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Stop Trying To Be Spiritual
(1 Corinthians 3:1-4)
Andy Bustanoby
(C) July 30, 2005

     When you read in the bulletin this morning that I'm going to preach
     on "Stop Trying To Be Spiritual," you may wonder what's going on.
     Pastor Hamrick preached a sermon two weeks ago called, "What It
     Means To Be Spiritual."  Now I come along and announce that I'm
     going to tell you to stop trying to be spiritual!

     Then again, some of you may have felt a great sense of relief.  If
     you're like most Christians in the world today, you've found out
     that trying to be spiritual doesn't seem to work too well.  I
     remember as a young Christian being terribly discouraged trying to
     be spiritual.

     This was the problem the Corinthians were having.  They were trying
     to be spiritual, but it didn't seem to do any good.

     Now don't jump to conclusions.  The Pastor and I are on the same
     page.  I'm not going to try to persuade you to give up on
     Christianity.  I want to show you what your problem may be.

                   Trying To Be Spiritual Is Bound To Fail

     As we look at 1Corinthians 3:1-4, I want you to see, first of all,
     that trying to be spiritual is bound to fail.

     Paul opens Chapter 3, with this rebuke:

         Brothers, I could not address you [about the factional problem]
     as spiritual [people] but
         as worldly--mere infants in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1).

     He is telling them that trying to be spiritual is bound to fail.
     You may ask where I get that from verse 1.  Look at the word

     Unfortunately, the word "worldly" is a poor translation.  The Greek
     word literally means, "fleshly."  Fleshly doesn't mean "outrageously
     immoral."  In fact, a very prim an proper church member can be
     fleshly.  Fleshly means running your life by your own effort.  It
     stands in contrast with "spiritual" where God is running your life
     by the power of the Holy Spirit.

     Fleshly behavior is usually the result of spiritual immaturity.
     Many Christians think that spirituality is achieved by trying to
     obey the Ten Commandments.  And if they fail, they assume they are
     not trying hard enough.  They don't realize that's not how you
     become spiritual.  And they don't know how to be spiritual because
     they're spiritually immature.

     This was Paul's dilemma with the Corinthians.  How do you solve
     spiritual problems like factionalism, jealousy and quarreling with
     people who don't know what it means to be spiritual?

     Think about it.  Many pastors today face this problem today.

     Perhaps I can illustrate it this way.  Let's say we have a problem
     of spiritual immaturity here.

     I go around to each member and ask these questions.

     I ask, Are you a born-again Christian?  Have you put your faith in
     Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life--the way of
     salvation?  If you truly are a believer, you'll say, Yes.

     Then I ask you, Will you tell me, as a Christian, how a person is
     supposed to live a spiritual life?  If  you're the average Christian
     you will probably tell me, Try hard to obey the Ten Commandments.

     Now you'd probably be irritated with me if I were to tell you that
     your last answer is a big problem.  It shows all the signs of
     spiritual immaturity to say that you live a spiritual life by trying
     hard to obey the Ten Commandments.  That's not the way to the
     spiritual life.

     This is the problem that Paul had with the Corinthians.  He is
     saying, I can't speak to you as spiritual people because you have
     the wrong idea of what it means to be spiritual.  You are
     fleshly--you think that the spiritual life is achieved by your
     trying.  At this point in our interview,  I probably wouldn't sound
     very friendly telling you that.

     And if that's how I came across, you would probably say, with some
     irritation, Well how do you think you're supposed to live a
     spiritual life?

     The word "spiritual" gives us a clue that it has something to do
     with a work of the Holy Spirit and not a work of our own.  Let me
     explain the difference between running my own life and letting God
     do it.  The Bible tells us,

         Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man,
         his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in
         knowledge after the image of him that created him (Col. 3:9-10).

     What's this putting off the old man and putting on the new man?
     Paul is describing specifically what happened when we were saved.
     The old man, the old nature we received from Adam, was crucified
     with Christ.  He's not dead, but put out of business.  The old man
     was put off when we were saved.  The new man, our born-again spirit,
     was put on when we were saved.

     Now follow me closely.  This is an accomplished fact.  Nothing more
     needs to be done except believe it!

     When the Bible tells us, then, that we are to put off the old man
     and put on the new man, it's not saying,  Try to be spiritual.  It's
     telling us that just as Christ did everything necessary to save us,
     He has done everything necessary to give us a holy, spiritual life.
     Now believe it!  It is by faith we appropriate our salvation.  It is
     by faith we are released from the power of the old man and receive
     the power of the new man!  We put off and put on by faith in what
     Christ has already done.

     The Bible uses the expression, "obedience by faith," which means,
     "obedience that comes by faith."

     Yes, we are to be obedient.  But how we are obedient is crucial.  It
     is not I, but Christ.

     No doubt, you're acquainted with the name Frank Sinatra, the
     vocalist.  In 1968 he recorded a song that is still popular today.
     It's called, "I Did It My Way."

     The first stanza of the song goes this way:

                          And now, the end is here
                       And so I face the final curtain
                        My Friend, I'll say it clear
                  I'll state my case, of which I'm certain
                        I've lived a life that's full
                    I've traveled each and ev'ry highway
               And more, much more than this, I did it my way.

     Frank Sinatra died May 15, 1998.  Bill Clinton, president at the
     time, eulogized Frank in the news and said this:  "Frank will be
     missed profoundly by millions around the world.  But his music and
     movies will ensure that 'Ol' Blue Eyes' is never forgotten.  Today,
     I think every American would have to smile and say he really did do
     it his way."

     The Bible lets us know that the way of salvation is not by doing it
     our way.  Christ is the door to the sheepfold.

     But let's say that Frank was saved before his death.  And let's say
     he really wanted to obey God and be a spiritual Christian.  Yes,
     he'd have to give up "my way."  It would have to be obedience to
     God's way.

     But that's only half the problem.  Frank also would have to give up,
     "I Did It."

     You see, there are two parts to being spiritual.  One part is
     obedience to God's way.  The other part is how we are obedient.  Do
     we say with Frank, "I did it . . ."?  Or do we say, "Christ has done
     it through the obedience that comes by my faith, not by my trying"?

     The Corinthians didn't understand this.  They were fleshly--they ran
     their lives by their own power.  They did it their way.

     Paul speaks of their immaturity further in verse 2:

         I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.
     Indeed, you are still not
         ready (1 Cor. 3:2).

     Milk and meat have to do with the level of instruction, not
     different doctrines.  There are not some doctrines that are milk and
     others that are meat.  They are all milk or meat depending on how
     deep we go.  The doctrine of salvation is often regarded as milk,
     but it is a very profound doctrine, and there is much meat in it.

     When Paul initially was in Corinth teaching the church, he was there
     for a year-and-a-half.  He had difficulty taking them deep enough to
     understand how to be spiritual.  Now, perhaps two to five years have
     passed since these people were saved, and word comes back to Paul
     that they are in the same spiritual condition as when they were
     first saved.  They still didn't know that we live the spiritual life
     by faith in what Christ has already done instead trying hard to do
     it by ourselves.  "I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not
     ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready."

     You may ask, Where does Paul get off saying this?  He's judging
     these people.

     This is not the kind of judging Christ condemns.  Paul is a fruit

     But you will say, That's still judging.  Yes, it's the kind of
     judging that the church should have done.  Paul looks at them and
     inspects the fruit of their lives.  Paul sees their quarreling and
     jealousy as something that they should have judged--which brings me
     to my second point.

               Trying To Be Spiritual Leads To Sinful Behavior

     Not only is trying hard to be spiritual bound to fail, trying hard
     to be spiritual leads to sinful behavior.

     Yes, you heard me right.  Trying hard to be spiritual leads to
     sinful behavior.

     You'll say, Well, I'm not going to try to be spiritual any more.   I
     hope so.  Hear me out.

     Look at verse 3.

         "You are still worldly [fleshly, running your own lives].  For
     since there is jealousy
         and quarreling among you, are you not worldly [fleshly]?  Are
     you not acting like
         mere [fleshly] men?  For when one says, "I follow Paul," and
     another, "I follow
         Apollos, are you not mere [fleshly] men (1 Cor. 3:3-4)?

     Their factional behavior betrays their spiritual condition.  You've
     heard the old saying:  If it walks like a duck and quacks like a
     duck, it must be a duck.  If it walks like a fleshly man and quacks
     like a fleshly man, it must be a fleshly man who runs his own life.

     I know that it sounds paradoxical, but trying to be spiritual
     actually leads to sinful behavior.  How can that be?  How can trying
     to be spiritual lead to sinful behavior?

     In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul recalls that when he was a baby
     Christian he had the same problem.  He knew he was saved by faith,
     but he didn't know that Christ had already delivered him from his
     sin nature and given him a new nature.  So he tried to keep the
     law.  When he tried, the law showed him that he couldn't do it.What
     was happening?  He says, Sin took advantage of the situation.  Sin
     used the law to show me that I couldn't be spiritual by trying. It
     showed me that I was still under the power of sin (Rom. 7:8).

     This was the Corinthian problem.  They couldn't be spiritual by
     trying.  Sin took advantage of their attempts at keeping the law by
     goading them into the sinful behavior of quarreling and jealousy.
     It showed them that they still didn't know how to deal with the
     power of sin in their lives.

     If you've ever been in a church that had a problem with factions--I
     am of Paul; I am of Apollos--you will understand jealousy and
     quarreling.  In his sermon two weeks ago, the Pastor gave us a good
     picture of Paul and Apollos.

     Apollos was eloquent and learned.  And I think that the Corinthians
     were awed by his style and manner.  This may be why Paul says in 1
     Corinthians 2:1, "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with
     eloquence or superior wisdom . . . ."  He wasn't putting down
     Apollos.  I think that Paul in his humility would say, Apollos
     certainly outshines me in eloquence and wisdom.

     Men like Apollos, whether they are good-looking or not, often have
     powerful personalities that people find beautiful.  Look at your TV
     preachers.  All of them have powerful personalities that draw

     Paul wasn't this kind of person.  What is more, he probably had an
     eye disease that disfigured his face. In fact, Paul may have been
     downright ugly.  The one thing Paul had going for him was his
     apostleship--he was uniquely chosen by God to write much of the New
     Testament.  Though Apollos was well-versed in the Old Testament,
     Paul, as an apostle, was getting new revelation from God.

     Now when you put Paul up against Apollos, you get a hint of what the
     quarreling and jealousy was about--not between them, but between the
     Corinthian factions.  In fact, Paul had a lot of confidence in
     Apollos and sent him to Corinth to minister in his absence.  But I
     can image that the quarreling between the Corinthian factions was
     over which one was smarter.  The Paul faction would point to his
     apostleship.  The Apollos faction would point to his knowledge of
     the Old Testament.  The Apollos faction would also point to his
     eloquence and tremendous personality.  The Paul faction was probably
     jealous that Apollos did have that over Paul--but they wouldn't
     admit it!

     Spiritual people wouldn't do this!  They wouldn't make these
     comparisons.  They would be glad that God was so rich in his gifts
     to the Corinthian church that they had two wonderful men:  Paul and
     Apollos.  And in verse twenty-two, Cephas, the Apostle Peter, is
     also mentioned.  Praise God; the Corinthian church had three
     wonderful teachers.

     But the Corinthians were worldly--fleshly.  The Holy Spirit was not
     influencing their judgments.  Their judgments were based on the
     fleshly question, Who's the best!

     A church that is a unified body of Christ, together in the power of
     the Holy Spirit, is glad for all of the members of the body.  As
     Paul says later in his letter to the Corinthians, comparing the
     human body to the body of Christ, One member of the body doesn't say
     to the other, I have no need of you.

     Many years ago I knew of a situation that was very much like the
     Paul and Apollos situation.  A seminary professor, whom I believe to
     be one of the outstanding preachers in this country, was invited to
     candidate for a church.  The church did not give him a positive vote
     and turned him down.  It certainly couldn't have been because of his
     preaching.  He is outstanding.  The only thing I can imagine is that
     he is a rather homely fellow.

     As providence would have it, he recommended one of his students to
     the pulpit committee.  The church voted to have the student fill
     the vacancy.  The only thing I can conclude is that the vote was
     basedon appearances and not on the quality of preaching.


     Spiritual immaturity is still a scourge in the church today.  We
     need to deal with problems like factionalism, where quarreling and
     jealousy are a spiritual problem.  But we first need to know what
     "spiritual" is in order to deal with our spiritual problems.
     Spiritual immaturity stands in the way.

     I invite you today to stop trying to be  spiritual.  Let Frank
     Sinatra's philosophy die with him.  It's not, "I Did It My Way."
     It's not even, I did it.  Being spiritual is through obedience that
     comes by faith.

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