Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Biblical Types of Carnality

According to Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, the word "carnal" signifies "The flesh that is sensual, controlled by animal appetites, and governed by human nature instead of by the Spirit of God". Therefore a carnal or worldly Christian, in contrast with a spiritual Christian, is a Christian who is under the control of the flesh - the natural senses.

Paul said, "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:19 - 21, NKJV, emphasis added).

The purpose of this message is to reveal to Christians, from the Word of God, the danger of cultivating a carnal lifestyle which is the works of the flesh. If they do, they are in danger of being excluded from the Kingdom of God - strong words! You'll see that it is impossible to follow Christ, let alone walking with Him, and at the same time to live a carnal lifestyle. You'll also discover that God hates carnality because carnality is really a serious disease! I hope my use of two Biblical types or patterns will help us to understand better in what I am about to share.

The Spiritually minded and the carnally minded

Paul said, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Cor. 5:17, NKJV, emphasis added).

Here are some statements of truth:

1. A person is said to be in Christ, if he is a truly born again believer who is united to Christ by faith.

2. A truly born again believer is a true Christian who is a new creature in the moral sense (Eph. 4:24), with new values, new hope, new priorities and so on.

3. Old things that passed away include the love of the world, love of self, love of worldly ambition, love of vanity, love of sin and so on.

Therefore a true Christian will live according to the Spirit. Paul gave a solemn warning to those who live according to the flesh:

"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Romans 8: 5 - 7, 13, NKJV, emphasis added).

The word "death" means "spiritual death". Notice that a spiritual death person will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Therefore a Christian cannot be both carnal and Christ-like. In other words it is impossible to follow both Christ and at the same time follow your own sensual desire. You are either spiritually minded or carnally minded. No one can be both at the same time.

Why God hates carnality?

By studying what God saw in Esau and Jacob it is possible for us to understand why God hates carnality. I believe Esau was one of Biblical types of carnality. Esau was a carnally minded person but Jacob was a spiritually minded person.

The carnality of Esau

God made His choice before Jacob and Esau were born. To Israel (Jacob) He said:

"'I have loved you,' says the Lord. Yet you say, 'In what way have You loved us?' 'Was not Esau Jacob's brother?' says the Lord, 'Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated, and laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness'" (Malachi 1:2, 3, emphasis added).

The writer of Hebrews said, ".... lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears" (Hebrews 12:16, 17, emphasis added).

Notice that Esau had been described as a fornicator or a profane person. The Bible has not indicated anywhere that that Esau was a fornicator, but in God's eyes, he was as corrupted as a fornicator. The sensual sin he had committed was equal to that of a fornicator. He was therefore classed as a fornicator. Being a profane person he had no respect to his religious and cultural heritage as the first born - his birthright. In fact he despised his birthright and sold it to Jacob for "bread and stew of lentils" (Genesis 25:34). He never appreciated what God had offered him. He was a carnal person because he was overcome by his fleshly desire. He desired things temporal and forsaken things eternal!

He was a type of carnality, of being more concerned with the things of time than things of eternity, with the things of the flesh than the things of the Spirit! Because of this He had never loved God:

"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. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world" (1 John 2:15).

The spirituality of Jacob

What did God see in Jacob that caused Him to love him? Jacob was a supplanter (as his name suggested), a trickster, a swindler and a cheat! He was also a self-centered, scheming and grasping sort of person. But he had the right attitude toward the promises of God. With all his faults and vices he yet was found intensely spiritually sensitive. He appreciated what God had to offer. He wanted the best from God even though he went altogether the wrong way of getting it.

Moses recorded in Genesis 32:22 - 32 that a Man (Jesus Christ Himself) wrestled with him all night:

"And He said, 'Let Me go, for the day breaks.' But he (Jacob) said, 'I will not let You go unless You bless me'" (Genesis 32:26).

God loved Jacob (renamed as Israel) because he "struggled with God and with men" and sought after God's blessings until he prevailed (Gen 32:28).

In my opinion we can redefine carnality as - "At anytime we begin to think and act and live as if this world is our home and believe we have something permanent here" - that is carnality! Once we lose the vision of eternity and not living in consciousness of eternal issues we are carnal Christians. And God hates carnality. He does not hate you or me, but He hates carnality!

Carnality can be a disease in a family and in a Local Church

Leprosy is an interesting Bible type of carnality - something that can cause trouble and problem in a marriage, a family or a local congregation. Carnality, just like leprosy, can spread and set up a plague that can destroy a family or a congregation if not handled in a correct manner. This Bible type or pattern teaches us how to handle carnality (leprosy) in a God appointed manner.

The Bible has a lot to say about leprosy. Most of these Old Testament characters who were struck with leprosy because of one cause - their carnality. Because of this fact, leprosy (I am using inference here) was a hideous disease often used by God for the judgment of carnality.

Here are some Bible characters who were struck by God with leprosy:

Miriam, a sister of Aaron and Moses, was struck with leprosy because she was involed in a rebellion against Moses when he married an Ethiopian woman (Num. 12:1, 2).

King Uzziah was struck with leprosy because he presumptuously burnt incense to the Lord. Only a priest was consecrated to burn incense (2 Chron. 26:18 - 20).

Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, was struck with leprosy because of his greed, dishonesty and misuse of the prophetic office of Elisha (1 King 5:20 - 27).

Spiritual Leprosy

In the Book of Leviticus two whole chapters (13 and 14) were used to deal with leprosy. Please read Leviticus 13:2 - 30.

The key verse is: "And the priest shall examine him on the seventh day. If it has at all spread over the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean. It is a leprous sore" (Lev. 13:27, NKJV, emphasis added).

The emphasis was on spreading. If the leprous sore or spots spread to other areas then the person was considered unclean.

The mercy of God

The Law given to the priest to deal with a leprous person speaks of the mercy of God. Verses 3 to 8 show how much patience the priest was instructed to show. If the sore spread then the person should be in isolation for a week. If after a week the priest was still not sure then the person should be in isolation for another week. The priest should not jump into conclusion quickly that the person was indeed unclean.

God's mercy gives time for things to be put right. In the camp of Israel they had priests to examine things pertaining to leprosy. Similarly, in our camp (the Local Church) we have the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, to examine things pertaining to carnality. Therefore, the way God dealt with leprosy in the camp of Israel, is a spiritual picture of how God deals with us now because He expects us to be righteous and pure and to keep things holy!

Types of spiritual leprosy

It is beyond the scope of this message to explain in details. I just list down the types of spiritul leprosy (carnality) below according to what the Holy Spirit has revealed (by a strong impression) to me:

1. "Swelling" (Lev. 13:2) speaks of rebellion.

2. "A scab" (V. 2) speaks of pride.

3. "A bright spot" (V. 2) speaks of jealousy.

4. "A spot of raw flesh in the swelling" (V. 10) speaks of bad temper.

5. "White swelling or a bright spot, reddish-white" (V. 9) speaks of bitterness.

6. "Raw flesh of the burn" (V. 24) speaks of lust.

7. "Sore on the head or the beard" (V. 29) speaks of presumption, pride and willful sin.

A Biblical way of dealing with spiritual leprosy

If carnality is not correctly dealt with in a family or in a local congregation it can spread. A person with a carnal lifestyle and gets away with it will spread to other members in the fellowship. A Biblical way is to bring the problem to our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is Our advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1). This calls for confrontation, repentance and restoration in this order.

Paul said, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trepass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself less you also be tempted" (Gal. 6:1, NKJV).

It takes spiritual reality to restore; it takes carnality to destroy!

God helping me, I hope to continue to share with the theme of "carnality" in my next message.

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