The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Overcoming Carnality With Guilt

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AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

Carnality is a major problem in the Church today. Our congregations are dragging under the weight of too many Christians who simply don’t care about serving God. The popular solution to this problem is to heap on the guilt. By breaking out condemning language and choice quotations from Jesus, we try to make souls feel so terrible that they’ll get up off their duffs and sign up to do something. Yet is this really an effective method? Can we shame people into loving God more? Clearly the Holy Spirit knows how to convict someone effectively, yet when we try to do His job for Him, both our methods and motivations are flawed. We often want people to act in ways that we consider spiritual so that we can feel more effective as leaders in the church. We want a harvest of results, and we feel justified in harassing people to serve because of verses we dig out of the Bible.

You can’t guilt someone into serving God properly. You can only guilt them into serving Him bitterly because they feel He’s scowling down at them with a whip in His hand. God wants us to serve Him with cheerful hearts, not with grumbling and foul attitudes. When we pressure people into serving, we are not helping them advance spiritually. Instead we are teaching them to appease humans instead of submitting to the Holy Spirit. If we really care about the souls in our flocks, we shouldn’t be trying to use them to compensate for our personal insecurities. If you doubt your effectiveness as a teacher or pastor, you need to search your own soul to see if you are leaving some specific conviction undone. Peace with God comes from having no unfinished business between you and the Holy Spirit; it doesn’t come from seeing your ministry grow or from others patting you on the back and telling you how marvelous you are. If we want to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, we need to accept whatever situation He has us in. If it is a shriveling church that hasn’t seen a new convert for years, then so be it.  We certainly can’t do God’s job for Him, nor should we try to force our help upon Him by resorting to carnal marketing ploys. So often churches try to compete amongst each other instead of being content to follow the Holy Spirit’s unique plan for them.

If manipulative sermons and guilt trips are out, what should we do to try and help the carnal lambs that are currently under our care? We should point them to the One who can really help them: God. Not caring about God is a very real place for a soul to be stuck. We can’t manufacture a sincere desire to serve Him out of the air—the Holy Spirit must give it to us. Everything we have comes from God, including our love and desire for Him. Souls stuck in carnality need to be taught that God has much better plans for them, but those plans revolve around them sincerely desiring to please Him. They then need to be encouraged to ask God to instill a sincere love for Him in their hearts. This is far more helpful than guilting them into service, for souls who don’t care about God shouldn’t be serving Him. He doesn’t need their help, nor does He find any pleasure in hypocrisy.

We can’t progress with God by trying to act like people we are not, or by trying to fake devotion that we don’t really have. It is vital that we teach the flock how worthless appeasing people is, for we get no points with the God for rushing around in a whirlwind of busyness when He wants us to be still and listen. Signing up to serve so that you can prove to other humans how much you love God is utterly useless. We are not judged by other people. Their assessment of our spiritual progress is beyond worthless. We serve God, and He is the only One who knows in any given moment where we stand with Him. His convictions are the only ones with merit, which is why His Voice is the one we must listen to. Instead of haranguing the flock into going through empty motions, we should be reminding them that God will meet them wherever they are stuck. Asking God to help us want to love Him might feel like an awkward prayer, but it is one which greatly delights Him. Honesty is vital in our relationship with God and there is no shame in admitting where we are lacking and asking for help. We must look directly to our Lord to help us and recognize that He is the only One who can.

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