So 77% of Americans identify themselves as Christians.1 But, are 77% of Americans really Christians? No, not at all. Even our current president, President Obama stated not long ago,"we are no longer a Christian nation." This is one of the few things that President Obama and I agree on. Many who call themselves Christians have never really embraced Jesus and instead are engaged in lip-service. Many will say, "I'm a Christian" but fail to actually be a Christian. For example, a survey of Evangelical "Christians" showed that 80% are engaged in sexual relationships before marriage 2 and overall only 3% of self-identified Christians have said that they actually submit themselves to God and his desire for their life. 3 This means that 97% confess that they don't actually strive to follow and obey Jesus' words.
This is very similar to a vegetarian who loves to eat hamburgers. It's just not possible. If you eat meat you're not a vegetarian, no matter what you say. And if you engage in sin you're not a Christian, even if you insist that you are. I'm sorry to say it so bluntly, but that's just how it is. If you really are trusting Jesus you won't continue in sin. The Bible clearly says, "no one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God."
So why do so many people call themselves Christians when they're really not? Over the next few weeks, I'll examine the passages of Scripture that careless pastors have used to mislead millions of people (and possibly you) into thinking that they are Christians when they're not.
This week we begin with 1 Corinthians 3:1-4,
"But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet 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 only in a human way? For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not being merely human?"
In the above passage, Paul uses the words "people of the flesh" to refer to the Christians at Corinth but the King James version calls them "carnal." This is important because this is how the idea of a "carnal Christian" came into existence.
"The Apostle Paul, by the Spirit, has divided the whole human family into three groups:
(1) 'The "natural man," [the non-Christian]
(2) the "carnal man," [a Christian that does NOT act like one]
(3) the "spiritual" man. [a Christian that does act like one]"
The idea that a person can be a Christian, even though they don't act like one could not be farther from the truth. Mistaken men like Chafer suggest that when Paul called the Christians in Corinth "carnal" that he was saying that they were living in sin. But look closely, what exactly was the sin that they were engaged in? There was "jealousy and strife" because each person was trying to argue that they were a better Christian than most. Those who learned and studied theology from Paul said, "we're better than all you guys because we learned from Paul" and those who learned from Apollos were saying the same; "we're better because we learned from Apollos." There was no damning sin here. They got caught up in trying to be a really good Christian and ended up falling into the sins of "pride and strife." So, Paul writes them a letter and corrects them. In fact, the whole letter of 1 Corinthians is a corrective letter with Paul rebuking them over and over again. But guess what? They read his letter and they changed. They saw that they were sinning and they were grieved and saddened, and so they repented of their sin.
In Paul's second letter to them, he writes, " For even if I made you grieve with my first letter, I do not regret it... As it is I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting, for you felt a godly grief." So you see, even though Christians do sin, they don't "continue in sin." The only people that continue to sin without fighting it are those who, as the Bible puts it, "whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil." Or again, "those who practice sexual immorality shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven" or "those who get drunk shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven." Or how about being a "lover of money"? These things are what damn someone. These are not things that a true Christian can practice, and if he does practice them, then we have all the evidence we need that he or she does not belong to God.
Perhaps 77% of Americans will profess to be a Christian, but if we go by what Jesus has said, then the number is much much lower than that.
Here's something you should watch.