The Apostle Paul in the Word of God describes LIFE’S THREE KINDS OF PEOPLE. If you will, THREE CLASSES OF PEOPLE in the world and in the church. It may sound like an oversimplification, but Paul in fact boils all of humanity down to three groups, and here they come.
We as Christians generally think in terms of TWO KINDS OF PEOPLE – UNSAVED AND SAVED – LOST AND FOUND – CONDEMNED AND JUSTIFIED. That is very true, but those couplets refer to man’s STATUS BEFORE GOD, not to his INTERNAL CONDITION. When it comes to man’s SPIRITUAL CONDITION, the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians gives us THREE CONDITIONS that describe the INWARD STATES that all men find themselves in one way or another.
Well then, let’s take a thorough look at the THREE CONDITIONS OF MAN’S BEING that the Apostle Paul describes, and in his teaching we will be able to find ourselves.
I. THE NATURAL MAN
The first one is called the “NATURAL MAN.” Paul says in I Corinthians 2:14,
“But a ‘NATURAL MAN’ DOES NOT ACCEPT the THINGS of the SPIRIT OF GOD, for they are FOOLISHNESS to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are SPIRITUALLY APPRAISED.”
This is the NON-CHRISTIAN that Paul is talking about here, and he says there are THREE MAIN CHARACTERISTICS that identify the NATURAL MAN, the one that has not been SPIRITUALLY QUICKENED, MADE ALIVE in CHRIST.
Before we look at them, remember, what we are going to see is the majority of humanity at any given point – NATURAL MEN. Every little baby that pops out of the birth canal is a NATURAL BABY – NATURAL MAN. The most natural thing in the entire world is to be NATURAL MAN. It is totally SUPERNATURAL TO BE A CHRISTIAN, but it is TOTALLY NATURAL TO BE A NON-CHRISTIAN.
In fact, the United States of America today is being governed by NATURAL MEN AND WOMEN. As we shall see, being led by such men and women is like going to your car in the morning and finding that all of the tires are slashed and flat, and the battery is dead as a doornail. We will now see why!
A. THE FIRST CHARACTERISTIC OF THE NATURAL MAN IS THIS:
“NATURAL MAN HAS NO APPRECIATION
FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS.”
Paul says that NATURAL MEN DO NOT BECAUSE THEY CANNOT ACCEPT the things of the Spirit and the Word of God. They don’t EMBRACE something for themselves OF THE THINGS OF GOD. The NATURAL MAN is NOT ACCEPTING and RECEIVING of the THINGS that God has for him. They’re LIVING BENEATH the PATHS AND THE PROMISES of God.
In fact, NATURAL MAN JUST DOES NOT RECEIVE, BUT FLAT OUT REJECTS the Word and the Spirit of God. He can’t help it, for he is by NATURE TOTALLY CLOSED TO THE WORD AND THE WILL OF GOD. It makes no difference whether he lives in a fancy rural neighborhood or in a shack on the wrong side of the tracks, when it comes to the SPIRITUAL REALITIES OF CHRIST, NATURAL MAN IS IN THE DARK. He can drink beer and talk politics until the cows come home, but he can’t wrap his mind or tongue around Biblical, spiritual realities. NATURAL MAN!
I’ve taught over the years that we are SPIRIT BEINGS that HAVE SOULS and LIVE IN BODIES (I Thessalonians 5:23):
1. The SPIRIT of a MAN is that part which is CAPABLE of COMMUNING and COMMUNICATING with God.
2. The SOUL is the MIND, the WILL, and the EMOTIONS. It’s the SEAT of INTELLIGENCE and the DECISION-making qualities, as well as all of the emotional makeup. That’s the SOUL.
3. The BODY, of course, is the OUTWARD part of us that people see.
Man is TRIPARTITE, NOT BIPARTITE, like God, he is three in one. The Bible is clear on this point. Now THEN , when ADAM and EVE SINNED in the Garden of Eden, when they did that, what happened was the SPIRIT PART OF THEM – that part that was CAPABLE of having COMMUNION with God – literally, it CRASHED into the BASEMENT of their LIVES. In fact:
“THE MOMENT ADAM AND EVE SINNED, THEY DIED AS
It was catastrophic, for it was as if everything in their SPIRIT BEING was burned and blown away like ashes in the wind. Their SPIRITUAL HOUSE HAD BEEN BURNED TO THE GROUND, and no one lived there any longer. Get the picture? The garage and the car survived though with great damage. THE SPIRIT HOUSE was a total wreck!
Get the picture! Instead of a SPIRITUAL man and woman, they became a NATURAL man and woman, and the moment they sinned, they DIED SPIRITUALLY, and EVENTUALLY their BODIES would PROVE the FACT. But the DEATH STARTED in the SPIRITUAL dimension. SOMETHING DEEP INSIDE THEM DIED.
God had warned them,
“The DAY (THE VERY DAY) that thou EATEST of the tree, thou shalt
surely (What?) DIE.” (Genesis 2:17)
SOMETHING INSIDE them was completely LOST. The SPIRITUAL PART OF THEM TURNED STONE-COLD, DEAD, AND BARREN. Man could still become a philosopher, a politician , or a psychiatrist, but he could now never become a Biblical Theologian. That would be the blind leading the blind. Hear it:
“THE WORLD OF NATURAL MAN NOW HAD BECOME TOTALLY SECULAR AND
NON-SPIRITUAL IN ITS OUTLOOK.”
Everything from the grass to the grave over which the grass grows is, with all of the world besides, ONLY NATURAL without one SPIRITUAL ASPECT. All men by nature are THOROUGH-GOING NATURALISTS.
When I think of the DEATH OF THE SPIRITUAL MAN, and when I think of THE NATURAL MAN WHO HAS NOT BEEN MADE ALIVE IN THE SPIRIT, I think of the words of T.S. Elliot in the poem “We Are Hollow Men – We Are Stuffed Men.” Here is how that poem ends:
“THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS,
THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS,
NOT WITH A BANG, BUT WITH A WHIMPER.”
You see, the NATURAL MAN has NO APPRECIATION of SPIRITUAL THINGS, because he hasn’t been MADE ALIVE. DAY IN and DAY OUT, a ROUTINE EXISTENCE, not having a HIGHER SENSE of VALUES, or a HIGHER PURPOSE in life. Or as the old truism states it:
“WORKING FROM NINE TO FIVE TO PROVE THAT I AM ALIVE.”
WHY? Because IN THE BEGINNING, when MAN SINNED, the SPIRIT part of man was killed by sin, the very ESSENCE of our BEING, that which was MADE in the IMAGE of GOD, and so it cannot ACCEPT or EMBRACE the THINGS of GOD! That is the awful spiritual emptiness and bankruptcy of NATURAL MAN, which is all men by nature. How often have I talked with NATURAL MEN AND WOMEN whom I have invited to church, and the answer came:
“ALL THAT SINGING AND PREACHING, NO THANKS, IT JUST
ISN’T MY THING.”
B. THE SECOND CHARACTERISTIC OF THE NATURAL MAN:
“HE HAS NO INCLINATION TO RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
You see, it is far worse than simply being SPIRITUALLY DEAD. We read about NATURAL MAN now by nature according to Ephesians 2:2,
“….DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS.”
It doesn’t say that he is DEAD TO SIN, but rather, NATURAL MAN IS DEAD IN SIN. Not just SPIRITUALLY DEAD, BUT DEAD IN SIN. That is ironically to say:
“NATURAL DEAD-IN-SIN MAN IS TOTALLY DEAD TO RIGHTEOUSNESS, BUT
TOTALLY ALIVE TO SIN.”
If you will:
“THE NATURAL MAN IS TOTALLY OUT OF WHAT IS RIGHT, AND
TOTALLY INTO WHAT IS WRONG.”
We can put it this way:
“SIN IS SIMPLY DOING WHAT COMES NATURALLY, BUT RIGHTEOUSNESS
IS DOING THAT WHICH COMES SUPERNATURALLY.”
One main characteristic of the REGENERATE SPIRITUAL MAN is that according to Matthew 5:6,
“He hungers and thirsts after righteousness.”
But the main characteristic of the DEGENERATE NATURAL MAN is according to Job 15:16,
“Man, who drinks INIQUITY LIKE WATER.”
We may well say:
“WHILE THE REGENERATE SPIRITUAL MAN SATISFIES HIS THIRST
BY THE DOING OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, THE DEGENERATE
NATURAL MAN SATISFIES HIS THIRST BY THE
DOING OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.”
This alone explains the hideous condition of the HUMAN NATURAL RACE. While the sons of righteousness oppose Satan, the sons of unrighteousness invite Satan. And the fact is in the world of NATURAL MEN:
“SATAN IS NOT UNINVITED BUT FULLY WELCOMED TO THE
PARTY OF LIFE (DEATH), WHICH IS REALLY BEING HELD
IN HIS HONOR.”
Here it is:
“THE NATURAL MAN LOOKS AT RIGHTEOUSNESS AND IS TURNED OFF,
BUT WHEN HE LOOKS AT SIN HE IS TURNED ON.”
He’ll drink to that! And the more that he drinks, the better sins looks. It’s the old WINE – WOMEN – SONG NATURALIST TRILOGY that the natural man really appreciates.
And so completely UNSPIRITUAL-NATURAL MAN spreads his NATURAL MANURE of ATHEISM, EVOLUTIONISM, and SECULARISM all through our schools, colleges, and universities. It is not second nature to him, but rather, it is first nature for him to do so. The world is peopled with NATURAL MANURE SPREADERS who have now risen to ascendency in government and education, and the stench has reached America’s youth. We tell them to hold their nose, but they still need to breathe in the noxious fumes of the NATURALIST-NON-SPIRITUAL PROFESSORS.
C. THE THIRD CHARACTERISTIC OF THE NATURAL MAN
“THE NATURAL MAN HAS NO COMPREHENSION
OF SPIRITUAL THINGS.”
No WONDER he CAN’T APPRECIATE spiritual things if he CAN’T even COMPREHEND them. The Phillips Translation says,
“It JUST DOESN’T MAKE SENSE TO HIM.”
Bingo! Bull’s eye! Isn’t that the truth!?
Remember in CB RADIO days, when we were ASKING if someone had their receiver turned on, WHAT WOULD WE ASK? Sure,
“HAVE YOU GOT YOUR EARS ON?”
“THIS IS THE KZQ4250, HEY PREACHER MAN, GOT YOUR EARS ON?”
HOW ABOUT YOU GOOD SAMARITAN, GOT YOUR EARS ON?”
What we were asking is,
“DO YOU HAVE ANY ABILITY TO RECEIVE WHAT I’M TRANSMITTING?
HAVE YOU GOT YOUR SET TURNED ON?”
Well, the problem is, NATURAL MAN DOESN’T HAVE A SPIRITUAL SET to turn on. He doesn’t have any SPIRITUAL EARS – ONLY NATURAL EARS. Remember what Jesus said in Revelation 2:7,
“Those who have EARS to HEAR, let them (What?) HEAR what
the SPIRIT is saying to (Whom?) THE CHURCH.”
The CHURCH should have EARS. He said,
“My SHEEP (What?) HEAR MY VOICE.”
They have SPIRITUAL EARS. That’s a CHARACTERISTIC of THE GOOD SHEPHERD’S SHEEP. They can HEAR GOD BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOT ONLY NATURAL EARS, BUT THEY HAVE SPIRITUAL EARS. So then, they dance to a different beat, and they march to a different DRUMMER.
Well then, don’t expect NATURAL MAN to HEAR the THINGS OF GOD. Paul wrote,
“Natural man is NOT SUBJECT to the LAW of the KINGDOM,
neither indeed CAN HE BE.” (Romans 8:7)
That’s why the CHRISTIAN looks at the WORLD and says, “Man, WHY DON’T THEY SEE that?” I mean, this is CRAZY. It’s so MIXED UP in VALUES and so SCHIZOPHRENIC in its approach to life. We live in one MIXED UP WORLD. And sometime believers are AMAZED, they say, “I don’t understand, WHY in the world CAN’T THEY SEE THAT? It doesn’t make sense NOT to be a CHRISTIAN.”
I mean, we SHAKE our HEADS as we see PEOPLE MARCHING to SAVE the WHALES or the SEALS or something, and yet some of the same people would march the next day to KILL UNBORN BABIES. We say, “Wait a minute, that DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.” The Bible says, “DON’T BE AMAZED at that, they have NO WAY of COMPREHENDING or APPRECIATING SPIRITUAL VALUES!”
Paul said, “They CAN’T RECEIVE the THINGS of GOD.” How are they going to understand the VALUES in LIFE without a VALUE SYSTEM or the ABILITY to UNDERSTAND IT?
But thanks be to God, that through Jesus Christ, the NATURAL MAN can become the SPIRITUAL MAN. We read in II Corinthians 5:17,
“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old
things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Man only through Jesus Christ can leave behind forever CURSING GOD’S NAME, and begin to PRAISE GOD’S NAME. HE DOESN’T EVEN RECOGNIZE HIMSELF, as he is a totally new SPIRITUAL CREATION.
In one of his many fascinating clinical vignettes, neurologist Oliver Sacks told the true story of a surgeon with Tourette’s. As some of you know, Tourette’s Syndrome is a bizarre mental disorder which causes victims to have any number of physical and verbal tics. Some Tourettic people have constant facial twitches, others find themselves uncontrollably uttering verbal whoops, beeps, and sometimes also raunchy swear words.
One man with Tourette’s whom Dr. Sacks knew was given to deep, lunging bows toward the ground, a few verbal shouts, and also an obsessive-compulsive type adjusting and readjusting of his glasses. The kicker is that the man is a skilled surgeon! Somehow and for some unknown reason, when he dons mask and gown and enters the operating room, all of his tics disappear for the duration of the surgery. He loses himself in that role and he does so totally. When the surgery is finished, he returns to his odd quirks of glasses adjustment, shouts, and bows.
Something like that, only far greater, is our Christian life as the Spirit of Christ takes up residence within us. As we let the Spirit help us lose ourselves in Jesus Christ and in being His disciples, we find even our ordinary day-to-day natural tics and sins and curses now completely gone as we are clothed in the righteous garments of Jesus Christ. New spiritual creations in Christ, NEVER TO RETURN TO OUR NATURAL SYNDROME!
II. THE SPIRITUAL MAN
The 2nd CLASSIFICATION of men that PAUL TALKS ABOUT is that of SPIRITUAL MAN, and that’s found in I Corinthians 2:15-16, and he gives us a couple of all-important CHARACTERISTICS of the person who is described as the SPIRITUAL MAN. This is a description of every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ:
“But he who is SPIRITUAL APPRAISES ALL THINGS, yet HE
HIMSELF is APPRAISED by NO MAN.”
“For who has KNOWN the MIND of the LORD that he should
instruct Him? But WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST.”
To help understand THE SPIRITUAL MAN, Paul give us TWO CHARACTERISTICS of him that we must get a hold of here that are awesome, and which are completely antithetical to the NATURAL MAN.
A. THE FIRST CHARACTERISTIC OF THE SPRITUAL MAN IS THIS:
“HE IS CAPABLE OF SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT/UNDERSTANDING.”
The spiritual person UNDERSTANDS and DISCERNS what God is saying and even at times what God is doing. That word “APPRAISES” there in v. 15 means:
“THE ABILITY TO EVALUATE OR DISCERN THE THINGS OF GOD!”
Now it doesn’t say that the spiritual person KNOWS ALL THINGS. And it doesn’t say he’s SMARTER than anybody else. The Christian is not a know-it-all by any means. He knows, simply because God is God and he is not God, that what he knows is not nearly as large as what he doesn’t know. But now, HE HAS THE ABILITY TO EVALUATE or APPRAISE THINGS in the SPIRITUAL WORD AND DEED DIMENSION, which he never had before. Spiritually speaking, before he became a Christian, he was like everybody else, dumber than a box of rocks.
Well, you ask, “WHERE does DISCERNMENT COME FROM? Where do we get our ABILITY to APPRAISE – UNDERSTAND – EVALUATE SPIRITUAL THINGS?” Well, according to the Word of God, the SPIRITUAL MAN RECEIVES HIS UNDERSTANDING AND WISDOM in 4 AREAS:
1. First of all, THE SPIRITUAL MAN GOES TO HIS KNEES.
In James 1:5, God says:
“If any of you LACKS WISDOM (apart from God, who doesn’t), let
him ASK OF GOD, who GIVES to ALL MEN GENEROUSLY and
without reproach, and it will be GIVEN to him.”
The spiritual person KNOWS that he will FIND DISCERNMENT/WISDOM ON HIS KNEES IN PRAYER BEFORE GOD. That is, not only understanding what God is saying or doing, but knowing what is required of him to do in response to it.
Not so with the NATURAL MAN. Hear it now in I Corinthians 3:19,
“For the wisdom of this world (the world of natural men) is
foolishness with God.”
“BECAUSE THE WISDOM OF THIS NATURAL WORLD LOOKS
NO FURTHER THAN THIS WORLD.”
There is no eternal, spiritual, heavenly, Divine content in the world’s wisdom, which is why in every word they speak, and in every action they take, there are only foolish and destructive snares. The world’s wisdom is like sharks swimming in the ocean of life that are ready to devour you. Most of our educational system today is nothing less than shark-infested waters. And it is foolish to swim there, for the red flag is always up. Let Acts 5:29 always be your guide,
“We must obey God rather than men.”
2. Secondly, the SPIRITUAL MAN GOES TO THE WORD.
Ps. 119:98-100 says:
“Thy COMMANDMENTS make me WISER than my ENEMIES, for they
are EVER MINE.”
“I have MORE INSIGHT than all my teachers, for Thy TESTIMONIES
are MY MEDITATION.”
“I understand MORE than the aged, because I have OBSERVED
He’s COMPARING the WISDOM of the WORD of GOD to the WISDOM of the WORLD, and he says,
“The WISDOM OF THE WORD IS FAR BEYOND ANYTHING THAT
YOU WILL EVER LIVE TO COMPREHEND IN THIS NATURAL
LIFE, BECAUSE IT IS THE WISDOM OF GOD.”
Why do you think it is that GOD’S TEN COMMANDMENTS are banned in the NATURAL MAN’S WORLD? It is because:
“WHILE THE LAWS OF GOD ARE ABSOLUTE WISDOM TO THE SPIRITUAL
MAN, THEY ARE ABSOLUTE FOOLISHNESS TO THE NATURAL MAN.”
It is because the NATURAL MAN thinks he is so smart and liberated, when in fact he is foolish and bound by sin.
Some time ago, I believe this was in a snippet included in Martin E. Marty’s newsletter “Context,” someone wrote of a conversation he overheard at some East Coast upscale party. The topic turned to morality and at one point a martini-sipping woman proclaimed, “Oh, those terms: adultery, fornication! Isn’t it a shame that people still talk that way in this day and age?!” To this another partygoer replied, “No, I think that what’s a shame is that people still do those things in this day and age.”
3. Thirdly, THE SPIRITUAL GOES TO THE WISE.
Proverbs 1:5 states,
“A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of
understanding will acquire wise counsel.”
It is good to go to SPIRITUAL COUNSELORS who can help give GUIDANCE and THEIR SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT. In this case, two spirits are better than one, as well as two heads. The Bible tells us that there is safety in a plurality of Godly counselors instead of just one.
America is now being led by EVIL COUNSELORS. From Obama all the way through the government, the nation is being told that homosexuals, transsexuals, transvestites etc. are some of the greatest and most positive contributors to American society. We read in Proverbs 24:24,
“He who says to the wicked, ‘Thou art righteous,’ him shall the
people curse; nations shall abhor him.”
Not only that, but we have a president and government that says to the righteous, “Thou art wicked.”
4. Fourthly, the SPIRITUAL MAN GOES TO THE HOLY SPIRIT.
John. 14:26 says:
“But the HELPER, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in
My name, He will TEACH YOU all things, and (will) BRING
to your REMEMBRANCE all that I said to you.”
A part of the FUNCTION of the HOLY SPIRIT is SPECIFICALLY to BRING US into TRUTH, and to BRING US into the WISDOM of God, and to GUARANTEE RECALL.
So there’s the FIRST CHARACTERISTIC of SPIRITUAL MAN. First of all, he’s CAPABLE of DISCERNMENT of what is SPIRITUAL, what is UNSPIRITUAL, and the ANTI-SPIRITUAL.
B. THE SECOND CHARACTERISTIC OF THE SPIRITUAL MAN IS THIS:
“HE IS A CAUSE FOR AMAZEMENT.”
The natural man is AMAZED at the SPIRITUAL MAN because of their STANDARD of LIVING, and the HIGH ROAD that they take. The Living Bible paraphrases this passage by saying,
“The SPIRITUAL MAN HAS INSIGHT THAT BOTHERS AND BAFFLES
THE MAN OF THIS WORLD.”
It says in I Corinthians 2:15 about the SPIRITUAL MAN,
“He’s BEYOND APPRAISAL.”
Why? Because he has the MIND of the LORD, and he says in I Corinthians 2:16,
“WHO CAN KNOW THE MIND OF THE LORD? WHO CAN
INSTRUCT THE LORD?”
And that’s not some ARROGANT ATTITUDE that says, “Hey, we CHRISTIANS just KNOW MORE than anybody else, because it isn’t OUR KNOWLEDGE.” It’s not even OUR MIND OR OUR KNOWLEDGE. It’s the MIND of CHRIST. And when we TAP INTO the MIND of CHRIST, there’s a WISDOM, a KNOWLEDGE, a COMPREHENSION that is BEYOND the LEVEL or the COMPREHENSION of THIS WORLD, and that SHOULDN’T MAKE US ARROGANT. It ought to HUMBLE US and make us REALIZE how DEPENDENT we are upon God. Now then, think about that for a while.
II Peter 3:18 says,
“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
If it wasn’t for the GRACE OF GOD, we would be as dead as the NATURAL MAN. All glory be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Now having said all of that about the SPIRITUAL MAN, let me ASK you 3 QUESTIONS, and each one of us should ASK OURSELVES THESE QUESTIONS:
1. First of all, “Do OTHERS EXPRESS a DESIRE for GOD when they’re AROUND ME? Do I WHET the APPETITE of people for God? Does BEING AROUND ME make people want to KNOW GOD BETTER?”
2. Here’s a second question, “Do I SENSE a SPIRITUAL POWER that is BEYOND ME? Do I SENSE a SPIRITUAL POWER that is GREATER than MY OWN POWER? Or do I typically OPERATE by what I CAN DO and how I can FIGURE THINGS OUT?” In other words, “Am I RELYING ON GOD and tapping into something that is GREATER than me?”
3. And that brings me to the 3rd question, “DO I WALK A ‘HIGHER ROAD’ than the world? Do I take the high road of holiness and honesty, while others take the low road of unholiness and deceit?” So the Palmist commands and calls us to higher ground when he say in Psalm 97:10,
“YOU WHO LOVE THE LORD, HATE EVIL.”
Overall, you know what I’m REALLY ASKING? I’m asking you what PAUL was ASKING the CHURCH of CORINTH, “Is there SOMETHING ABOUT our LIFE that is ATTRACTIVE and APPETIZING that causes the natural man to be DRAWN to us to find out MORE ABOUT GOD?” Do we make people HUNGRY FOR GOD because SOMETHING is OPERATING of the LIFE of the HOLY SPIRIT within us? We are QUICKENED, we are ALIVE, and they are DRAWN to that LIFE.
I once read a story related by a surgeon named Richard Selzer. One day Selzer had to remove a tumor from the cheek of a young woman. After the surgery, the woman was in bed, her postoperative mouth twisted in a palsied, clownish way. A tiny twig of the facial nerve had been severed in the operation, releasing a muscle that led to her mouth. Her young husband was in the room along with the surgeon. “Will my mouth always be like this?” the woman asked. “Yes,” the doctor replied, “the nerve was cut.” She nodded, fell silent, and looked broken.
But the young husband smiled gently and said, “I like it. It’s kind of cute.” And all at once, Dr. Selzer writes, I knew who this young husband was. The doctor saw Jesus in the man. He saw Jesus in the man’s gentleness and love, in his sympathy and brokenness. And then he saw Jesus afresh as the kind husband bent down to kiss her crooked mouth, carefully twisting his own lips to accommodate her lips, showing her that their kiss still worked and always would. This is the glory that people can and should see in us on a daily basis. Thanks be to God.
Jesus said John 12:32,
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will (What?) DRAW ALL
MEN TO MYSELF.”
When the HOLY SPIRIT has MOVED IN our life, CHRIST is LIFTED UP in our life. Is that what’s happening in our life, and do people even KNOW that we KNOW HIM? I mean, DO WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE? Or are we just WALKING LIKE MERE MEN? Are we walking on a SPIRITUAL PLANE that is HIGHER than that of this world?
Are we walking the HIGH ROAD? And by that, I’m not talking about SPIRITUAL MYSTICISM. I’m not talking about walking around KIND OF IN A TRANCE, speaking in TONGUES, or QUOTING SCRIPTURE by the CHAPTERS. I’m not talking about being so HEAVENLY MINDED we’re of no EARTHLY GOOD.
I’m talking about LIVING in the REAL WORLD, but with the REAL CHRIST EXALTED through our life, with the REAL JOY of God EFFERVESCING from our life, with the REAL PEACE of God EXUDING from our life, with the REAL LOVE of God FLOWING from our life. I’m talking about a HIGHER ROAD than we once WALKED when we WALKED as MERE MEN.
Even in times of CRISIS, BELIEVERS ought to RESPOND DIFFERENTLY than the world. When the WORLD is running around FRETTING about ominous circumstances, or the END of the WORLD, BELIEVERS ought to be LOOKING UP, because their REDEMPTION DRAWS NIGH.
When the world is running around saying,
“OH, WHAT AM I GOING TO DO, THE ECONOMY IS ABOUT
CHRISTIANS ought to be saying and living,
“BROTHER, NO MATTER WHAT, I’VE GOT A PEACE THAT THE WORLD
DIDN’T GIVE, AND THE WORLD CAN’T TAKE IT AWAY.”
CHRISTIANS shouldn’t STICK their HEAD in the SAND, but neither should they be REDUCED to HAND-RINGING PARANOIA. They should COMFORT ONE ANOTHER with the FACT that OUR GOD REIGNS, that the TRUMP of God could SOUND at ANY TIME, the DEAD in CHRIST are going to ARISE and we will arise WITH THEM, ever to be with the Lord. Halleluiah! JESUS is COMING SOON. Oh, folks, I couldn’t say that He’s COMING TOMORROW, or NEXT YEAR, or a decade from now, but our HEARTS are LIFTED UPWARD. There’s a DIFFERENCE in one who’s been QUICKENED and MADE ALIVE with the SPIRIT. We no longer RELATE to the EARTH DOWNWARD, but our SPIRIT in Him is RENEWED DAY BY DAY, and we GROW STRONG.
The Lord says about us in Isaiah 40:31,
“YET THOSE WHO WAIT FOR THE LORD WILL GAIN NEW STRENGTH,
THEY WILL MOUNT UP WITH WINGS AS EAGLES. THEY WILL
RUN AND NOT BE TIRED,THEY WILL WALK AND
NOT BE WEARY.”
WHY? Because SOMETHING is SUSTAINING US BEYOND the dimensions of THIS WORLD! We NO LONGER WALK as MERE MEN. I mean, we LIVE with a DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE. Even the WORST that the WORLD can throw at us, think of it, God forbid, the END OF THE WORLD, EVEN THAT prospect only LIFTS OUR HEAD to the one who says Matthew 28:20,
“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Do YOU see that DIFFERENCE? No, better yet, does the WORLD see that DIFFERENCE? The SPIRITUAL MAN and the NATURAL MAN are NOT THE SAME. They don’t THINK the SAME. They don’t LIVE the same. They don’t RESPOND the same way. There is something about that SPIRITUAL MAN on that HIGH PLANE of LIVING that OUGHT to make the NATURAL MAN HUNGRY for what the SPIRITUAL MAN HAS.
Some years ago following the death of Pope John Paul II, the media ran many series of videos and still photographs encapsulating the late pontiff’s career. Again and again what we saw in all that was the fact that no matter where the pope went, the one constant was the fierce desire people had to touch him. The New York Times published a particularly wonderful photo that showed this. It came from a visit the pope made to this country and specifically an appearance he made at a cathedral in Newark, New Jersey. The picture had clearly been taken from the balcony and showed the pope from above and behind as he proceeded up the church’s center aisle. John Paul had both of his arms extended outward to the side. And from the pews lining the aisle were the extended hands of dozens of people stretching and reaching so that their hands could brush against one of his hands.
For some reason, with charismatic leaders, we feel a desire to touch. Robert F. Kennedy exuded a similar attraction. According to Bobby Kennedy’s aides, there were many times after campaign appearances in 1968 when Bobby had to throw away his shirt. So many people clutched and clawed to touch him that Bobby’s hands would be scratched and a bit bloody even as his shirt sleeves became tattered to shreds.
Far better than just seeing someone—including someone powerful or famous—is to make contact. That’s something Jesus knew a lot about, too. I am not advocating Roman Caholicism by any stretch of the imagination. I AM SIMPLY STATING THAT THERE SHOULD BE SOMETHING SO SPIRITUALLY MAGNETIC AND MAGNIFICENT IN US, THAT JUST BECAUSE OF WHAT WE ARE, PEOPLE ARE DRAWN TO THE JESUS IN US.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:14,
“YOU are the LIGHT of the WORLD.”
LIGHT ought to DO SOMETHING to DARKNESS. By its VERY NATURE, it ought to DISPEL DARKNESS, and draw people to the light.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:13,
“You’re the SALT of the EARTH.”
SALT ought to DO something, if it hasn’t LOST its SAVOR. It ought to MAKE things PALATABLE. It ought to MAKE people THIRSTY. It ought to STAVE OFF rotting CORRUPTION in this world, and it ought to MELT ICE. SALT ought to take what was ONCE DEAD, DRY, LITURGICAL RELIGION where preachers STOOD in the PULPIT like 6 foot ICICLES, SPEWING OUT HIEROGLYPHICS over the TOPS of PEOPLE’S HEADS, WHITTLING off NOTHING to a POINT, while people FIXATE like STALLAGMITES, STEEPED in their RELIGION, STEEPED in their RITUALS and TRADITIONS, FROZEN, GALVANIZED, PARALYZED and CATATONIC…and the SALT of GOD ought to MELT that ICE and TURN IT into STREAMS of LIVING WATER, living water that RUNS DOWN a MOUNTAIN SIDE, and everything it TOUCHES SPRINGS INTO LIFE, because the LIFE of GOD is IN IT. The SPIRIT of GOD is in it.
III. THE CARNAL MAN
There’s ONE MORE CATEGORY that PAUL IDENTIFIES, and that’s in I Corinthians 3:1-3. Paul there talks about the CARNAL MAN. He says:
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to SPIRITUAL MEN,
but as to men of FLESH.”
And then he IDENTIFIES what he MEANS by that. He says,
“I had to talk to you like you were (WHAT?) BABES in Christ.”
And so he says in verse 2:
“I gave you MILK to DRINK, not SOLID food; for you were not
able to receive it. Even now, you’re STILL NOT ABLE.”
What’s the PROBLEM? Verse 3 says:
“You’re still FLESHLY.”
King James uses the word CARNAL. Then he says,
“There’s still this stuff going on, JEALOUSLY, STRIFE.”
He goes on to ask,
“Are you not FLESHLY/CARNAL, and are you not WALKING
LIKE (What?) MERE MEN?”
Now let me DEFINE CARNALITY for you, or what Paul refers to here as FLESHLY ATTITUDES. Listen:
“CARNALITY IS ALLOWING THE ATTITUDES AND APPETITES OF THE
FLESH TO BE CONTROLLED BY HUMAN NATURE RATHER
THAN THE SPIRIT OF GOD.” (Repeat.)
So it’s possible for us to be STYMIED in our SPIRITUAL GROWTH, for us NOT to CONTINUE to DEVELOP as SPIRITUAL MEN.
You want to know what a CARNAL CHRISTIAN looks like? Hold your place, and go to Rom. 7 with me. Just turn a few pages back to Romans 7. PAUL talks about it. HE WAS ONE. He UNDERSTANDS this problem that we have.
Paul talks about TWO NATURES within him. Look at Romans 7:11,
“For SIN, taking opportunity through the commandment, DECEIVED
ME, and through it KILLED me.”
Now look at Romans 7:14-15,
“For we know that the LAW is SPIRITUAL; but I am of FLESH, SOLD
into BONDAGE to SIN.”
“For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not
practicing what I would like to do, but I am DOING
the very thing I HATE.”
Now look at Romans 7:17-19,
“So now, NO LONGER am I the one DOING IT, but SIN which indwells me.”
“For I KNOW that NOTHING GOOD dwells in me, that is, in my FLESH;
for the WISHING is present IN ME, but the DOING of the
good IS NOT.”
“For the GOOD that I WISH, I DO NOT DO; but I PRACTICE the VERY
EVIL that I do not wish.”
How many can IDENTIFY with PAUL that there are TIMES when you KNOW the SPIRIT of GOD is SPEAKING and you WANT to DO what is RIGHT in the SIGHT of GOD, but you find yourself TORN in another DIRECTION?
Now look at Romans 7:22-24,
“For I JOYFULLY CONCUR with the LAW of God in the INNER MAN,”
“But I see a DIFFERENT LAW in the members of my body, WAGING
WAR AGAINST the LAW of my MIND, and making me a PRISONER
of the LAW OF SIN which is in my members.”
“WRETCHED MAN that I am! WHO WILL SET ME FREE FROM THE BODY
OF THIS DEATH?”
And THEN COMES the ANSWER in Romans 7:25,
“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on
the ONE HAND I myself with my MIND am SERVING THE LAW
OF GOD, but on the OTHER, with my FLESH the LAW OF SIN.”
Then in Romans 8:1-2, GOD THUNDERS AN ANSWER:
“THERE IS THEREFORE NOW NO CONDEMNATION for those who
are in Christ Jesus.”
“The LAW of the SPIRIT OF LIFE in Christ Jesus has (What?)
SET YOU FREE from the LAW of SIN and of DEATH.”
Paul says, “Look, I understand. I walk around. I want to go to heaven, but every time TEMPTATION COMES, I don’t have the POWER within me to SAY ‘NO’ to TEMPTATION.” And he says,
“I find myself DOING the very things that I DON’T WANT TO DO. ‘
And then there are OTHER THINGS that I SHOULD DO. I ought to PRAY. I ought to READ the WORD. But I find the things that I SHOULD DO, I DON’T DO, and the things that I really OUGHT NOT DO, I END UP DOING. “What’s WRONG?” he asks. He says, “There’s a WAR RAGING WITHIN ME. I’m in CONSTANT CONFLICT. WHO can DELIVER ME from this terrible situation of CARNALITY?” You see, THAT’S CARNALITY.
And God says that HIS ANSWER TO CARNALITY is:
“TO WALK IN THE SPIRIT, LET THE HOLY SPIRIT MOVE IN. LET THE
SPIRIT OF GOD ARISE.”
You see, the CARNAL CHRISTIAN is the kind of person that takes ONE STEP FORWARD and TWO STEPS BACKWARD. Hear it:
“INSTEAD OF BECOMING VICTORS OVER SIN, THEY BECOME
VICTIMS OF SIN.”
They become SPIRITUALLY IMPOTENT, WEAK, EMACIATED, LAME, BARELY HANGING ON. Does that describe any of YOU? Paul says, “Are we not WALKING like MERE MEN?” We ought to be GROWING UP, DEVELOPING, GETTING STRONG. But something has HAPPENED. What is it? It’s CARNALITY.
In fact, let me give you now the PRIMARY CHARACTERISTIC of CARNALITY:
“CARNALITY IS ULTIMATELY IMMATURITY.”
Paul says in I Corinthians 3:1,
“You’re BABES in CHRIST,”
Now look, there’s NOTHING WRONG with BABIES. I love BABIES. One of my FAVORITE THINGS in all of this world was PLAYING with my little grandchildren who are now all grown up. My second favorite thing in all of this world is doing BABY DEDICATIONS. I LOVE IT. I love to get my hands on those little BABIES. We were all BORN as LITTLE BABIES. I mean, it’s the ESSENCE of what we ONCE WERE, right?
But BABYHOOD isn’t all that ATTRACTIVE when you think about it. How many of you MOTHERS get a little WEARY of your CHILDREN’S BABYHOOD and the RESPONSIBILITIES that went with it? WHY? Because they’re ABSOLUTELY, TOTALLY DEPENDENT! I mean, YOU DO EVERYTHING for THEM, and what THANKS do you GET? You FEED them, and they BURP all over your BLOUSE. You CHANGE them, and they MESS their PANTS again. But GOD gives us TOLERANCE for LITTLE BABIES, because WE KNOW they’re NOT GOING TO BE BABIES forever, right? They’re going to (What?) GROW UP.
Now listen, church, there’s NOTHING WRONG with being a BABY, but there IS something WRONG if you STAY A BABY ALL YOUR LIFE. Hey, we LOVE BABIES. There’s a LOT of JOY in the MATERNITY WARD, but a GREAT DEAL of that JOY is the HOPE that those PARENTS HAVE is that BABY is going to GROW UP and BE a MAN someday, a WOMAN with GREAT PROMISE, maybe a DOCTOR or a LAWYER, maybe a PASTOR or a MISSIONARY.
Oh, there’s a lot of HOPING and DREAMING in that MATERNITY WARD. But I’m going to tell you something, there wouldn’t be NEAR as much EXCITEMENT in that MATERNITY WARD, if those MOTHERS thought that those BABIES were going to be BABIES for the NEXT 20 YEARS. How many of you mothers would agree? I mean, it’s OK to get up in the MIDDLE of the NIGHT for a FEW MONTHS, CHANGING DIAPERS, BURPING, and FEEDING. But if it doesn’t hit you at BIRTH, it will within a couple of MONTHS that you NEED the HOPE to SUSTAIN YOU that that CHILD IS GOING TO GROW OUT OF THAT.
So then, there’s NOTHING WRONG with BEING a BABY, but there is something DESPERATELY WRONG with BEING a BABY FOREVER, and PAUL looked at the church of Corinth, and he says,
“LOOK, SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG HERE. YOU’RE STILL BABIES, AND
YOUR CARNALITY IS KEEPING YOU THAT WAY.”
Do you want a GOOD DEFINITION of a BABY? Someone DEFINED a BABY as this:
“A BABY IS A DIGESTIVE APPARATUS WITH A LOUD NOISE
AT ONE END AND NO RESPONSIBILITY AT THE OTHER.”
How many know that DEFINES SOME BELIEVERS to a T? How many think you KNOW SOMEBODY like that? How many suspect YOU MIGHT BE something like that?
Paul says, there are BASICALLY 2 things that a CARNAL CHRISTIAN never does, as he describes them in I Corinthians 3:1-3.
FIRST OF ALL, he says,
“THE CARNAL CHRISTIAN NEVER GIVES IN.”
“These people that are still on BABY FOOD, you can’t give them
SOLID FOOD yet, because they’re NOT ABLE to RECEIVE it.”
He says in Verse 3,
“They’re FULL of JEALOUSY and STRIFE.”
In other words,
“THEY WANT THEIR OWN WAY. THEY ARE SELFISH, STUBBORN,
NEVER GIVE IN.”
“YOU’RE FULL OF JEALOUSY, STRIFE. YOU’RE PETTY, YOU’RE PICKY.
THINGS DON’T GO YOUR WAY, AND YOU WANT TO TAKE YOUR
BALL AND BAT AND GO HOME. YOU POUT, YOU CRITICIZE,
Basically, CARNAL CHRISTIANS can only think of THEMSELVES. Paul says in another place,
“THEY WANT THEIR EARS TICKLED. THE SERMONS ARE TOO LONG, OR
THE SERMONS ARE TOO SHORT, OR IT’S NOT DEEP ENOUGH, OR
IT IS TOO DEEP. The CHOIR IS TOO LOUD. THE SANCTUARY IS
TOO COLD OR TOO HOT.”
There will be people that will say you CHOSE the WRONG COLORS for the SANCTUARY. They don’t like that NEW-FANGLED DEVICE up there, that PULPIT ENHANCEMENT, or whatever it is, putting on our SONGS ELECTRONICALLY, instead of MECHANICALLY by those SLIDES that we’ve been USED TO for so many YEARS, using them there COMPUTERS and FANCY-FANGLED THINGS. And the CEILING’S TOO HIGH, the LIGHT’S TOO BRIGHT, the NURSERY’S TOO FAR AWAY, and most of all, I miss those OLD PEWS. Hear it:
“CARNALITY – FLESHLY”, Paul says, “CREATING STRIFE
Now, BABIES are ALWAYS CREATING PROBLEMS. I mean, they have NO SENSE of AWARENESS of OTHERS. They’re always MESSING their PANTS at the most INAPPROPRIATE TIME, but that’s ALRIGHT, they’re BABIES.
And I want to say something to the BABIES in this CHURCH, those of you who’ve come to Christ over the LAST FEW MONTHS. Look, we don’t expect you to be PERFECT around here. It’s ALRIGHT, you’re going to MAKE MISTAKES. You may have a FEW SLIPUPS, don’t worry about it. I had one BRAND-NEW CONVERT, I mean, he’d just been a CHRISTIAN for a LITTLE WHILE. He didn’t know how to EXPRESS HIMSELF. He was still learning the ABC’s of CHRISTIANITY, and he’d had a VOCABULARY of a SAILOR all of his LIFE. He met me at the door, and he said, “Pastor, man, that was a BLANKETY-BLANK of a SERMON.” I thought the little lady in front of him was going to DROP her TEETH, she opened her mouth so wide.
Hey, new baby Christians do things like that. They don’t know yet. BABIES MAKE MESSES. What BOTHERS ME is PEOPLE that have been SAVED for 10, 20, 30 years, and they’re STILL MAKING MESSES. Your DIAPER still needs to be CHANGED. Paul says, “CARNAL CHRISTIANS, they NEVER GIVE IN. They’re totally SELF-CENTERED.”
And SECOND, here’s what he says about carnal Christians:
“THEY NEVER GROW UP.”
“You’ve been on BABY FOOD for 15 YEARS now.”
We must see this in the greater context now of the Corinthian Church. And we will approach it by this principle:
“THOSE WHO MAJOR IN MINORS AND MINOR IN MAJORS WILL
NOT ONLY HAVE STUNTED GROWTH, BUT THEY WILL
GROW CROOKED AND MALFORMED.”
You see, the Corinthian Church was rich in SPIRITUAL GIFTS, but poor in SPIRITUAL FRUITS. They majored in minors and minored in majors. That is why Paul wrote the famous LOVE CHAPTER in I Corinthians 13 right in the middle of I Corinthians 12 and 14 which are all about SPIRITUAL GIFTS! We all remember the words of I Corinthians 13:1,
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not
have love, I am become a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.”
Am I or was Paul suggesting that the GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT are not important? Not in a million eternities. They are absolutely mandatory for the Body of Christ to minister in power and victory. They are not and never will be optional. But they are secondary to the FRUITS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT with LOVE BEING THE GREATEST. (I Corinthians 13:13)
Remember, CARNALITY IS IMMATURITY. Children love GIFTS on Christmas morning. They live and long for Christmas for one reason, and that is the GLUT OF GIFTS that the family opens around the Christmas Tree. I have literally seen kids who were GIFT GLUTTONS, and they were not to blame. Their parents trained them that way, and the kept their children immature and self-centered.
But what if instead of giving them iPods, DVD Players, and Smart Phones, you gave them FRUITS FOR CHRISTMAS like APPLES, ORANGES, AND PEARS? You know, nice little FRUIT BASKETS for each of them! What do you think would be the Christmas spirit at that moment?
The Corinthians Christians were CARNAL KIDS. They loved the POWER AND EXCITEMENT OF GIFTS OF HEALING AND MIRACLES, but they couldn’t get along with each other, let alone PREFER ONE ANOTHER in love.
Too often, the CARNAL CHURCH resembles the NATURAL WORLD. Most people, if they are honest, admit that they like power, they like influence, they like perks. According to Robert Caro, in the mid-twentieth century, the United States Senate was a haven for power-hungry men in love with prestige. (It has not changed, but worsened.) Senator Carl Hayden of Arizona was known to enter the Senate cafeteria and lay his cane on whatever table he chose to sit at for lunch. Often that chosen table would already have a clutch of secretaries or Senate staffers sitting there eating, but everyone knew that if Hayden laid his cane on your table, you had all better be gone by the time he returned with his lunch a few minutes later.
Most Senators also insisted that when they wanted the elevator in the Senate Office Building, they wanted that elevator IMMEDIATELY! To let elevator operators know that it was a Senator waiting, the Senator would buzz the elevator’s call button three times. When that signal was heard, the operator was to skip all other stops (even if others already in the elevator needed a certain floor) and pick up the waiting Senator without delay. Once when Senator McCarran of Nevada heard the car pass him by after he had rung three times, he turned on his heel, stomped back to his office, called the Sergeant-at-Arms, and ordered the hapless young elevator operator fired on the spot (which he was).
“Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” Jesus asks us. If you wish to reply, “Yes, I can,” then it makes no sense to turn right around and devote your days to the kind of power-brokering and social wrangling that can often be seen in government, business, and even in the carnal church. Living that way after taking Jesus’ cup makes no more sense than when James, John, and ultimately all of the disciples, responded to Jesus’ prediction of His death by squabbling over power and prestige.
Carnal, immature Christians are quick like children to accuse, but slow to forgive. Corrie Ten Boom had to make the journey as a believer from CARNALITY to the CHARACTER OF CHRIST. We all do!
Those who follow Jesus the “barrier-crosser” may find that they too need to cross high barriers in order to minister in Christ’s name. In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom tells of travelling throughout Germany in 1947 “with a message that God forgives.” The Nazis had arrested her sister Betsy and her for hiding Jews in their home during World War II. They’d sent them to the Ravensbruck concentration camp where Betsy had died.
During her speaking tour, Corrie met a man who admitted that he’d been a guard at Ravensbruck. “Since that time,” he told her, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from you as well. Fraulein,” he said as he extended his hand to Corrie, “Will you forgive me?”
Ten Boom admits that initially she simply could not forgive the former concentration camp guard. She knew that God expected her to respond to God’s forgiveness of her by forgiving those who’d harmed her. So she says she prayed silently, “Jesus, help me! I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
And as she woodenly reached out her hand to grasp the former guard’s, Ten Boom says she felt a current shoot through her arms and a warmth fill her whole body. God had equipped her to reach across the high barrier of history, abuse and murder to forgive one of the kinds of people who’d tormented so many innocent victims, including her sister and her. “I forgive you brother!” she told the former guard. “With all my heart!”
All in all:
“THE CARNAL CORINTHIANS MAJORED IN CHRIST’S POWER, BUT
MINORED IN CHRIST’S CHARACTER.”
“THEY WERE QUICK TO LAY HANDS ON THE SICK, BUT SLOW
TO OPEN HANDS OF CHARITY TO THE POOR.”
It was Reinhold Niebuhr, who when likening the church to Noah’s ark, said:
“IF IT WERE NOT FOR THE STORM OUTSIDE ONE COULD NOT
STAND THE STINK INSIDE.”
Yet, by God’s grace, she is the Body of Christ. She is the Bride of Christ. Brides CAN BE CARNAL, BUT this does not change the fact that SHE IS THE HEART, THE HANDS, AND THE FEET OF CHRIST. Holy Spirit, help us to be THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST ON EARTH to a lost, needy, sin-sick, and dying world. Help us to make THE JESUS DIFFERENCE IN AN INDIFFERENT WORLD.
In the following true story, let us discern which of the three kinds of people we really are. In it all, whose minds do we have? Do we have the NATURAL MIND, the CARNAL MIND, or the SPIRITUAL MIND – THE MIND OF CHRIST? You will find all three in the coming story if you look closely enough, and as you do, ask carnal Peter if it was fun being out-spiritualized by a rooster.
Let’s take this study where it belongs, into the rough and tumble of this very real natural and carnal world. There and there alone can our true identities be found! There and there alone do we really find what it means to be SPIRITUAL! And in it all, remember:
“TRUE SPIRITUALITY IS NOT WHAT CHURCH WE GO TO, OR EVEN
WHAT WE SAY, IT IS HOW WE LIVE AND RESPOND TO
LIFE’S REAL SITUATIONS.”
Fred Craddock told a story about something that happened many years ago while he was driving by himself cross-country. He had stopped at a small diner somewhere in the South to refresh himself with an early breakfast and some coffee. He had been driving through the night and now it was getting close to dawn. So before he got too sleepy, he stopped for a while.
As he waited for his breakfast order to come, Craddock spied a black man who had just come in and had sat down on a stool up by the lunch counter. The diner’s manager then began to treat the black man with a contempt that was clearly borne of deep-seated racism. The manager was rude, insulting, demeaning toward his black guest. As he sat in his booth a little ways away from the counter, Craddock wrestled with saying something to chide this manager for his shameful, racist conduct. Eventually the black man quickly slurped down some coffee and then fled the diner. Craddock meanwhile remained silent. “I didn’t say anything,” he confessed. “I quietly paid my bill, left the diner, and headed back to my car. But as I walked through the parking lot, somewhere in the distance, I heard a rooster crow.”
With that poignant, final image, Craddock evoked an entire cloud of denial, betrayal, shame, and regret. The rooster’s crow following the disciple Peter’s triple denial of Jesus has become one of the more famous images from the gospels. Of course, even so, not everyone knows it. I once heard Craddock say that one Sunday he was a guest preacher at a church and he preached that same sermon. After the service, a man came up to him in the narthex, shook Craddock’s hand vigorously, and said, “Thank you, pastor, for that powerful sermon. That really hit home! Oh, but by the way, what was that business with the rooster?” What indeed! Amen!