You, then, listen to the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path. And the one sown on rocky ground—this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. Yet he has no root in himself, but is short-lived. When pressure or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now the one sown among the thorns—this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the seduction of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But the one sown on the good ground—this is one who hears and understands the word, who does bear fruit and yields: some 100, some 60, some 30 times what was sown. - Matthew 13:18-23 (HCSB)
What is a Natural Man?
Natural men are those who have no knowledge of Christ. They put themselves first because they know nothing about Christ, or how to be selfless. They are unable to put others or a God they do not know before themselves.
Think about a blind person at a museum. You would not blame them for not admiring a Renoir or Matisse painting. Or if a deaf person were to attend a symphony of Mozart and was not moved by the music, you could not hold that against them.
Once the natural person is introduced to God, and chooses to receive the grace and mercy offered at the cross, they move to the carnal (or fleshly) state.
What is a Carnal Man?
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder. Foolish man! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected. So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by a different route? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. - James 2:14-26 (HCSB)
The carnal man has a large impediment to his relationship with God. He believes in God, and believes that Jesus is the son of God. He also believes that Jesus died for his sin to restore his relationship with God. The problem comes when the carnal man is faced with crucifying himself with Jesus.
Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. What is a man benefited if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and that of the Father and the holy angels. I tell you the truth: There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” - Luke 9:23-27 (HCSB)
We are called to die to ourselves, but what does that mean?
It means that we need to put our wants and desires to death and accept the change God wants to bring in our lives. God sent the Holy Spirit to bring this change to his followers.
Notice I didn’t say believers. James wasn’t talking about being a believer in the earlier scripture either. Jesus searched for followers, people who went beyond belief and became doers of the word.
What do you need to put to death in your life in order to grow closer to God?
Just then someone came up and asked Him, “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?” “Why do you ask Me about what is good?” He said to him. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he asked Him. Jesus answered: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as yourself. “I have kept all these,” the young man told Him. “What do I still lack?” “If you want to be perfect,” Jesus said to him, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me. ”When the young man heard that command, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “I assure you: It will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. ”When the disciples heard this, they were utterly astonished and asked, “Then who can be saved? ”But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. ”Then Peter responded to Him, “Look, we have left everything and followed You. So what will there be for us? ”Jesus said to them, “I assure you: In the Messianic Age, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or fields because of My name will receive 100 times more and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first. - Matthew 19:16-30 (HCSB)
The problem this rich young ruler had was that his possessions ruled him. They had such a hold on his heart that it was interfering with his relationship with God.
God is a jealous God. He says so himself in Exodus 20. Jesus said we need to take up our crosses daily because we need a constant reminder to put to death our desires, fear, envy, strife, immorality, everything that isn’t from God.
Once we do this, and we empty ourselves of our own plans, then the Holy Spirit can begin changing us from the inside out.
The revolution Jesus came to begin was not against government or world powers, not yet anyways. His first coming was to bring a revolution inside the hearts of man.
Abraham was credited for being willing to sacrifice Isaac, and those who remain faithful to the end are rewarded with riches in Heaven!
Let’s commit to being more than carnal. We should be pursuing God with our whole heart! We should not be satisfied with merely confessing God with our lips, but allowing our whole lives proclaim Him as lord of our lives!
We should become doers, not just hearers of the word. As James says, “Faith without works is dead”. If you merely confess Jesus is the son of God, and that he came to die for sin, know that you are doing no more than the demons he rebuked.
So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it. - James 4:17 (HCSB)
Striving to become the spiritual man God wants us to be is the highest calling he could have given us. The great commission Jesus left his followers with was to go and make disciples of all nations.
How can we make disciples of all nations if we ourselves are merely megaphones with no real relationship with God?
What is a Spiritual Man?
The spiritual man is one who has left his fleshly desires behind. He chooses to use his life to serve God and others before himself.
Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, because you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready, because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and living like unbelievers? For whenever someone says, “I’m with Paul,” and another, “I’m with Apollos,” are you not unspiritual people? - 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 (HCSB)
Fleshly desires are more than lust and sexual immorality which most think of when speaking of fleshly desires. It also includes envy, covetousness, anger, rage, and any other craving that is not for God or the knowledge God provides.
So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. Hold firmly to the message of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing. But even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. In the same way you should also be glad and rejoice with me. - Philippians 2:12-18 (HCSB)
While grace comes through faith, we know from James that faith without works is dead. This tells us that while you cannot earn your way to salvation by your works, those same deeds are the evidence of your faith. It is how you prove your beliefs.
Think of it this way. You can talk about how much you love and trust your antique chair. You can talk about how it is made from solid wood, and how much weight it can hold. Until you actually sit in it, full force, without testing its integrity, you are proving the opposite of what you are saying.
Paul wasn’t telling the Philippians that they had to work for salvation, but rather show the effects of that salvation through their actions and everyday lives.
According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire. - 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (HCSB)
So these works are not required for salvation, but they will be rewarded. The other option is to come running into eternity at full speed with your hair on fire and your clothes filled with smoke.
We were made to work. God gave his creation the desire to find Him, to seek Him. It is our responsibility to search Him out and to pursue our salvation.
How long should we pursue this salvation? Let’s look to what Jesus said:
Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. What is a man benefited if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and that of the Father and the holy angels. - Luke 9:23-26 (HCSB)
Take up his cross daily. The choice to trust and follow Christ must be made daily. It is true that once you are saved, you are always saved, but you may choose not to follow Christ.
In fact, many young Christians choose to put as many barriers between themselves and Christ. Ever wonder why God seems so distant?
God doesn’t change, and he doesn’t leave or forsake you. If you feel removed from God, it’s likely because you have run from God.
Then, to transition from carnal to spiritual, we must do three things: move from mere belief to faith, continually work toward salvation, and stop moving away from God turning toward Him instead.
Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance. - Acts 26:20 (HCSB)