Christians, Yet Acting Carnally (1 Corinthians Sermon 9)
November 11, 2018 | Andy Davis
1 Corinthians 3:1-4
Abiding in Christ, Sinful Nature, Holiness
Introduction: The “Carnal Christian” False Doctrine
Turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 3:1-4. And as we come to this text, we're coming to a text that has been a battle ground text for many decades. For here, we come face-to-face with the idea of the "Carnal Christian." The "Carnal Christian” doctrine wrestles with the perplexing problem of sin in the lives of Christians. It's a problem for all of us. It's the greatest problem you have in your life as a Christian, your own indwelling sin, and also trying to understand the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of a genuine Christian. But along with that has come, some, I think, false explanations that results in this idea of the "Carnal Christian." What do we mean by that?
Well, John Reisinger put it this way. "Many who regularly occupy church pews or don't regularly occupy church pews but filled church roles 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, it seems. And apart from a few sentimental expressions about Christ, there's no Biblical evidence that they have experienced anything of the power of the Gospel in their lives. Yet in spite of the evidence against them, they consider themselves to be just what their teachers tell them - that they are, 'Carnal Christians.' And as carnal Christians, they believe they go to heaven, though perhaps not first class and with few rewards. The most serious aspect of the situation… is not the carelessness of these church goers, it is the error of their teachers who by preaching this theory of "the carnal Christian," have led them to believe that there are three groups of people, The unconverted person, the carnal Christian, and the spiritual Christians."
Well, this is an issue that I had to begin wrestling with early in my Christian life. As I've mentioned before, I was led to faith in Christ, by a fellow fraternity brother, who was involved with campus crusade for Christ ministry, now known as Cru. And the first time I ever heard the Gospel, they used a booklet called "The Four Spiritual Laws." And Cru members or workers have used this for years. It's a good tool that divides the Gospel into four headings, God, man, Christ, response. But soon after I was converted, I began to be discipled through the Cru ministry there at MIT and the discipleship I received was incredibly helpful.
One of the tools they used, was another booklet that Campus Crusade for Christ put out called the spirit, the Holy Spirit booklet or the blue booklet or sometimes called The Bird booklet, because it showed a picture of the Holy Spirit as a bird on the front. And it was teaching, basically, how to live the Spirit-filled life. And the audience was people who had prayed to receive Christ, maybe they have already been through the four spiritual laws but now they wanted to know how to live. Or perhaps the audience was for people who have done that years and years ago, but weren't living anything of the Christian life and wanted to know now what they should do, how they should live spirit-filled life. And in that way it was incredibly helpful tool for many people, because it gave them very practical aspects of what I would call sanctification or the progressive life of the Christian. Which is very, very important to know. But the idea that the human race can be divided into three categories, the unconverted person or the natural person, the spirit-filled Christian and the carnal Christian, I think has progressively become for me a dangerous idea. And I want to try to skate through two different things. One is to show why it's a dangerous idea, but on the other hand to show how beneficial it is for us to understand the role of the Spirit, Holy Spirit in our lives.
Now, to illustrate this idea, the Blue Booklet, the Holy Spirit booklet use three diagrams. The first is the non-Christian diagram. So in the booklet they showed a circle representing the person's life with a chair in the center, representing the throne or control center of the person's life. And then many random various sized dots inside the circle representing the various interests and issues of that person's life. The letter S representing self, is on the throne ruling the life. The cross representing Christ is outside the circle entirely. The person is not a Christian. This is a lost person, this is a non-Christian, the unregenerate person, the person who's not born again.
The second diagram is the spirit-filled Christian. They showed the circle, again, representing the person's life. The chair in the center representing the control center or the throne of that person's life. But then they show the circles representing all of the interests and ideas and issues of that person's life in a kind of a concentric array around the throne with lines going toward the center, showing that the issues of that person's life are in harmony with Christ who's on the throne of that life. So you can see the cross representing Christ is on the throne, S representing self as dethroned, yielding to Christ's Lordship. This represents the Christian who is a spirit-filled Christian leading the spirit-filled life. And all the issues of this person's life are focused on Christ and His will, on Christ in His glory.
The third diagram is the one that's of interest to us now, the carnal Christian diagram. This is a third kind of person according to this teaching. It's exactly like the non-Christian diagram. No difference at all except one thing, the cross is no longer outside the circle, but is now inside the circle, but as you'll notice, at the foot of the throne. The self is still ruling this person's life and the random various sized dots are still all over the place, not in any way aligned to Christ. Honestly, the diagram implies that there's no difference at all between this person's life and the non-Christian life, except that Christ is in the life.
Sometimes the disciple there would go on and describe the carnal Christian and his or her lifestyle, such as legalistic attitude, impure thoughts, jealousy, guilt worry, discouragement, critical spirit, frustration, aimlessness, fear, ignorance of spiritual heritage, disobedience, loss of love for God and others, a poor prayer life, critical spirit, no desire for Bible study and many other such things. But for all of that, a Christian with their sins forgiven, living a consistently sinful life but forgiven the whole time for all of their sins. And you may well ask how do you know that the cross is in the life, how do you know that the sins are forgiven? On what basis?
Well, the answer would be given because they prayed the sinners prayer sometime in the past. Or they signed a commitment card or they came forward at an evangelistic rally, or having watched on TV or online some evangelistic presentation at a certain moment, they gave some kind of ascent to the Gospel. And then in comes at that point, a teaching known as "Once saved, always saved." So if you have at any time in your life, prayed that prayer, you will most certainly be going to heaven no matter how you live. And that the entire human race can be broken into these three categories. This is the carnal Christian teaching.
Now, there are larger issues with this that factor in in our geographical region, sometimes known as the Bible Belt, but more extensively across the US, with evangelical churches that have an understanding of the Protestant Gospel of justification by faith alone apart from works. They're familiar with the language of evangelicalism, the language of the Gospel, they've been around at their whole lives perhaps, and they have in the Bible Belt at some point, in high school or at some point they, maybe when they were children, came forward Sunday morning invitation at the end of a sermon, or prayed the sinner's prayer or did some kind of commitment card, and that happened at some time in the past. And they became at that moment, maybe a member of a Bible-believing church and their names are on the roll, but then for years after that, have done nothing different at all. It's really not impacted their lives at all. And the membership rolls of churches just like ours, Baptist churches, evangelical churches, are filled with people like this, who have made these kind of one-time off commitments, and then became members of the church, even that very day.
By the way, that's why FBC has a membership process. You can't become a member of our church today. So there's a process to slow all that down. But in other churches you could become a member right there and then, and then the names are taken down, and so the churches like ours are filled with these kinds of people who are members of the church, but they haven't been seen in years. Churches like us. Then would have something called like a homecoming Sunday, once a year, maybe in the fall sometime. You can see them advertised on churches with sign ministries. And what they're trying to do is get those folks that are members to just come back for one Sunday at least. And a percentage of them do come back for one Sunday, at least. Maybe they will come back at Christmas time or at Easter or whatever, but then they're just going to settle back into their normal way of living their lives. And yet for all of that, and this is the key issue here, they are assured of their final salvation no matter how they live, apart from any works.
So their understanding of justification by faith alone, which is a precious doctrine, is skewed because their faith doesn't have any works that follow it at all. And the idea of assurance of salvation, what many call "Once saved, always saved," others call it "perseverance of the saints," is skewed as well. And these two things, I think poisonously work together to give a false assurance to literally tens of thousands of people, and that's what I think is in front of us as we look at 1 Corinthians 3:1-4.
Along with this finally is something called the Lordship controversy, which flared up a number of years ago. And that has a question; can you accept Jesus as savior but not as Lord? It's really just a cousin or a brother of the same theological issue here. Can you have Jesus save you from your sins, but not recognize his Lordship as king over your life? And some people think that to link Jesus as Savior and Jesus as Lord is bad doctrine because you're adding works, and you're perverting the free grace of the Gospel. And you're adding a lifetime of works and uncertainty to the simple free offer of believe in Jesus and you'll be saved. And so they would say something like; Jesus plus nothing gives you everything. Just believe in Jesus and it... And the implied aspect here is, it doesn't really matter how you live after that.
Well, this morning as we come to 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, we're wading through all of these things, we're wading into all of this. And why is that? Well, because any who try to route these ideas in a text of Scripture will inevitably come to 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, at some point. And they will see how the Apostle Paul addresses these Corinthians as carnal in the KJV translation. Other translations have a different translation, like you heard the ESV a few minutes ago. He calls them brothers and Carnal, and so thus some would claim that they are "Carnal Christians," and so that's the approach.
Two Categories of People
So I'm going to lay my cards on the table. I do not believe that the Bible divides the human race into three categories of people, but two categories of people. You're either dead in your transgressions and sins or you're alive in Christ Jesus. Those are the two categories. If you are dead in your transgressions and sins, the Bible would also call you a child of the devil. If you're born again, you would be called conversely a child of God. Those are the two categories. Jesus spoke like this all the time. There was wheat and weeds, there were good fish and bad fish, there was light and darkness. There's not three categories.
And yet all of us, every single one of us struggles with sin. And we all have moments, like when you look at that carnal Christian diagram, it's like, "Yeah, that was me Thursday afternoon, and again Thursday evening, actually. Friday morning, repented of my sin, filled with the spirit but by lunch not so much." Any of you know exactly what I'm talking about. Christ is definitely in your life but things are a mess right now. And so can I get some help for all that, please? Can I get some help for living the Spirit-filled life in the midst of what's actually happening for me? And so things are not so clear and easy but I just think it's important to know you're either alive in Christ or you're dead outside of him. And that three categories is just not a helpful way to think.
I. Paul Rebukes the “Carnal” Christians at Corinth
Alright. So let's walk through 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, that's our primary job now, and show why we cannot root that carnal Christian teaching in this text. What is Paul actually doing here? Well, he's rebuking the so-called carnal Christians at Corinth. This is a scathing rebuke from a loving spiritual father. Next chapter in 4:15, Paul says "In Christ Jesus I became your father through the Gospel." So he is giving them a verbal spanking here. And sometimes a loving father has to do that. So look what he says in verse 1-4, "Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly." Carnal in the KJV. "Mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed you are still not ready, you are still worldly, for since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men or ordinary people. For when one of you says, "I follow Paul" and another, "I follow Apollos", are you not mere men or ordinary people?"
So he begins by saying, "Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual." Even as he's rebuking them, he takes a loving stance toward them. He's not being harsh with them here, he loves them, they are his brothers and sisters in Christ, they are equally part of the body of Christ. He wanted to teach them the fullness of God's teaching at every level, but he was evaluating their ability to accept his teaching. "Brothers I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly or carnal, mere infants in Christ." Now this is actually very important for a teacher of the Word of God to do, evaluate in a feedback loop, are the people able to understand what you're saying? Jesus did this the night before He was crucified with His own apostles. John 16:12, He said, "I have much to say to you, more than you can now bear." That's a feedback loop isn't it? You can't handle everything, I would say to you. When the Holy Spirit comes, He'll teach you the rest, but you're not ready for it, now. So you need to do that. If people are not ready to hear what you're teaching, then it's a waste of time.
And so Paul has to slow down and address them. And he says, "Not as spiritual but as worldly," or carnal, in the KJV. People of the flesh as though they were non-Christians. Now, the word spiritual goes back to the end of the last chapter. Remember how we were seeing that the world thinks Christ crucified as foolishness and a stumbling block, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God. In chapter 2, he shows us why because the Holy Spirit has come into our lives to show us, the wisdom and power of Christ crucified.
Look back in Chapter 2 verse 12, he said, "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God is freely giving us." So it's the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of these Corinthians, that changed everything. And at the end of the sermon, I'm going to give you some marks of regeneration. I'm going to put it all in the line of what the Spirit does in the life of a true Christian. And I'm going to ask you, is the Spirit doing this in your life? Is the Spirit doing that in your life? Everything is focused on the spirit. And then at the end of Chapter 2, as you know, the last thing he said is, "But we have the mind of Christ." So the Holy Spirit has come into the genuinely converted Corinthians, to teach them to think about Christ crucified and then everything else like Jesus does, and gives them a new mind.
We know that the natural person, in 2:14, cannot accept the things of God, because they are foolishness and spiritually discerned, he's not able to understand them. But you Corinthians, the genuinely converted people have been brought out of darkness in to light. You now have the Holy Spirit, you can understand spiritual things. That's where we were at the end of Chapter 3. But now Paul is saying to the Corinthians, "But I couldn't talk to you like that. I couldn't address you as I want to as spiritual people, I have to talk to you as though you're not converted, as you're unconverted people. Or, he calls them infants in Christ. A new born baby is immature but still human. A full member of the family, a son or daughter of that family, human definitely, but a baby. Now you cannot be a Christian without having the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.
Romans 8:9, says, "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." So again, there's two types of people. Either the Spirit is in your life, or he's not. Alright, but the spirit was in them, but they were thinking and acting like babies, and as babies in Christ they needed baby food. Look at verse 2, "I gave you milk, not solid food or meat, for you are not yet ready for it, indeed, you were still not ready." Babies have no teeth, thank God, say the mothers. Thank God. They are not able to handle a T-bone steak. It'd be child abuse to do it. But we know in the normal progression of things they develop teeth, they grow their teeth, and then little by little you give them more and more solid food, more and more adult food, as time goes on. That's the image, the analogy.
Milk Teaching and Meat Teaching
So when it comes to Christian doctrine, there is milk and then there's meat. So what does that mean? Well, milk are those basic Christian doctrines that you would explain in an evangelistic setting to a non-Christian, the basic facts of the gospel, who Jesus is, who God is, who Jesus, who we are, what sin is what Christ came to do, His death on the cross atoning for sins, His bodily resurrection from the dead, the need for faith and repentance in Christ, that's all milk. All the things you would explain to a non-Christian or then you would go back over with somebody who had just become a Christian. That's milk.
So, what's meat. Well, meat are harder aspects of the Christian life. Ironically, we would go back to the cross. There are aspects of the Cross-centered life that are meat for us. To learn every day to deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Jesus, no matter where it lives, that's meat. And it's hard to do. So that would be an example of meat, how the cross as it preaches self-denial and self-sacrifice at every moment and what that practically, how that works out, that would be an example of meat, but that's not the only meat I would think of. I also think meat would be any doctrines that are hard for immature Christians to accept, but are biblically true. They run contrary to the normal way of thinking. And it takes a while to be able to process the truth of it. For example, God's sovereignty and salvation, the aspects of that, eternal predestination of individuals, who God knows by name before they're even born, predestination. God's sovereign activity and Providence, how God controls even the sparrows that fall to the ground or the hairs on your head. And yet there's all this evil in the world, that's hard to understand.
And then the higher levels of theology, for example, the author to Hebrews use the exact same kind of illustration, I like to give you meat but you still need milk. Does the same thing in Hebrews 5. Why? Because he wants to tell them about Melchizedek You're like, "Who's Melchizedek?" Friends, this is not a sermon on Hebrews 7, so we could do that another time, but Melchizedek's an image, a type of Christ, in the Old Testament. So it's just a higher level of theology and of illustration that at some point you need to come into as a Christian, to fully understand Christ, who he was, what he did. And the author to Hebrews there, and Hebrews 5 and 7, says, "I'd like to have given that but you're not ready." That's milk and that's meat. Meat would be the harder aspects of Christian theology that'd just take a while to be able to absorb. And it takes spiritual teeth to chew on it for a while, think about it, reason it through and then come to a peace with it.
Paul's saying that the Corinthians weren't before able to chew on this meat and they're still not able to chew it. So he's rebuking them for their own spirituality and their immaturity. Look at verse 3, "You are still worldly, for since there is jealousy and quarreling among you. Are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?" Paul says they are worldly, other translations as I said, of the flesh, carnal, fleshly. Also saying, it's like they're unconverted, they're not unconverted, but they're acting as though they're unconverted.
Now, in Verse 1, the Greek adjective is fleshy, that is of the flesh. But in verse 3, the adjective is, fleshly or that is like the flesh. So what's the difference? Well, take, let's say a woman's blouse, you could say that the blouse is silky meaning it feels and acts like silk but it's not silk or you could say the blouse is silk, meaning it's made of silk. And so what he is saying here by that shift, that subtle shift of language, he's saying, You're acting unconverted, you're not unconverted but you're acting it. Now, let me just pause. I would say all of our sin moments, we're acting like we're unconverted at that moment, we all do it, we all act like pagans, from time to time. And we're learning little by little, to stop doing that, that's sanctification, that progressive growth in holiness, stop thinking like a non-Christian. But that's what he's saying, here. And the proof he gives is their jealousy and quarreling. One says, "I follow Paul" one says, "I follow Apollos." That jealousy was just pagan. That's what the Corinthians did all the time, with rhetorical philosophical leaders. I follow Plato, I follow Aristotle, I follow Socrates, etcetera. He's saying you're doing the same things, which you've always done.
And he says in Verse 4, "For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' Are you not mere men? It's an interesting expression. You're acting like natural humans and you should be acting like super natural humans. There should be a super natural aspect of your life as a Christian. Something that to some degree makes no sense to the non-Christians. Remember Jesus does this exact same thing at the end of Matthew 5 in the Sermon on the Mount. "You have heard that it was said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Then He said this. "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even the tax collectors do that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" Do you see how he's arguing? You shouldn't be living like that. There should be a supernatural aspect of your life as a disciple of mine.
Look, pagans know how to greet people who greet them. Non-Christians know how to invite their relatives over for a meal. I'm asking you to love your enemies. I'm asking to act like God. And then He cinches it by saying you must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. That's a supernatural life. But Paul's saying, these Corinthians are not acting supernatural, they're acting just like unconverted people.
II. The Carnal Christian Teaching Refuted
Alright. Now I've walked through 1 Corinthians 3:1-4. There is no ground here for the carnal Christian teaching. He's not saying you can have all your sins forgiven and live however you want. He's not teaching that at all. So what is the problem with this? So what can we do with this carnal Christian teaching? How can we adjust it? Well, I think as we walk through, we have to see what's wrong with it.
First, it misinterprets 1 Corinthians 3:1-4. Whatever doctrine, I want you to ask, I want you to have the instinct to say "show me the scriptures." How do the scriptures teach this? And actually, the preponderance in the New Testament is directly the opposite of this. Almost all of these Epistles; Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, they're written to people who claim to be Christians to teach them what the Christian life should look like. Not giving any one ground to live like pagans, not at all. So it misinterprets this.
It misinterprets the vital connection between justification and sanctification. Well, let me put it simply, between how your sins are forgiven and how you should then live after that. Justification is how you are made right with God, how can your sins be forgiven? The Bible teaches plainly, it's by faith and not by works, by trusting in Christ, His death on the cross, His resurrection for you, all of your sins will be forgiven, and that's going to be true the rest of your life. If you ever sin, if you ever violate God's word your forgiveness will come from the same place every time, Christ crucified in your simple faith in that, for the rest of your life that is true. But that's not all of salvation, there's more of salvation than justification. There is a transformed nature that comes, your heart is changed. The heart of stone is removed and a heart of flesh is put in, and you begin to think differently by the power of the Holy Spirit, you begin to live differently and you begin to grow and imitate Christ more and more, that's called sanctification or Christian growth. And this teaching just doesn't seem to harmonize that at all, doesn't seem to understand that. It separates the blessings of the New Covenant, the blessing of the New Covenant. You get it all. You get everything.
In Hebrews 8, the author to Hebrews quoting Jeremiah, says, "I will write my laws on your minds and put them in your hearts. I will be your God and you'll be my people. And I'll forgive your wickedness and remember your sins no more." They're linked together. A transformed nature and the forgiveness of sins are linked together. If God forgives you your sins, He transforms your nature. If He transformed your nature, He's forgiven, your sins. They go together. You cannot separate them. Therefore, it makes no distinction at all between true or genuine saving faith and between fake faith, spurious faith, counterfeit faith.
Saving Faith vs Counterfeit Faith
Wait a minute, is there such a thing? Yes, biblically. There is such a thing. In John 2, Jesus was talking about people who were excited about His miracles, and they believed in Him. That's what the text says, but Jesus didn't entrust Himself to them because He knew all people, He didn't need anyone's testimony about their hearts because He knew what was inside them, they were not genuinely converted. They were scintillated by His miracles, but they didn't really believe in Him. Or James chapter 2 makes this very plain. It asked what kind of faith justifies. The demons know the right facts about God and they're not forgiven. They just tremble, they shudder. So knowing the right facts, that's not enough. Faith apart from works is dead. So dead faith and demon faith, does not justify. So this carnal Christian teaching doesn't seem to make any distinction there.
What kind of faith saves? Well, the kind of faith, says James, that produces good works. It also emits repentance, a genuine biblical presentation of the gospel involves repentance, it's a call from Christ the King to stop living the way you were living. To turn around from it. To turn your back on sexual immorality, to turn your back on lying and arrogance and pride and selfishness, to turn your back on all of that wickedness turn your back on it and live a new life. So it's repentance and faith, but this carnal Christian teaching seems to deny that repentance is even needed. And it teaches wrongly on assurance. Reisinger puts it this way: When a person professes he belong to Christ and he yet lives like the world. How do we know that his profession is genuine?" How do we know it's not genuine? There are always two possibilities. He may be a true Christian after all, who is just in a season of back-sliding, or he may be deceived and not ever have genuinely come to Christ, only God knows. Two errors therefore must be avoided. One, saying, unequivocally that he is not a Christian, or saying unequivocally that he is a Christian, and this is very dangerous for churches like ours.
In the 20 years I've been here, we have worked progressively, little by little, to get our church roles to reflect one of two healthy relationships as church members with our church. Number one: Able-bodied and regularly attending corporate worship here on Sunday mornings, or number two, physically unable to do that. That's it. Those are the two categories of healthy church membership. The third able-bodied, but not regularly attending must be ruled out. If they're going to work, if they're going shopping, if they're playing golf on Saturday, they could and should be in some Bible believing church on Sunday, the church they are a covenant member of, if they can. So for us as elders, we're going to progressively just rule out that third category based on this entire Doctrine.
And the carnal Christian view also has a low view of sin and its dangers, sin is poison, it is dangerous to our souls. And just because we're forgiven doesn't mean we can do it. It has a hardening effect on our hearts. And so to get good solid teaching about the Gospel, if you begin to sin, the Holy Spirit will come around you, and start pressing on you to hate that sin and repent from it and turn from it. Or bring brothers and sisters around you, the church will get around you until you repent and start living healthy again. That's just what he does in a Christian life.
And finally, the carnal Christian teaching has a low view of Christ and His United offices. You cannot separate Christ the Savior, from Christ the King. He is Savior and He is Lord all at once. As a matter of fact, I think His greatest gospel invitation that you will find; He had a lot of great ones, but it's in Matthew 11:28-30, He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened. And I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls for My yoke is easy and My burden is light." I believe the yoke is His kingly authority, the Gospel of Matthew is all about the Kingdom of Heaven, it's about I am the King, the King of Heaven. You've been rebelling against my authority. Now stop that rebellion and put your stiff neck, now softened by the Holy Spirit under My yoke and follow Me. And you will not find it burdensome, you'll find My commands are not burdensome, you'll find a whole full rich way of life. But you must take My yoke upon you, if you want to be saved, you can't separate Jesus as savior and Jesus as Lord.
III. A Healthy Understanding of Christian Growth
Alright. Well, we have to have instead a healthy understanding of Christian growth. I was listening to a John Piper sermon on this, and he gave a very interesting analogy, based on that diagram that I gave you. He kind of expanded out and made it more three-dimensional. So imagine an empire with a capital city and a palace fortress representing the non-Christians life, that whole thing is non-Christian life. And the Holy Spirit, Christ through the Holy Spirit leads an amazing commando raid, blast through the walls of the palace fortress, gets into the throne room and assassinates the old King. Kills him, dead. So the person we were in Adam died the moment we generally came to faith in Christ, we died with Jesus. That old king is dead, and there's a new king ruling. But the palace hasn't heard anything about it. And so like any other Palace coup, the word has to spread. And more and more the palace gets subdued to the new king, and then eventually the capital city gets subdued but in the outlying districts there's still a civil war going on. And that war may last the rest of your life until various aspects of your life get the word that Christ is king. I find that helpful, if you don't, then don't use it.
But the idea is that it takes time for Christ's reign over different parts of your life to be extended. Alright. So what then shall we do? Let's understand saving genuine, saving faith. Genuine saving faith involves repentance. And what you've done the moment you came to Christ, is you began a work of seeing accurately sin and hating it, and that will go on the rest of your life. At that moment that you trusteed in Christ, all your sins, past, present and future are most certainly forgiven by simple faith in Christ. But you're going to need again and again to come back and confess your sins, why? Because you have an indwelling sin nature that's still vibrantly alive. Paul talks about it in Romans 7. "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do, and if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good, as it is, it is no longer I myself who do it but it's sin living in me that does it." It says at the end of Romans 7, "What a wretched man I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?" "From this indwelling battle with sin?"
Thanks, be to God through Jesus Christ. Jesus is someday going to deliver us. But in the meantime, we have to fight, we have to fight, fight, fight every day. We have to fight the good fight of faith. And how do you do that? Well, understand the role of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:16-21, says this. "So I say live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They're in conflict with each other so that you do not do what you want, but if you are led by the Spirit. You're not under law. Now, the acts of the flesh are obvious. Sexual immorality, Impurity, and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God." Well, those words are the death knell for the carnal Christian idea.
As I've described it, that you can live however you want and still go to heaven. Don't be deceived. "But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control." The Holy Spirit works these beautiful virtues in a genuine Christian. So the rest of your life, you are going to continue to be weird. As a matter of fact, you're going to be surpassingly supernaturally weird. You are going to be inconsistent and struggling. The angels in heaven aren't like you and neither are the demons like you. There's no struggle with either of them, and those that are dead in their transgressions and sins, they don't struggle, they are dead in sin every day. And the redeemed in heaven, they don't struggle, they're done at last with sin. That leaves us, friends. And what that means is you're goanna go in and out of carnal moments by the power of the Spirit, you're goanna be renewed, refreshed, convicted and then you're goanna keep living and guess what's goanna happen, you're goanna sin again. But as you continue to walk in the light as He is in the light, you'll be able to confess your sins and the blood of Jesus will keep cleansing you from all sin. That's the Christian life, that's what's laying out ahead of you.
The Marks of Regeneration
Now, you may ask, what are the marks of regeneration? How can I know that I have been saved? I wrote them out right after BFL, I actually left BFL early, sorry. But I was like, I got to write these out. But as usual, I can't read my writing. It happens all the time. But I'll do the best I can. First of all, let me just say, 1 John, is the book to answer this question. That's what it's given for. How can I know? This is how we know, this is how we know. This is what the book is all about. What I want to do is take some ideas from 1 John and just put it in the work of the Spirit and we'll be done today.
Is the Holy Spirit in your life or not? That's the question we're having to ask. Does the Spirit testify with your heart that you're a child of God? Is the Spirit active in these ways? In what ways? Well first, it says in 1 John 3:9, "Whoever is born of God does not sin." Wow. But that's not teaching sinless perfection, because he said in the 1 John 1, you can walk in the light, and still need cleansing from the blood of Jesus. So it's not perfectionism, but what it means is your relationship with sin has radically changed once you become a Christian. Now that you're genuinely Christian, you hate sin, it's the greatest grief in your life. You don't sin willingly. You sin bitterly and reluctantly, you're not just comfortable with sin, with the enemies of Christ, not at all. You grieve over your sin, not right away, but if the spirit in you, He will make you grieve. Is that happening for you? Does the Holy spirit make you grieve over your own sin? Because He's grieved over it. Does He then make you grieve over it? That's a genuine Christian. You hate sin, you hunger and thirst for righteousness. You may not always achieve it, but it is what you want.
Number two, 1 John 5:1 says, "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God." Ours is a Christ-centered faith. The Holy Spirit ministers Christ to you. So do you believe that Jesus is your savior and your only savor? You can't save yourself. You have no hope of saving yourself. Christ is your only hope. Do you believe that? That's what the Spirit works. You believe that Christ is the Son of God, He died on the cross for you, He rose from the dead. Anyone who believes that, 1 John 5:1, is born of God.
Thirdly, 1 John 2:29, says, "Everyone that does righteousness is born of God." But what does righteousness mean? It means obeying God's laws, His moral law. And so, if you're born again, you have taken on and brought into yourself the whole moral law of God, and you delight in it, you say not just part of it. You want it all. You want to love God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbors yourself in all the particulars. And whatever the word of God teaches you as healthy righteous living, that's what you want. You delight in all of God's law, and you're consistently seeking to obey God's laws and do righteous acts by the law of God.
Fourthly, "we know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brothers." The brothers and sisters in Christ. That's 1 John 3:14. Love other Christians, enjoy fellowship with other Christians. You don't forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as Hebrews 10 says. But you come to church. You come to Bible study, you come to home fellowship. You're involved. You've got people speak in your life, and you love it. You're delighted when brothers and sisters do well, when they're growing. When you hear that somebody becomes a Christian it makes you happy. Psalm 16:3 says that the faithful ones in the land, they are the glorious ones and whom is all your delight. You just love other Christians. And again, not perfectly, I know we don't perfectly because we're all sinners, but you enjoy Christian fellowship.
And then fifth, whoever is born of God, overcomes the world. 1 John 5:4. You see the corruption in the world. Not excited, and in love with the world. You'd know first John 2 says, "Do not love the world or anything in the world." And so you hate the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life. Wherever you get drawn in and sucked in by them. You're defiled by it and you know that's not what you want. And so you overcome the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. So I'm asking you, is the Spirit working these five things in you? And if you came here today and you were outside of Christ, I'm just going to urge you cross over from darkness to light, right now. Trust in Jesus, you've heard the Gospel this morning, that God sent His son to die on the cross for sinners like you and me. All you need to do is believe in Him. We don't call people to come to the front and talk to the pastor. You can talk to me actually at the back, you can come to the back and talk to a pastor after the service is over, but it's not required at all. What is required? Hearing with faith, the Gospel. That's it. But then if you do that, do you understand the kind of life that the Holy Spirit will work in you if you're genuinely born again?
Close with me in prayer. Father, thank you for the things that we've learned today, God help us to be discerning in our thinking. Help us to be discerning about this carnal Christian idea. Help us to be discerning that there are only two kinds of people. Help us to grieve whenever we behave carnally as the Corinthians were doing. Help us to grieve over it, help us to grow and grace in the knowledge of Christ. Strengthen us, O Lord, and help us to follow you and to be pure, in your sight and the live lives that are pleasing to you. In Jesus' name, amen.