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Carnal Christians
by Jack Wellman
2011-08-14 10:15:38
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Most Christians are not aware of how serious it is to add to what Jesus Christ has finished. It could be the difference between whether or not that person is saved or not.  I am not saying that works are not important because they are evidence of a person that has become a new creation in Christ.  We are not saved by works but for works and if a believer has no works then you might question that person’s salvation.

carnalcrhsistians_400I have heard some tell me that they are “carnal Christians”.  One man I have known for years indicated that he was saved but he watches X and R-rated movies, swears, cusses, and never attends church.  What worries me is that on one day when he and others like him meet Jesus Christ they might here, “Depart from Me, I never knew you!”  I am not perfect. I still sin.  But listen to this serious warning from Jesus Christ to those who profess the name of Christ yet have no fruit in Matthew 7:16-23:

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

That is a wake up call for many who say they can know Christ and yet do not abide in the vine.  They never attend church.  The do not read their Bible.  They have no fruits.  Fruits can grow only if they are attached to the vine.  This is clear in John 15:1-8”

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

As Jesus said, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.”  Vines that are not attached are cut off destined for the burn pile.  Vines that remain in the vine God will prune.  There are no lone ranger Christians to be found in the New Testament church.

Please understand me that works do not save anyone and neither does perfect attendance in a church but if there are no fruits, no abiding in Christ and no evidence of a changed life then a person may not really be saved.  I know this may offend some.  It may make someone mad, but a person’s eternal destiny is worth saying this.

The Salvation that God has provided through Jesus Christ is by grace. "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8-9). We can know we are be saved by His faith if we simply believe in Him (Acts 15:11).  In other words, eternal life is not received by, or attained by, or kept by a person's conduct or behavior (works).  Jesus didn't condemn people for their sins. He went to the sinners, not the (self-) "righteous". Neither does he come to the "religious acting" either. They have justified their own self’s by their works. God will not accept this.  But when a person was saved in the New Testament they joined with the Body of Christ, the church.
Our "religious works" profit us absolutely nothing and can actually take away the sacrifices effect because His atonement is sufficient once and for all, and for all sins. Once a person accepts Christ as Lord and Savior, there isn't anything else they can do to improve on it.  How can you improve on Christ’s perfection; in His perfecting gift of His own life?  It is all sufficient in His propitiation.   But certainly our works will naturally become better by the new nature in us, but we are not saved by those or any works.   We are not saved by works but we are saved for works.

I thank God that holiness is not the way to Jesus…Jesus is the way to holiness; otherwise I would be worried.  It is not all your responsibility; it is your response to His ability.  It is your response in accepting Him as Lord and Savior under.

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Emanuel Paparella2011-08-14 12:08:32
Interesting homily on what it means to be a Christians but since we readers are not a captive audience in a church but we are in a magazine of opinion and dialogue, perhaps some comments may be appropriate here, not to add to Christian orthodoxy but to exercise the freedom of the children of God, for if Christianity does not make us free, then it degenerates into a cult and Breivik too can then claim to be a Christian, albeit a cultural one, as he puts it.

Looking at the picture accompanying this article, one is led to wonder if the word “hedonist” (with its attendant connotation of the abuses and degradations of the body) would have been a much better choice, rather than the word “carnal.” I mention this, given that one of the essential beliefs of Christians is that of the “Incarnation” which literally means the taking on of a body by God. As Christians we celebrate such a belief every Christmas which is much more than Santa and fruit cakes and lights in the street as Breivik surely believes. That is to say, a spiritual invisible transcendent God incarnates Himself by coming into time and space and being born in a particular place at a particular time within a particular people, by taking on a visible body of flesh and blood.

Christians believe that this visible historical person by the name of Jesus within time and space is also the Christ, the anointed one, the savior of mankind, Emmanuel: God with us, the Son, the second person of the Trinity who as John puts it, is the Word who is there from the beginning with the Father and the Holy Spirit; and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Therefore in the wake of such doctrine the body is not to be despised and degraded as some Christians of puritanical tendencies are in the habit of doing but it is to be venerated and respected as sacred and the very instrument of our salvation, not despised and declared unholy (for the Puritan everything that partains to the body is suspect)since it was in the mind of God from the beginning. When I go to church, a Catholic Christian church, the priest does not say “soul of Christ” but “body of Christ” when he gives me communion.

Which means that angels, or disincarnated spirits without a body we are definitely not, and neither is Jesus who was true God and true man, the second person of the Trinity but with a body.

We need to save ourselves with our body I am afraid that Puritanism and the despising of the body is more consonant with Epicurianism (the other side of the coin of Puritanism) than with Christianity which believes that indeed we will be saved with our bodies, albeit a glorified body, at the end times. We shall not become angels but shall remain human by repossessing the body at the end of time.

When one contemplates the story of mankind as depicted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, one cannot but be struck by the fact that Michelangelo begins the story at the end so to speak, in our present situation of the degradation of the body, with the drunkenness of Noah, but then proceeds back to the beginning, to the creation of light, the most spiritual of material substances. Paradoxically, Michelangelo, who was a genuine Christian, intimates that in the beginning there is the end, and in the end there is the beginning in the mind of God and that we need to work our salvation through the body not by despising the body as Puritans misguidedly believe.

I am afraid that to be a Puritan is to contradict the Incarnation. When Jesus went to a party, the wedding at Cana, and they ran out of water, he did not say like a kill joy and pleasure Puritan would, good now they can drink water which is better for their body, rather he made more wine and it was better than the wine that had just finished. Food and drink for thought.

Emanuel Paparella2011-08-14 12:12:46
Correction: and they ran out of wine (rather than water).

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