What does God say about true spirituality? How do we discern who is spiritual and who is not? Perhaps Christians who are used of God are spiritual, or maybe those who have it all together and never seem do anything wrong are the spiritual ones. The Pharisees appeared spiritual but Jesus called them a “brood of vipers” and “hypocrites.” How can we tell who is truly spiritual? What does God’s Word say concerning spirituality?
1. Spiritual People Understand They Are Spiritually Bankrupt
This is one of the first steps to being truly spiritual. Isaiah experienced this at the beginning of his ministry. In Isaiah 6:5, after having a revelation of God he cried out, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.”
Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it.”
Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Peter also experienced this at one of his first encounters with Jesus in Luke 5:8. After receiving a revelation of Jesus he said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
Whenever we have an authentic revelation of the Lord we don’t become arrogant and self righteous. On the contrary, we are humbled and see ourselves as we really are. The problem is, after we have been saved for a while we start to trust our new life in Christ instead of leaning completely on His grace.
We lose our sense of spiritual poverty and bankruptcy. This is why God, at times, allows us to experience failure. We need a fresh revelation of our spiritual depravity so we will lean solely on Jesus and His grace.
The closer we get to the Lord, the more contrition we should experience. We must forever be like the publican and unlike the Pharisee in the mirror of God’s Word and presence. Sadly, we so frequently start off as the publican and end up like the Pharisee. This is why the Holy Spirit must so often allow us to go through a time of failure, to bring us back to the first things of our Christian experience.
Luke 18:11-13 – “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”
The Word of God makes it clear the depths of our depravity knows no bounds apart from Christ. Oh God, give us afresh and anew a revelation of who we really are outside of You, that we might lean completely on You – Your blood and righteousness (Colossians 1:12 and 2 Corinthians 5:21)!
Philippians 3:9 – “And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
Isaiah 66:2 – “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My Word.”
Jesus comparing the publican to the Pharisee said, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other” (Luke 18:14).
2. Spiritual People Take God at His Word
We must take God at His Word even when we are filled with doubt. In Mark 9:23-24 a man came to Jesus seeking help for his child and Jesus said, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes. Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
In Luke 5:5 when Jesus told Peter to launch out into the deep for a catch of fish he replied, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your Word I will let down the net.”
In Luke 1:34 when Gabriel appeared to Mary saying she would give birth to a child, her first response was, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” But her ultimate response was, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to Thy Word” (Luke 1:38).
Even when we see no way and our hearts are filled with doubt we must respond in faith, “Nevertheless at Your Word” I will do as you say or “Be it unto me according to thy Word.”
When King David desired to build a house for God, he was told by the prophet Nathan, that his seed would build a house for the Lord and that He would establish his throne forever, David’s response was similar to that of Mary’s. He said,
1 Chronicles 17:23-24a – “Therefore now, Lord, let the thing that Thou hast spoken concerning Thy servant and concerning his house be established for ever, and DO AS THOU HAST SAID. Let it even be established, that Thy name may be magnified for ever.”
3. Spiritual People Demonstrate Spiritual Enlightenment
1 Corinthians 2:12-14 – “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 teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 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.”
There’s a spiritual enlightenment. The light has been turned on. Prior to one being born-again they’re in spiritual darkness. The moment a person places their trust in Christ as their only hope of salvation there’s an immediate enlightenment of the things of God. I had a friend who did time in prison and while incarcerated he read through the Bible a number of times but when I talked with him about anything spiritual it was clear he didn’t get it. A number of years later he gave his life to Jesus and he instantaneously had an understanding in the things of God beyond many who had been saved for years.
They’re spiritually minded. Though we live in the flesh and must deal with the things of this life, the truly spiritual person’s primary focus is on spiritual things. The things of the flesh and of the world are no longer their primary concern and focus. Prior to the new birth our interest is the flesh and the things of this life first and foremost, then the soul (mental and emotional), and last of all the spiritual. Spiritual things are on the bottom of their list. But once we’re born-again that all turns around. Our focus is now on the spiritual first, then the soul, and last of all the flesh.
Romans 8:5-6 – “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.”
Colossians 3:1-2 – “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”
4. Spiritual People Avoid Divisions and Arguments
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 – “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual, but as carnal, even as to babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat, for you were not able to bear it, nor are you now able. For you are yet carnal, for there is among you envying, strife, and divisions, are you not carnal and walk as men?”
While it’s impossible to keep divisive issues from flowing through the body of Christ, the truly spiritual persons refuse to get involved in them and stop division before it takes root. The devil’s job is to attempt to divide. We must resist getting into arguments over non-essential things that don’t really matter. In fact, when we see division raising its ugly head we must stop it in its tracks.
2 Timothy 2:23 – “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.”
Titus 3:9 – “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.”
1 Corinthians 1:10 – “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
Romans 16:17 – “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”
5. Spiritual People Have a Positive Awareness of the Will of God
The will of God is their longing and desire. They want His will more than anything. God’s will is prioritized above and beyond our own personal ambition and desires. God’s will should be paramount in the life of every believer. We must surrender completely to God’s will as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). “Thy will be done” may be the hardest words one could ever say. Once we have completely surrendered to the will of God, we must ask God to give us a passion for His will.
Paul had such a passion. When at Phillip’s home in Caesarea, Agabus took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles” (Acts 21:11). Those present begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Paul said, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:13-14).
Ephesians 5:16-17 – “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”
6. Spiritual People Edify and Encourage Others
Romans 15:1-3 – “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on Me.”
A truly spiritual person has compassion toward people in the body of Christ and seeks to build them up rather than tear them down. They seek to be an encouragement rather than discouraging. Though we must at times deal with the negative, if we are really spiritual we will minimize them as much as possible. This means we will not be overly critical and judgmental of others as well.
Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
Romans 14:19 – “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11 – “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”
7. The Spiritual Person is Patient Toward Those in Opposition
2 Timothy 2:24-25 – “The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves. If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”
When people oppose the will of God or the church, spiritual people will patiently instruct them. They will make every effort to bring them around to what we feel is God’s will without arguing with them. They will continue to point them to the Word of God and bring them around to the truth. We will allow God’s Word to do the work in their life and not allow ourself to get drawn into the flesh, patiently instructing them through scripture.
Romans 15:14 – “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.”
8. The Spiritual Person is Aware of the Gifts of the Spirit
1 Corinthians 12:1 – “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.”
Those who are spiritual are keenly aware of the manifestations of the Spirit. They realize and are open to their use in the church today. We are in need of the supernatural manifestations of the Holy Ghost like at no other time. If God poured out His Spirit at the beginning of the last days, at the birth of the church, how much more do we need them in the end of the last days. Joel 2:28-32 still stands true today. We are in greater need of the operation of the Spirit now than ever. The truly spiritual person is keenly aware of this and does not depend on doing things merely in the flesh.
1 Corinthians 2:15 – “He that is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.”
1 Corinthians 14:29 – “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.”
1 Corinthians 14:37 – “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.”
Though we are aware of the need and function of the gifts of the Spirit in the church today, the spiritual person isn’t gullible and doesn’t accept everything just because someone says it’s of God. There’s a lot of so called spiritual people who are simply dangerous. We must be cautious and use spiritual discernment. We must be able to judge whether manifestations are spiritual and functioning properly. This is as important as being aware of the need of the manifestations. Many who reject the gifts of the Spirit for today do so because of their misuse and because we have not been spiritual enough to judge their use. We must be discerning in the end times like never before.
1 John 4:1-3 – “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”
9. Spiritual People Offer Spiritual Sacrifices and Worship
The truly spiritual person is more consumed with worship, praise and blessing God than the pleasures of the world. Our focus and heart is on the worship of God. God is worthy and deserving of our praise and worship. We must be set on pleasing Him above all else.
Romans 12:1 – “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 reasonable service.”
Ephesians 5:18-20 – “Be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Hebrews 13:15 – “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.”
1 Peter 2:5 and 9 – “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
10. Spiritual People Restore the Fallen
It has often been said that the church is the only army that shoots it’s wounded. The church is to be a spiritual hospital where those who have been beat down and wounded by the enemy and the things of life can find healing, hope and encouragement. All too often, those who are viewed by many as spiritual, are the first ones to cast blame and condemnation on someone who has experienced failure. The Bible says,
1 Samuel 22:2-3 – “And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them.”
Isaiah 16:4 – “Let My outcasts dwell with you… Be a shelter to them from the face of the spoiler.”
Galatians 6:1 – “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”
The truly spiritual person will pick up their fallen brother or sister, encourage them to keep going and not quit or give up. It’s the devil’s job to kick us when we’re down, beat us up, and get us to give up. He’s the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). Far too often, we become his emissaries and the accuser of the brethren along with him.
Romans 8:1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”
Isaiah 54:17 – “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness – vindication is from me, saith the Lord.”
Romans 8:33-34 – “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”
Romans 14:4 – “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.”
In Mark 16:7, after Jesus rose from the dead, Mary was told, “Go, tell His disciples and Peter.” Don’t forget Peter, the Master isn’t finished with him yet. Peter’s denial was worse than any sin of the flesh we could ever commit, yet Jesus continued to use him. In fact, Peter was the one in Acts 2:14 who preached the first sermon on the day of Pentecost, where 3,000 were saved and the other disciples stood with him in full support – just fifty days after Passover.
How wonderful it would be if we could stand with our fallen brethren today like they did. It’s interesting that Peter was not told to sit down for a period of time, but was encouraged to get up and continue working for God. Praise the Lord! God is a merciful, restoring, and gracious God.
Romans 11:29 – “The gifts and the calling of God are without repentance – irrevocable.”
Article by Dr. Gary Linton
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