Are you becoming a more spiritual or a more carnal Christian? And how can you tell the difference? I’ve been asking myself these questions over the last couple days after reading the following words from Andrew Murray in his classic book, The Master’s Indwelling:
And this may be in our days as well as in the time of the Corinthians. I may be a minister of the Gospel; I may teach God’s Word beautifully; I may have influence, and gather a large congregation, and yet, alas! I may be a carnal man; a man who may be used by God, and may be a blessing to others, and yet the carnal life may still mark me. You all know the law that a thing is named according to what is its most prominent characteristic. Now, in these carnal Corinthians there was a little of God’s Spirit, but the flesh predominated; the Spirit had not the rule of their whole life.
Murray is commenting on the scripture from I Corinthians 3:1,2 where Paul rebukes the believers because of their spiritual immaturity. Paul writes,
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;
Something that stood out to me from Murray’s teaching is the fact that it is possible to serve the Lord and even possess spiritual gifts yet still be a carnal Christian. That is a sobering thought. To think that you could go on in the service of our Lord and appear to all people to be a “spiritual person” but at the same time be dominated by the flesh. I believe there is a valuable lesson here which is this – It is better to allow the Word of God to appraise our spiritual condition then to rely on the opinion of man. If we are less carnal than our fellow Christian then we may be considered spiritual. But I don’t believe God’s desire is for us to be the lesser of two evils.
We live in a time that encourages carnal living so in order to live spiritual lives we must be willing to be different than the crowd; even different than the average Christian. Remembe that Paul was writing to believers in Corinth. People who were saved and operating in the gifts of the Spirit but were carnal. The gifts are great and I love them but they are not a replacement for living a spiritual life. By the grace of God we can live lives governed by the Spirit and also operate in the gifts. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
So what is one thing you can do if you feel like a carnal person but want to change? There are lots of answers to that question but here is one that has helped me.
Have spiritual people in your life.
It’s good to be around spiritual people who are full of the Holy Spirit because they are the ones who are able to “restore the weaker ones” (Gal 6:1). I know for me it is not easy to be around spiritual people when I am struggling (aka being carnal) but I have learned that it is one of the best things I can do. It can feel hard to call a friend or go to that prayer meeting but many times it is exactly what we need.