Summary: 4 telltale signs of a carnal Christian from 2 Corinthians 12:11-21 (Adapted from Bob Russell's book on 2 Corinthians called "Take Comfort")
A famous sportscaster said that, for him, the start of the Indianapolis 500 was the most spectacular event in sports. To see those turbocharged automobiles roaring around Turn 4 and zooming across the starting line at 200 miles an hour to start the world’s most famous race is an incredible event. But of those supercharged cars that start the race, how many finish? Many times, over half the cars get knocked out of the race by either a wreck or by mechanical difficulties. In some instances, something as minor as the failure of a $10 bolt could force a car out of the race. As impressive as the start is, the important part of the race is finishing. The financial rewards and honors do not go to those who start well, but to those who finish well. So the driver and pit crew are constantly watching gauges and evaluating the performance of the car so they can prevent breakdown and make necessary adjustments along the way.
Many people who start in the Christian life do not finish well. One of the saddest characters in the Bible is Solomon. He began his life with noble motives, but he wrecked along the way in indulgence and compromise. In the New Testament, Paul speaks of Demas, who dropped out of the race. “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me..” 2 Timothy 4:10, NIV.
It’s not enough to start the Christian life well. We need to plan to finish well. The reward is not given at the beginning, but in the end. “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Revelation 2:10, NIV.
A Christian may drop out of the race dramatically because there is a wreck in his life along the way. Many just kind of coast to the sidelines because something has gone wrong and they fizzle out. But whatever the cause, we all need to be alert to the telltale signs that trouble is brewing in our lives, and we need to make the adjustments that are necessary.
“You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?” 1 Corinthians 3:3, NIV. The word translated worldly really means “fleshly.” It’s the word the King James calls carnal. These carnal Christians were selfish; they wanted blessings without sacrifice; they wanted power without restraint. They were more concerned about the things of this world than they were with the things of the Spirit.
Paul was constantly warning them about these issues. In 2 Corinthians 12:11-21, he had to warn them again. This time, he mentioned 4 telltale signs of a carnal Christian.
Thesis: 4 telltale signs of a carnal Christian from 2 Corinthians 12:11-21
1. Lack of appreciation for Spiritual Leaders
Paul said he has made a fool of himself. He was talking about having to give his credentials. I feel a little foolish when I have to do that, and so should everyone who is a Christian. vs. 11
These Christians should have commended Paul. He was a humble man. All the time he had labored among them, he had never bragged about himself or thrown his weight around. He was humble, and they took him for granted. Paul was an apostle- read vs. 12. Paul had done all of those signs among them, and he had done them consistently.
He was generous. He served Corinthian church without a salary. Vs. 13. Other churches that Paul had started supported him financially, so he labored in Corinth without taking their money
He was loving. “Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you.” 2 Corinthians 12:14, NIV. They could not accuse Paul of exploiting them. He loved them and he treated them with integrity. He said the reason he didn’t take support from them was that he felt like their spiritual parent. “After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.” 14
Vs. 15- In spite of all of this, the Corinthians had taken Paul for granted and many of them even spoke poorly of Paul. They suggested Paul wasn’t really good enough to be paid. They were giving all kinds of compliments to “super apostles” and were taking Paul for granted. Big sign of carnality. This happens today- doing things behind the scenes- week after week, year after year. At the same time, those who are self promoting and exploitive are given much acclaim and adoration. Mark of spiritual maturity is appreciation for the people who have contributed to our lives. Christian leaders should not be idolized, but they ought to be regarded with a sense of gratitude. Bible says we are to give honor to whom honor is due- Romans 13:7