By Jimmy Tuten
The realm of our existence is made up of the forces of righteousness and evil. There are many metaphors used to describe these realms. The inspired writer of 1 Thessalonians 5:5 used this figure of speech when referring to the kingdom of Christ and the dominion of Satan: “ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” The realm of “light” is the spiritual and darkness is the state of carnality. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). Since those in darkness are at enmity against God because they are not subject to the law of God, they cannot please Him (Rom. 8:7-8). When Christians (through the Spirit) do mortify the deeds of the body, they shall live (i.e., they shall be spiritual, Rom. 8:12). The “spiritual” are those who mind the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5).
The end of the Christian’s existence is to glorify God (Eph. 1:6,12,14). It is not to preach the gospel or to win souls, or the singling out of some other feature of the Christian’s life. When one glorifies God there will be an involvement in a number of things such as being a good husband or wife, benevolence, evangelism, in treating people properly, etc. Spirituality involves the whole range of life. Some references to it are found in such passages as 1 Corinthians 3:1; Galatians 6:1; etc.
A Closer Look At The Word “Spiritual”
By definition the word means “one who is filled with and governed by the Spirit of God.” Besides being applied to people, it applies to things “emanating from the Divine Spirit, or exhibiting its effects and so its character” (Thayer, p. 523). From a more practical standpoint it entails the process of becoming a Christian in contrast to following Satan in our moral decisions. Believing that Jesus is the Christ, Christians made Him the Lord of their lives in all things always. In “conversation” (manner of life, Phil. 1:27) they are motivated to want to obey Christ continually though the how of it is not yet completely with them (Eph. 2: 10; 5:2, 8; 4: 1). All spiritual people live in harmony with His character. Spirituality is illustrated in:
(1) The book of Galatians. It is the opposite of “flesh” (a way of life apart from God, 5:19-21). The spiritual have crucified the flesh (5:24) and they produce fruit of the Spirit (5:22-23). There are therefore manifestations of this spirituality, or the display of certain external evidences (6: 1-10). This is the result of being a part of God’s spiritual family (Gal. 3:26-27; 1 Pet. 2:5; 4:14-17). Because we are led by the Spirit, spirituality exists (Rom. 8:14-17; 1 Pet. 1:22-23). Too, there is a sense of sonship (Gal. 3:26,29; 4:1,64 1). This involves being the possessors of God’s nature (2 Pet. 1:4), having the privilege of sonship (1 Pet. 3:12), enjoying the providence of God’s care (Rom. 8:28) and being filled with the promises of God (2 Pet. 1:3-4). The contrast between this and carnality is seen in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 where immaturity is compared to maturity in 1 Corinthians 2:6 (“perfect,” full grown). A lack of spirituality results in division (ungodly attitudes in action), envy (devilish feelings) and immorality.
(2) The book of Colossians. Paul’s discussion of spirituality begins with motivation, i.e., having died with Christ and having been raised from death in sin (Col. 3:1-4). Because we are raised with Christ we are richly filled with the Word of Christ and we seek to obey Him in every area of our lives: “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of Jesus giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17). This rich, beautiful life is not confined to one area. So the Apostle Paul proceeds to make some specific applications of spirituality by talking about wives being submissive to their husbands (Col. 3:18), husbands loving their wives (Col. 3:19), children obeying parents (3:20), workers serving well in their jobs (3:22-25) and masters treating their servants properly (4:1). This is spirituality. This is what the Christian life is all about. All of life under God is spiritual. When a Christian mother takes care of her children, washes the dishes, etc. she is doing something far-reaching in its meaning. She is glorifying God. When a Christian husband loves his wife and looks after his family, he is spiritual. So according to the book of Colossians when one does what God tells us to do he is a spiritual being. Being spiritual is not following some humanly devised plan in contrast to what God says.
Let us not conclude then that spirituality is to be interpreted in a narrow sense of winning souls or disciple-making as is taught by the Crossroads philosophy. To say: “if you are winning souls (which is really that of proselytizing from the church to the Crossroads teaching), or producing ‘other Christians,’ you are evidencing true spirituality” is to miss the point completely. It narrows down the meaning and confines it too much. The movement may feel that this is the only way to bear fruit, but it is not the Bible way. It is by far too restrained. It is a false spirituality!
Man Has The Potential To Be Spiritual
Jehovah created man so that he is singularly a dual being. He is both physical and spiritual (Gen. 1:27; Matt. 26:41; 2 Cor. 4:16). Coming from the dust of the ground man has a physical nature (Gen. 2:7), but he also has a spirit that will return to God at death (1 Cor. 15:35-38; Eccl. 12:7). These two natures are contrary to one another (Gal. 5:17). In this respect man is different from animals in the lower form in that only he is capable of being spiritual.
Man has also been given the freedom of will morally so that he can allow either the physical or spiritual nature to dominate his life. He can live on the plane of an animal, or he can live on a higher plane of being like God. What man perceives through the physical senses and accepts by the thought processes is what he becomes (Prov. 23:7). While we are products (to some extent) of hereditary factors and environment, we are in another sense in a position to rise above these factors. We can make the right choices and control our intake so that the spiritual man dominates the natural part of man. A spiritual person is mature enough to want to make the right choices morally. He also knows how to make those choices (Gal. 5:16-26; Heb. 5:11-14). Whether or not you want to be like God and how badly you desire this is the dividing line between a spiritually minded person and a worldly individual.
Spirituality is not some emotional high or some exciting feeling that takes place when we are worshipping or doing something “holy.” It is not in outward jerkings of the body, “praise the Lord’s” and “hallelujahs.” Getting up at 6:00 a.m. each morning for a “quiet time” may be of value to you personally, but it is of little or no value as a spiritual measurement (Col. 2:18-23). Being spiritual is the desire to be right with God, to want to make the right decisions in every walk of life and in knowing what we are and what we do. It is how we look at life continually.
We Must Know The Spiritual Realm
If one expects to be spiritual there will have to be some understanding of the spiritual realm in contrast to the physical. The Bible teaches that there is a spiritual area that is separate, unlimited and eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). It is a place where a number of things exists: Heaven, hades, God, Paradise, etc. (1 Cor. 15; Matt. 6:9; Acts 7:56; Rev. 20:13). Whatever may be said of it in the Bible, we know that the heavenly host of beings are all part of the spiritual realm (2 Cor. 4:18), that the physical exists because of the spiritual and is dependent on it (Col. 1:17). It says the spiritual has become a part of it in some instances (Christ as man, angels, etc.) and that we are free to allow either the spiritual or the physical to direct and influence our moral decisions (Gal. 5:16,25). We know too that the judgment will take place in the spiritual (2 Pet. 3:8-13; Rom. 14) and that the existence of faithful children of God will be the “new heaven” and “earth” (Rev. 21:1-8).
Knowing then the existence of the spiritual we need to know its influence on our lives. Everyone of us will live in eternity in the spiritual realm, either in heaven or in hell. The physical limits us now, but when this life is over we will fully experience the beauty of eternity. Our personal relationship to God becomes the foundation upon which our spiritual life is built.
What Makes Us Want To Be Spiritual?
Spirituality springs from a heart that very, very deeply wants to be right with God the Father. This is made easier by the fact of the very nature of man himself. First, man is a rational, reasoning creature with the ability to work things out for himself. In all areas of life he can see the “cause and effect” principle and act accordingly. The appeal for decision between the forces of good and evil deals with man’s rationale. By our own will we accept facts, we base our thoughts, our actions and words upon it and because of it we know what is real.
Secondly, we are emotional creatures. Feelings and experiences such as love, hate, etc. can be appealed to on this basis in every walk of life. So God appeals to our emotions. For “ample, the goodness of God becomes a motivation for repentance, His mercies become the grounds for a sacrificial life, and God’s love becomes the reason for belief in Jesus Christ (Rom. 2:4; 12:1; Jn. 3:16).
Thirdly, man has a conscience and this enables him to distinguish between right and wrong (Acts 23:1; Tit. 1:15; 1 Pet. 3:21). He knows that when he acts against his conscience he will suffer for it. So it becomes our goal to develop a strong conscience and follow it. This is why the spiritual person is said to be one who never violates his conscience (Rom. 14:23). Instead he is one who seeks to have a pure conscience (1 Tim. 3:9), one that is good (1 Pet. 3:16).
Finally, we are creatures of free will. We are free agents, free to choose what we want in the area of morals. No one can make us do what is wrong before God, nor can we be made to do what is right. Thus God motivates us by influencing our wills through reason, emotions and conscience, while at the same time leaving us free to make the choice of what we will to do (Rev. 22:17).
The fact of these four elements of man’s nature demonstrates that the greater our understanding of the Word of God, the more spiritual we will be (1 Pet. 2:2). It shows that the greater our love for God, man and the Bible, the greater our spirituality will be (1 Jn. 4:16-20). In proportion to our desire for a clear conscience and our determination to do God’s will, our spirituality will increase (1 Tim. 1:15; Matt. 5:6). With the desire to go to heaven the spiritual-minded person thinks, acts and speaks with a view to that goal. What they is the key to spirituality? It is our thinking (Rom. 12:12), thinking that must be under Christ’s control (2 Cor. 10:5) or (to put it another way) the necessity of having the “mind of Christ” (Phil. 2:5-11).
Worldliness must never be our enterprise. The hypocrisy of only external religion must never be our undertaking. Spirituality must be our advocation. Nothing takes the place of honesty, purity, love, integrity, concern for lost souls and Christ-likeness in every-day loyalty to God. In Titus 1:15 these words challenge our attention: “unto the pure all things are pure.” In view of the thrust of shallow living we must pledge our lives, our love and all that we have to the Savior. Be among those who make things happen! Make your life spiritual, your life depends on it.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 14, pp. 428-429, 439
July 17, 1986