What does it mean to be a spiritual person? Many can miss out on the blessings in Christ, even though they hold all the right Christian beliefs and values.
Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). Why is it that so many Christians complain of thirst and emptiness when it comes to the Lord? Jesus spoke this about the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit had not yet been given. But now that Jesus has been glorified, and the Spirit was given at Pentecost, there shouldn’t be any excuse for being empty or powerless.
In fact, Peter spoke this way, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19; NKJV). There are times of refreshing, and if the Lord is present in your life, you too can be refreshed. There is no problem you are going through, no pain, no hell at home, that the Lord can’t be your refresher.
“But you don’t know my problem!” I worked with a pastor in China who was tortured in prison. While they were beating him up and kicking him he just began to laugh in the Spirit. It doesn’t matter how big your problem is, I’m sure God is not stumped. I’m sure God is able to meet you in it and He is more than adequate to be your source of joy and strength. I’m not minimizing your very real problem. But I am saying that God is bigger.
If you’re not being refreshed, you need to get back into the presence of the Lord. When Peter said, “be converted,” the Greek actually meant, “turn again.” It takes a conscious turning to God, and in our culture of unbelief, it takes some pressing in. Paul said, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14; ESV). Pressing implies a pursuit. Many Christians want God to fix all their problems, without ever really pursuing Him as their main desire.
We often traveled to remote places in China, and were dazzled by the beauty of the mountains and countryside. Once we were driving through a rainforest type of area, and we came to a beautiful spot with water streaming over giant rocks. Before passing the spot, someone in the car shouted, “Stop!” We parked the car and got out to take in the scenery. Then the same person said, “Follow me.” We began to hike a way into the lush surroundings. It had been slightly muggy, but we kept going.
Then we entered into a place that couldn’t be seen from the road. There was a huge waterfall! The sound of its rushing currents and the cool mists in the air were exhilarating. It was worth the hike. We felt refreshed and renewed! I wondered how many people just drove by that spot without knowing what was up a ways along that trail. I was thankful that we didn’t miss it.
Many Christians enjoy a good relationship with the Lord but it’s just the beautiful scenery along the roadside. They don’t enter into that place of God’s presence where they find the refreshment and renewal they need to overcome. God wants to shower His people with a great waterfall of blessings and victory, but it requires some intent to press toward the goal. This is what it means to be spiritual- your whole life is directed toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
It is a tragedy when preachers try to talk you out of victory in Jesus. There are some who are bent on telling you that problems are meant for you and you can’t always expect great things from God (as if sometimes God is great and sometimes He’s not). I was recently told of a sermon that was preached on, “The Loneliness in the Dark Scriptures.” The preacher said that not every Psalm ends with a Hallelujah, and that you can’t always expect a breakthrough.
This is what I call embracing a theology of failure. Rather than motivate and equip you to press into the place of your waterfall, you are instead taught just to tough it out in the desert. This snuffs out any hope for victory and can leave you wallowing in the pit of the dark night of the soul!
We Can Do Better
Yes, it’s true that some Psalms don’t end very well, but they are the exceptions. The Old Testament saints also didn’t know as much as we do now, and they were under a different and inferior covenant. When we read the Old Testament, we have to understand that some things do not apply to us as New Testament saints. We have to understand that Jesus bore the wrath on our behalf, so God is not punishing us anymore. And because Jesus was glorified, the Holy Spirit has been given to the church.
Therefore, if we are spiritual, not just focusing on circumstances, we can rise above the darkness of our present situation and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2). We need not thirst.
Some people are insistent on failure, but we believe for bigger and better things from God. God does not want His people wallowing in despair. He is called the God of hope: Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost (Rom. 15:13). That sounds like we can indeed expect a breakthrough. Never let go of your rope of hope!
There is joy and peace, it says, not just in pleasant circumstances. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, joy and peace can come by believing. Peter said it this way: though now ye see not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory (1Peter 1:8). The context of this verse is talking about rejoicing in the midst of a trial. As New Covenant believers, we have nothing to do with “Loneliness in the Dark Scriptures.”
Why, then, do we sometimes experience a lack of joy and peace? Because we are not believing. We say we believe, and we can believe all the right things. In fact it is important to believe what is correct. But that’s not enough.
The Apostles’ Creed is full of orthodoxy and right statements, and it is spoken in many churches every Sunday. I have no problem with the creed, but there is nothing spiritual about reciting it. The devil himself could stand beside you in church and recite the Apostles’ Creed. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe- and tremble (James 2:19; NKJV).
Many folks declare each week that they believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and then live life as if there were no Father, Son, or Holy Spirit. They declare that they believe in the resurrection of the dead each week, and yet go through their days without any anticipation of that great and wonderful event. If we really believed everything in the creed, we would never be down.
Reciting good doctrine is not a spiritual act, but living according to the doctrine is. “Well what’s wrong with affirming what we believe?” Nothing at all, but here is the Bible way to affirm it: Whoever keeps his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him (1John 2:5). It is in keeping God’s word and reflecting His love. The devil can’t do that.
Being spiritual means living according to the spirit of the Word. If we believe the Father loves us, then we live accordingly, as loved by the Father! It’s not just a doctrine. Here comes the joy and peace, because I know that I am loved.
Being spiritual means living for God. It does not mean having a “Christian worldview.” That is important, but that does not bring joy and peace. It does not mean having the right values, or agreeing that sin is bad. That, too, is important, but you don’t have to be spiritual for that. Being spiritual means being mindful of your position in Christ, and allowing His Word to direct you.
In China, I was always mindful of the fact that I was different. I wanted the Chinese to know that I was a Christian, but what they really noticed first was that I was an American. I knew that whatever I did would have an effect on their image of Americans. The mindset of a spiritual person is that they always understand that they are representing the kingdom of God. They seek to be a living representative of Jesus Himself.
I’m not talking about a legalistic or religious attempt to look good for Christ. I am talking about simply adopting the mindset that you belong to One greater than yourself, and it is your desire to show Him off to the world. It’s all about holding Him dear in your heart.
What Are You After?
There is a battle for our affections. The world wants us to forget about holding Him dear in the heart. In our day I see three things striving for mastery over our hearts: entertainment, entertainment, and entertainment! Music, film, video games, sports, Internet, on and on it goes. No harm in a little entertainment, but that is the problem. Our culture seems to be addicted to it.
This is easy to understand why. It provides an escape from the cares of the day. It is a source of pleasure in a stressful world. But the spiritual person can find more pleasure in the Spirit. It is greater, and it’s more satisfying, but it takes a little more concentration to get it.
It’s not wrong to enjoy entertainment, and it can be a healthy diversion. What’s important is to keep it in a lower place in the heart. Every once in a while some worldly people will give some credence to spiritual things. They may have a kind thought about God, or look to Him when there is some trouble. They may go to church at Christmas or Easter. They may even get involved with some good works to appease their conscience. But they ultimately live for other things. Jesus does not have the highest place in their hearts.
Contrariwise, the spiritual person is all about Jesus. When attention is given to entertainment or other secular things, it’s just a nod and not the norm. They are ultimately living for God. This does not mean that they have nothing to do with the world. You can’t be spiritual without having love (see 1Corinthians 13). The more spiritually in tune one is with God (who is Love), the more love will pour forth towards others.
“Sounds good to me,” you say, “I love the Lord, but to be honest, I don’t always feel that kind of zeal!”
Ask the young man or woman who is in love if they can take their mind off of their sweetheart. Yet that excitement eventually changes and turns into a deeper commitment. Nonetheless, in a true love relationship, the fires can always be rekindled. And with the Lord, there is so much to discover, and to get excited about.
If this is not exactly how you feel, remember who you are. If you have repented from sin and given your life to Jesus, you are a spiritual person. God sees you as a perfectly spiritual person through the blood of Christ, in spite of your shortcomings.
Rejoice in the good news that He is able to meet your needs even in the most trying of circumstances. He is not the God of Tough it Out, He is the God of Hope!
If your zeal is lacking, you need refreshment. There is a waterfall available to you, but you may need to get out of the car and press into the rainforest. Your rainforest is the Scriptures. Spend some time and get still before the Lord. Search out the passages that can encourage you and bring life. Then apply them to yourself and believe them, not as doctrine, but as good news. Jesus said, “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).
I’m not going to say, “Well, it’s rough, just hang in there.” I’m telling you that there’s a waterfall over there- get out of the car, go in, search it out, and find refreshment in the presence of the Lord! Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost (Rom. 15:13).