Is carnal Christianity a deception?

Should a carnal believer expect Jesus to say, "Well done, good and faithful servant?"

Jim Allen

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Dealing with questions about salvation is always a balancing act. On one side the Bible gives warning about the need for self-examination. On the other side it gives reassurance about victory in Christ and salvation assured. Between the two sides there is truth and stability, a point of balance to help walk the narrow path.

From what I've been able to observe, just about every believer struggles with salvation issues from time to time. So, it is normal to feel a little anxious about salvation when reading all manner of articles promoting so many differing views.

As a believer, I dislike loose ends and especially ones that confuse the Gospel message. While debates about salvation and sanctification in particular are healthy, there is one debate that treads dangerously close to heresy. This debate suggests that a person (having made a profession of faith in Christ) has the option to continue living in sin.

While it is true believers tend to stray, it is also true God will nudge them back onto the narrow path. This is why Jesus portrays himself as the Good Shepherd, to watch over and guide believers in times of temptation and trouble (John 10:11). But what of believers who stray and never seem to sense the Shepherd's gentle nudge to get back on track?

One likely cause for not sensing the nudge is a deception that has grown a deep root in the church known as carnal Christianity. About this teaching L. R. Shelton, Jr., writes:
Dear Friend, a false gospel is sweeping our land, and has swept like wild fire through Christendom in these last decades, damning more souls to hell than seemingly any other of Satan's subtle lies; and I've come again to warn you of this false gospel of Carnal Christianity.
According to Shelton, the doctrine of carnal Christianity is one of those loose ends that give professing believers the idea they can live as they please because they are eternally secure; and, that they will still be in heaven along with the faithful super saints. Others refer to this idea as easy believism that excuses the believer from moral responsibility and the seriousness of the high call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). John G. Reisinger says about this disregard for the high call of God:
Seriously, what kind of salvation is that? Where is the freedom and liberty won by the Redeemer in His battle with sin and Satan (John 8:32, 36)? Where is the power and life infused by the Holy Ghost in His mighty work of regeneration? This is not a salvation from sin. It is a salvation in sin. The very essence of biblical salvation is expressed in the Angel's announcement that Jesus would "save his people from their sins," (Matthew 1:21).
Is a person who professes faith in Christ saved if choosing to continue a carnal lifestyle? While some strongly argue yes and cite convincing verses to back it up, Galatians 6:7-8 says no and agrees with Reisinger's view including the view adopted by Got Questions that clearly teaches carnality for a born again believer is never an option after salvation.

About this debate Got Questions says:
The key thing to understand is that while a Christian can be, for a time, carnal, a true Christian will not remain carnal for a lifetime. Some have abused the idea of a "carnal Christian" by saying that it is possible for people to come to faith in Christ and then proceed to live the rest of their lives in a completely carnal manner, with no evidence of being born again or a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Such a concept is completely unbiblical.
While the Bible teaches we can resist the work of sanctification, it never teaches we have the option to stay in an infantile state of awareness about the holy things of God. This is not the life Jesus had in mind when he gave his life for ours. This is not the life Paul had in mind when he was inspired to write Romans 12:2 and 13:14.

Chris Hohnholz insightfully writes:
He gave me a new nature. As part of that nature, God made me aware of my sin, not in a generic sense, but in a very specific one. No longer did I feel bad about coveting, lusting, lying or hating just because bad consequences occurred. I actually began to hate my sin because I saw it for what it was, a rebellious act toward a kind and loving God...who mercifully redeemed me by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And instead of just trying to find some way to justify my sin, I now wanted to repent of those things because I loved my Savior.
Chris has it right! The entirety of a believer's life after salvation consists of change, growing from carnality (living for self) to full maturity (living for Christ). A new creation in Christ will grow and mature and eventually produce the fruits of Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

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Image Credit: Jay Wilson; Broken Cross Color 4; Creative Commons

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Published 10-15-14