Eight Signs of Immature, Carnal Christians

How to Mature from Following Men to Following Christ

by Greg Gibson

I have an embarrassing personal confession to make. For the first 10 years of my Christian life, I was an immature, carnal Christian...

"How," you wonder? The truth is, I followed men. What I mean is that I couldn't think for myself. You see, I gave my devotion and mind to men, a movement, and a system. Then I unconsciously let them do my thinking for me.

Was it the Church of Rome, the Jehovah's Witnesses, or the Mormons? No, believe it or not, it was a group of evangelicals, who preached the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But, they didn't tolerate questions to their confession of faith and systematic theology. And unfortunately, I submitted my thinking to them, because I over-esteemed them as godly men.

In the Bible, God has given us many descriptions of spiritual infancy vs. spiritual maturity. One of those descriptions, found in 1 Cor. 1:10-3:23, is following men instead of Christ, and using labels.

Cults are notorious for using thought-control methods to undermine the Christian faith's fundamental truths, which have been agreed on in the historic, major creeds and confessions. However, even doctrinally sound Christian ministries can be guilty of using cult-like methods to teach their non-essential, sectarian, or hobbyhorse doctrines.

Good Bible teachers not only proclaim Biblical truth, they also aren't afraid to teach others how to study the Bible for themselves. To keep individual disciples from straying into error, God has given His Spirit, His Bible, and His Church.

Remember, we never need to be afraid of truth. (If you're feeling fear right now, why not listen to your conscience? God gave it to you as a warning signal.)

The eight signs of immature, carnal Christians are:
  1. Reliance on an extra-biblical standard of authority such as:

    • A leader (author, guru, pastor, or infallible pope);
    • An experience (feeling or alleged revelation)
    • A sectarian group, movement, or organization (denomination);
    • A tradition (selective, truncated fragment of church history);
    • A document (confession of faith, or study-Bible footnotes);

  2. Fear and avoidance of:

    • Talking to certain Christians who may challenge you
    • Preaching on certain Bible texts or topics
    • Allowing certain questions to be asked
    • Discussing certain biblical topics
    • Reading certain theological articles or books.

  3. Unquestioned, uncritical agreement and allegiance to a human leader.

  4. Unteachable and unwilling to listen to others from an open Bible.

  5. Inability to think for oneself and form conclusions independent from outside influences and patterns of thinking received from others.

  6. Reading an inordinate percentage of books by one author or publisher.

  7. Leaders micromanaging details of disciples' lives that are normally areas of Christian liberty.

  8. Cloning personality traits that are normally areas of Christian liberty.

Those characteristics are quite different from the Bereans whom Paul commended as "fair minded... in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11).

Please understand, there is no perfect organization, movement, or group. All groups are made of imperfect individuals. And, since there is no individual perfection, then there is no corporate perfection. There is only one perfect God-Man.

Ask yourself, "How much do I agree with my favorite group?" If you agree 100%, beware! This could be a sign you're following men, instead of following Christ.

If you suspect you may be a victim of mind manipulating leaders, what should you do? First of all, realize that the Holy Spirit is the only teacher you need to understand God...

"But the anointing (Holy Spirit's teaching: cf. Jn. 14:26; 1 Jn. 2:20) which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him."

Second, realize that truth can set you free. Remember, never be afraid to pursue truth. For by it, you will be liberated. Jesus said,

"And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jn. 8:32).

"I AM... the truth... No one comes to the Father except through Me" (Jn. 14:6).

The Truth is a Person: Jesus Christ. Trust in Him to take you to God the Father.

And finally, simply pray to God, through Jesus Christ, asking Him to show you if you have been following men or Christ. He is faithful, and He will do it.

Jesus didn't say, "Follow Me(n)" or "Follow (men's interpretation of) Me." Jesus said, "Follow Me."

Note: This article originally appeared in the Jesus Said Follow Me website. Reprinted with permission.