Every Monday we’ll post something to do with maintaining sexual purity. Hope it helps.
Beyond the Carnal
When I feel overwhelmed by my own temptations, it’s humbling to remember how minor they really are, and how unacceptable any excuse for yielding to them will be. Esau learned that the hard way, and to this day when I read the account of Jacob snatching his birthright from him, I feel he got a raw deal. He was first in line for inheritance; his brother Jacob wanted to snatch it from him. So when Esau came in from hunting, exhausted and hungry, Jacob had made some aromatic stew which his brother craved, and which he offered him in exchange for his birthright. Esau was, at this point “faint”, the Hebrew word for which means “languishing, wearied out from journey or toil.”
The guy was wiped out and starving; the food was there as an immediate solution, whereas the inheritance was something far off. He yielded, satisfying a legitimate need in an illegitimate but understandable way. Yet scripture records this as an act of contempt cutting him out of his own birthright (Genesis 25:34) eventually leaving him devastated without remedy. (Hebrews 12:17)
Been there; done that. I remember all too well having emotional and sexual needs, feeling exhausted from years of not having them met, and finally yielding to the aromatic stew. The big difference, of course, is that I was nowhere near languishing; not at all within the same ball park as Esau when it came to weakness and hunger. So if there was no excuse for him yielding, there was less than zero for me. I knew better. I was a Christian man, but I had also become a very carnal man.
It seems we’re one of three: natural, or spiritual, or carnal. The natural man or has never been born again, so he lives apart from God’s spirit and is understandably unenlightened to spiritual realities. (I Corinthians 2:12) The spiritual man, by contrast, has been born again by God’s spirit and lives under that same spirit’s direction and authority. (John 3:8)
Then there’s the carnal guy, who has been born again but who’s still immaturely governed by his unique, longstanding appetites. They may be natural or unnatural ones – an appetite for food, or drugs, natural or unnatural sex – but they are, at core, carnal appetites which, when yielded to, set up a pattern of carnal behavior, the pattern eventually creating a carnal character. That’s what so irritated Paul about the Corinthians (I Corinthians 3:3) who were, in essence, believers acting like non-believers.
It’s a pretty common modern problem. In this fallen world Christians who’ve been born again nonetheless retain the ability to be tempted. No sin in that; the sin comes when a decision is made to gratify the temptation. That decision gets repeated, a pattern is set; carnality follows. But whereas the natural man has no choice but to follow his body’s passions, the spiritual man has a choice, and has made the wrong one, hence he goes from the spiritual to the carnal.
At this point he may argue “You don’t understand how hard this temptation is; how misunderstood I am; how many unmet needs I’ve got!” All of which may be true; none of which justifies his behavior. Granted, it’s hard to say no to what seems so rewarding and intense, so much a part of the natural makeup. I can sympathize, as we all should, and I suppose if we showed more open compassion along those lines more Christians would be willing to come forward asking for help resisting sin, rather than yielding to it. Still, I’m reminded of what the author of Hebrews wrote: “You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” (Hebrews 12:4)
I’m tempted; I hate it. Whether the temptation to overeat, lust, lie, flake off or despair, I hate all my temptations. So boo-hoo, wah, whatever, that’s life. I have no choice in the matter – temptation happens. My choice is to resist or yield, and I know the fruit of each decision. Mine is to strive, hard and daily, if need be, rather than yield. Because tough experience has shown me that Paul was right, and oh so relevant today, when he said:
“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)