concoction of a story to give the principal. We went to his office, he stood up and put his hands on the desk and leaned over and said, "How about it?" Immediately both of us pointed to the other and said, "He did it!" All of our excuses went out the window. Then he said, "I know what happened, I saw you." We stood before him to face the judgment.

The time is going to come when Christians are going to face a judgment. I believe all of us who really love Christ desire to see in His eye on that day that He is pleased with us. Sadly, many carnal Christians are not living to please the Lord. Paul wrote to the Corinthians to remind them of that coming day. How about you, are you ready for the Bema Seat Judgment?

If you forget that Jesus is with you, you will be carnal; and, if you forget that one day all of your Christian works are going to be judged, you will be carnal. Now, let’s look at the third thing we forget that causes carnal living...

III. We Forget the Divine Possession

We must not forget that we are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in us. That is the Divine Possession.

If you forget that you are possessed divinely, and that you are bought with the price of the blood of Jesus, you will lose your power and live a carnal, worldly, fleshed-centered life.

Paul often wrote of his life as that of being a bond-slave of Christ. That is, he saw himself as attached to Jesus as a servant. You can be sure that most of us do not live like slaves of Christ. We live as though we are free to do anything we choose, and yet the Bible says I am a bond-slave, for I am bought with a price. I ought to live like a servant willing doing God’s will. Many Christians, if they look at this and think about this seriously, may question whether they really want to be a Christian. Do you really want Jesus to be your Master - to possess you, to own you? Most people do not want to be owned, they want to be free. To be a Christian is to follow Jesus and obey Him.

What was that price required to pay for your sins so that you might be cleansed and saved? The precious blood of Christ, or course! Your tongue is not your own, it is His tongue. Your mind is not your own, it is His mind. Your emotions are not your own, they are His emotions. You do not have a right to be angry when you want to be. You do not have a right to think evil thoughts just because you want to. You do not have a right, with those eyes, to look upon things you should not see. They are His eyes.

The Bible reminds us that we are bought with a price and that our bodies are in essence the temple of the Holy Spirit. He lives in us! He owns us! Do we live like that is true? The average Christian does not live in that manner. If we did live that way, we would rock the world with the gospel.


We must remember the Divine Presence, the Divine Payment and the Divine Possession, if we are to live a spiritual Christian life rather than a carnal one. I have shared this with you today so that we all might live in a way that pleases the Lord and accomplishes that which He desires.

How many of us can say today that we are living a spiritual life for Christ and not a carnal one? Don’t be honest with me regarding this question – be honest with God! After all, He knows our thoughts, our ways, our actions – He even knows the words we will speak before we say them. Are you ashamed of some things you say and do? Are you embarrassed in your heart by some things you think? Why don’t we just be honest before God today! Now is the time to ask the Lord to forgive our carnal nature and to grant us the fullness of His Spirit that we might live the spiritual life! After all, He loves us - He redeemed us with His sacrifice at the cross - He has plans that lead to our best possible life.

There is one thing for sure, you can’t please God in your flesh. So, if you have never trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior, now is the time to come to Him.

So let each of us respond today based on our need! Let the Christian come to Him in full submission, and may God help the unsaved person to step out this morning and come to the Savior who gave His all for you.