What Is Spirituality? It May Not Be What You Think It Is
Summary: There are many wrong ideas of what true “spirituality” really is. Come see, and let the Scriptures paint a portrait of the biblically spiritual person. It may be different from what you have thought.
1 Corinthians 2:15, NKJV But he who is spiritual judges all things…
• The words “he who is spiritual” assure us that there are spiritual people. That's my hope for you and for me — that we would be what God calls “spiritual” men and women.
• There are many mistaken ideas about what true spirituality is. It is not gliding along without your feet touching the earth! It is not speaking in tongues out loud at a public bus stop. It is not talking in riddles (Samson spoke riddles, but he was a violent, carnal man).
• Even something as good as prayerfulness does not guarantee spirituality. Remember the hypocritical Pharisee praying at the temple (Luke 18:10-14). Jesus labeled his prayer as self-righteous, not spiritual. So in discovering "what is spirituality?" we must look not just at actions, but also at attitudes.
• Let’s look at some biblical indicators of real spirituality.
Romans 7:14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.
(1) “The law is spiritual.” Spiritual people love God’s word. And, may I add, they love the Old Testament (which contains “the law”) as well as the New Testament. The apostle Paul, who wrote more than a dozen of the books of the New Testament, spoke highly of the “law” of the Old Testament. He called it holy, righteous, good, and spiritual (Romans 7:12, 14).
• Time spent reading, studying, and meditating upon the Scriptures of the Bible goes a long way towards building true Christian spirituality.
(2) Spirituality and ongoing slavery to sin (vs. 14b) are incompatible. The true believer is not content to excuse carnality in his life as normal and acceptable. No, but rather, he will deal with sin, confront it in his life, repent and bring it to the Cross of Christ for forgiveness, and “put off” the old man of sin and “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). The Christian who deals with his or her sins in this way is stepping onto the road to genuine, biblical spirituality.
Romans 12:1-2, RSV I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
• “…your spiritual worship” — interestingly, these verses do not speak of valid biblical modes of worship (singing, clapping, bowing prostrate before the Lord, etc.). Rather, they speak of personal decisions which, collectively, can be termed “spiritual worship.”
(3)Dying to our flesh (“present your bodies as a living sacrifice”) — Crucifying our flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24). That is spiritual.
(4) Living a life holy and acceptable to God — that is spiritual.
(5)Refusing to conform to this world — that, too, is a mark of true spirituality.
Romans 12:11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
(6)“Serving the Lord” characterizes the mature, spiritual Christian. We serve Him in prayer, praise, worship, and the Word of God. We serve Him in loving and serving others. And we serve Him in commitment to His Church and its multifaceted ministries.
1 Corinthians 2:12-14 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
(7) Spiritual men and women hear from God through the Holy Spirit (vs. 12). This type of sensitivity to the Lord's voice requires an active prayer life.
(8) And they speak these truths not by human wisdom, but in spiritual words taught by the Holy Spirit (vs. 13). No amount of so-called human wisdom can equal the power of even a few well-spoken words prompted by the Spirit of God.
1 Corinthians 3:1-4, NASB And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?
• You are still “fleshly … worldly … carnal … unspiritual” (various translations) if you engage in quarreling, factions, and jealousy.
(9) Spiritual people are peacemakers, not quarrelers … promoters of unity, not dissension … relatable and friendly to all in the church, not joining cliques.
1 Corinthians 14:37, KJV If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
(10) Prophets and other “spiritual” people — one translation says “spiritually gifted” people — are not loose cannons in the realm of spiritual gifts. This 14th chapter has extensive teaching on the gifts of the Spirit and their proper manifestation in the churches. The apostle Paul reminds his hearers that these teachings on proper use of the gifts are “the commandments of the Lord,” not just Paul’s personal preferences or suggestions. Those seeking biblical maturity would be wise to study carefully this 14th chapter of 1 Corinthians. It lays out a wholesome, edifying, and “fitting and orderly” way of manifesting the spiritual gifts (vs. 40).
Galatians 6:1, KJV Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
(11) Spiritual people are restorers, not critics. They have a heart to build others’ lives, not to destroy them.
(12) Spiritual people guard themselves against sin while they are helping others who are overtaken by their sins. They consider themselves, lest they also be tempted.
Romans 8:6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
(13) There is a mental stability, a peace, that is visible in spiritual people. Their minds are governed and controlled by the Spirit, and that imparts life and peace to them.
SUMMARY: So what is spirituality in the true, Scriptural sense? Some marks of the biblically spiritual man or woman are:
• A love of God’s word
• A life not lived in ongoing slavery to sin
• Victory over one’s fleshly tendencies
• Nonconformity to this world
• Holy lives, pleasing to the Lord
• Fervor and zeal in serving the Lord
• An active prayer life
• Spiritual insight into the things of God
• Speaking by that spiritual insight, not by human wisdom
• Being peacemakers and unifiers, not dividers
• Ministering spiritual gifts according to the Bible’s instructions
• Being restorers, not condemners, of those overtaken by sin
• At the same time, being watchful lest temptations overtake us