The Essence of Christian Spirituality

Spirit-filled Christians, like myself, being Spirit-filled (duh!), concern themselves very much with what is spiritual, what it means to be spiritual, and etc. It is a hallmark of our profession. Many ideas are out there; some good, some not so good, and some flat out bizarre and worse: un-Biblical.

To shed light on the subject, in this post, I’m going to share what I think it means to be a Spiritual Christian, from a Biblical point of view.

The first thing to know or note is that being spiritual is not enough. Satanists, pagans, wiccans, mystics/mediums/psychics of various sorts and forms, other religionists of all kinds, and even secular humanists/atheists, in an ironic twist, are or can be “spiritual”.

So, to be spiritual as a Christian requires something more. Many think this “more” entails great spiritual endeavors and undertakings, requiring a higher level of devotion to God and His Christ. While there may be some truth in this, I want to point out why this, while tangentially related, is not the true essence of Christian spirituality. Please follow:

How much one prays does not automatically make one spiritual. Consider Matthew 6:7,

7. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Quantity of time in prayer isn’t the essence of Christian spirituality. You might pray three hours a day, but that doesn’t, by itself, make you spiritual. Muslims perform a spiritual duty called salat, which consists of five sessions of prayer every day for their entire lives, while facing al Kaaba in the city of Mecca. Prior to salat, they perform ritual wudu, which is ablutions of the hands and feet. These prayers also consist of ritual actions that must be performed each time. No Spirit-filled believer I know or have ever heard of has this beat.

Some say fasting is the key to spirituality. But is that so? Please read Isaiah 58:4,

4. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness

God condemned His people here for the way in which they were fasting. You and I could be fasting for the wrong reasons, doing it to please our carnal egos, and perhaps not even realize it. Further, Orthodox Egyptian Coptics fast more than anyone in the world, sometimes upwards of 200 days out of the year, for the especially devote, including fasting 50 Wednesdays out of 52 to commemorate Judas’ betrayal of the Lord. Are you a Coptic? Do you fast that much? Are you still spiritual? An even better question is: Are they (more) spiritual because they fast so much?

It’s because we have visions! That’s what makes us spiritual. Paul sarcastically commented that if he continued on boasting (as a fool from 2 Corinthians 11:17-33), he knew he’d come to visions and revelations (2 Corinthians 12:1). What’s the issue? Our own sense of pride and self-worth, if we boast about it enough, can cause us to have visions. This doesn’t make them from the Lord; rather, they are the flesh, no matter how spiritual they seem to us. So it’s not visions.

What about dreams? God often sent His holy people dreams. They are even prophesied to occur in the age of the Spirit (Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17). So does that make us spiritual? No. Consider Jeremiah 23:25-32,

I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord.

Dreams just don’t cut it. While we may have visions and dreams from the Lord, they don’t make us any more spiritual than King Nebuchadnezzar II, a murderous, violent, Babylonian king. (Daniel 2 and Daniel 4).

But what if we prophesy? Check out Ezekiel 13:1-9,

And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord God; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord. They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The Lord saith: and the Lord hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word. Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The Lord saith it; albeit I have not spoken? Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord God. And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord God.

Prophesying doesn’t automatically make us any more spiritual than a false prophet, for they, too, prophesy, just falsely.

The ardor and demonstration of our worship? Try 1 Kings 18:27-29,

And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.

Here, the prophets of Baal, in a contest with Elijah, pull out all the stops, and go full bore into their worship, even to the point of harming themselves. Were they not more zealous, more ardent, more devoted to demonstrating their devotion than we? You bet! But not spiritual according to Christianity.

So, what is it, already?! If it’s not how much we pray and/or fast, if it’s not having visions, revelations, or dreams, and it’s not our ability to prophesy or how much we worship, then it’s nothing. There is nothing that makes us spiritual, I guess?

Maybe it’s speaking in tongues? Nope. Speaking in tongues is easily abused, as demonstrated by 1 Corinthians 12-14. A backslider, who was in fornication and other rebellious sins told me she could still speak in tongues if she wanted to, even though she had forsaken the Lord and knew she was, at the point in her life, lost.

One book I once read by an apostolic Christian author boasted of people supposedly interceding and travailing in tongues so hard they vomited (on a regular basis). Corey Taylor, lead singer of the death metal band Slipknot, and confessed Satanist, after a prolonged quantity of screaming, often made himself vomit, too. Don’t believe me? Google “Corey Taylor puking” and you’ll get all sorts of sordid, graphic descriptions from the singer himself, about how often he pukes while performing (reader discretion advised).

This doesn’t discount speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance at all (Acts 2:4). But it doesn’t make a Christian spiritual just because they do so, even intensely, loudly, or often. In fact, such displays are frowned upon, Biblically speaking (1 Corinthians 14:19, 14:28, and etc.)

How about charitable works/deeds? No one out does the Catholic church on that front. From orphanages, to widow funds, to social programs, to everything else you can name, along with certain fraternal orders devoted specifically to good works, no one out does them. But this doesn’t make the average Catholic more spiritual, nor does it make you less spiritual, just because your level of charity in the world is less than another’s.

So, what is it? What is the essence of Christian spirituality?

It’s simple: Doing what’s good and right by walking and living in, and sowing to, the Spirit. Easy, huh? Maybe too easy? Read the following and decide for yourself.

James 4:17,

17. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin [i.e. unrighteous and unholy in behavior and action, i.e. carnal or unspiritual].

Romans 8:5-10,

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit [i.e. who are spiritual] 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. 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. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Galatians 6:8-9,

For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

What then, is the conclusion? All previously mentioned disciplines and acts are spiritual, but they are either not exclusive to Christians and Christianity, or are easily abused and done carnally, and so, cannot be the essence of spirituality. Yes, they play their part, and if done in accordance with God’s will, they will help a person become spiritual. But above all of them, as the Scriptures declare, “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22).

All our intended devotions (like the above), don’t amount to much if we are not, as led by the Spirit, obeying God, i.e. doing what’s good and right in His eyes.

Find a man or woman who, out of a good/clean conscience, does what he or she knows is right, and God is pleased, even if they didn’t pray much that day, haven’t fasted in awhile, have never had a vision or dream from God, doesn’t publically display or demonstrate their worship before others, has never prophesied and speaks in tongues rarely.

Find another man or woman, who performs or experiences all that I’ve written about above, but can’t even love his or her neighbor as himself or herself, and God is not pleased, no matter how spiritual that man or woman thinks he or she is. See the difference?

I hope so.

Peace and God bless,

Aaron

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~ by votivesoul on 11/24/2012.

2 Responses to “The Essence of Christian Spirituality”

  1. This is good! Well done Aaron

  2. I appreciate the compliment. Thank you. 🙂

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