We may have heard the joke Bob Hope once made about religion. He said he was on an airplane when the left engine quit. People began to gasp, then suddenly the right engine quit. The lady next to him screamed, “Do something religious.” Bob Hope said, “So I did. I got up and took a collection.” While this remark may be facetious, it nevertheless illustrates what some people think about those who “get religion.” Many have doubts about anyone who takes religion seriously. The fact is, however, that 40 percent of the people who attend church say they go for spiritual enrichment. In brief, they attend in order to fulfill a spiritual need.
True Spirituality-a Necessity
The Bible says a great deal about spirituality, especially true spirituality. Jesus stated: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:23). Jesus talked about a spiritual element involved in the worship of God that was not previously understood. He made plain that in a relationship with God, there must be a degree of spirituality as well as truth. What this means is that to truly worship God, a change must take place in the heart and mind of the believer-a dimension that was entirely absent during the Old Testament period.
The irreligious or carnal man cannot grasp this change, and is, in fact, incapable of doing so. Paul described it as follows: “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled” (Col. 1:21). These Colossians had now become Christians. A change had taken place in how they felt and perceived God. They had acquired a spiritual element not previously possessed. They had gone from a carnal orientation to a spiritual one.
The disciples were with Jesus for over three years, yet did not have a spiritual orientation. While God’s Spirit was with them, it was not yet in them until the Day of Pentecost. Jesus said: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17). Not until the disciples received the Spirit of God were they able to fully grasp spiritual things (Acts 2:1-4). Jesus had to actually open their minds to understand the Scriptures. After His resurrection ” . . . He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:44-45). Earlier Jesus had said: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
Paul explained the carnal orientation:
“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:5-8).
The spiritual orientation is just the opposite:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit . . . . But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his . . . . For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:1, 9, 14).
All human beings are born with human nature. As we read above, the Apostle Paul said that this nature is hostile toward the Law of God. Before one can acquire a spiritual orientation, a change must take place in one’s thinking toward God and His Law. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new [creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). The human mind with its attitude of resentment toward divine Providence now begins to relate to the spiritual things of God. The carnal things of the earth no longer dominate one’s thinking and actions. The spiritual man is now being led by the Spirit of God.
Paul said the converted man was the spiritual man. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy [Spirit] teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:12-13). Philosophy, the wisdom of the world, is what men teach. Understanding the Scriptures is what the Holy Spirit teaches. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy [Spirit], whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). True Christians do not rely on the philosophical concepts of men. They rely on the revelation of God-the Holy Scriptures. Why do carnal men rely upon human reasoning for enlightenment? The answer: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
So, spiritual understanding gives the converted man knowledge and enlightenment not understood by the carnal man.
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (1 Cor. 2:6-10)
True spirituality also goes hand in hand with sensible service. Paul expressed it as follows: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your [rational] service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2). When the mind has been changed, one’s service toward God is based on a logical and clear understanding of God’s purpose for man. Such a one understands that it is counterproductive to join in the affairs this world. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:4). One who understands this realizes that conforming to this world makes him the enemy of God. ” . . . Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4).
One of the first elements which determines whether or not one is spiritual is the degree of spiritual understanding he possesses. Many who “get religion” do so on the basis of emotion. They understand little of what true spirituality is all about. Even many highly educated theologians have little real understanding of the Scriptures and are highly misled by what they are taught in religious seminaries. They may have a superior understanding of many Hebrew and Greek technicalities, but much of this actually harms them. Education and intellect do not guarantee that one will understand the Truth. There is only one way and one way only that Truth comes, and that is by means of divine revelation. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13).
It has already been called to the reader’s attention what Paul stated. He said the things of God are revealed by His Spirit. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy [Spirit] teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual (1 Cor. 2:12-13). One who is spiritual has spiritual understanding. But does that mean he understands all spiritual things? He understands what God has revealed. “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). Paul wrote: “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph. 3:3-5).
Love for God’s Law
Paul wrote that the carnal mind is hostile toward the Law of God (Rom 8:7). Therefore, one who is irreligious has little or no regard for the things of God. These are those the Bible calls ungodly. They are ungodly because they refuse to take God into consideration in anything they do. They view the commands of God as grievous (1 John 5:3). This is opposite of the spiritual man. The spiritual man has an interest in and desire to follow God’s Law. “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?” (Deut. 10:12-13).
He realizes their value.
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. (Ps. 19:7-11)
Jesus summarized what God desires we understand and accomplish in our lives. The following is what the spiritual man seeks to achieve. “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:36-40). The Apostle John adds: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).
The Need for Self-Control
A spiritual man exercises self-control in his life. But can one expect to always have complete self-control in everything? Not likely. John tells us: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). John recognized that even after conversion one can sin. There is a difference, however, between one who habitually practices sin, and one who occasionally slips and sins through human weakness. Exercising self-control is a life-long process that requires diligence until the day of one’s death.
Paul described this struggle as follows:
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Rom. 7:14-24)
Nevertheless, near the time of his death Paul wrote:
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Let us hope we can say the same at the time of our departure.
Paul said he received the help he needed by Jesus Christ. “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Rom. 7:24-25). It takes the power of God’s Spirit to overcome the pulls of the flesh. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). Why? “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” (Gal. 5:17). Of our own power, we cannot. But with the help of God, we can. This was why Paul wrote: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). So the mark of a spiritual man is how much he exercises self-control over his nature and weaknesses.
Love for the Brethren
One who loves his brethren in Christ certainly exemplifies true spirituality. The Bible emphasizes that there would be those who profess to know God and yet hate their own converted brethren. “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:10-11). “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (vv.14-15).
Here is what the Bible says about those who profess Christ and harbor hatred in their hearts for fellow believers, or anyone else for that matter. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:9-11).
Jesus even went so far as to say that as Christians we should not hate our enemies. The Sermon on the Mount is the heart and core of Christian teachings. This important instruction that tells us how to become perfect is cited below.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matt. 5:43-48)
In verse 48, the words “Be ye” are in the future tense in the original Greek language. A better translation would be that if you can love even your enemies, “Then you shall be perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” While one who is spiritual may not be as complete in that kind of love as God the Father, he nevertheless refuses to allow hatred to fester in his heart toward any other person. This is truly the mark of a spiritual man. One who ignores or snubs a fellow believer only deludes himself. He is likely to dissociate himself from people he views with contempt. Yet Paul instructs: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10: 24-25).
Perhaps the instruction given by the Apostle James can give us some insight. “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (Jas.2:14-17).
Peter’s words encourage us to love the brethren. “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Pet. 1:22). This love for the brethren, and for all men in general, is another identifying sign of a spiritual man.
Love for the Truth
The Apostle Paul spoke of an apostasy-a departure from the Truth- that was to occur shortly before the return of Christ (2 Thess. 2:1-3). A main cause of this defection is because those who were given Bible understanding did not love the Truth (v. 10). Few people seem to be aware that the Truth of God is more important than life itself. Why? Because it is eternal; it will last forever, and it is absolute. On the other hand productive human life is short-lived, usually lasting for about 70 years (Ps. 90:10).
Here is what the Bible says about Truth.
For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. (Ps. 100:5)
For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD. (Ps. 117:2)
Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever. (Ps. 146: 5-6)
The timeless Truth of God is what a man may base his life upon. Ideas and concepts of men come and go; they are as changeable as the weather. By contrast, the Truth of God is more solid than the Rock of Gibraltar. One who is dedicated to God’s Truth would be willing to die for it. But if one does not love it, he will give it up for the least reason. Those who depart in “the last days” (2 Thess. 2:10) allow themselves to be deceived. The Truth of God is really not that important to them.
Remember what Jesus said in John 4:23. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:23). The true worship of God requires an understanding of the Truth. But Truth is not likely to prevail in the hearts and minds of true worshipers unless they love it. Paul said the desire for human pleasures is too powerful. ” . . . They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:10-12). Righteousness is defined in the Bible as the keeping of God’s Commandments (Ps. 119:172). Unrighteous, then, is disobedience to these same Commandments. “All unrighteousness is sin . . . ” (1 John5:17).
The Commandments of God are Truth. “Thou art near, O LORD; and all thy commandments are truth” (Ps. 119:151). Furthermore, Truth is godliness (Titus1:1).
How important is the Truth?
Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart. (Prov. 3:3)
Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me. (Ps. 40:11)
O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. (Ps. 43:3)
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. (Ps. 91:4)
The tendency to love the pleasures of the world-pleasures that are contrary to God’s Law-is a strong pull for many. They love the world and what it has to offer more than they love the Truth. The Bible admonishes: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17). We would do well to remember the words of the Apostle John: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).