Monthly Archives: January 2014

What Does It Mean To Be Spiritual?

Church and SkyThe idea of being spiritual brings to mind different things to different people.  For some, when they think of spirituality, they think of things like ghosts.  For others, the concept of spirituality might sound like something to do with eastern religions and being in touch with one’s inner self or nature, or whatever it might be.  In our minds, being spiritual can mean many things.

However, the Bible speaks very clearly about what being spiritual actually means.  In fact, there are primarily two types of spirituality mentioned in Scripture.

1) The first type of spiritual things in scripture is the normal sense that we think of, which consists of the immaterial world that we cannot see.  This sense of the word incorporates angels, demons, and even God (especially the first and third persons of the Trinity, e.g. John 4:24).

2) The second meaning for spirituality is quite simply practical Christian principles, LIVED OUT!  This is the lesser thought of sense of spirituality, but it is exactly what I want to discuss today, because quite frequently when spirituality is mentioned in the Bible, it is this second meaning which is intended.

To begin, I want to ask you if have you ever met a super-Christian?  By “super-Christian”, I mean someone who just seemed to have everything together.  We’ve all seen them.  They are people who are passionate about Christ, they care about lost people, they never seem to get angry, they do not seem struggle with the sins that bog the rest of us down, they know all sorts of stuff about the Bible, and they probably pray for hours every day…at least that is our impression of them.  To us, they seem like “super-Christian’s”, because they have unnatural discipline in areas where we feel like we will always struggle.

People like this often give us a mixture of guilt, along with a secret belief that there must be some sort of super-Christian gene that God simply forgot to put into us.  We feel and think this way because we could not possibly hope to live a life like them.  They defy reason and they defy the odds.  They are spiritual to an unattainable degree – one that we will never and could never reach – or so we think.

I’ve got good news for you, though.  Super-Christians do not exist.  Contrary to how people seem on the surface, everyone struggles with sin, and while I am convinced that some people really do have a special gene that allows them to rise up early in the morning to pray and study their Bible (and exercise if I’m perfectly honest), I still realize that a “super-Christian’s” seemingly supernatural discipline really comes down to one thing – Obedience.

Therefore, when we think about being more spiritual, let us realize that being the best we can be for Christ does not require a supernatural gene…but it does require a proper Birth and a proper Walk

Your Birth

Before you write off the comment “a proper birth” as misogynistic, racist, or anything of the sort, let us immediately realize that God does not care who your earthly father is.  In fact, when describing who the true sons of God are, the Apostle John says in John 1:12-13, “12 But as many as received him [Christ], to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

I want you to catch what verse 13 says.  Some of the people to whom John was writing at the time, might have thought that only a Jewish lineage would be enough to make them “children of God”.  However, John makes clear that God’s children are not born of blood (meaning not of a special lineage), or flesh, or the will of man.  In other words, we cannot become children of God on our own or through any earthly means.  It does not matter who our earthly father is.  It does not matter our race.  It does not even matter if you come from a wonderful Christian family.  The only way to become a child of God is to do as verse 12 says, “receive Him“.  “Him” is Christ.  Therefore, scripture is teaching that to become a child of God, a person must receive Jesus Christ.

While most people think that all humans are God’s children by birth, it is a harsh truth that recognizes all humans are separated from God, through sin.  This is the message of the Bible (e.g. Rom. 3:23).  This is why you always hear preachers talking about how a person must be “born again“.  Preachers say this because they realize that all humans need to be re-adopted into the son-ship of God.  We are separated from God through sin and need to be reconciled to Him, thereby becoming His sons and daughters once again.  If our relationship to God were a fabric, we need to realize that the fabric was torn through our sin.  The only way to mend the fabric is through Jesus Christ.

The concept of being “born again” comes primarily from John 3:1-7, which teaches us of an encounter between Jesus and a man named Nicodemus,

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

While often misunderstood, this passage is really quite simple.  It speaks of two births.  A birth offlesh – which we all go through to enter this world through our mothers womb – and a birth of the spirit – which a person goes through when they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  The first birth is required for us to have life on this earth.  The second birth is required for us to have life after death; or, as the passage says, for us to “see the kingdom of God” (v. 3).

Likewise, this is the message of 1 Corinthians 15:45-50, which says,

45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.  46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.  47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.  48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.  49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.  50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

All humans bear the image of our earthly father, Adam, because we have all been born on earth.  However, only those who accept the “last Adam”, which is Jesus Christ, will inherent the image of the heavenly.  This passage tells us how.  While Adam was made a living soul (which we have likewise been made), in contrast, Christ was made a “quickening spirit“.  A quickening spirit means a spirit that gives life.  This means that Christ was sent to earth for the purpose of giving life.  Adam was given life by God, just as we are, but Christ gives life.  Catch that difference: Adam was given life, but Christ gives life.  This is an important difference.  How does Christ give life?  Through spiritual birth.  When people place their faith in Jesus, they are born again of the Spirit, and Christ gives them eternal life (cf. John 1:4; John 17:1-3; Rom. 6:23; Rom. 8:10)!

Our birth to our earthly father is physical, but this second birth to our heavenly father is “spiritual” (v. 46). To be “spiritual”, we must have a spiritual father.  Notice that both of our passages restrict who will enter the kingdom of God by this one criteria (John 3:3 and 1 Cor. 15:50).  Flesh does not inherit the Kingdom of God, only someone who has been born of the Spirit does.  We CANNOT inherit the Kingdom of God unless we are born of the Spirit.  Only someone who has been born again will inherit heaven; Only someone who has a Spiritual Father, through our Lord, Jesus Christ, will go to heaven.

In Romans 8:14-17, the message is the same,

15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

When you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, he adopts you as His own child.  By being a child of the King, we become heirs of the kingdom – even joint heirs with Christ.  If you are adopted by God, then you are His son/daughter, and you inherit eternal life.  Praise God!

Therefore, if you wonder what it means to be Spiritual, the first thing you must realize is that to truly be “Spiritual”, you must have been born of the Spirit, and you only receive the Spirit through being “born again”, and a person can only be “born again” by placing their faith in Jesus Christ.  1 John 5:1a says, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…”  Once we have done so, God literally adopts us.  In His eyes, we are then His son or daughter.  He washes us clean of all sin.  He forgives us.  Our righteousness is then found in Christ.  This is the first step – and the only first step – for someone who hopes to be Spiritual, and who desires to have eternal life.  If you want to be Spiritual like our so called “super-Christians”, then you must be born again.

See also 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 for further study.

Your Walk

Being born again is only the first step of being Spiritual.  A spiritual Christian is not only born of the Spirit, they also walk in the Spirit.  It is a popular thing for some people to say, “Since I’m saved, and the Blood of Christ washes away all of my sins, doesn’t that mean I can go on living any way that I please?”  When people say this, or some variation of this type of statement, they are basically asking if it is okay to continue to live a life of sin once they become a Christian.  After all, they reason, Jesus has paid for their sin, so why can they not keep sinning?  If it is paid for, then their sin does not really hurt anything…right?  I have heard this exact reasoning twice in the past month, and many times in my life.  Fortunately for us, the Bible speaks directly to this question.

Romans 5:20-21; 6:1-3 says, “5:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: 21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord…

6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”

Just in case you did not follow the meaning of those verses from Romans, let me break them down for you.  The Apostle Paul presents the very real situation that God’s grace covers all our sins.  In fact, he basically says, no matter how much sin we have, God gives us more grace.  Therefore, Paul takes us along the next logical step that we often take, reasoning “if we get more grace every time we sin, then why don’t we just sin more and more so that we can have more and more grace?”  Check out his answer in 6:2…”GOD FORBID!!”

You see, when we are reborn spiritually, God expects us to act like it.  After all, God went through the trouble of adopting us into His family.  He is our father, and just like any father worth their weight, He’d prefer that we do our best to represent His family well.  In 1 John 3:1-10 we see the compare and contrast of two fathers.  I’ll save you the trouble of having to look it up…we are given only two options for fathers: God or Satan.  If God adopts us into His family and away from Satan’s family, then it is pretty reasonable for God to expect us to quit living like we are sons and daughters of Satan.

Let me put it this way.  If I cheated on my wife, and she forgave me, is her forgiveness a free pass to go cheat on her again?  Of course not!  Why then, would we foolishly believe that our sins no longer matter to God.  If further infidelity would cause pain for my wife, we had better believe that further sinfulness and unfaithfulness to God hurts Him as well.  Interestingly, Scripture draws this exact parallel, often calling Christians the Bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Rom. 7:4; Matt. 25:1-13; Eph. 5:22; Isa. 54:5; Hos. 2:19-20; Rev. 19:6-8).  If we expect our brides to  be faithful, do you think God expects the same thing?  I sure do.  Just something to think about.

Now, I understand that walking perfectly is impossible – or at least it has only happened once, when Jesus did it.  As such, being a Christian is not about pretending we are perfect.  In fact, if we are under the delusion that we are perfect, then 1 John 1:8 & 10 make clear that God’s word is not in us.  This is because admitting that we are sinners is the only way to realize that we need to be saved from our sins.  It is the first step towards a relationship with God and being spiritually reborn.  So, being perfect is not what I’m talking about.  Rather, I’m talking about striving for perfection.  If we have accepted Christ and been spiritually reborn and adopted, then we should strive to look like the sons and daughters of God that we are.

Special NOTE: It is not our job to kick people when they mess up.  But it is our job to help hold brothers and sisters in Christ accountable for sin and to help restore them into a proper walk with God.

So what does a spiritual walk look like?

Well, Galatians 5:16-25 says, “16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.  19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

God makes the concept pretty simple.  This is not intended to be an exhaustive lists, but you get the idea.  If you want to walk in the Spirit, then do the types of things listed under the fruit of the Spirit list (vv. 22-23).  If you want to walk in the spirit, then avoid doing the things under the lusts of the flesh list.  Walking in the Spirit is not mystical.  It’s practical!

In other words, if you want to be spiritual, love people, don’t hate them.  If you want to be spiritual, practice temperance, not drunkenness or gluttony.  If you want to be spiritual, then CHOOSE to do things that are good and ABSTAIN from things that are sinful.  Walking a Spiritual walk is simple (simple is different than easy).  Again I repeat, walking in the spirit is not mystical, it’s simply obeying.  A “super-Christian” does not have some special access to God.  But if we were honest, we would probably admit that they are more regular at practicing the “normal” accesses to God (i.e. Bible study and prayer).  If I practiced these as much as I should, then my spiritual walk would undoubtedly grow exponentially.

Your Position and Your Condition

I hope you realize now that being Spiritual has nothing to do with being a super-Christian.  To be Spiritual, one simply must be born of the Spirit through Jesus Christ, and being born of the Spirit, they must also walk in the Spirit.  This is what the Christian author Miles J. Stanford described as a struggle between our position and condition.  This means that once we are truly saved, then we are legally adopted by God as His sons and daughters.  We are born into God’s family, and NOTHING can separate us from that position (e.g. Rom. 8:38-39).  No matter what we do, we are God’s sons and daughters forever.  We are secure in our position.  No matter how much we might act like the prodigal son, we are still sons.

However, our current condition does not look like the sanctified and justified people we truly are, in Christ.  Our flesh does not look like the sons and daughters that we are.  In other words, our walk (condition) does not always look like our birth (position).  I am glad that God judges me by my position as a born again son, and not my condition as a fallen sinner in the flesh.  However, one goal I should have as a Christian is to live a life that makes this sinful condition reflect my perfect spiritual position – that is to say, I should work to make my walk reflect my birth!!!

1 John 3:1-3 says it best, “1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God…2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”

Just to make sure you understand this passage, it says in verse 2, that we do not yet look like what we will look like when Christ comes again.  This means that one day, when God comes back and we receive our inheritance as sons and daughters of the king, then we will be glorified and made pure and holy like Christ.  However, the Apostle John realizes that our sinful condition does not yet look like this future glorified condition which we will be given when we are resurrected (cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-53, 51-58).  Therefore, he responds by saying that if we have this future hope of being glorified by God, then we should start living pure lives now – “…every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself.”

People are victims of many terrible things in this world.  Our own sin is not one of them.  Romans 8:37 says that we are more than conquerors through Christ.  1 John 5:4&5 says that our faith in Jesus Christ is a victory that overcomes the world.  1 Corinthians 10:13 says that there is no temptation that we cannot escape through Christ.

I could go on, but the message is simple and consistent.  When we choose to sin, or when we decide not to discipline ourselves in prayer and study of God’s word, or when we decide to act in a manner which is not according to God’s word – such as hatred toward our fellow man – then there is no excuse.  We are not victims in these instances.  We are guilty.  However, as I always say when I teach, Godly guilt is not meant to bog us down.  Godly guilt is meant to invoke change.

As such, I’ll leave you with this.  If the Holy Spirit convicts you to clean something up in your life, then do not hide in shame.  Clean it up and live guilt free.  If the Holy Spirit convicts you to pray more, to study God’s word more, to give more charitably, to act kinder, or whatever it may be, then do not despair and do not be resentful toward God, simply make a decision to obey the conviction of the Spirit, and watch as your life begins to resemble these mythical “super-Christians” that we are always so envious of.  If you have not been born again, then I pray you find Christ.  If you have been born again, then I pray you live for Christ with your entire being; and when you stumble and fall (and we all do), then I pray you ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:9), thereby restoring your relationship with God, and rejuvenating your “spiritual” walk.

If someone ever asks you if you are spiritual, then I hope you can proudly say “yes, I am a born again Christian through Christ, and my position in Him is secure.  Now, my goal is to walk in a manner worthy of so great a spiritual birth.”

God bless,

Obie

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