Friday, March 30, 2012

Paralysis of Analysis: The Carnal Christian

Translations of 2 Timothy 3:7

Euer learning, and neuer able to come to the knowledge of the trueth.
- King James Version (1611)

always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
- New American Standard Version (1995)

ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
- American Standard Version (1901)

Ever learning, and never coming to the knowledge of what is true.
- Basic English Bible

always learning, and never to a knowledge of truth able to come, - Youngs Literal Bible
As a young minister in my fledgling Bible School/College, I was fortunate enough to have teachers that presented the variant major doctrinal "camp's views" abounding in Christian Theological disciplines. 
Raised in a large christian movement whose major tenets surrounded salvation and it's elements of efficacy drew criticism from most quarters, I came to my studies with the sincere desire of getting right... first things first. 
In my teens and twenties I studied eastern philosophies and became involved with a major New Age Group where my observations of how "group agreement" can effect a sort of intoxicating auto-suggestive mindset, one could say brainwashing, that causes a normally rational mind to accept the irrational "group think" as truth.
Were anyone to survey any christian group who claims spiritual goals, asking the question; "are you spiritual or carnal"...the vast majority if not all would answer spiritual. A true spiritual Christian, who has been born again of water and Spirit, according to scripture and not doctrines of men, while still struggling with carnal thoughts, behaviors, temptations and emotions, is considered "spiritual by scripture" as their "chronic condition" is following after the Spirit and continual growth is conforming them more and more into the image of Jesus Christ.
Man is comprised of body-soul-spirit, the spirit of the unregenerate man being dead to spiritual communion with God. God draws by his Spirit however, men to hear and receive his Word, the Gospel, Good News that he has provided a way for them to escape their godless condition and be saved. Unfortunately, many that God has drawn refuse to find the truth in God as their God is their mind which they pridefully hold to be superior than plain scriptural truth and they have their "group agreement" proving they are right and all others are wrong.

All believers could, like Paul, be filled with the Holy Spirit at the moment of belief and baptism (cf. Acts 9.17-18). Unfortunately many still are controlled by the flesh as though not dead and raised up again. These have not truly believed in the accomplished fact of Christ's death and resurrection for them, nor have they sincerely acted upon the call of the Holy Spirit to follow the principle of death and resurrection. According to the finished work of Christ they have died and have been resurrected already; according to their responsibility as believers they should die to self and live to God; but in actual practice they do not do so. These believers may be considered abnormal. This abnormality is not to be understood as being limited only to our day, however. Long, long ago just such a condition among believers had confronted the Apostle Paul. The Christians at Corinth were one example. Listen to what he said of them: But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men? (I Cor. 3.1-3)
Here the Apostle divides all Christians into two classes: the spiritual and the fleshly or carnal. The spiritual Christians are not at all extraordinary; they are simply normal. It is the fleshly who are out of the ordinary, because they are abnormal. Those at Corinth were indeed Christians, but they were fleshly, not spiritual. Three times in this chapter Paul declares they were men of the flesh. Through the wisdom given him by the Holy Spirit the Apostle was made to realize that he first must identify them before he could offer them the message they needed.
Biblical regeneration is a birth by which the innermost part of man's being, the deeply hidden spirit, is renewed and indwelt by the Spirit of God. It requires time for the power of this new life to reach the outside: that is, to be extended from the center to the circumference. Hence we cannot expect to find the strength of "the young men" nor the experience of "the fathers" manifested in the life of a child in Christ. Although a newly born believer may proceed faithfully, loving the Lord best and distinguishing himself in zeal, he still needs time for opportunities to know more of the wickedness of sin and self and occasions to know more of the will of God and the way of the spirit. However much he may love the Lord or love the truth, this new believer still walks in the realm of feelings and thoughts, not yet having been tested and refined by fire. A newly born Christian cannot help being fleshly. Though filled with the Holy Spirit, he nevertheless does not know the flesh. How can one be liberated from the works of the flesh if he does not recognize that such works spring from the flesh? In assessing their actual condition, therefore, newly born babes are generally of the flesh.
The Bible does not expect new Christians to be spiritual instantaneously; if they should remain as babes after many years, however, then their situation is indeed most pitiful. Paul himself points out to the Corinthians that he had treated them as men of the flesh earlier because they were new born babes in Christ, and, that by now-at the moment of his writing them-they certainly should be growing into manhood They had instead frittered away their lives, remained as babes, and were thus still fleshly.
It does not necessitate as much time as we think today for one to be transformed from the fleshly into the spiritual. The believers at Corinth came out from a strictly sinful heathen background. After the lapse of only a few years the Apostle already viewed them as having been babes too long. They had been too long in the flesh, for by that time they ought to be spiritual. The purpose of Christ's redemption is to remove all hindrances to the Holy Spirit's control over the whole person so that he can be made spiritual. This redemption can never fail because the power of the Holy Spirit is superabundant. As a fleshly sinner can become a regenerated believer so a regenerated yet fleshly believer can be changed into a spiritual man. How lamentable to find modern-day Christians achieving no progress in their spiritual walk after several years, nay, even after decades. These moreover are filled with amazement if they find some that do enter upon a life of the spirit after a number of years. They consider it most unusual, not aware it is but normal the regular growth of life. How long have you believed in the Lord? Are you spiritual yet? We should not become aged babes, grieving the Holy Spirit and suffering loss ourselves. All regenerated ones should covet spiritual development, permitting the Holy Spirit to rule in every respect so that in a relatively short period He may be able to lead us into what God has provided for us. We should not waste time, making no progress.
What then are the reasons for not growing? Perhaps there are two. On the one hand, it may be due to the negligence of -those that, watching over the souls of the younger believers, may only speak to them of the grace of God and of their position in Christ but neglect to encourage them to seek spiritual experience. (Nay, those who watch over others may themselves be ignorant of life in the Spirit. How then could such ones ever lead others into more abundant life?) On the other hand, it may be because the believers themselves are not keen on spiritual affairs. Either they assume that it is sufficient enough merely to be saved or they have no spiritual appetite or they simply are unwilling to pay the price for advancement. As a deplorable consequence the church is overstuffed with big babes.
What are the characteristics of the fleshly? Foremost among them is remaining long as babes. The duration of babyhood should not exceed a few years. When one is born anew by believing that the Son of God atoned for his sins on the cross, he simultaneously ought to believe that he has been crucified with Christ in order that the Holy Spirit may release him from the power of the flesh. Ignorance of this naturally will keep him in the flesh for many years.
The second characteristic of the fleshly is that they are unfit to absorb spiritual teaching. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready." The Corinthians grossly prided themselves on their knowledge and wisdom. Of all the churches in that period, that at Corinth was probably the most informed one. Paul early in his letter thanked God for their rich knowledge (1.5). Should Paul deliver spiritual sermons to them they could understand every word; however, all their understandings were in the mind. Although they knew everything, these Corinthians did not have the power to express in life that which they knew. Most likely there are many fleshly believers today who grasp so much so well that they can even preach to others but who are themselves yet nonspiritual. Genuine spiritual knowledge lies not in wonderful and mysterious thoughts but in actual spiritual experience through union of the believer's life with truth. Cleverness is useless here, while eagerness for truth is insufficient too; the sine qua non is a path of perfect obedience to the Holy Spirit Who alone truly teaches us. All else is merely the transmission of knowledge from one mind to another. Such data will not render a fleshly person spiritual; on the contrary, his carnal walk actually will turn all his "spiritual" knowledge into that which is fleshly. What he needs is not increased spiritual eaching but an obedient heart which is willing to yield his life to the Holy Spirit and go the way of the cross according to the Spirit's command. Increased spiritual teaching will only strengthen his carnality and serve to deceive him into conceiving himself as spiritual.
For does he not say to himself, "How else could I possibly know so many spiritual things unless I were spiritual?" Whereas the real touchstone should be, "How much do you truly know from life or is it merely a product of the mind?" May God be gracious to us.
Paul wrote of yet another evidence of being fleshly when he affirmed that "while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men?" The sin of jealousy and strife is eminent proof of carnality. Dissension was rife in the church at Corinth, as is confirmed by such declarations as I belong to Paul," I belong to Apollos," I belong to Cephas," I belong to Christ" (1 Cor. 1.12). Even those who were contending for Christ by saying I am of Christ" were included among the fleshly, for the spirit of flesh is always and everywhere jealous and contentious. For these to hold themselves up as being of Christ, but in that attitude of spirit, is inescapably carnal. However sweet the word may sound, any sectarian boasting is but the babbling of a babe. The divisions in the church are due to no other cause than to lack of love and walking after the flesh. Such an individual, supposedly contending for the truth, is simply camouflaging the real person. The sinners of the world are men of the flesh; as such, they are not regenerated; they are therefore under the rule of their soul and body. For a believer to be fleshly signifies that he too is behaving like an ordinary man. Now it is perfectly natural for worldly people to be fleshly; it is understandable if even newly born believers are fleshly; but if, according to the years during which you have believed in the Lord you ought to be spiritual, then how can you continue to behave as an ordinary man?
It is evident that a person belongs to the flesh if he comports himself like an ordinary man and sins often. No matter how much spiritual teaching he knows or how many spiritual experiences he purports to have had or how much effective service he has rendered: none of these makes him less carnal if he remains undelivered from his peculiar temperament, his temper, his selfishness, his contention, his vainglory, his unforgiving or unloving spirit.
To be fleshly or carnal means to behave "like ordinary men." We should ask ourselves whether or not our conduct differs very radically from ordinary men. If many worldly manners cling to your life then you are doubtless still of the flesh. Let us not argue over our being labeled as either spiritual or carnal. If we are not governed by the Holy Spirit what profit will the mere designation of spiritual be to us? This is after all a matter of life, not of title.

Many fall prey to false teachers and their doctrines and like the Corinthians they in their knowledge and wisdom are judged by God's Word. There are many preachers and workers in God's kingdom who armed with the correct doctrine of salvation win may souls to God and are majoring in the majors and not "straining at gnats and swallowing camels."Yet these soldiers of Christ's Cross would be seen as ignorant and uneducated if they agree not with the peripheral doctines of the wise and prudent which they have little time to study. Of course this is where the least shall be the greatest.
1 Corinthians 1:

 10 Now I entreat you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to cultivate a spirit of harmony--all of you--and that there be no divisions among you, but rather a perfect union through your having one mind and one judgement. 11 For I have been distinctly informed, my brethren, about you by Chloe's people, that there are dissensions among you. 12 What I mean is that each of you is a partisan. One man says "I belong to Paul;" another "I belong to Apollos;" a third "I belong to Peter;" a fourth "I belong to Christ." 13 Is the Christ in fragments? Is it Paul who was crucified on your behalf? Or were you baptized to be Paul's adherents? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius-- 15 for fear people should say that you were baptized to be my adherents. 16 I did, however, baptize Stephanas' household also: but I do not think that I baptized any one else. 17 Christ did not send me to baptize, but to proclaim the Good News; and not in merely wise words--lest the Cross of Christ should be deprived of its power.
18 For the Message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are on the way to perdition, but it is the power of God to those whom He is saving.
19 For so it stands written, "I will exhibit the nothingness of the wisdom of the wise, and the intelligence of the intelligent I will bring to nought."
20 Where is your wise man? Where your expounder of the Law? Where your investigator of the questions of this present age? Has not God shown the world's wisdom to be utter foolishness? 21 For after the world by its wisdom--as God in His wisdom had ordained--had failed to gain the knowledge of God, God was pleased, by the apparent foolishness of the Message which we preach, to save those who accepted it. 22 Seeing that Jews demand miracles, and Greeks go in search of wisdom, 23 while we proclaim a Christ who has been crucified--to the Jews a stumbling-block, to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who have received the Call, whether Jews or Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.25 Because that which the world deems foolish in God is wiser than men's wisdom, and that which it deems feeble in God is mightier than men's might.
26 For consider, brethren, God's call to you. Not many who are wise with merely human wisdom, not many of position and influence, not many of noble birth have been called. 27 But God has chosen the things which the world regards as foolish, in order to put its wise men to shame; and God has chosen the things which the world regards as destitute of influence, in order to put its powerful things to shame; 28 and the things which the world regards as base, and those which it sets utterly at nought--things that have no existence--God has chosen in order to reduce to nothing things that do exist; 29 to prevent any mortal man from boasting in the presence of God. 30 But you--and it is all God's doing--are in Christ Jesus: He has become for us a wisdom which is from God, consisting of righteousness and sanctification and deliverance; 31 in order that it may be as Scripture says, "He who boasts--let his boast be in the Lord."

While many seem to memorize. study, dissect and use every man-made system of interpretation of God's word to fit their little boxes to prove their positions, it is clear they care more for proving obscure  doctrines that give them more status among their "group agreement " circles if it seems they win most of their debates, instead of saving souls and kingdom building.

The advent of the internet has proven the complete fragmentation of the Lord's body over carnal and irrelevant doctrines that do develop into dangerous ones. One of the most common carnal misrepresentation of interpreting scripture is by those who apply man made rules of Hebrew Greek and English to scripture demanding God conform to our principles.

19 For so it stands written, "I will exhibit the nothingness of the wisdom of the wise, and the intelligence of the intelligent I will bring to nought."
20 Where is your wise man? Where your expounder of the Law? Where your investigator of the questions of this present age? Has not God shown the world's wisdom to be utter foolishness? 

"This verb proves this and this adjective proves that" No, the Holy Ghost will lead us to all truth and understanding. John 16:13

To base understanding on human built education and philosophies is completely contrary to scripture. If lowly fishermen can write scripture as divinely inspired as the very educated apostle Paul and physician Luke, where can we find biblical evidence only the wise and prudent scribes and teachers can lead us where the Holy Ghost doesn't? 

Furthermore where does Christ in teaching the Apostles utilize Hebrew transliterations from and to Aramaic and Greek that they understand? 

24:45 NIV
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.
Read Luke 24 NIV  |  Read Luke 24:45 NIV in parallel  
Luke 24:45 ASV
Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the scriptures;
Read Luke 24 ASV  |  Read Luke 24:45 ASV in parallel  
Luke 24:45 BBE
Then he made the holy Writings clear to their minds.
Read Luke 24 BBE  |  Read Luke 24:45 BBE in parallel  
Luke 24:45 CJB
Then he opened their minds, so that they could understand the Tanakh,
Read Luke 24 CJB  |  Read Luke 24:45 CJB in parallel  
Luke 24:45 RHE
Then he opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.

The mind of man is his organ of thought. Through it he is equipped to know, think, imagine, remember, and understand. Man's intellect, reasoning, wisdom and cleverness all pertain to the mind. Broadly speaking the mind is the brain. Mind is a psychological term whereas brain is a physiological term. The mind of psychology is the brain of physiology. Man's mind occupies a large place in his life because his thought easily influences his action.
According to the Bible the mind of man is unusual in that it constitutes a battlefield where Satan and his evil spirits contend against the truth and hence against the believer. We may illustrate as follows. Man's will and spirit are like a citadel which the evil spirits crave to capture. The open field where the battle is waged for the seizure of the citadel is man's mind. Note how Paul the Apostle describes it: "though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10.3-5). He initially tells us of a battle-then where the battle is fought and finally for what objective. This struggle pertains exclusively to man's mind. The Apostle likens man's arguments or reasoning's to an enemy's strongholds. He pictures the mind as held by the enemy; it must therefore be broken into by waging war. He concludes that many rebellious thoughts are housed in these strongholds and Deed to be taken captive to the obedience of Christ. All this plainly shows us that the mind of man is the scene of battle where the evil spirits clash with God.
Scripture explains that before regeneration "the god of this world (had) blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God" (2 Cor. 4.4). This verse concurs in what the other verse just quoted said by declaring here that Satan holds on to man's mind by making it blind. Some people perhaps may consider themselves extremely wise in their ability to advance many arguments against the gospel; others may take for granted that unbelief is due to dullness of understanding; but the truth in both cases is that the eyes of man's mind have been covered by Satan. When firmly held by Satan the mind of man becomes "hardened"; man "follows the desires of body and mind (as) children of wrath" and so "is estranged and hostile in mind" because "the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God" (2 Cor. 3.14; Eph. 2.3; Col. 1.21; Rom. 8.7).
Upon reading these various passages we can see clearly how the powers of darkness are especially related to man's mind, how it is peculiarly susceptible to Satan's assault. With respect to man's will, emotion and body, the powers of evil are helpless to do anything directly unless they first have gained some ground therein. But with man's mind they can work freely without initially persuading man or securing his invitation. The mind appears to be their possession already. The Apostle in comparing men's minds to an enemy's strongholds seems to imply that Satan and his wicked spirits already have established a deep relationship with the minds of men, that somehow they are using them as their bastions in which to imprison their captives. Through man's mind they impose their authority and through the mind of their captives they transmit poisonous thoughts to others so that these too may rise up against God. It is difficult to estimate how much of the world's philosophy, ethics, knowledge, research, and science flow from the powers of darkness. But of one point we are certain: all arguments and proud obstacles against the knowledge of God are the fortresses of the enemy.
Is it strange to behold the mind in such close proximity to the authorities of wickedness? Was not the sin which mankind first committed that of seeking the knowledge of good and evil, and that at the instigation of Satan? Hence man's mind is especially related to Satan. If we were to peruse the Scriptures carefully and to observe the experiences of the saints we would discover that all communications between human and satanic forces occur in the organ of thought. Take, for instance, Satan's temptation. Every temptation with which he entices man is presented to his mind. It is true that Satan often uses the flesh to secure the consent of man, yet in each instance of enticement the enemy creates some kind of thought by which to induce the man. We cannot separate temptation and thought. All temptations are offered us in the form of thoughts. Since the latter are so exposed to the power of darkness, we need to learn how to guard them.
Prior to regeneration man's intellect obstructs him from apprehending God. It is necessary for His mighty power to destroy man's arguments. This is a work which must occur at the hour of new birth-and it does happen then in the form of repentance. The original definition of repentance is none else than "a change of mind." Man in his mind is at enmity with God; therefore God must alter man's mind if He would impart life to him. In his unregenerate state man has a darkened mind; at his regeneration it undergoes a drastic change. Because it has been so united with the devil it is vital for man to receive from God a change of mind before he can receive a new heart (Acts 11.18).

As we consider all these things it should be evident that many have "Paralysis of Analysis" from the information they learned and believe is correct for all the self taught worldly wisdom has taken root in their minds as those strongholds that can only be brought down through repentance and prayer. 

But pride and self love will damn many to destruction who cannot see that they are not building the Kingdom of God, but rather that citadel of self inflicted lies and deceit in their carnal mind which is enmity against the knowledge of God.

 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

* excerpts from The Spiritual Man, Watchman Nee 

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