Abiding in Christ — Chapter 08

Chapter 8

Carnal Or Spiritual?

 

Scripture for Meditation: I Corinthians 3:1-3

We have been looking at the subject of abiding in Christ and all the different aspects of that relationship.  In I Corinthians 3:1-3, Paul is speaking about the same concept, but he uses different terminology.  A branch abiding in the Vine is spiritual.  A branch that is not abiding in the Vine is carnal.  If you are saved, you are one or the other.  If you are born again you are either a spiritual believer abiding in the Vine or you are a carnal believer, and sin has interrupted your communion and fellowship with the Savior.

 

Our Position In Christ

We want to consider the following question in this chapter.  What kind of a Christian are we right now?  First of all we want to note that every Christian has exactly the same salvation, exactly the same position.  Remember when we began to study our position in Christ?  If we are born again, we are in Christ.  That is forever and immutable.  If we are born again, we are sons of God.  How did Paul begin the letter to the church at Corinth?  In spite of all of their carnality, Paul addresses them as saints. They were sanctified in Christ Jesus.  They possess the righteousness of God.  They are new creations in Christ Jesus.  Their sins are forgiven.  They are redeemed in Christ Jesus and are accepted in the Beloved.  There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.  Paul addresses the believers at Corinth as saints, knowing full well that some of the believers were spiritual and some of them were carnal. Yet they were all believers.  They were all born again people.  However, the condition of their lives varied greatly.

These truths about our position in Christ are true for every one who is born again.  Jesus Christ delivered us from our old position in Adam in his sin and in his condemnation.  Salvation places us in Christ and in His righteousness.  This position is not ours because we have earned it.  It is ours not because of any effort or merit on our part.  It is ours because of God’s grace and God’s grace alone.  Every single genuinely born again person is an equal possessor of all these wondrous blessings in Christ Jesus.  Our position is based totally on God’s faithfulness to us.  It has nothing to do with our faithfulness to Him.  That is why at the church in Corinth there were some spiritually minded believers who were faithful to the Lord, and there were other Christians who were carnally minded and were not faithful to God.  Nevertheless, they were all saints.  They were all born again, redeemed, and accepted in the Beloved.  That is how Paul addresses the Corinthians. Their position was secure “in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:3).

 

A Carnal Believer

In I Corinthians 3, Paul acknowledges that he could not speak to them the way he wanted to (as mature believers) because they were still babes in Christ.  They were carnal.  This word carnal means pertaining to the flesh.  Carnality is the fruit of our fleshly nature, characterized by sensuality, animal appetites, and feelings.

The carnal man is born again.  He is in Christ.  Notice that Paul says that they were, “babes in Christ.”  They were in Christ by faith.  They were born again, yet they were still carnal.  They were motivated by, and were operating by their old nature–fallen, sinful, human nature.  The Holy Spirit was not controlling them.  That carnal believer is like a branch in the Vine that is broken off from communion with the Vine.  He is genuinely part of that Vine.  He is part of God’s family because he is saved, yet he is broken off from the place of fellowship.  His fellowship with the Lord has been interrupted by sin.  Therefore he is off on his own, and instead of producing the fruit of the Spirit, (which is the result of abiding in Christ), he is going to produce nothing but the fruit of the flesh–carnality.

Paul gives us some signs of carnality in I Corinthians 3.  In verse one of that chapter he says that they were babes in Christ.  The first sign of carnality here is immaturity.  They were acting like babies spiritually.  There is nothing wrong with a baby acting like a baby.  Babies are supposed to act like babies.  The problem in Corinth was that they had been saved for a long time.  They should not STILL have been acting like babies.  The fact that they were still acting like babies was a sign to Paul that they were not abiding in Christ. The carnal nature had been in control for some time and had hindered their spiritual growth. They were in Christ, but were babes.

Secondly he says in I Corinthians 3:2, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.”  The second sign of carnality here is that they were not able to bear the meat of God’s Word.  Paul had to feed them with a baby bottle, so to speak.  He had to give them the ABC’s.  They should have been progressing, but they were not because they were carnal.  You see, these believers were not able to digest the meat of God’s Word because their minds and their hearts were not filled with spiritual things.  Their minds and their hearts were filled with things of the world. They were not focused on Christ and spiritual things, but on SELF.  Therefore when Paul was preaching, the truth went right over their heads.  They did not “get it.”  They could not grasp the truth (which they desperately needed for spiritual growth) because the carnal nature was in control.

The third telltale sign of carnality is found in I Corinthians 3:3.  Paul says, “For ye are yet carnal.” How did he know? How could Paul tell they were carnal? “For whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal?”  The fact that they were envious and fighting and there was strife and division among them indicated to Paul that some in that church were not yielded to Christ.  They were carnal and were operating in the power of the flesh.  This is just how the flesh operates.  The flesh does not live by the truth, “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21).  The flesh says SELF is my life.  When self is your life, then you are going to be envious of others.  There are going to be divisions because SELF did not get his own way.  That is the way the selfish flesh operates.  There were divisions in the church–proof of carnality.

Notice that at the end of verse three Paul knew that these men were carnal because they were walking as men.  By men he does not mean human beings or males.  Of course they were walking like human beings!  He means they were walking like unsaved men.  They were acting just like the men in the world.  Yes, they were born again and possessed a new nature.  But no, they were not yielded to Christ.  They were not submitted to Him.  They were like that branch broken apart from that Vine.  It can produce nothing good on its own.  It is going to behave just like an unsaved man–totally barren of spiritual fruit.

We see in I Corinthians 3:4 that one carnal believer says “I am of Paul” and another says “I am of Apollos.”  They were polarizing around men.  They were taking sides.  Some were “of Paul” and thought that they were spiritual.  Others chose to side with Apollos. They began polarizing around men, rather than around Christ.  That was an indication that carnality was at work here.  This was not the work of the Spirit of God.  This was not the result of spiritual growth and maturity.  It was the result of immaturity in the flesh.  Remember, Paul said that in the flesh dwells no good thing.

In I Corinthians 3 Paul was rebuking the church because they were carnal.  It was their fault that they were carnal.  Carnality (being motivated by the old sin nature) is not a permanent state.  These believers should have been filled with the Spirit.  They should have been Christ-centered.  But they were not.  They were motivated and operating in the power of the flesh.  They were to blame because they SHOULD have yielded to the Holy Spirit. They were to surrender to God as servants of the Lord.  Instead, they said No, I do not want Christ ruling in my life.  I do not want to be submitted to Him.  I want to do things my way.  

Carnality stunted the Corinthian’s growth.  Carnality prevents us from growing too.  A branch broken away from the Vine will not be strong or fruitful.   It is going to wither.  In the physical realm, if a child is born retarded (and is not able to grow and mature mentally, emotionally, or socially) it is through no fault of his own.  Paul said that these folks in Corinth were spiritually retarded.  They should have been mature but they were still babies spiritually. This was their fault.  It was the result of a refusal to yield and surrender to the Lord.  Notice the dangerous situation in I Corinthians 3:2.  Paul said, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it,” and right now you still are not able to bear it.  Paul wanted to feed them what they really needed.  What they really needed was to grow up and to be strong in the Lord and to be fed the meat of God’s Word.  Paul says I have plenty of meat to feed you, but you are not able to digest it because of your carnal condition.  All you can take in is milk.  These folks were like branches broken apart from the Vine.  The Vine had all the resources those branches needed.  It had all the power of the Spirit of God.  It had all the life.  It had all the nutrients.  It had all the resources the branch could ever need, but as long as that branch is broken away from the Vine, it is unable to appropriate all that Christ supplies.  Sin separates us from our Savior.  The carnality at the church was a matter of sin.  They were to be blamed for their carnality.

Until that carnal believer confesses his sin, repents and returns to communion with Christ, (abiding in the Lord), no amount of spiritual truth will ever get through.  He is UNABLE to bear it… unable to take it in. And that is the danger.

In I Corinthians 3, Paul the apostle of Christ had some marvelous truths he wanted to communicate to them.  Paul was chosen by Christ Himself, and sent to deliver a message to these folks.  This message was exactly what they needed in order to grow and to be strong.  But, they could not digest it.  They could not take it in.  They could not bear it.  That is a very dangerous condition.

Hebrews 5:11 says, “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.”  The writer of Hebrews had many things he wanted to communicate to his readers, many wonderful truths that they really needed to grasp.  They needed to latch on to these truths so they could grow spiritually and go on to maturity.  However, the author says they could not do it.  They had become dull of hearing.  They were once sharp spiritually.  They were once on the ball, spiritually.  They were once filled by the Holy Spirit.  They were growing and maturing like a branch in the Vine.  Gradually they had broken away and now they had become dull. This does not mean they lacked the intelligence to grasp these truths.  It means their hearts had become insensitive and dull.  Their hearts had become hardened to the truth and they were not able to take it in.  They were becoming withered spiritually.  In this condition the only thing that was going to control their mind, their heart, their will was the old fleshly nature.  Their attitude was going to be an attitude of the flesh.  Their actions, their words were all going to be a manifestation of the old fleshly nature. They were simply unable to take in God’s message, no matter how well the truth was presented to them.  They could not bear truth.

The church at Corinth was very much like Israel when they left Egypt.  The blood was shed and applied to all their doorposts.  They left Egypt as a people redeemed by God.  Yet even though they were redeemed and left Egypt, some of them took Egypt with them in their hearts.  There was still an Egyptian influence in the people of God.  What trouble that created among the Jews!  It resulted in them wandering in the wilderness for many years.  They should have entered into the Promised Land of blessing much sooner!

The longer one remains in the condition of worldliness and carnality, the more damage is done to the individual life and to the local church.  The believers at Corinth were carnal.  They may have remained busy in the works of the Lord, but without a proper relationship to Jesus Christ all was wood, hay, and stubble. It was rotten fruit.  They may have had many wonderful spiritual gifts.  Remember how Paul introduced the book of I Corinthians?  He said, “ye come behind in no gift” (I Cor. 1:7).  They were not lacking in talent.  Why, they had men that could speak in languages that they had never learned before.  They had a prophet receiving direct communication from God in that church. They had all kinds of spiritual gifts, yet they were still carnal. Apart from abiding in Christ and abiding in His love, all the spiritual talents were nothing but sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.  You see, the carnal Corinthians were not turned away from the church, (they were still attending) but they had turned away from the Lord.  They had turned away from the Vine.  They were not out in the bar rooms getting drunk.  They were in church.  No matter how active and busy they were in the Lord’s work, everything they did was the work of the flesh–wood, hay, and stubble.  None of it was acceptable in God’s sight because their heart relationship to Christ was not what it should have been.  This is dangerous because although that branch may LOOK like he is producing fruit (serving in various ministries), he will never progress one inch spiritually.  It is the flesh at work, and in the flesh dwells no good thing.  We can never grow into Christlikeness apart from abiding in Him–apart from a heart that is yielded, surrendered, and obedient to Him.  As long as the believer remains carnal he is doomed to immaturity, and he may be completely unaware of his real spiritual condition: busy DOING work in the flesh, but withering up spiritually! (cf. Rev. 3:16-17).   That was the danger at the church at Corinth.

 

Carnality and Immaturity

Let us consider the relationship between carnality and immaturity.  They are not the same.  Remember what Paul said to the Corinthians in I Corinthians 3?  He addressed them as babes in Christ.  Now all new believers are babes in Christ.  There is nothing wrong with being a babe in Christ.  If you have been saved recently, then thank God you are a babe in Christ!  You are alive and in Him.  That is what counts.  There is nothing wrong with a new believer being immature.  Immaturity is expected of someone who has only recently been born into God’s family.  That new believer has no idea about the spiritual warfare he is about to face with the world, the flesh, and the Devil.  He is just happy to be alive in Jesus, and that is a wonderful thing!  He is ignorant about Scripture, and that is to be expected.  We do not expect a baby to be born into the world already knowing how to walk, talk, read, and write.  It takes time to grow and to learn.

The same thing is true in the Christian life as well.  Immaturity is expected from a newborn babe in Christ.  However, Paul was rebuking the Corinthians for their immature condition.  The reason he was rebuking them was that much time had gone by.  It was wrong for them to still be babes in Christ.  They should have been growing, but they were not.

You know, even a new born babe in Christ can be spiritual.  A baby born in the physical realm can be healthy physically.  Even so, a baby born into the spiritual realm can be spiritually healthy (spiritual).  Physical health is to a baby what spirituality is to a new believer.  A baby can be healthy, yet immature and ignorant.  He needs to STAY HEALTHY and grow.  That is the norm.  A new Christian can have a heart yielded to Christ and willing to obey, even though he may be ignorant of doctrine and Bible truth. Although immature, that newborn babe is spiritual and in a condition where he is able to grow and mature.  The heart is the whole issue.  We expect that newborn babe in Christ to be immature.  However, in Corinth the fact that these individuals were still babes in Christ was an indication to Paul that they were not walking with the Lord.  Their hearts were not yielded to God or they WOULD have grown.  Enough time had passed, yet they were still carnal.

You expect a one-year-old baby to drink a bottle and wear diapers.  When your baby is twenty years of age and does the same, you have a problem on your hands!  That is not normal behavior for a twenty-year-old.  This is what Paul was dealing with at Corinth.  These were born again people who should have grown.  They should have matured in the Lord, but they were still babies.  It was now a heart issue.

God expects a branch on the Vine to remain on the Vine.  That branch is to remain or abide on the Vine.  It is dependent on, yielded to, and surrendered to Christ. With that kind of an attitude, growth is the natural result.  As we abide in Him, growth takes place–slowly, naturally, but faithfully, regularly, and consistently.  Over time the branch that abides in Christ is going to mature.  That is a normal, natural process.  If you have a little baby, you feed him.  You take care of him. You clean him.  If you give him all the nutrients that he needs, he is going to grow.  He is not going to remain a baby.  This is just how God designed it.

The same thing is true in the spiritual life.  Maturity is a process.  It takes the rest of our lives to become like Jesus and to grow to be like Him.  That growth process is never going to take place unless we come to the Vine–to the place where we rest in Him and are surrendered to His will.  When that branch breaks away from the Vine, every moment away from the Vine is time wasted.  No growth will ever take place; in fact just the opposite of growth will take place.  When the branch is away from the Vine it is going to wither.  Peter wrote in his second epistle and said if we are not continually adding to our faith kindness, brotherly love and other virtues, if we are not yielded to the Lord and producing fruit, something terrible will happen.  We will become barren and unfruitful.  We may even get to the point where we have forgotten we were purged from our old sins (II Pet. 1:5-9)!  A Christian might forget what wonderful things Christ has done for him and what blessings he has in Christ.  He might forget about the glories of salvation and wither spiritually.  He cannot forget altogether, but he can become negligent, inattentive, dull, and insensitive.

When we abide in the Vine, stay close to the Lord, and we remain there, we are going to grow.  Do you know what the whole key to spiritual growth is?–Consistency.  That is what abide means–continue, remain.  We are to come to Christ, surrendered to Him and stay that way.  Do not let anything take us out of that condition.  Growth takes place as we abide in Him.  When we dwell in His love, we are resting and enjoying all the glories that we have in Christ.  Growth takes place when we rest our roots where we have been planted–in Him!  When God saved us He planted us in Christ.  That is our position and He wants us to dwell there by faith, abide there, to enjoy it, and not to flip-flop back and forth through unbelief.  One day a believer is resting in the Vine, the next day he is lured out into the world.  The next day he is resting in the Lord and the next day he is back out in the world again.  It is only as we abide in Christ and soak in daily, moment by moment, all the riches of the communion that we have with Him, that growth takes place.  As we abide in Him, no matter what storm comes our way, we are firm.  We are solid.  We are abiding in Him.  Nothing can shake us.

I am convinced that inconsistency is the ruin of many believers.  Try it with a tomato plant.  Grow a couple of tomato plants in your garden, one right in the middle of your garden where it gets all the sunshine all the fertilizer, all the moisture that it needs and take care of it.  Place another tomato plant right next to it.  Every week transplant the second one.  Every week pull it up by its roots and then replant it.  At the end of the season see which one has become big and strong.  Yes the tomato plant that has been pulled up and transplanted over and over will still be alive.  You can keep transplanting it, but it is going to take time to re-grow its roots down into the ground and get resettled before it can start growing again.  Exactly the same thing happens in the Christian life.  It is the believer who stays put, who abides, who continues, who remains in Christ, that is going to experience slow, steady, consistent spiritual growth.  It will take place.  Wait on the Lord!  Trust Him.  Rest in Him.

God gives us lots of reasons in the Bible why some believers fail to grow.  Some are inconsistent, even with good intentions.  Instead of focusing on Christ, some men focus on people.  Maybe with good intentions a believer is trying to imitate Joe Christian. He thinks to himself, Joe is a Christian I really admire.  I want to be like him.  So, if Joe does not go to the movies, I do not go to the movies.  If Joe wears a certain kind of clothing, then that must be what a Christian wears, and I will try to be like Joe.  Eventually the believer discovers that Joe will let him down.  He discovers the cracks in Joe’s armor.  He discovers that Joe has feet of clay. How much better it is to focus on Jesus Christ and abide in Him!  Real spiritual growth takes place when our focus is on Christ, not on men.

Others are inconsistent because they jump from church to church.  Somebody steps on their toes in one church, so they go to another church.  Somebody steps on their toes there, so they go to yet another church.  They splash around in several different theological systems and they discover that doctrine does not seem to “fit together.”  They have nothing but broken, fragmented tidbits of truth, from all different perspectives and it does not always make sense.  Hence, doctrine (truth, teaching!) is no longer satisfying and edifying, but confusing.  No wonder they begin walking by feelings rather than the facts of God’s Word!  They cannot “bear” the meat of the Word, and now no longer desire the meat of the Word.  Growth does not take place in that condition.

Other believers start off like a fireball.  They get saved and they are all on fire for the Lord Jesus Christ.  They go with a fury and they pour themselves totally into the Lord’s work, but a few months later they are burned out.  They discover that they just cannot keep up with that pace.  Spiritual growth is not rapid.  It takes the rest of our lives.

Some believers take a charismatic approach to spiritual growth.  They view the Christian life as if the Christian were a battery.  You come to church once a week and get zapped and charged.  Maybe you walk up front and the preacher puts his hand on your head and you shake.  Suddenly supernatural power fills you up like a battery, and you are charged up until the next charge.  But what happens? Until the next “charge” you are relying on your own hoarded resources as a battery, are you not?  We rely on the “charge” we received a few days ago, instead of moment by moment abiding in Christ.  And what does Jesus say a branch can do on his own–?  “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).  That is not at all God’s plan for spiritual growth.

Some believers are inconsistent in their spiritual growth because they live by their feelings.  If I feel spiritual today then I will serve the Lord and be happy and joyous and get along with everybody.  But if I do not feel spiritual then I will not go to church.  Maybe I will stay away from that Christian who rubs me the wrong way. I will not open my Bible because I don’t feel like it.  The carnal man is totally dominated by his feelings.  The spiritual man does not live by his feelings, but by the facts of God’s Word.  That is a big difference.  Spiritual growth is slow, steady progress toward Christlikeness that rests upon the promises of God.

Look at II Corinthians 3:18.  Here is God’s method for spiritual growth. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass [ mirror] the glory of the Lord…”  Our eyes are focused on the glory of the Lord as revealed in the Word of God.  What is the result?  It says that as we are focused on Christ and His glory then we are being changed into that same image.  We are being transformed into Christlikeness from glory to glory, a gradual process of growth.  Gradually, slowly, steadily, faithfully, consistently, we grow in the Lord–just like children grow physically.  You do not feed a child a nice healthy meal and then in a moment discover that your four-year-old is now six feet tall.  (If so, you have another kind of a problem.  You will be working for a grocery store for the rest of you life!)  God’s plan is for gradual, steady, consistent growth.  God’s plan for spiritual growth is not for the believer to be like a meteorite flashing out of the sky.  He does not expect us to be Christian superstars.  He wants us simply to be humble, faithful servants with hearts that are yielded and surrendered to Christ so that the Spirit of God can produce fruit through our yielded members.  Paul says “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).  We are always in such a hurry to progress in our Christian life.  As we go on in life we discover that God is not in a hurry.  Time is nothing to the Lord.  It seems that sometimes we get the idea that spiritual growth takes place in the context of words like hurry, busy, work, do, rush.  But when we open our Bible we discover that real spiritual growth takes place in the context of words such as wait, rest, walk, faith, trust.  This is God’s plan.  God does not want us to remain as a carnal believer.  He wants us to be spiritual.

In I Corinthians 3:1 Paul says, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal.”  Paul wanted to communicate truth to these people.  He wanted to talk to them on a spiritual level, but they were not able.  They were babes.  All they could handle was milk and what they really needed was meat.  Paul is encouraging the church at Corinth to grow up.  Stop being babies.  Go on to maturity (cf. Heb. 5:11 – 6:1).

 

The Transition from Carnal to Spiritual

It is very easy to make the transition from a carnal believer to a spiritual believer.  The transition from immaturity to maturity takes the rest of our life.  However, the transition from being a carnal believer, (walking in the flesh), to being a spiritual believer, (walking in the Spirit) takes just a moment in time.  How do we get there?  First, we confess our sin.  I John 1:9 says that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Sin separates us from communion with Christ, the Vine. We need to crave fellowship and communion. If we have sinned, we must confess our sin and return to place of communion and abiding. You see, when we confess our sin, then we are able to draw near unto God with a full heart of assurance.  We can come back to the throne of grace boldly, knowing our sins really are gone.  They are blotted out, buried in the bottom of the sea!  As long as we stay away from the Vine, we wither.  But when we come back, we come back to the place where we are plugged into the Vine and into all that the Vine supplies.  God wants us to remain there by faith.  We need to know that we are abiding in Christ, and that there is nothing between my Savior and me. We need to KNOW that our old man really is dead and we do not have to sin.  We are a new creature in Christ and able to walk in newness of life.  We have to believe in the reality of these spiritual truths and trust God to make them realities in our life.

If we are abiding in Christ, we walk by faith.  Believe what God says.  Believe that God is big enough to enable us to live a life that is holy and acceptable in His sight.  We need to yield our members unto God.  That is what it means to remain there.  We get there by confessing our sin and returning back to the place of fellowship and communion.  We remain there by faith, yielded.  That is our number one responsibility as a Christian in leading the Christian life and growing–to maintain a heart attitude of surrender and yieldedness to the Lord.  Our job is to remain in the place of communion on the Vine.  God’s job is to produce fruit in us.  We merely BEAR the fruit that God produces in us.

If something is wrong in our life and our heart is yielded, then God is able to correct us.  There are no doubt, a million things in our lives right now that come short of the glory of God.  But if we maintain a right attitude and remain surrendered to the Lord, then He is able to bring it to our mind, convict our heart, and we can immediately confess it.  Thus we remain abiding in Lord as we are yielded to Christ, resting in Him, and willing to let Him work in us and change us.

In Ephesians 5:18 Paul says, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.”  Do not be controlled by any thing, Paul says, except by the Holy Spirit.  When we are yielded, we are filled with the Holy Spirit!  When our heart is right with God, when we are surrendered to Jesus Christ, we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  We are not waiting to be zapped from Heaven.  We are not waiting for someone to touch us on our forehead so that our body trembles.  We are not waiting for God to do anything.  You see we have already been blessed with everything we need to live and grow in Christ (Eph. 1:3).  Just remain there–plugged into the Vine.  As we are yielded to Christ, the Holy Spirit is going to fill us with Christlikeness… from glory to glory.   He is going to control us.  Over time we will gradually mature and develop as a believer.  As we remain there, abide in Him, keep our heart right with God, and right with one another, we are in a place where true spiritual growth is going to take place–gradually, steadily and consistently–until Jesus returns.

The transition from the carnal state to a spiritual state can take place in a moment.  Just confess your sin and get right back to abiding in the Lord.  The transition from babes to mature ones takes the rest of our lives!  As we abide, this life long process of spiritual growth will take place.  Abiding is our responsibility.  We have to make a choice.  Am I going to live in the power of the flesh, or am I going to live in the power of the Holy Spirit?  Am I going to demand my own way?  Many believers want to have Jesus in their life, they want to go to church, but deep down inside they refuse to totally surrender to the Lord.  If there is something God wants us to “turn over” to Him, but we are unwilling, then nothing we do for God is of any value whatsoever.  It does not matter how splendid our spiritual gifts and talents may be or how hard we try to please Him.   God requires a heart relationship to Him.  “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).  If we sow to the flesh we are going to reap of the flesh corruption, rotten fruit.  If we sow to the Spirit we are going to reap the fruit of the Spirit.

God wants to work in us and make us fruitful Christians.  It is a wonderful thing to think that producing spiritual fruit is really God’s job.  It takes all the pressure off. All we have to do is yield ourselves to the Lord, and He can use even us!  He can use you and me to produce good fruit unto His glory.  That is really what life and service is all about.

Although Paul was dealing with a cantankerous group in Corinth, they really were Christian people.  They needed to be shaken up.  They needed to be stirred up.  They needed to be turned from their carnality.  They needed to get back to the place of communion with the Lord Jesus.  In that condition of abiding, God could make even the Corinthians fruitful.  As we read II Corinthians, Paul was encouraged because the church did just that.  They did seem to turn to the Lord (II Cor. 7:13-16).  It thrilled Paul’s heart to see that a transition was taking place from carnality to spirituality… and in time that would result in the transition from babes to maturity.  It is a long road, but that is how spiritual growth takes place.  We need to keep our hearts yielded to Christ.  It is as simple as that.