For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. – Romans 8:6 (NKJV)
Paul in his letter to the church at Rome writes these words about being carnally minded. It would be one thing if he were writing to unbelievers but he is writing to Christians. This means it is possible for you and me to become carnally minded. With the consequence of this carnal mind being death, this cannot be simply overlooked or dismissed. There is a great danger to having a carnal mind. How then do you recognize it? How will you know when you are drifting from being spiritually minded to being carnally minded? There are warning signs of a carnally-minded Christian but sometimes they can be missed or even difficult to diagnose. Let’s see if we can diagnose them so you don’t fall victim.
What Does it Mean to Be Carnal?
I think it makes sense to understand what this word carnal means. The word in the Greek means flesh, which is a reference to your sinful nature. Since all of us still have a sinful nature that dwells within us, we all have the potential to fall victim to becoming carnally minded. There is a three-headed monster that serves as the backdrop of a carnal mind. We see this in 1 John.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. – 1 John 2:15-16
The backbone of carnality is lust, which is an unhealthy attraction or desire for something. Usually, when lust grips your heart or mind it becomes all-consuming. In this case, this lust of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life form the foundation or basis for developing a carnal mind.
How do you become carnally minded?
Before we look at the 7 warning signs of a carnally-minded Christian let’s acknowledge the challenge. Slipping into a carnal mindset can be very subtle. You don’t usually go from being spiritually minded to carnally minded in one moment or instance. It is usually a gradual drifting that often can go unnoticed. I remember a pastor told a story of how he was laying on a floating device in the ocean and just enjoying the water and sun. When he came out of the water he couldn’t find his family and he thought they had left him. What he didn’t realize is that while he was on the float he had drifted down the water and he didn’t even feel it. This is how a person falls into a carnal mindset. This is also why the warning signs of a carnally-minded Christian can sometimes be missed. Let’s now consider some of the warning signs.
7 of the Warning Signs of a Carnally-Minded Christian:
1. Are You Concerned about Yourself More Than Anything Else?
We are living in a day and age where me, myself, and I have become the throne that we worship at. Everything in our society is pushing towards the promotion and love of self. With the onslaught of social media outlets, it has never been easier to promote yourself. We have even coined the phrase “selfie” which some have taken to new heights and levels. How do you know if this is creeping into your heart? One of the places to check which many may not think about is your prayer life. What do you spend most of your time praying about? If it is just about you and your needs then this selfishness may be creeping in. When you look at the model of prayer Jesus gave us praying for your needs was part of it, not all of it. If every part of your prayer revolves around you all the time be careful you might be drifting towards a carnal mind.
2. Are You Obsessed with Getting More and Never Satisfied with What You Have?
Greed is not just wanting more it is also the feeling of never having enough or never being content with what you have. The Bible equates greed with idolatry. When greed sets in it is very easy to become carnal because your soul desire becomes the pursuit of more. When you are never satisfied or feel like you have to get more, then even God himself is not enough. Greed also shows up when you begin to desire the blessings of God more than God himself. If you are following God because of what you can get from him then the lust of the flesh has set in. This is a carnal mindset.
3. Do You Think You Are More Than What You Really Are?
Pride is a big warning sign of a carnally-minded Christian and many times they don’t acknowledge its presence. Most people who are prideful are never willing to admit it. Pride can take many forms and you have to be very careful because it is very easy to slip from humility to pride. If you ever start thinking you are indispensable or this can’t happen without you, then be careful pride is slipping in. Many people mistakenly believe that there is something special about them or there is some great thing they have or do that makes God want to use them. This is simply not true. What I have discovered in life is that God uses people in spite of who they are not because of who they are. If you think of yourself more highly than you should then you are becoming carnally minded.
4. Do You Find Yourself Unwilling to Forgive?
Unforgiveness is horrible and it does not line up with God’s character. If you don’t forgive then you are behaving like the world. The world has no appetite for forgiveness. Once you are something that is what you always are. This is not how it works in the Kingdom of God. If you have no appetite for forgiveness then search your heart because you are displaying a carnal mindset.
5. Are You Seeking Pleasure with No Boundaries?
One of the less subtle warning signs of a carnally-minded Christian is a pursuit of pleasure. The mindset that says you can do what you want when you want. When this way of thinking sets in things that are black and white in scripture become grey. What was once thought sinful becomes acceptable or you make excuses that allow it to become acceptable. In other words, the standards go out the window and you begin to excuse sinful behavior. You even equate it with “loosening up” or “not being so stiff.” This is dangerous territory and if it continues the distinction between those in the church and those in the world begins to disappear. If you see this in your life run and repent quickly because you are standing in an unhealthy place.
6. Are You Worshipping People and Ideas More Than Worshipping God?
A big part of a carnal mind is wanting what you want when you want it. This includes worshipping people or ideas that can get you what you want. This happens when selfish desires become more important than what God desires. Again these things can be very subtle and deceptive. One indicator is instead of treating people equally and holding them to account, you excuse behaviors because those people can give you something you want. This is a form of idolatry. God demands first place and deserves first place in your life. Anything else and you have become carnally minded.
7. Is Your Love for Others Growing Cold?
I guess one of the greatest litmus tests to see where you stand is your love for other people. I honestly believe it is impossible to be truly walking with God, full of his Spirit and there be no love for people in your heart. You cannot love God and not love people. God said it himself.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. – 1 John 4:20
This dichotomy cannot exist in your heart or mind. If you are finding yourself with no love for people then there is something wrong. God’s heart is always reaching because that is his nature. If this does not exist in you then you may be drifting towards a carnal mind.
If it seems like more Christians are drifting towards a carnal mind this should not be shocking. Paul warns us of this.
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. – 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Knowing this truth leads to a question. How do you avoid becoming carnally minded? Here is the answer.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalm 139:23-24
To avoid this mindset from creeping in you have to ask God to search you. You cannot depend on yourself to diagnose the condition of your mind and heart. Allow God to reveal to you if there is something potentially wrong. If you will make this part of your daily routine with all sincerity God will show you and help you avoid slipping into being carnally minded.