Carnal Christians in Diapers
1Co05 – Carnal Christians in Diapers – 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
Pastor Dave Shepardson Calvary Chapel Nuevo / www.wordbymail.com
Open your Bibles. You’re going to love this message. We are doing three solid verses today in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. Title of the message, “Carnal Christians in Diapers.”
Do you remember me saying that 1 Corinthians is a radical and dangerous book to teach? We named this study “Life As The Church” because in 1 Corinthians we see what life as the Church looks like and we see what life as the Church should look like, and we are going to really see that today.
Today Paul kind of puts the “baby wipes” away and takes off the “kid gloves.” And by the power of the Holy Spirit Paul begins to kind of “leave a mark” with his teaching. He’s hitting close enough to home today that is so foundationally necessary we may actually feel it a bit. Is that okay?
Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, we say, bring it. We need the life changing power of your Word lit alive by your Spirit. We need you, Lord, to point at those things that are keeping us from you, from following you. And we need to be transformed. And so we give you the right to convict us, to exhort us, to point at the things that are keeping us from growing in you today. Use these three powerful verses to teach us something that we’ll carry with us the rest of our life here and into eternity. We pray it in your name, Jesus, amen.
Are there really two kinds of Christians? Can there be? Can there be a “Spiritual Christian” and a “Carnal Christian?” Can there be a “Fruitful Christian” and an “Infant Christian?” In 1 Corinthians Chapter 3, Paul says yes there can be and there are!
There are two kinds of Christians and two places in life where a Christian can be and Paul starts his “gentle teaching” today in 1 Corinthians 3:1.
1 Corinthians 3:1 (NLT)
1 Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ.
Notice Paul begins by saying “Dear brothers and sisters” which is the classic address to fellow believers. So Paul is talking to believers here and he says “I could NOT talk to you as SPIRITUAL people”
The word translated “spiritual” means Characterized by the Holy Spirit”- or “Dominated by the Holy Spirit.”
“Characterized by the Holy Spirit” is what the Bible says a Christian should ultimately look like. Someone in whose life the character (fruit) of the Holy Spirit actually shows.
Paul says, I couldn’t talk to you as I would to a spiritual person. I had to talk to you as though you belonged to this world.
So the first shock here is Paul is actually saying there are Christians (and you may know one) who think, act and live like they belong to this world. The ESV calls these Christians “people of the flesh.” The NKJV calls them “carnal” which is where we get the term “carnal Christian.”
The word for “carnal” which the NLT translates “belonging to this world” is a word that refers to a Christian who is driven (or dominated) by their sin nature and by their flesh. It’s a Christian whose life is characterized by the same actions that characterize unbelievers. It’s a Christian who’s living for the world and for their own flesh. This is in direct contrast to someone who is dominated by the Holy Spirit.
Can there be such a thing as a Christian… who is still driven by their sin nature just as much as unbelievers? Can there be a “true Christian” who is characterized… by the exact same actions that characterize unbelievers? Is it possible to have the very life of Jesus Christ living inside you, having the full power of the Holy Spirit within you and still be driven by the things of the flesh and the world? Maybe you know by experience that is absolutely (and unfortunately) possible.
Back in my “more radical” days, I remember dealing with two different leaders at two different times who both happened to be worship leaders who (as it ended up) were so driven by their fleshly and sinful desires that I sat both of them down and said to both of them you are obviously NOT SAVED – How can you be? How can you be a Child of God with the Holy Spirit in you and be living a life of sin like that?
Well (on both those occasions) both those leaders left very angry. But that approach of “you’re living like you’re not saved so you’re obviously not saved” is probably not the best one.
So now, I try harder to tell people very lovingly, You may be very well born again and going to heaven but you are definitely not acting or living like it. That is a carnal Christian. A believer who acts and lives like they still belong fully to this world and that is who the Holy Spirit is talking to here in Chapter 3.
But in the second half of verse 1 Paul presents a second possibility. You may be acting like a carnal Christian or you may be acting like a Christian still in diapers.
Again, the second half of 1 Corinthians 3:1.
1 Corinthians 3:1(b) (NLT)
1. . . I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ.
So maybe you’re just acting like a “new-born” baby in Christ which for a time is actually fine. When someone first gets saved, we don’t expect them to immediately start living like a mature believer. That’s like expecting a new-born to go out and get a job and become a productive member of the family. However like a new-born baby, we are supposed to grow in our maturity with Jesus over time.
We never say to someone who has just started following Christ… here is a list of all the things that you need to change in your life today. However… if you’ve been following Jesus for some time and you’re still “pooping in your spiritual diaper” that could be a problem because you’re starting to smell to the people around you.
When someone is first born-again we tell them first – just fall in love with Jesus. Get to know who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for you. We call this the “spiritual milk.” It’s the basics (beginning) of spiritual nutrition.
We most often use the Gospel of John for this because if a new believer will read through the Gospel of John twice (one chapter a day for forty-two days) making notes on any questions they have and then getting those questions answered, in forty-two days that person will have a solid grasp on who Jesus Christ is and what Jesus Christ has done for them. And that high nutrition spiritual milk will get them started on a great grow path – just like a new-born baby.
Why does a new-born baby nurse? Because it is the highest concentrated nutrition possible. But, when you see a five year old nursing you think to yourself… maybe something is not right there.
And if you have been a believer for years and you’ve never even turned a page in the Gospel of John, think spiritually about that five year old whose mother still has to come to school at lunch time so he can eat.
It’s okay to be an infant – when you are an infant.
Is Totally Dependent on other people to Care for him
He can’t Walk– he has to be Carried
He can’t Feed himself – he has to be Fed
And (most of all) an infant is only happy when other people are taking care of him.
And so it is with spiritual infants. If you have been following Jesus only for a short time we want to do these things for you just like new parents want to be doing these things for their newborn when they first bring them home. But that five year old who’s still waiting for his mom to get to school so he can eat… if he’s also waiting for her to change his diaper, then something has gone drastically wrong.
And so it is with spiritual growth. Christians who never leave the bottle or the diaper are those who cannot walk with Jesus on their own. They have to always be carried by another person and they’re always looking for a new person to lean on. A new person to care for them instead of looking for people they can care for. They never feed on the Word of God themselves but their only spiritual nutrition is when they make it to church.
If they are getting the attention they need then they are perfectly happy. But they are very sensitive to their own needs. They are high-maintenance and quickly angered if things don’t go their way. And when things don’t go their way they usually start screaming to make sure everyone around them knows that they’re not getting their way.
So, carnal Christians in diapers – that’s who Paul is addressing today. In verse two Paul says they should be growing but they are not ready to grow.
1 Corinthians 3:2 (NLT)
2 I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready,
What does Paul mean they weren’t ready for anything stronger than the spiritual milk made for an infant? It means something went wrong in the growth process. Paul says I could not move you from the spiritual milk to any solid food because you never got out of the bottle mode.
What happens when a human baby goes from milk to solid food? They start growing, right? It is the same for a spiritual baby. When a spiritual baby goes from milk to solid food they become stronger and they begin to grow. And when a spiritual baby begins to grow, they go from believing (that’s the spiritual milk) to doing (the result of solid food.)
Your growth in Christ begins when you begin to go from believing – to doing. You believe first – right in the midst of however you’re living and whatever you’re caught up in. But – if you’ve been born a healthy Christian you cannot stay there. If you’ve been born a healthy Christian you must grow from believing – to doing. You must grow from believing WHO Jesus is to DOING what Jesus says. A healthy believer is not someone who just believes. A healthy believer is someone whose faith changes their actions and their life.
Jesus said to his “would be” disciples – follow me and then he turned around and walked away. And at that moment those believers had to decide if they believed enough to actually do something about it – or not. Did they believe enough to actually put one foot in front of the other and go where Jesus would lead them and do what Jesus would call them to do.
When we actually begin to follow Jesus it will show in our actions and in our life and if our faith doesn’t ever begin to show in our actions, then it means we are stuck somewhere between a nursing baby and our first jar of mashed peas.
And so, at the end of verse two, Paul told these carnal Christians in diapers “You still aren’t ready to begin growing spiritually” because as 1 Corinthians 3:3 tells us,
1 Corinthians 3:3(A) tells us (NLT)
3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature . . .
(NKJV says you are still carnal)
Carnal Christians in diapers are still controlled by their sin nature and by their flesh and then Paul gives an example that stays within the context of what is happening in the church in Corinth.
1 Corinthians 3:3(all) (NLT)
3 for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?
NKJV says For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal.
Paul is simply saying if you are acting like your sin nature is controlling you then your sin nature is controlling you. If you have to poop in your spiritual diaper then you are acting like a spiritual baby. And doesn’t the way you are acting and living prove what your true spiritual state is? Whether you want to admit it or not?
The only group of people I’ve ever dealt with more capable of self-deception than Christians are addicts. An addict can really convince himself he’s got it together when he is totally strung out. And we Christians can really convince ourselves that we are at the top of the spiritual chart when we are actually being consumed by our sin nature.
For me, it’s always been the Christians who consider themselves the most spiritual and the most mature who sow the most damage into the Church with the same sins Paul lists in verse three – envy, strife and division (NKJV) which are all pride-based sins.
You know, I have a tree in my backyard that I really like. I really like it because it produces excellent oranges. So, do you know what I call that tree? I call it an orange tree because that is the fruit it produces.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:20 (NLT)
20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
Tell me, are you willing to identify yourself by your actions not what you claim to know about yourself (because we are very self-deceived)? But are you willing to look only at your actions and make a judgment?
Am I a carnal Christian? Am I controlled by sin nature and my flesh or am I carrying around poop in my spiritual diaper long past the time when I should have learned how to get rid of that stuff myself?
Let me just say before we close, if you are tired of being a carnal Christian in diapers – first read the Gospel of John twice (one chapter a day for forty-two days) and get answers to all of your questions. Then, study our Give Up series (watch, listen or read). I promise you it will get you growing. You can get this on our phone app at “wordbymail” or online at www.wordbymail.com
But for today, Alan Redpath helps me close.
What does it look like when we begin to grow out of being a carnal Christian in diapers?
1) We will begin to have more spiritual victories than we have spiritual defeats. The trend of our spiritual life will be more toward victory and less toward defeat.
2) We will begin to grow in our Christlikeness. Our old life will be more and more crucified with Christ and his life will live more and more in us (Galatians 2:20) and his life will bring the evidence of Christlikeness into our lives. Holiness – Purity – Grace – Mercy – and Sacrificial Love (for starters.)
3) We will begin to see the fruit of the spirit in our lives. Galatians 5:22–23 (NLT)
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control . . . These are not just hollow words in a famous verse. This is the actual fruit that reveals what kind of spiritual life we are living.
I wish I had time to discuss the HOW (study the Give Up series to learn the how.) But for today it’s enough to make the confession if the Holy Spirit is convicting you of something in your own life that is keeping you from growing in Christ. Confession is “Lord you’re right, I’m not. Lord, I agree with you when you say that I am a carnal or infant Christian, I agree.” That’s confession.
If there is:
Something you need to REPENT of
Something you need to ASK FORGIVENESS for
Something that needs to be TAKEN OUT– to the diaper pail
would you make a commitment to God to do that? Would you take the first step today – to not being a carnal Christian in diapers?
Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, your mercies are new every morning. Your faithfulness is great. You draw us in and say “Come, and I’ll transform you.” And so we come today, Lord, impacted by these words. Maybe with a heavy burden, maybe overloaded by the acknowledgement that we need to see real change in our lives. Maybe we’ve come to the end of ourselves. So today we just want to come to you and say, “Lord you are right. I confess and I repent. I turn from those things that are driving me, that are contrary to you. I surrender my life to you. And I commit to take the first step of obedience.”
The Lord says come to the altar, his arms are open wide. No matter where you’ve been, you can leave it behind. All the regrets, all the mistakes. All the old life. You can leave it behind today.