Article of the Month

 

 

 

The True Gospel of Christ vs. The False Gospel of Carnal Christianity

by L. R. Shelton, Jr.

 

The False Gospel: No Change in Affections
“Without Natural Affection”

2 “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 “Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 “Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” - II Timothy 3:2-5

Introduction

Truly these are dark and perilous days in which we live, when voices from every quarter are heard saying, “Follow me, for I have the truth.” But surely we should heed the Scripture which warns us, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (I John 4:1). Therefore, based upon this Scripture of warning and others, I have been warning of the false gospel of carnal Christianity which has swept the world, and our nation more than any other, today.

Why is this so? Because it is a false “gospel” that allures the flesh; a false doctrine that has a form of godliness, but denies the power to deliver from the tyranny and power of sin. For it takes the Word of God and makes it teach that all a man has to do to be saved for heaven and made safe from hell, is to make a decision for Christ—give a mental assent to a set pattern of Scriptures—and just as long as a man or woman, young person or child has “believed,” it doesn’t really make any difference how they live, even if it be in open rebellion against God! So with God’s Word we have been waging war against this false gospel of carnal Christianity, showing the fruitage of the vast majority of Christendom today, the professors or converts of this false “gospel,” whose conduct belies the genuineness of their profession.

Reading now from II Timothy 3 in the Amplified Bible:

But understand this, that in the last days there will set in perilous times of great stress and trouble-hard to deal with and hard to bear. For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate (greedy) desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters. They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffers), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane. [They will be] without natural (human) affection (callous and inhuman), relentless, admitting of no truce or appeasement. [They will be] slanderers, false accusers, trouble makers; intemperate and loose in morals and conduct, uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good. [They will be] treacherous (betrayers), rash (and] inflated with self-conceit. [They will be] lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God. For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it-their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession. Avoid [all] such people turn away from them. For among them are those who worm their way into homes and captivate silly and weak-natured and spiritually dwarfed women, loaded down with [the burden of their] sins, [and easily] swayed and led away by various evil desires and seductive impulses. [These weak women will listen to anybody who will teach them]; they are for ever inquiring and getting information, but are never able to arrive at a recognition and knowledge of the Truth. (vv. 1-7)

Oh what a picture the Holy Spirit has painted here of the fruits of this false gospel of carnal Christianity! May our eyes be open to see the depths of this deception. We have shown how these false converts behavior is all wrong, described under the words and expressions, “blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, traitors, and heady.” Then we have seen how their opinion of themselves and others-is all wrong, described under the following words and expressions: “boasters, proud, high-minded, and despisers of those that are good.”

Their Affection Is All Wrong

Thus it logically follows that their affection is all wrong, as these words and four expressions describe: “without natural affection” (v 3), “lovers of their own selves, covetous” (v 2), and “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (v 4). Remember the apostle is speaking of those who profess to be saved-not the out-and-out worldlings who have never made a profession of religion-but those who have been deceived by the false gospel of carnal Christianity, who have a form of godliness.

The first of these last four expressions is: “without natural affection.” What an expression! What a description of our present day “Christian” society! Without natural affection means that they are callous, and have no respect, love or obedience to one another or to the Lord. Husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, all living under strained relationships, have no communications, not caring for or loving each other!

How has all of this come to pass? Sin is the tap root of our home problems today. What sin? The sin of disobedience! God’s order in the home has been destroyed; God’s Word in the home has been destroyed; God’s name in the home has been destroyed; and God’s worship in the home has been destroyed. Therefore, all natural affection has been lost and men have become lovers of their own selves.

Husbands and Wives

God’s Word declares that His order for the home is Christ, the Head of the man; the husband, the head of the wife; and the parents, the head of the children (I Cor 11:3; Eph 6). When that order is destroyed, then the home is destroyed; and the fruit of all this is “without natural affection.” Let us face it and face it squarely: Our trouble today lies in the government of our homes, and not in the government of our land! There is chaos and confusion because men have not taken their place in the home obedient to their Head, Christ. They know nothing about being the head of wife and children, or of ruling them in love and by example. Many claim to be saved, and yet have not bowed to the Lordship of Christ as rightful Head! Therefore, the line of least resistance is taken in their home.

Also, many homes are in a state of confusion today because the whole home revolves around wives who have never submitted to the lordship of their husbands. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph 5:22). “Ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands... even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord” (I Peter 3:1,6). Women’s Lib. is not biblical; it is of this false gospel of carnal Christianity which allows women to preach and to usurp authority over the man! Certainly God’s Word is not against the woman, but He has graciously and lovingly laid down the order for the woman in the home. And only as she bows to the authority of God’s Word in obedience will there be peace and harmony, love and affection.

Children

And we see the children today are also in rebellion against God’s Word. They have risen up to take the command in the home, in the school, in the college and university. There is not natural affection for the parents, nor for the Word of God, which says: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph 6:1). Yes, this is right because it is God’s way, God’s order. Oh, what a sad picture we see today of children growing up in the home and church, with no sense of sin, no sense of responsibility, living, coming and going as they please; and yet being told they are saved because they have made a profession of faith! I make no apology for saying: No child or young person is saved or will ever be saved, unless he has learned obedience to his parents. In salvation, God breaks our wills, breaks our hearts, and gives us a hatred for rebellion and a love of obedience. Yes, I believe God’s Word is very plain that obedience is one of the truest marks of a saved soul.

Personal Application

What is our hope in all of this confusion that the preaching and practicing of the false gospel of carnal Christianity has taught us? Listen and I will tell you: My dear father, go on your knees before God and confess that you have rebelled against His authority and His Christ. Confess that you have taken the role of least resistance with your family; confess that you have neglected God’s Word and His worship in the home. Call upon the name of our living God in Christ’s name, asking for mercy. Tell God that you deserve hell, but ask for His mercy in Christ. Cry unto Him for faith to trust Him in sincerity and reality, and to work His work of grace in your heart. Then start your family worship. Read the Scriptures with your family, praying for and with them. Take your place in the home as its head, looking to Christ by His Spirit to work in you and your family all that is needed for salvation and your walk here upon this earth. Do not give your affection and time to anything else!

To you, my dear mother and wife, go to you knees with your husband; confess to God that you have lived in rebellion against Him and His Word, His authority and your place in the home. Cry unto Him for the grace to take your place in the home as an obedient wife, recognizing your husband as your head, and submitting yourself unto him as unto the Lord. Ask God to give you by His Spirit a broken heart and a contrite spirit, so you will be enabled to take your place in the home. Come to Christ for repentance and faith; trust Him with all your heart, and look to Him to work out each and every problem in your life and home.

Then to you, dear children and young people, I will say that the only place of true happiness is found at the feet of Christ in obedience to Him and to His authority over you, which is your parents your father and mother.

Our blessed Lord loves to hear precious souls crying unto Him for mercy and laying down their arms of rebellion against Him in repentance. Remember, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels when a poor sinner comes to God in repentance (Luke 15:10). It is Christ Himself Who is rejoicing, for He is seeing of the travail of His soul and is surely satisfied. You see, He desires to save you; He waits to be gracious to repenting sinners. He delights to give new hearts and new lives, for this is the very reason He came down to earth’s depths and suffered and bled and died and arose from the grave-so poor sinners like you and me may be reconciled to the thrice Holy God. But He will only receive you as a repenting sinner, and this grace of repentance He will Himself give you (Acts 5:31).

I tell you from His Word and from my own personal experience that the Lord Jesus Christ waits to be gracious to you; He will receive repenting, believing sinners, just as you are, and will make you and your homes over! And my dear father, mother, and young person, when He gives you a new life and a new home, you will no longer be without natural affection, but love will flow from your heart. You will then begin to live in peace, love, hope, and joy, and in the blessings of your eternal God, who loved you and gave Himself for you in Christ.

The False Gospel: No Change in Affections
“Lovers of Their Own Selves”

The affections of the carnal professor of Christianity are all wrong. The Bible teaches that they are “lovers of their own selves, covetous... lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (II Tim 3:2,4). Now, where a man’s heart is, there his affection will be also (Matt 6:21); and where a man’s heart is not broken from the love of self, then his life is filled with all the other sins which we have described previously. God hates selfishness; and He delivers us from it as we’re given new life in Christ Jesus. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor 5:17).

A Life of Self-Denial

We want to focus now on this second aspect of wrong affections, that men are naturally “lovers of their own selves.” The Word of God calls us to a life of self denial, where our affections must be set “on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col 3:2). Therefore, as our Lord was so much against selfishness, He warned His followers in the gospels many times about being lovers of self. We are to forsake our own way and our self-esteem (love of self). Now, as we go into these Scriptures, I will let you decide if a man whose life is controlled by this sin could possibly be a child of God. Or is he not rather a deceived soul, deceived by this false gospel of carnal Christianity?

In Luke 14:26 we hear our Lord giving us these startling words: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Yes, that’s startling, but these are the words of the eternal Son of God, and He cannot lie. In other words, He is saying, “In comparison for His love for Me, to follow Me in this present evil world, then it is as if a man hated his father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters; and yea, his own life also.”

But brethren, this is not the only place where our Lord speaks along this line! Matthew 16:24,25: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” If I seek to save my life by not practicing self denial in the Christian faith, then I’m going to lose it all! Really, I have saved nothing, but have lost it all. But if I will lose my life for Christ’s sake, and will cease to be a lover of my own self more than a lover of God, then I will keep my life unto life eternal. Then again in John 12:25: “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” All right, go on pampering your life, never becoming a self-denying one-doing what you think is best to satisfy the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life-then you will lose that life that you have sought to save and love; but “he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”

You see, what our Lord is saying here in these Scriptures and in many others is that there is no place in His kingdom for “lovers of their own selves” for His kingdom is made up of those who love Him supremely and deny themselves. Again, he that loves his life better than Christ shall lose it; but he that hates his life in this world, preferring the favor of God and an interest in Christ before his own life, shall keep it unto life eternal.

The Error in Love of Self

Further, we see in these Scriptures the total consequence of an inordinate love of life, and an inordinate love of self. You see, many a man hugs himself to death, and loses his life by over-loving it. He that so loves his animal life or passions as to indulge his appetite and make provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof, shall thereby shorten his days and shall lose the life he is so fond of; he shall not inherit an infinitely better life, which is the one with Christ in glory after this death. He that is so much in love with the life of this body and the ornaments and delights of it, that for the fear of exposing it he would deny Christ, shall lose it; that is, he shall lose a real happiness in the other world, while he thinks to secure an imaginary one in this world.

This is what is so deadly wrong with this false gospel of carnal Christianity that produced this fruit of “lovers of self” or selfishness. It preaches that we are living in an enlightened age and that we are to love ourselves, money and pleasure, for did not Christ come to give life, and that more abundantly? Are we not the ‘King’s kids’, and should not the King’s kids have the best in life?” Yes, our Lord did say He came to give life and that more abundantly (John 10:10), but remember, He came to give spiritual life to His people, which is life more abundant —not a life of abundance of material things that promotes the love of self, money and pleasure to the damnation of our souls! If this is the inclination of your heart, my friend, your affections are all wrong because of sin!

Follow me now! For I know the argument of the carnal professor who desires to stay in his sins and desires to make the best of both worlds. Matthew 22:39 says, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” And people take this and ask selfishly, “But doesn’t God tell us to love our neighbor as ourselves? And how can one love another unless he knows how to love himself?” Or, “For you know that unless a person learns to love himself properly, he will never learn to love his neighbor.” Don’t be fooled by all of this carnal reasoning, even though it sounds very plausible; the Scriptures do not teach this!

Our Lord’s command to love others as you love yourself merely assumes that you love yourself greatly, and that is the standard He applies to loving others. He is saying to take care of the needs of others as you take care of your own needs; and to look after someone else’s hurts the way you look after your own self when you are hurt! The reason men and women use this carnal reasoning and twist the words of our blessed Lord in Matthew 22:34-40 to teach something He did not say, is not that they may love their neighbor more, but that they may indulge in the things and pleasures of this life more. Face it fairly and squarely, get down to the root of it, and you’ll find that this is the motive, my friend. In this way one can indulge their fleshly appetites; their fleshly desires to embrace another man who is not their husband, or another woman who is not their wife; to forsake the responsibility of family, children and home, and live in a world in which they are the king or the queen! And they excuse themselves by saying, “Oh, but I must find myself; I must find my roots. I must have self-esteem, and I must...” Yes, they think they must have all of this, and they’ll go to hell with it, too! But the sad part about all this is, that they still believe they are saved! They still put on a form of godliness, while yet they live only for self!

Paul’s Example

Now let me give you a Scriptural example of a soul who lost his life for Christ and really saved it: It is illustrated in the life of Saul of Tarsus who became Paul the Christian, the child of God, the missionary. He said, “I had plenty of self-love and self esteem, and confidence in the flesh, but what things were gain to me [this self-love, self esteem and fleshly confidence], those I counted loss for Christ. Yes doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things [my self-love, my self esteem, and my self confidence in the flesh] and do count them but dung [refuse] that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (paraphrased) (Phil 3:4-9).

Then again in Romans 7:9, the apostle said, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died” to my self-love, self esteem and self confidence. I saw myself to be nothing but a hell-worthy sinner, abiding under the just wrath of God. And my friend, the apostle carried this estimation of himself all through his life until he died. For even after his salvation he spoke of himself in this way: “I am the least of the apostles” (I Cor 15:9); “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given” (Eph 3:8); he styled himself the “ chief of sinners” (I Tim 1:15); and finally said, “I be nothing “ (II Cor 12:11). There’s no self-love here, no self esteem or self confidence, but here is one who had learned the lesson of the first beatitude very well: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” I am nothing; I have nothing; I know nothing; and I can do nothing of myself-and that’s how the apostle came to see himself as he grew in the grace of God. So we see the truth of John 12:25 illustrated in Paul who was once Saul of Tarsus: “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” Are you a lover of self more than a lover of God?

Personal Application

Are you high in your self esteem and your self-love and self confidence? If so, then self is your idol, and no idolater can enter the kingdom of God (I Cor 6:9); and we are to flee idolatry (I Cor 10:14). Further, true children of God “worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3:3). “Lovers of self more than lovers of God” is the fruit of this false gospel of carnal Christianity. Christ says: “He that does not deny self and follow Me cannot be My disciple.” The true Gospel of the grace of God says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” and the man who is poor in spirit knows he is nothing, he has nothing, knows nothing, and can do nothing apart from the grace of God; therefore he does not love his life, but rather hates his life in this world that he may keep it, by the grace of God, unto the life to come!

The False Gospel: No Change in Affections
“Covetous”

Introduction

Let us look at another of the fruits that spring from this tree of the false gospel of carnal Christianity. Staying with the truth taught that their affection is all wrong, we consider now the word “covetous,” or lovers of money. This is a carnal fruit of which God’s Word gives us many warnings by commandments and examples. Listen to I Timothy 6:9-10: “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. for the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, [stretched themselves to the limit after] they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

In spite of these words of warning that a man who loves money (whose heart is eaten up with covetousness) has erred from the faith, the false gospel of carnal Christianity tells its converts that this love of money and what it will buy is natural. They say they are still babes, or carnal Christians, and everything will be all right by and by because they have made a profession; so they are saved and saved for ever.

In spite of our Lord’s warning in Luke 12:15: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth”; in spite of Ephesians 5:5 telling us that a covetous man is an idolater, which breaks the second and tenth commandments; in spite of I Corinthians 6:10 which says that a covetous man shall not inherit the kingdom of God-in spite of all these warnings against covetousness and the love of money, this false gospel continues to tell its converts that they are the ‘King’s kids’ and that the King’s kids should have everything!

The Damning Effects

But let us further consider the damning effect of the fruit of this false doctrine of carnal Christianity! The Greek word for greed (or covetousness) is very descriptive: it means to thirst for more, always having more, and still more! It is as if a man, in order to quench his thirst, takes a drink of salt water which happens to be the only water available. This makes him even more thirsty, so he drinks again and again until his thirst actually kills him. And so it is with the sin of covetousness or greed. It is the uncontrolled yearning to have, to have more, more and still more, until covetousness kills the soul of man as he abides under the curse of God for ever. As Proverbs 27:20 tells us: “Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.” What a sin! Oh my friend, it’s a deep-seated sin in the soul: “The eyes of man are never satisfied.” Covetousness damns a soul to hell!

Then we see that this fruit-covetousness, the love of money-is deceitful. Our Lord warns us with a parable in Luke 12:16-21 about a rich man who was eaten up with this sin. “The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

This covers it all! Covetousness makes a man treasure up for himself upon earth things for which he has no need, and lay up no treasure in heaven toward God. Covetousness deceives a man about his values. He places emphasis on things and misses the blessings of living for Christ and for others. And when this sin is found in a professing Christian, it is a blight upon Christianity. Surely one is deceived who lives in this fatal sin of covetousness, hiding under the false gospel of carnal Christianity, saying: ‘All is well with my soul because I have made a profession of faith.’

Again, covetousness is a damning sin because it hinders the Word of God coming into the soul! Through covetousness a man sees only his wants rather than the needs of his soul, so it blinds the eyes of his understanding and closes his ears to hearing God’s claims upon him and his life in the true Gospel. Through self- interests, his ears are closed to the precepts and commandments of the Word of God that God has given for the good of mankind and for His own glory. Instead of really seeking first “the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt 6:33), he runs greedily after the world, grasping and loving the things of the world. Blinded by his sinful nature because the power of sin has not been broken in his life, he heeds not the warnings of God’s Word which are given to protect and help him. So under a pretense of religion, he actually refuses the greatest good (God) and chooses the greatest evil (sin) at his own peril. As he blindly pursues his own depraved desires, he says in his soul: ‘I’m saved, but I must have my way: I’ll have that woman or that man if I have to break up their marriage to get them. I’ll have my pleasure and my drink, my money, my home, my job, my good times in life and my way, no matter what the consequences!’ This is the essence of evil, and the heart of every man or woman outside of Christ, even though they are told that they are carnal Christians and will go to heaven by and by because of a profession of faith!

Covetousness blinds the soul into believing a lie, into thinking he is doing the will of God, but that he has the right to do with himself as he pleases! So in his deception he is actually telling the Lord not to get in his way! But my friend, if God never comes in mercy to your soul and you die in this condition, you’re in a terrible fix. Hell from beneath will move to meet you at your coming, no matter what you profess to believe! Did you know that? Oh that God would open the hearts of every one of you who have been deceived, that you may see and cry unto God to break the power of covetousness in your heart and life! Cry unto God to come to your rescue, and to apply His precious blood by the power of His Spirit to cleanse your soul from this sin. Only God can deliver you.

The Rich Man in Luke 12

21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. - Luke 12:15-2215 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

Let us go back to the parable of the farmer in Luke 12, and I ask, what was wrong with this farmer? Was it the fact that he was successful? Of course not! Nowhere does Scripture condemn success or riches as such. God never rejected Abraham, Job or Joseph of Arimathaea for being rich and successful. What was wrong then with this rich man? Had he acquired his wealth by dishonest means? There is nothing in this parable that points in that direction. On the contrary, we are given the impression that the man had become rich because of God’s blessing on the labor of his hands, causing the soil to be so fruitful that it produced bountiful crops.

These verses clearly indicate what was wrong. The rich man shows that he did not know himself. He failed to realize that his body was mortal and would not live on for many years. He was deceived by the deceitfulness of riches, of which our Lord warns us in Matthew 13:22: “The care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.”

Also, he did not take into account the fact that the ample goods in which he rejoiced could not satisfy his soul. He had nothing for his soul, and this is where the deceitfulness of the sin of covetousness lies: It seeks after pleasure and enjoyment of the physical body while the soul is given nothing to feed upon. We read in Isaiah 44:20 about this covetous man: “He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

And my friend, if you have provided only for the body, the mind, for your family and for all your physical needs, you are in a terrible fix. You are deceived as to the true state of your soul, for it is the soul that lives on after death; the body goes back to mother earth where worms will eat it while awaiting the day of resurrection. You’re either going to be raised to resurrection of life to enjoy eternal life with Christ for ever; or you’ll be raised to everlasting damnation and contempt (John 5:29), to be cast out from the presence of God and to pay for your sins in hell for ever! And “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt 16:26). Your little religious profession and carnal Christian gospel are not going to hold you then, for James 1:26 tells us, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.”

We see then, that covetousness is actually the worship of self, which is the embodiment of all evil. Because self is upon the throne of the heart, everything of this life becomes servant to the gratification of all fleshly and selfish desires. Selfishness is essentially My right to my own self and all that I touch for my pleasure and for my glory: me, my, and mine. That’s covetousness! It says in essence, ‘I’m concerned only for myself, so I will get what I want no matter how I get it or who I hurt, and no matter how I lie or how many lives I wreck; I’m going to do just what I want to do!’ You may think you will cover it with the cloak of religion, but that’s the heart of rebellion against God; and if that spirit is not broken, you’re going to wind up in hell without hope and without God! Young person, you may boast yourself in your youthful age, and trust in the uncertainty of the future; but know this that God has neither promised you nor owes you a tomorrow! He could say to you what he said to the rich man this very day-”Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee, then whose shall those things be?” You can’t take anything with you, for “we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (I Tim 6:7); six feet of earth makes us all just alike!

Blinded by his covetousness, this rich man (which our Lord calls a fool) was not rich toward God; and so he indeed fell into “temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts.” And because of his sinful love of money, which while he coveted after, he “erred from the faith” and pierced himself through with many sorrows (I Tim 6:9-10). See how he was using the time for self, which the Lord had given him to prepare for eternity. What an awful thing it is for a man not to be rich toward God! This is the worst poverty a man can have, for if you are not storing up treasures in heaven, you are treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath! (Rom 2:5). If you are not in Christ and are not sending treasures ahead to the next world by His grace, you’ll receive the wages of sin, which is eternal death! (Rom 6:23). Yes, your soul is poor indeed if you know nothing about the riches of God’s grace as it is offered freely in the true Gospel of Christ, and the power of His grace as it reigns over sin in the soul!

Choking!

Oh my dear soul, you may profess to be saved, and come to the house of God, but you cannot hear the Word of God as it is preached, because sermons die in covetous hearts! This is why covetousness is such a damning sin—it hinders the Word of God from taking hold in your heart. How? You are there physically, but your soul is taken up with the world and its pleasures, and you are thinking about how to make more money—you do not want to hear of a life of self denial, so your soul is robbed of the blessing! You go on, pining and working, and looking forward to nothing but the deceitfulness of riches and the pleasures of this life. You have no time for the Word of God! You have no time to meditate upon the goodness and grace and the mercy of God who has given you time to repent. You’re content with a few tears or with a few verses of Scripture; you’re content to give a few dollars and to lose your soul because you are not willing to break before God and become a self-denying one.

It is said of the thorny ground hearers in the parable of the sower (Matt 13:22) that the seed received among thorns is lost because the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of the riches and pleasures of this life choke the word, making the hearer unfruitful. Yes, and this covetous heart makes a man fit only for hell! Therefore, no matter what his profession may be, we know that covetousness keeps a man from praying, believing and studying the Word of God, for a covetous man cannot live by faith. He trusts in “things” rather than the living God who gives us richly all things to enjoy (I Tim 6:17).

Personal Application

If God has shown you that this is your heart, why don’t you fall down before Him in repentance, crying unto Him for mercy against this sin that closes the heart against God, against your fellow man, and against providing for your never-dying soul! Cry out against this false gospel that has deceived you into believing all is well with your soul because you made a profession, and yet allowed you to continue in this sin because somebody told you that you were safe, though you were just a “carnal Christian.”

Oh may God work! May He have mercy; may He come down in power and in much assurance, and deal with your soul as only He can! May He work mightily and effectually in giving you a heart of grace; a heart to cry out after Him as never before, “Lord, break the power of sin in my life!” I would not let Him go; I would keep crying after Him! Daily I would cry, “Oh Lord, don’t leave me to myself! Continue to break the power of sin, giving me victory over it as You promised in Romans 6:14!” So bring every sin to Him and cry out against it, that He might cleanse it by His blood and deliver you by His power, giving that grace which is needful that you may close in with Him by faith, casting your never-dying soul upon Him. Then you will find in the true Gospel, the Lord Jesus Christ to be your all in all!

The False Gospel: No Change in Affections
“Lovers of Pleasures”

Another fruit of carnal Christianity which comes under the heading of wrong affections is: “Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God,” (II Tim 3:4). And I say, what a sad commentary upon the poor, deceived, so-called “carnal Christian,” to believe that he can be saved, that he can be a child of God, an heir of heaven, and yet love pleasures more than he loves God! “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt 6:21); and if your treasure is this world and its pleasures, then your heart is not right with God; and fruit will not be brought forth unto perfection! When the seed, the Word of God, is sown among thorns, it is choked with cares, riches and pleasures of this life, and cannot bring forth fruit unto life, or unto perfection (Luke 8:14).

Sensual Pleasures

Now what kind of pleasures are these that men are said to be lovers of, more than the lovers of God? These are sensual pleasures and vain amusements; this is clearly brought out in Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, and in the Amplified Translation of the Bible. This being so, we need to define the word “sensual” and see how it is used in the Word of God.

The word sensual means “fleshly, carnal, self-indulgent, worldly, lewd, sexual, promiscuous in sin, glutton, epicurean, lustful, immoral, and unrestrained lust”; in other words, everything that appeals to the fallen nature of man that would satisfy his depraved heart. This is said to be the fruit of the carnal Christian gospel-lovers of sensual pleasure more than lovers of God-for these very people who practice this love of sensual pleasure, and who love the flesh and the things of the flesh more than God, are told that they are saved because of a profession of faith they made. But again, verse 5 warns us: “from such turn away,” lest we be drawn into the same deception with them!

If you live in and love sensual pleasures more than you love God, no matter what you profess, you are dead, spiritually dead, while you live, and therefore you are an enemy of God and a stranger to grace and the holy ways of the Lord. For without holiness, “no man shall see the Lord” (Heb 12:14).

James 4:1-4

One of the strongest portions of Scripture against you is found in James 4:1-4, where you are called “adulterers and adulteresses,” and enemies of the living God, the Holy God who hates sin. Listen to God’s Word, first in the King James translation as we go verse by verse, and then in the Amplified Version.

Verse 1: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”

“What leads you to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you? Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members?”

Verse 2: “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.”

“You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers. [To hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask.”

Verse 3: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”

“[Or] you do ask [God for them] and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is, [when you get what you desire] to spend it in sensual pleasures.”

Verse 4: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

“You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world] and breaking your marriage vow to God! Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God.”

Hard Questions

Now let us see if we are lovers of sensual pleasures more than lovers of God (spiritual adulterers and adulteresses); or if we are indeed children of God, by asking the following questions: Do we love to watch and feed upon the majority of programs that are shown on television which appeal only to the sensual, fleshly nature? Do we feed upon the magazines, newspapers and books that appeal to our sensual, fleshly nature? Do we secretly desire to do these things, even though we would not openly do them? Has sin become such a commonplace thing that we can indulge in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, and go on saying: “All is well with my soul,” while we actually remain enemies of God and strangers to the way of grace?

Do we love God and His righteousness and holiness, or do our hearts rebel against the narrow way of self denial and a life of separation from the world? Do we secretly despise the way of grace, the way of repentance, the way of bowing to the authority of God’s Word and to the Lordship of Christ? Do we follow after our own will and do our own thing without prayer and waiting upon God for His leadership? Do we love the sexual, lewd, lustful, self-indulgent way of the world; or do we indeed love God and His holiness, and seek to please Him in a life of separation from the world? Let us face these questions, and ask our hearts where we stand before God.

“Love Not the World”

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:15-17).

What is the “world” spoken of here? It is the reign or kingdom of the carnal mind, the mind of the ungodly system which is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Wherever that mind prevails, there is the world. It is the “ungodliness and worldly lusts” of Titus 2:12. It is fallen human nature acting out itself under the influences of the devil, the god of this ungodly world. Its spirit is hostile to godliness; because it is dominated by carnal ambition, pride, self-pleasing, and sensuous desires and interests. The principles which govern this world, the powers which operate it, the end which it seeks, all are earthly, sensual, devilish, and not of God and holiness. The opinions of the world are false; its aims are selfish, its pleasures are sinful, its politics are corrupt, its honors are nothing but bubbles and do not last. And since the world is the sphere of rebellion against God, His people are commanded not to love it. They are not to esteem it as their portion or treasure. They are forbidden to set their affections upon it (Col 3:2).

To love the world and its sensual pleasures is to give it the first place in our hearts, to idolize it, to make everything else subordinate to the acquisition and enjoyment of it, and to de-spise whatever comes into competition with it. It is to make its vanities the chief objects of our pursuits, to share its friendships, to court its smiles, to conform to its ways, and to find our happiness in what it yields to us in its pleasures. When the world is loved, it possesses and governs the soul, overcoming conscience, the principles of holiness, and the Word of God. Its influence is subtle, powerful, and perilous, and leads to damnation and hell!

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” One may renounce the world systems that Satan governs as a whole, and yet the heart secretly still clings to some of its parts. No, it is not sufficient that I just renounce the world, but I should detach my affections from everything which seeks to claim them. I am not to value any object of the world if it hinders the performance of my duties to God, if it dulls my relish for His Word, or chills the spirit of praise and prayer. I am to prefer nothing to spiritual things. I must not delight in anything which would cause me to lessen my esteem of Christ and heavenly things, for I am to love Him supremely; my affections must be set on things above. I may use many of the things that are in the world, but I must not abuse them. I must not put my trust in them; I must not place my happiness in them. In other words, I am to love nothing above God, equal to God, nor apart from God.

Personal Application

Are you living after the flesh and bearing the fruit of the false gospel of carnal Christianity; or are you living after the Spirit and bearing the fruit of the Spirit, which is Christ-likeness? “They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die [the death of the unrighteous, the ungodly]: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live”, live eternally with Christ in glory! (Rom 8:5,6,12,13).


Author

L. R. Shelton, Jr. (1923-2003) was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he later became associate pastor in his father’s Baptist church. While he did not have the opportunity to attend college or seminary, as a young man he devoured the writings of Spurgeon, Pink, the Puritans, and Lloyd-Jones. In 1970 he began a church, Christian bookstore, and gospel outreach in Litchfield, Minnesota. There he developed a God-given burden to share classic Christian literature from prior centuries freely worldwide, beginning to reproduce sermon booklets on a mimeograph machine. In 1978 the small ministry moved to Pensacola, Florida, where Mount Zion Bible Church was founded. In subsequent years were added several printing presses, the prison ministry (1984), the Chapel Library audio tape ministry (1987), the Free Grace Broadcaster quarterly magazine (1988), and the Mount Zion Bible Institute (1995).



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