What Does It Mean to Be 'Spiritual'?
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.
- Summary: True spirituality has nothing to do with spookiness or weird behavior. The bible clearly describes what it means to be spiritual.
The word “spiritual” occurs 30 times in the NIV Bible, all in the New Testament, and all of those in the Book of Romans or later.
- •• Another way of looking at that is that every bible instance (in the NIV translation) of the word “spiritual” occurs after the NEW BIRTH and PENTECOST!
- • In other words, genuine Christian spirituality in the bible is a distinctly post-Pentecostal phenomenon.
- • Today we will determine a definition of spirituality — not a narrow formula, but a broad New Testament view of what it means to be spiritual.
- • Without a biblical understanding of true spirituality, we will frustrate our proper pursuit of spiritual growth and spiritual wellness.
Romans 1:11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you STRONG.
- •• Spiritual gifts from God make us STRONG.
- • One walking in the Holy Spirit’s gifts in his life is STRONGER than one not doing so.
- • A stronger witness ... a stronger minister ...
- • Natural illustration: “The Spirit of the Lord came upon [Samson] in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands” (Judges 14:6).
1 Corinthians 1:7-8 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual GIFT as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.  He will keep you strong TO THE END, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- •• Spiritually gifted and strong “to the END” =
- (1) certainly throughout your life (“never leave you”);
- (2) The church gifted and strong “to the end ... [that is] the day [COMING] of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- • Note: The Church will “NOT LACK any spiritual gift ... to the END ... the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- • This verse should be prayerfully considered by those who teach that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased. They have tragically caused their listeners to lack spiritual gifts in this time leading up to "...the end ... the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 3:1-2 Brothers, I could not address you as SPIRITUAL but as WORLDLY — mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.
- •• To be spiritual is to be the opposite of being WORLDLY ... CARNAL (KJV).
- •• My pastor once preached an excellent sermon entitled “How to Be Carnal: Just Don’t Be Spiritual”
- •• We all have two choices: Walk in the Spirit, or walk in the flesh. We must choose either to be carnal or to be spiritual. Spiritual growth and spiritual wellness come to the "SPIRITual" man or woman.
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your SPIRITUAL act of worship.  DO NOT CONFORM any longer to the pattern of THIS WORLD...
- •• Three characteristics of the spiritual man or woman:
- (1) Lives life as a living sacrifice, not self-centeredly
- (2) Lives a holy life
- (3) Looks to live in such a way as to please God
- •• To be deemed “spiritual” by God, “do NOT CONFORM ... to the pattern of this WORLD.”
- • As in the previous verse, the opposite extremes are to be “spiritual” or to be “worldly...carnal.” Biblical spirituality is the exact opposite of worldly carnality.
Romans 12:11 Never be lacking in ZEAL, but keep your spiritual FERVOR, serving the Lord.
- •• The spiritual person is NOT LAZY, doesn’t take the things of God for granted.
- •• Rather, he/she is zealous and fervent for the Lord. Spiritual growth remains a high priority.
- •• The spiritual person “keeps his lamp burning.”
1 Corinthians 2:12-14 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, 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, expressing SPIRITUAL TRUTHS in SPIRITUAL WORDS.  The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED.
- •• “We have ... received the Spirit ... that we may UNDERSTAND ... the things of God.”
- • When I was a new Christian, a mature Christian friend wisely advised me to seek to understand the bible by God's revelation, not by my intellect.
- • The things of God “are spiritually discerned.”
- • Those “without the Spirit ... [see only] foolishness.” in the things of God.
- •• The spiritual person “expresses spiritual truths in spiritual words” — not by man’s wisdom.
1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow the way of LOVE AND eagerly desire SPIRITUAL GIFTS...
- •• A concise summary of the famous 12th and 13th chapters of First Corinthians is: Love AND spiritual gifts.
- •• God’s norm is Spirit-filled churches full of Spirit-filled people.
- •• Also, spiritual people are loving people.
Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a SIN, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But WATCH YOURSELF, or you also may be TEMPTED.
- •• Spiritual people look not to judge, but to restore.
- •• A mark of biblical spirituality is taking a realistic and watchful approach to our ever-present temptations.
Ephesians 6:12 For our STRUGGLE is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the SPIRITUAL FORCES OF EVIL in the heavenly realms.
- •• Spiritual people recognize the reality of the SPIRITUAL BATTLE we are in. Biblical spirituality makes us more aware of the devil and his relentless opposition to us.
- • Prefer discerning of spirits to psychiatry.
- • Know that some illnesses have demonic causes.
- • Put on God’s full armor to battle a real devil.
Please see our related sermon outline at "Be men and women of the spirit".
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©2005, James H. Feeney. Copyright statement.