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It Is Painful To Grow Up

 

By Dr. Richard Ing

September 13, 2005

 

            Although we teach spiritual warfare and the army of God in this church, the overall focus has always been on growing into spiritual maturity.  When God called us into His army and to teach spiritual warfare, He called us into spiritual maturity - the most difficult task imaginable for any church or individual Christian, for that matter.

            Evangelism, praise and worship, intercessory prayer, missions work, deliverance, inner healing, healing, teaching, and so forth, are all secondary to growing up in the spirit.  What we do is nowhere as important as who we are in Christ. 

            For centuries, the Church has been mediocre and carnal except for a very few luminaries in each generation.  Today, the Church is more like the world than the “called out ones.”  There are very few truly spiritual Christians “conformed to the image of his Son.”  Ro. 8:29; 2 Co. 3:18.  Yet, the Bible says that we are called to be overcomers.  Revelation, chapters 2 and 3.  The “overcomers” and the Army of God are clearly an elite class of Christians who are spiritually mature in Christ. 

CARNAL VS. SPIRITUAL

            The apostle Paul made it obvious that we are to move from carnal to spiritual in order to become the sons of God.  “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”  Ro. 8:14.   Paul describes carnal Christians as those who mind the things of the flesh.   At the same time, they that are after the Spirit mind the things of the Spirit:  “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”  Ro. 8:5-6.

            The apostle goes on to say, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”  Ro. 8:7-8.  In other words, carnal Christians who mind the things of the flesh are enemies of the things of God and cannot please God.  The carnal mind refuses to be and is not subject or submitted to the law of God (and the Spirit as well).

THE FLESH

             The carnal mind serves the flesh.  Put another way, “Self” thinks it is the flesh and therefore, serves the flesh.  When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, their spirit light went out and they became flesh.  From that point on, flesh became their God.  The flesh craves clothes, shelter, food, sex, and the things of the world that feed the flesh.  You cannot serve God and Mammon at the same time.  Jesus says,

                        Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.  Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? … Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (for after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  Mt. 6:25-25, 31-32.

            To be spiritual is to deny the flesh and refuse to cater to its lusts.  Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”  In other words, what the flesh lusts after is against the Spirit and what Spirit desires is against the flesh, and if you walk after the things of the Spirit, you  cannot do the things that ye would otherwise do if you walked after the flesh. 

            So what are some of the things the flesh lusteth after?  It craves recognition from men (self is God and desires worship) and is a man-pleaser.  Flesh loves riches, fame, possessions and the good life.  It is attached to the things of the world and is dependent on self to keep feeding the flesh.  The spiritual man, on the other hand, has no desire for the things of the world.  As Watchman Nee put it (paraphrasing), “You live in the world and have to work and support your family and eat and wear clothes and touch the things of the world; but you don’t have to love it.”  Jesus put it this way, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Mt. 6:33.  Either you follow the spirit of the world or you follow the Spirit of God.     The flesh totally hates this message and will do anything to resist it.  It will even persecute and kill the messenger of truth.  The Pharisees killed Jesus and all the disciples and they would kill you too if you told the truth.  Flesh will utterly refuse to give up being God.  It will rebel and hate those who preach this message.  Most pastors are afraid to tell the truth.  That’s why the churches are filled with carnal Christians.

CARNAL CHRISTIANS

            Many carnal Christians don’t even know that they are carnal, even those who belong to charismatic or Pentecostal churches.  They were never pushed to become spiritual.

            The one true mark of a spiritual Christian is one who has come to depend solely on God for everything and no longer strives for the things of the flesh.  He is totally dependent upon and obedient to God.  I’m not talking about a lazy Christian who pretends to be dependent on God because he does not want to work.  I’m talking about those whose hearts are changed and whose lives manifest the fruit of the Spirit.

            Most Christians want it all.  They want to have a good life on earth and the highest seats in heaven at the same time.  They will strive to keep what they have and maintain complete control of their own life.  They don’t want to be known to their friends, family and the public as sold-out Christians.  They will cover up their lack of spiritual maturity by putting up a pretense of holiness and righteousness.  They will memorize tons of scriptures and let everyone know how much they know.  They will engage in lots of good works, even pray harder than anyone, fast more and pretend more.  Most of the time they will do their own thing because Self is God and nobody tells God what to do.  But, they are still carnal.  Self is still on the throne.

            The truth is, we will never overcome and become spiritually mature in Christ until we surrender all to Christ and stop minding the things of the flesh.

WORKS OF THE FLESH

            Christians are so good at acting and giving false appearances that most of the time, it works.  They even fool themselves.  But you can discern them from their fruits.  Jesus spoke of:

            … false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Mt. 7:15-17.

 

Paul defined the fruit of the flesh as follows: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.”  Gal. 5:19-21.  “Uncleanness” refers to moral uncleanness.  “Lasciviousness” means “licentiousness, filthiness, wantonness.”  “Variance” means “contention, debate, strife.”  “Emulations” means “jealousy, envy.”  “Seditions” means “disunion, dissension, division.”  “Revellings” means “carousing, rioting.”  

            Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft and obviously works of the flesh.  Hatred or lack of love and forgiveness is of the flesh.  People who contend, argue and cause strife in church are of the flesh.  If you do not agree with the vision of the church, you need to go find a church you agree with.  To cause contentions, arguments and strife against the leadership is rebellion.  You cannot win against God who is going to defend His delegated authority in the end.

            Seditions are attempts by people to divide and bring disunity in the church.  They use arguments and persuasion to set sheep against the leadership.  Again, anybody can understand if you don’t agree with leadership; but if you start talking to others to set them against the leaders, you are committing sedition.

            There are other characteristics of the flesh which we will discuss later.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

            On the other hand, the apostle Paul also defined the fruit of the Spirit:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.  And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”  Ga. 522-24.  Paul spends much time talking about love in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13.  Out of love springs all the other fruit of the Spirit: humility, submission, obedience, diligence and all the fruit listed above.

            The apostle John makes a very important statement in 1 John 4:8 and 16.  He says, “God is love.”  John doesn’t just say that God loves; he says that God is love.  His very fundamental nature and essence is love.  His heart is all love; His fundamental being is love.  In His presence, you are enveloped in His love.  His thoughts are thoughts of love.  All of His actions are based on love.  We may not understand it, but it is love.  To an infant receiving inoculations through a hypodermic needle, it doesn’t seem like love; but it is.  Trials and problems don’t seem like God’s love; but it is.

            If God is love, then all who are in His image are also love.  All who are filled with the Holy Spirit must be filled with love since the Holy Spirit is love.  What is it that prevents us from being love?  It is the flesh, the carnal mind.  If you are mature in Christ, that means that your own essence and nature is love.  But the flesh does not trust others enough to love unconditionally or completely.  It defends the self and puts walls around it.  It does not trust God.  If you walk in the Spirit, you walk in love.

            Most Christians who don’t know how to love are rejected persons and some have the spirit of rejection in them.  But rejection is not only a spirit; it is a mind-set.  Get rid of the spirit of rejection and one still needs to learn how to love.

LOVE COMES WITH A PRICE

            The world does not understand love.  The world’s love is based either on sex (“eros”)or friendships between two individuals (“phileo“).  Both are temporary and fragile.  God’s love (“agape”) is permanent. 

            In the real world, love expects to be loved back in return.  It is easily withdrawn when circumstances change.  But, God’s love is never retracted.  This is one of the hardest things to understand and attain.  In life, your best friends will betray you.  Family will betray you.  Joseph was hated by his brothers who wanted to kill him.  David was looked down upon by even his father.  His brothers were jealous of him.  Most of David’s best friends and warriors who stood by him when he was king deserted him when he was on his deathbed.  Isaiah and Jeremiah were hated by their own people who wanted to kill them.  All of the Lord’s disciples deserted him in His hour of need.  Thousands of people embraced Paul when he was preaching the Word and doing miracles; but when he was to be executed, only Luke the physician stood by his side.  2 Ti. 4:17.  “… no man stood with me, but all men forsook me:  I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.”

            Don’t you see?  The test of love is not when things are rosy and all men love you.  The test is whether you can love and forgive them even when they are resisting you, criticizing you, rebelling against you and nailing you to the cross.  Sometimes, God has to test your love and He will allow your best friends, family members and others to go against you.  That’s the only way to prove your love.      


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