Carnal Christians are easy to identify. They are usually in strife, discontent, easily offended and lacking peace.
For many years of my early walk with God I had very little peace with myself or others, even though I was a Spirit-filled Christian. If I didn't get my way, I would argue, pout, throw a fit, have a pity party or not talk to people for weeks at a time. Basically, I acted like a child.
At the time, I had no idea my behavior was wrong or that I was being led by my fleshly desires. I went to church regularly and heard Bible doctrine, but I wasn't hearing any practical teaching on how to get along with others and exercise self-control over my emotions.
When I finally got fed up with not having peace in my life, I made a decision to do whatever I needed to do to get it. I went to God and asked Him what was wrong, and He responded, "Joyce, you're shallow. You need to begin living on a deeper level."
Over time, God made it clear to me that the deeper level I needed to live on was the level of the Spirit. In order for us to truly enjoy the abundant life Jesus died to give us, we need to stop living by what we want, think, and feel and start following the promptings of His Spirit. This is the level that the spiritual man lives on.
THE SPIRITUAL MAN The spiritual man is the mature Christian who follows diligently after the desires of the Spirit. He is not someone who just prays the sinner's prayer and then never feeds his spirit with the Word. Nor is he someone who keeps God in a "box" and lets Him out only on Sunday mornings.
The spiritual man has a full-time commitment to follow Christ, and he lets the Lord into every area of his life. He walks in integrity, humility and peace. He knows how to get along with others. His life displays the fruit of the Spirit, and he enjoys the favor of God.
First Corinthians 2:15 says, "But the spiritual man tries all things [he examines, investigates, inquires into, questions, and discerns all things], yet is himself to be put on trial and judged by no one [he can read the meaning of everything, but no one can properly discern or appraise or get an insight into him]." What Paul is saying here is that the spiritual man doesn't live his life on a whim--impulsively following his fleshly desires for what he wants, thinks and feels. Instead he lives by discernment.
What is the difference between feelings and discernment? Feelings are of the flesh--they are shallow and constantly subject to change. Discernment, on the other hand, is a knowing in the spirit--something that comes from deep inside and is given to us by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus lived His life by discernment. Isaiah 11:2-3 says, "And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him...and shall make Him of quick understanding, and His delight shall be in the reverential and obedient fear of the Lord. And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, neither decide by the hearing of His ears." So Jesus' discernment was not based on the superficial senses of His flesh--it was the result of a knowing deep within His spirit. And this same gift of discernment is available to you and me.
How does it work? Before the spiritual man does anything, he quickly checks with his spirit to see if the thing he is about to do is OK. If he has peace, he proceeds. But if he is uncomfortable, confused or frustrated, he remains still. For instance, there have been times when I had a strong desire to give a word of correction to one of our employees. But before I opened my mouth, I checked with my spirit to confirm that it was what God wanted. If I felt a peace and a release to do it, I did it.
There have also been situations when I've been at the mall getting ready to purchase something, but before I could get to the checkout counter, I sensed an irritation, frustration and pressure in my spirit. In this case, my spirit was not bearing witness with the Holy Spirit that what I wanted to do was of God. So I didn't buy anything.
You see, every time you and I choose to listen to and follow the Holy Spirit's promptings, our spirits grow stronger, and a little bit more of our flesh dies. As a result, more and more of God's power is released in our lives to operate in the fruit of the Spirit. By yielding to the Holy Spirit rather than being controlled by our emotions, we honor God and put ourselves in a position to be radically blessed.
Developing discernment and being led by the Spirit is not something that happens overnight--it is a learning process that takes time. Little by little, one experience after another, God tries, or tests, our hearts, emotions and thinking (see Ps. 7:9, The Amplified Bible).
How does He do it? He allows us to go through difficult situations that stir up our emotions. In this way, you and I are able to see for ourselves how emotionally unstable we can become and how desperately we need His help.