HOW OFTEN do we hear one say, "He is so SPIRITUAL";... or, "Those people are not very spiritual." What is true spirituality — do you know? We need, just now, to be warned against being deceived into a false standard of spirituality. We need to examine the true scriptural standard.
Four Things Usually Accepted As Sure Evidence
There are four things generally regarded as sure evidence of a spiritual mind. 1. Speech, noise, emotion, demonstration. 2. Knowledge of the Scriptures. 3. "Faith." 4. Rigid standard of righteousness. It will prove interesting, and profitable. to take a brief look at each, and measure according to the scriptural standard. 1. The most commonly accepted evidence of spirituality is the way people talk, write, or demonstrate. Some people have deliberately cultivated spiritual-sounding language. Or, perhaps, they have unconsciously acquired the habit of using "spiritual" sounding expressions. People say, "My, isn't Brother so-and-so spiritual?" Many think a church service does not amount to anything unless there is more or less noise, mass enthusiasm, and a great deal of emotion worked up and visibly expressed. They never enjoy a sermon, no matter how edifying, unless the preacher is full of certain emotional enthusiasm, fluent in the accepted spiritual phraseology, and able to generate in his audience the usual emotional re-actions and outbursts expected in this type of meeting. If such things are present, these folk enjoy themselves immensely, whether they learn anything really worth while or not. Usually the advance announcements of such meetings assure the people of the "big time" they are going to have. And they go away talking about the "fine time" they enjoyed.
Getting a Right Balance
This is not to discount or to criticise the natural emotional expression resulting spontaneously from a genuine spiritual experience, or the true spiritual language springing naturally from an honest heart. Far from it. Some people are naturally emotional. Some are not. We shall see from the Scriptures that emotion and spiritual phrases of themselves are not the essence of spirituality. They may be the natural result, the honest and spontaneous expression of it; or, if deliberately generated and "worked up," put on for show and effect, they may be only its counterfeit. And the sad part is that those who deal in counterfeit always insist they have the genuine. "By their fruits," Jesus said, we shall KNOW. It is important that we get a right balance.
Other Snares and Pitfalls
2. The second class is well indoctrinated. Usually these people do not believe in much, if any, noise or any spiritual manifestations. They have a great deal of head knowledge, but most of this class have a great deal of misunderstanding, and often they have queer personal theories and hobbies resulting from misapplied, wrongly divided Scriptures. They love to try to trap and corner others with the Scriptures, and especially do they delight in it if they are able to corner some minister. Arguing Scripture is their one great interest in life. These misguided people believe their arguments, contentions, and beliefs will win their eternal salvation, without real repentance, or living a surrendered, righteous life in Christ Jesus, showing the fruits of the Spirit in their lives.
Saved by Faith Alone
3. And then there is the "faith" group. These say they are saved "by FAITH, and faith ALONE." They are not so much concerned about the Holy Spirit, and seldom mention such things as repentance, utter surrender, or any need of submission and obedience to God's will and Law. Their religion never works any miracle-changes in their lives. Since "Jesus died for our sins," we do not have to obey. "Just BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," is their sole condition to salvation. The invitation of the ministers of this group is "Give the preacher your hand, and the Lord your heart." And when, later, you ask such "converts" what they did — what really happened — when they "gave the Lord their heart," they usually just look blank. They do not know. It really did not MEAN anything. It was merely a FORM. The churches of this class should be called social clubs — they are not soul-saving institutions.
The Self-Righteous Christian
4. Finally, there are those whose spirituality consists of a rigid standard of righteousness. In fact they usually are so strict about following God's commandments that they fall into the error of keeping the strict LETTER of the law in their own strength. They are scrupulously honest, severely punctual, critically exact. But, as Paul said of the strictest sect of his day, they are "going about to establish their OWN righteousness," and have not "submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:3). And they are usually harsh, stern, critical, intolerant of those who do not live up to their particular ideas of the standard of righteousness.
The True Scriptural Standard of Real Spirituality
Now, let us turn to God's Word, and humbly seek to learn what is GOD'S standard of spirituality. Of the true spiritual mind, God says to us, through Paul, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil 2:5). But HOW can you have the mind that was in Christ Jesus in you? Jesus says: "Behold, I stand at the door (of your heart) and knock: if any man hear my voice, and OPEN the door, I will come in to him" (Rev. 3:20). And Jesus meant exactly what He said! He will come in, through His Spirit, and literally LIVE His life of true righteousness in you, if only you will surrender all of SELF and let the blessed Saviour IN. "For 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." Unless His Spirit abides within you, living His life of true righteousness in you, you are not a real Christian! "And if Christ be IN you, the body is dead because of sin: but the Spirit is life because of righteousness" (Rom. 8:9-10). When God first begets us as His children, he takes us who have been proud, worldly, sensual, disobedient. His ultimate aim is to make us like unto Himself. This transformation (not reformation) is a tremendous undertaking. It requires a miracle. God stands pledged, upon real thorough repentance, and faith in Christ (Acts 2:38) to start the performance of this tremendous miracle by putting His Holy Spirit literally WITHIN you! But God will work the complete change in your life ONLY if you are willing to SUBMIT to the process! The FIRST condition is real, deep, thorough repentance. You will have to be willing to accept correction and repeated chastisements at His loving hands, for "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth" (Heb. 12:6). The Spiritual mind is the surrendered, yielded mind. It is the mind that has given up all wanting its own way. It is the mind that has been thoroughly CONQUERED in its rebellion against God. It is the mind that, henceforth, is willing to obey God, no matter what the cost, and which continually studies God's Word, not to argue and strive and corner others, but to learn more of God's will, and to WALK in it! It is a mind FILLED to overflowing with real LOVE for God and all fellow men — even one's enemies — and which has sympathy, patience, and kindness for others in their ideas and beliefs, their faults and mistakes, which speaks softly, gently, kindly; which seeks only to help and to serve. It is the mind that has DIED to SELF.
The real spiritual mind can say with the Apostle Paul: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but CHRIST LIVETH IN ME (Gal. 2:20). When you can say that, then you have the mind that was in Christ Jesus. The real spiritual mind is a SOUND mind! "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a SOUND MIND" (II Tim. 1:7). To those being carried away with a false and pseudo-spirituality, where real manifestations of the Spirit were being counterfeited by DEMONSTRATIONS of SELF in a fanatical emotionalism, Paul, correcting them, said: "Brethren, be not CHILDREN in understanding" (I Cor. 14:20). True, Paul said to these same Corinthians, "I would that ye all spake with tongues, BUT, he added, "rather that ye prophesied (preached): for greater is he that prophesieth (preaches) than he that speaketh with tongues" (I Cor. 14:5). True, Paul said to those overly-emotional Corinthians, "I speak with tongues more than you all, YET," he continued, "in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others, also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue" (verses 18-19). And also he said, "God is not the author of confusion," and "Let all things be done decently and in order" (verses 33, 40). Let us get a proper balance. Let us get things in the position of their relative scriptural importance. "By their FRUITS," not by their tongues, their language, their emotion, their ability to argue, their empty profession of faith, their self-righteousness, said Jesus, shall we KNOW their true spirituality. And the true FRUIT of God's Spirit is "Love" first of all, then "joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. These things, expressed in living character, determine true spirituality. These things are the expression of "the LOVE of God, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 5:5), — and thus the Holy Spirit in us is simply GOD'S LAW in action, in our lives; for LOVE is the fulfilling of the law. And that, and that alone, is true Christian spirituality.
The Four Substitutes
REAL Spiritual-mindedness is the mind of LOVE, for God is LOVE. So let us review our four SUBSTITUTES for spirituality in the light of God's Word. 1. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not LOVE, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal" (I Cor. 13:1). Did you ever hear one speak with the tongues of ANGELS? Spiritual TALK, "tongues," or "manifestations," are only a lot of wind, or a noise like beating old tin pans, if you have not LOVE. 2. "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and ALL KNOWLEDGE:" and, 3. "Though I have ALL FAITH so that I could remove mountains, and have not LOVE, I am NOTHING" (v.2). 4. "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not LOVE, it profiteth me NOTHING" (v.3). What is it to have LOVE? The next four verses tell. Here is TRUE spiritual-mindedness: "LOVE is very patient, very kind." Are YOU? "LOVE knows no jealousy; love makes no parade, gives itself no airs, is never rude, never selfish, never irritated, never resentful; love is never gladdened when others go wrong; love is gladdened by goodness, always slow to expose, always eager to believe the best, always hopeful, always patient (I Cor. 13:4-7; Moffat's translation). Read those three verses again, substituting your own name wherever "LOVE" appears. Try it as a test on yourself. It will tell you how truly SPIRITUAL you are. Let us seek more real, genuine SPIRITUAL-MINDEDNESS!