Trying to be Christlike When You Want to Be… :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

Trying to be Christlike When You Want to Be Carnal 

“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 6:6, NKJV).

“For I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

When someone surrenders their life to the Lordship and saving grace of Jesus Christ, they have to understand that their lives are now no longer their own; and as they mature in their faith, they are expected to stay focused on Christ and His direction for their lives, which is gained by learning to pray as well as studying and meditating on the Word of God. Growth is also seen and confirmed when the believer shares his faith and defends it against the skepticism and hostility of the world, which would be satisfied if Jesus had never been born, much less lived.

The world in its sins and debauchery does not like to face the indisputable fact that we will be held accountable for what we have done and said while living in this world, and that we have to stand before the Lord God Almighty to explain ourselves and face the consequences, leading to reward or punishment. Both reprobate and redeemed will face this, and there will be no passes or exemptions for anyone. It is this inevitability of facing the Holy and Glorious God who holds our lives in His hand and can do what He pleases with our lives and decisions.

That is the honest, unvarnished truth of our human condition, and without the saving mercy and loving redemption that Jesus Christ did on our behalf by being our substitute and dying a horrendous death for the sins we have committed in order that we may be made righteous before God the Father, the Scriptures tell us that we would have to permanently pay for our never-ending sin debt in hell. There is no repentance in hell, only remorse, and your sins will never see redemption, only unending punishment because the Holy Spirit will not be there to convict you. You’ll continually sin, forever tormented in a vicious cycle with no chance of rest or conclusion.

The only hope you have to avoid the eternal, horrible consequences of atoning for your own wickedness in hell is to make terms of peace with God in this life by surrendering your life to Jesus Christ and giving everything to Him, including plans, ideas, career, family, and future. In giving everything to Christ and following Him as a disciple, know that from that moment on, HE OWNS YOU. However, the same Lord Jesus who welcomes you with open arms also tells potential followers to count the cost before you make the commitment. It is this lack of commitment and hard thinking which produces false converts and lack of developing maturity and character.

All throughout Scripture, God clearly instructed His people on how to approach Him, how to properly worship Him and respect the means by which to bring Him offerings, how to construct and purify the meeting place between ourselves and His glorious presence, how to atone for sin (primarily in the Old Testament), and the proper observance of feast days and celebrations, along with obeying His laws, the foundation of which are the Ten Commandments. He also told them that they would fall into sin if they don’t obey and listen to Him, and He knew that there would be periods in Israel’s history that the nation would turn away from Him and fall into idolatry and rote worship.

In His Sovereignty, God allowed these periods of wickedness to take their toll on the welfare of the people in order to make them see that without His guidance and protection, they would fall into ruin. The people would grow weary of the nation’s wickedness or oppression by hostile nations and cry for deliverance and forgiveness, such as in the period of the Judges. As Israel went from theocracy to monarchy under rulers like Saul, David, and Solomon, the people tended to adhere to God’s principles and look to their kings as examples and role models. The line of kings found in both the histories of Israel and later Judah demonstrated both devotion and debauchery on the part of government and citizenry.

However, the point to remember in this survey of history is that God never once allowed the Israelites to guess or wonder what to do on their own. Even in their darkest days, God gave them prophets to preach a return to holiness and dedication towards the LORD. Israel never had to “wing it,” so to speak, in terms of what God expected of them.

The very fact that the Jewish race continued to exist, even after losing their nation and going into exile for their disobedience, should be visible proof that God watched out for them and still does today, as He did when they were scattered throughout the world for two thousand years, hardships, tragedies, and all. We also have to accept the fact that much harm was done to the Jews by kings, popes, clerics, and ignorant peasants in the name of Christianity and the scourge of anti-Semitism, believing falsehoods such as the Jews being labeled as Christ-killers,” “inhuman,” “blood drinkers,” and unworthy of salvation and mercy, often promoted by the leaders of the Protestant Reformation such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, among others.

If there had ever been a time in the history of Western Civilization where carnal, fleshly thinking in the name of religion flourished, the days of medieval and humanist thought provided the fuel for conflict.

Times of devotion and debauchery have been a part of every nation, people, and culture, and Christianity has not avoided any exceptions. The life and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ was centered on bringing people into contact, not with religious observance and ritual as the Judaism of the post-exilic period had become, but with the God of the universe who loved them and wanted to have them in the family of the promised kingdom of heaven. Jesus also taught that national identity was not a sign of automatic entry into God’s heaven. Being Jewish did not mean adherence to the things of God, not then and not now. The same principle goes for people who label themselves “Christians” but are nowhere near what it means to follow Christ, using the label instead as being equivalent with being an American citizen, or being “good,” “moral,” or a host of labels.

I’ve presented this jet tour of the history of people in order to make a few points, especially as it regards to the efforts of those who want to genuinely follow Jesus and live according to His expectations, but keep messing up along the path. I would hope that the examples I’ve presented show you that individuals and nations have given it their best attempt at times to live up to what God expected, but somehow always fall short of the goal. I want to encourage you as a pilgrim and stranger in this world that, because we are still in a state of sin while we have these present bodies, things and thoughts will come into our lives that will trip us up, righteous walk and all.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve allowed less than Christ-like thoughts and actions come into my life. Just because I surrendered my life and all to Jesus and obeyed His call for me to be a minister doesn’t mean I’ve listened to hymns and stayed clean all these years. I’ve done some things that I’d rather not dwell upon or look at with a sense of youthful nostalgia. I have been forgiven and embraced by a gracious God for a long time now, and He won’t hold the past against me at the end of my life. I still struggle with some things that a lot of other men of God have avoided and might scorn me as being unfit for the calling I know Jesus Christ has placed upon me.

I’d rather be honest and admit I’m unworthy of even receiving salvation, but Jesus reached out to those who were looked down on by the “pious.” I don’t need to feign holiness and know that I’m lying about my authentic nature which hasn’t been brought to the cross and left there. Because I have been bought with a price, I have the freedom in Him to affirm that no one, human or devil, has the right or authority to hold anything over me for which I have asked forgiveness and mercy. He will always love me and never leave or forsake me.

Most of my service to Jesus has been with hospital patients and the downtrodden who ended up at the local rescue mission at the end of their ropes. I don’t hang around with the “holier than thou” crowds found at some churches. They don’t need a physician. I’d rather be with a group of addicts, alcoholics, homeless, hookers, and the destitute who have been saved by the same Jesus who took me and made me, as well as them, someone of worth in His eyes. Also, when a dying patient is ready to meet God, I want the wisdom to present Jesus, not religious talk or guilt trips.

There were nights in both places where I saw the hardest of hearts transformed by the love of a holy God who would not let go and would bring to Christ’s banquet table. These people didn’t know a thing about Calvinism, or sanctification, or eschatology, or church history, proper attire, or doctrines, or confessions, or anything else that we as mature believers might discuss or debate. They had done some terrible things while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Some had abandoned their families, some had taken to prostitution to feed their kids and were now content to have a hot meal, a clean bed, and a safe place for their children. These souls had lived carnal and fleshly lives. They knew they were guilty, and I didn’t need to bring that up in talking with them.

All I saw was one minute they were headed for hell, and the next, they were embracing heaven. Another lost lamb was found by the Great Shepherd. That’s what mattered.

Yes, the Lord Jesus expects us as we mature spiritually to keep our eye on Him and crucify our flesh. It’s expected of us as His children. Yes, He expects us to change, to grow, to avoid those things that may compromise our walk, and to feed on the Word, to be with other brethren, to share our faith, to be pure, to have our minds in agreement with the will and direction of Christ, and to keep looking for His appearance. The Scriptures, our pastors and elders, our Bible study teachers, our peers, and the guiding direction of the Holy Spirit are all here to instruct and guide us on our journey to glory. We can rejoice and thank the LORD for such blessings. I have had the privilege of teaching classes and mentoring people in the aspects of the faith, and I am grateful for the opportunity.

However, even the best of us will fall, some harder than others and for varied reasons, the most noted being moral failure of some kind. We can’t excuse bad behavior or try to justify it, especially if the person is not willing to confess and seek forgiveness from the offended parties. God does not wink at sin or put up with it if it continues. He does forgive, yes, but He also will not let the sin “slide by” and be swept under the proverbial rug. We must accept responsibility for our actions and words. Here’s where the devil can slip in and keep us away from confronting this issue, and how God deals with it, especially if the offender is a true believer.

The sinner in question can try to justify his deed, thinking that it’s not as bad as things seem. Let the problem pass, take some heat, and go on with life. Everyone else messes up, so what makes you the exception? The enemy loves this kind of flawed reasoning, because he places within the mind of the unrepentant the notion that he isn’t as bad as, say, a repeat adulterer or sexual molester. This is tragic, especially if the person thinks he is a follower of Christ who just messed up and God will understand. He is more than likely in the category of being a false convert and is in danger in every sense of the word (Matthew 7:21-23; Titus 1:16; 1 John 2:9; 3:18). Fervent prayer needs to be given for this soul at once without ceasing.

The second situation is all too common for a lot of believers who stumble into carnal behavior. Unlike the first case, this individual is racked with guilt and shame for what he did. Here’s another trick of the devil concerning this situation. He will continue to make you feel guilty and ashamed to the point where you come to believe that God will never forgive you for this sin. You’ve done it once too many times and you’re headed to hell because this was a big time screw up beyond God’s ability to do anything for you. This one is especially effective when someone is trying to stop looking at pornography and keeps slipping up. He had every intention of staying away from it and asking for forgiveness from God.

Satan is a master at producing guilt and a sense of unforgiveness. He wants you to avoid going to God for direction and restoration and increase your feeling of unworthiness and the fear of losing your salvation. His goal is to render you ineffective for God’s service and make you surrender to your habit. (Be honest, men. I’m certain it’s happened at some point in your life, no matter if it was accident or intentional.) The Spirit of God, however, produces conviction of the sin. God’s goal is to convict you of the wrong with the intention of confession on your part, and have you seek forgiveness and ask for strength to overcome the sin in question.

Get rid of the devices, put on an internet filter, have a support system, have someone in the room with you, or think on the tragic fact that these people involved in porn may be sex slaves, forced to do acts, that it’s someone’s daughter or son trapped by a predator, or threatened to do the act on pain of death or harm to parents/friends. Think on the truth that the power and might of the Lord Jesus Christ is able to overcome this sin and to free you from captivity and to save these victims. Guilt produces separation, while conviction brings you to the throne.

Meditate upon and learn these verses as we conclude:

Psalm 32:1, 65:3, 103:3, 130:4; Ezekiel 18:22; Matthew 6:14; Mark 3:28; Acts 5:31, 13:38, 26:18; Ephesians 1:7; James 5:15; 1 John 1:9-10; Psalm 51.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is with you as well: John 1:17; 2 Corinthians 8:9, 12:9; Ephesians 4:2; Matthew 11:28-30; John 10:28-30, 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 1:12-14; Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 13:5; 1 John 1:9-10.

Nobody is beyond the love of Jesus Christ and His salvation, especially not you. Come to Him today (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10). He is wonderful. Amen.