The term "spiritual" is an important, but widely misunderstood term. What does the Bible say on this important topic?
6-5-10 What Do You Mean, Spiritual?
Introduction – Some of the most fundamental concepts of God’s way of life are unfortunately some of the most misunderstood and misapplied.
• I would say that the word love is probably the most notable example.
• I would also say that the term spiritual might be the second most misunderstood concept.
SPS – What does it mean to be spiritual? The term spiritual as it is understood by others has a wide variety of meanings, many of which we would not agree with.
• These varying beliefs labeled as spirituality are not limited to Christianity, as explained in the Wikipedia article on the subject: Traditionally, religions have regarded spirituality as an integral aspect of religious experience. Many do still equate spirituality with religion, but declining membership of organized religions and the growth of secularism in the western world has given rise to a broader view of spirituality. Secular spirituality carries connotations of an individual having a spiritual outlook which is more personalized, less structured, more open to new ideas/influences, and more pluralistic than that of the doctrinal faiths of organized religions. At one end of the spectrum, even some atheists are spiritual. While atheism tends to lean towards skepticism regarding supernatural claims and the existence of an actual "spirit", some atheists define "spiritual" as nurturing thoughts, emotions, words and actions that are in harmony with a belief that the entire universe is, in some way, connected; even if only by the mysterious flow of cause and effect at every scale. In contrast, those of a more 'New-Age' disposition see spirituality as the active connection to some force/power/energy/spirit, facilitating a sense of a deep self.
For some, spirituality includes introspection, and the development of an individual's inner life through practices such as meditation, prayer and contemplation. Some modern religions also see spirituality in everything: see pantheism and neo-Pantheism. In a similar vein, Religious Naturalism has a spiritual attitude towards the awe, majesty and mystery it sees in the natural world. Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of their being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop an individual's inner life; such practices often lead to an experience of connectedness with a larger reality, yielding a more comprehensive self; with other individuals or the human community; with nature or the cosmos; or with the divine realm. Spirituality is often experienced as a source of inspiration or orientation in life. It can encompass belief in immaterial realities or experiences of the immanent or transcendent nature of the world. A couple of major themes become apparent in these definitions: 1. Spirituality is seen by many as the opposite of anything material.
• This goes back to the pagan, Gnostic belief that matter is evil.
• Therefore, to be spiritual, one must distance oneself as far as possible from anything material and from material pleasures, even to the extent of inflicting pain and punishment to the body.
• Many pagan religions involve the practice of self-denial such as fasting and physical pain in order to enter a trance-like state that connects the person with an outside source of spiritual power, after which whatever the person does in that condition is considered to be “spiritual.”
• Gnosticism also advocated emancipation from the flesh, so there was also a belief that since being spiritual had no connection with physical matter, it made no difference what one did or didn’t practice regarding material pleasures and physical behavior. 2. Another concept considers the “soul” of every person as the source of spirituality, so that becoming spiritual involves getting in touch with that inner self.
• Drugs are often used to achieve this.
• This approach gained inroads in the western world in the 1970’s, which also involved involvement in eastern religions. Both of these mistaken philosophies have found their way into Christianity, almost from the beginning of the NT Church. Colossians 2:8 - 3:7 - By Philosophy and Empty Deceit: Colossians as a Response to a Cynic Critique by Troy Martin Paul and the Gnostics by Walter Schmithals is an eye-opening book that discusses the Gnostic concepts that Paul had to contend with in the churches in Galatia, and why he wrote the epistle. Galatians 5:1-14 – The Gnostic form of circumcision was actually a form of mutilation of the flesh that the heretics were trying to validate as a biblical practice. Galatians 5:16-25 – The reason he wrote about the works of the flesh vs. the fruit of the Spirit is to point out what true spirituality is and is not. So let’s shift gears and consider the scriptural teaching and truth about what it means to be spiritual and why it is so important. Obviously, being spiritual involves spirit, but how? 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 – Walter Schmithals also wrote a book titled, Gnosticism in Corinth.
• This chapter tells us that although there is a spirit in man that forms the basis of human intellect and distinguishes mankind from animals, God’s Holy Spirit is necessary to understand spiritual truth and is the basis of true spirituality. • We recently celebrated the anniversary of the Holy Spirit being made available to the firstfruits of God’s spiritual creation. NLT Acts 2:1-5 ¶ On the day of Pentecost1 all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages,1 as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. • This brings up yet another widespread belief regarding spirituality within Christianity—the belief that speaking in tongues and other alleged gifts of the Spirit are proof of who is spiritual and who isn’t. Mark 16:17-18 17 These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages.1 18 They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won't hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed."
• Charismatics emphasize seeking the gifts of the Holy Spirit to validate their spirituality.
• They also place emphasis on what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians to substantiate their beliefs.
• Well known Christian author John MacArthur has written books to counteract these teachings, including The Charismatics.
• He explains the situation in Corinth as a wrong approach to spiritual gifts and points out that Acts 2 should be the starting point for understanding spiritual gifts, and that no one today has tongues of fire on their heads.
• What Paul wrote to the Corinthians clearly shows that their approach to spiritual gifts was at best misguided and, MacArthur believes (as do I) that their alleged spiritual gifts were actually counterfeits from their pagan past. 1 Corinthians 14: 6-19) 26-33) 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11) purpose of spiritual gifts 27-30) The rhetorical question, “Do all speak with tongues?” contradicts the idea that speaking in tongues is a litmus test to validate spirituality. 31) This “more excellent way” is love—the subject of the next chapter. 1 Corinthians 14: 1-4) Paul admonishes them to pursue love and prefer the gift of “prophecy” to speaking in another language, with the motivation of edifying others, based on love.
• “prophecy” = “speaking before” (in time or in front of) with God’s special inspiration. Spiritual gifts are given at God’s discretion to do His work—preaching the gospel and edifying the church—not as a proof of spirituality. The proof of one’s spirituality is what Paul refers to in Galatians 5:22-23 as the fruit of the Spirit. • The term fruit(s) is used in the Bible to refer to what is produced.
• “produce” = agricultural products Matthew 7:15-20 15 ¶ " Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 "Therefore by their fruits you will know them. NKJ Luke 3:8 "Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, NKJ James 3:17-18 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. NKJ Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
NKJ 2 Corinthians 9:10 ¶ Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, NKJ Galatians 5:19-25 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 ¶ If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Romans 8:1-28 – True spirituality involves living God’s way by being led by the Holy Spirit instead of just pleasing the self and going along with the way of the world.
Ephesians 2:2-10 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
2 Peter 1:3-8 3 ¶ as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Conclusion – This is true spirituality.
• Living God’s way by being led by the Holy Spirit.
• Looking forward to eternal life in the family of God and seeking to fulfill our part in His great master plan for mankind now and forever. Philippians 1:9-11 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.