April 14, 2007

Casualties of Carnality

There has been a long debate within the church as to whether or not professing Christians who live in sin yet still believe in Jesus are truly saved. The term that’s been given them is "carnal Christians." Some theologians argue that they could not really be saved and continue to sin because as James wrote, "Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?" But on the other hand, according to Paul’s letter to the Romans we all struggle with sin and every one of us has a particular sin that "so easily entangles us." And that is unique to each individual – it’s different for everyone.

Yet one sin in the church stands out above the rest due to the havoc it creates for the sinner and others around them. The Apostle Paul dealt with it in Corinth: sexual sin. Paul explained why this sin is the most damaging:

"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?" (1Co 6:15-19).

Fornication and adultery are therefore sins, not only against the perpetrators, but against God – the Holy Spirit Himself. And when a professing Christian succumbs to those temptations s/he runs the risk of being given over to it – the end result being total sexual depravity. Paul told the believers in Rome:

"Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves…God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful…God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting" (Romans 1:24-27).

That describes the end result. If you haven’t noticed, there’s an epidemic of sex scandals in the most prominent places in Christianity. Names that come to mind are Bishop Earl Paulk, Ted Haggard, Paul Crouch Sr., Paul Cain, Bob Jones (the "prophet" not the Baptist), Roberts Liardon, Jim Bakker, and a host of others (fill in the blank). Perhaps the entanglement into the sin of sexual depravity is a clue that the Lord has given them over.

But on the other hand, regarding these public examples, their sin has found them out. Others continue on with seemingly no consequences for their sin. The ones who get away with it are the ones I worry about. Those who sin without judgment on this side of eternity, I am convinced, face eternal judgment on the other side. I base that on these Scriptures:

"For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons" (Hebrews 12:6-8).

And:

"For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1Pet. 4:17)

The other side of the coin is that once God has given them over to their sin they no longer have His protection from lying spirits and doctrines of demons. I have noticed a pattern in studying the lives of famous fallen Christian leaders, deception and heresy always accompany their adulteries. In public it may be hard to tell what came first the chicken or the egg, but I think one opens them up to the other.

Lonnie Frisbee, the hippie preacher who influenced the early days of Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard Fellowships and died of AIDS, gave a twisted view of this. Speaking of the late Kathryn Kuhlman he said, "It wasn’t until her life and ministry was destroyed by adultery that God put that miraculous gift of the ‘Holy Spirit,’ from miraculous miracles and the baptism of the ‘Holy Spirit’ on people… it wasn’t until she came to the end of herself that God gave her the gift." Kuhlman was Frisbee’s greatest role model. That may explain why he could justify prolonged periods of committing the sin of sodomy while at the same time bringing this so-called spirit into charismatic meetings. What does that say about the "spirit" and "gift" these two were trafficking in?

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Gal. 6:7).

(There’s no space to go into all the implications of Lonnie Frisbee’s impact on the church now, but an extended treatment of the subject is forthcoming.)

The Lord gives people so much grace to repent and get right with Him. But that doesn’t mean that He will put the spotlight on them as His representative. They have lost their credibility. Paul told Timothy:

"And he (an elder) must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil" (1Tim. 3:7).

I believe that if a person is truly born-again and in the family of God, if they do not submit to the Lord and His Word, He will remove them from the earth. They are no longer of any use to Him here. The parable of the fig tree with no fruit is given as a warning.

"He also spoke this parable: ‘A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, 'Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?' But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down' " (Luke 13:6-9).

I honestly believe this is what happened to the famous Pentecostal-turned-comic Sam Kinison, as well as other children of God who waste their lives. Several websites on the topic of "famous last words" record Sam’s conversation with God as he lay on the side of the road after a head-on collision. His last words were "I 'm not ready", looking up at the sky ,"Alright...alright".

These are warnings to us all. God takes these sins very seriously.

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit" (1 Thes. 4:3-8).

"The Lord is the avenger" in this matter. That should put the fear of God into any Christian tempted to take this path to perdition.

♥♥♥

Heavenly Father, protect us Your children from ourselves in the matter of sexual immorality. Take not Your Spirit from us. Direct our paths in a way that keeps us from falling into such sins. In our weakness, show us the way out and give us the strength to flee from temptations – especially the temptations that can result in Your chastisement. Thank You that You will not allow us to tread that wrong road for long without intervening – even if that intervention shortens our life here in order to preserve it there. To You who keeps us from stumbling, we give all glory, honor, and praise, forever and ever, in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.

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