Becoming God's Spiritual Person

Chapter One

A Focus


What is a spiritual person?  In this presentation, the author is talking about more than a religious person.  Anyone likely could conduct a “person on the street” interview, ask a single question, and likely receive much more than a 50% affirmative response.  The question: “Do you consider yourself to be a spiritual person?”  Most (not everyone) likely would answer that question with a “Yes.”  (There are few people that do not consider themselves to be spiritual, and have no desire for a “spiritual” designation.  To such people, a designation of being a “spiritual” person is not considered a compliment.) 

Please take note of what the question does not ask.  It does not ask: 

Do you believe in God (the God in the Bible)?

Which god do you believe in?

Do you believe in more than one god?

Do you regard yourself spiritual but do not accept the existence of any god?

Do you worship?

How often do you worship?

What is your basic concept of worship?

Are you a part of any organized religion?

How often do you attend?

Did you personally commit to this group?

Why are you a member of the group?

Do you pray?

How often do you pray?

What is your basic concept of prayer?

What is your understanding of the purpose of prayer?

What is the relationship between information and spirituality?

Can a person be spiritual and know little or nothing about his/her commitment?

Can a person be spiritual and be unable to explain his/her beliefs?

Is being spiritual basically a feeling, an understanding, or a set of understandings?

Is being spiritual internal or external?

Hopefully, through these unasked questions, you will understand that for many people being spiritual has nothing to do with being Christian. When I was a pre-teen and teen, the common understanding was this: if a person is spiritual, that person is Christian.  (In the context of my youth, there was no other religious expression that was regarded to be religious.  Even if my classmates’ parents “went to church” nowhere, those parents expected their children to live by and honor basic Christian values.  If their children did not, the children were in trouble with their own “non-church committed” parents!)

However, that is no longer the situation!  In my present community, there are Christians, Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, lovers of nature, etc.  In our present society, there are numerous ways of being quite religious that have nothing or little to do with faith in Jesus Christ.  It has been and is said that the twenty-first century in America may be the most spiritual century in this nation’s history, and at the same time be the least Christian age this nation has experienced.  Gone are the times in America when spirituality is assumed to be connected in some way with faith in Jesus Christ. 

There was a time when to be spiritual basically meant the person had confidence there were two realities: the reality of the physical and the reality of the spirit.  The spiritual person was the person who (a) figured out or accepted how those two realities interacted, and (b) behaved in keeping with his (her) acceptance/understanding of that interaction.  The rituals the person performed and the values on which his (her) behaviors were based were determined by his (her) acceptance of the “appropriate” interaction of the physical and the spirit.  It was as important if not more important to recognize the reality of the spirit in this life as it was to recognize the roles of the physical.  Often the spirit was attached to what occurred to the person after death.

There have been at least two fundamental changes in the above concept of spirituality.  First, (in the American society) the concept of “the reality of the spirit” is extremely broad.  Whereas in the past, the “reality of the spirit” was commonly associated with the Christian concept of the spirit, such today should not be assumed.  The “spirit” concept of the Christian and the “spirit” concept of a person who is not Christian often are different concepts.  Second, the person who is not a Christian may not attach the “reality of the spirit” to any concept of an after-death experience.  In such situations, the “spiritual person” may be devoutly dedicated to the interaction of the spirit and the physical.  His (her) dedication transforms the person’s behavior, but the person maintains a conviction that the interaction of the physical and the spirit impact this existence only.

The acceptance of being “spiritual” is an involved and complex discussion.  May I make this affirmation about this writing:

The objective of the author is NOT to provide a defense of Christianity, but to provide an encouragement to Christians.

Only one request is made: Do not fault me for not doing what I never intended to do.

The Challenge

There has been an increasing tendency among Christians to regard Christianity as a “do it yourself” religion.  What is meant by a “do it yourself” religion?  Many who have presented Christianity to congregations have created the impressions that (a) God was much involved in sending and resurrecting Jesus, (b) He is much involved in saving through Jesus Christ, and that (c) He has made some specific promises to the believing, repenting person who is baptized into Christ.  (d) However, once the believing, repenting person is baptized into Jesus Christ, the person is on his (her) own. 

Thus, God made an enormous investment when He sent Jesus to be our Savior.   God made an enormous investment in making Jesus the Christ (Messiah) through death and resurrection.   God capitalizes on that investment when a believing, repenting person is baptized.  However, once a person becomes a Christian, God does next to nothing for the person—he (she) is on his (her) own.  Thus, a caring God commits a person to a difficult life and disappears.  That person will be judged after death on how he (she) used life as a Christian, but the person will receive minimal help from God as a Christian.

Why was (is) that done?  Good question!  (a) Perhaps it was or is a dedication to behavior control.  One device used for controlling a person’s behavior is to play upon that person’s fears.  If one is spiritual (in a Christian definition), the person does not (at any cost) wish to jeopardize eternal salvation.  Thus, if an acknowledged authority declares and “proves” the person’s salvation is at risk because of a specific behavior, the behavior likely will be eliminated.  The idea: make the Christian too afraid to act in the undesired way. 

That in no way is meant to declare there are no ungodly behaviors.  However, there is a radical difference in scripture declaring a behavior ungodly and a human opinion declaring a behavior ungodly.  Because a behavior does not meet the personal preferences of a staunch member or a leader within a congregation does not mean the behavior is ungodly.  We all are entitled to our preferences, but no one is entitled to make personal preferences a divine value or a divine law.

(b) Perhaps it was or is a desire to avoid “excessive emotionalism.”  What is “excessive” commonly is a matter of opinion.  There is a perceivable distinction between an artificial feeling manufactured mechanically and a heartfelt expression of gratitude.  The healed lame man in Acts 3:2-10 had never walked in his life.  He expressed his joy at being able to walk for the first time in over forty years (Acts 4:22) by walking, leaping, and praising God in the temple area.  Read Acts 4:23-31.  See if you conclude that the apostles reacted to their release with monotone speech and deadpan expressions.  What does rejoicing in the Lord greatly for receiving needed help sound like (Philippians 4:10)?  How do you rejoice always, being careful not to quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:16, 19)?  What is the sound of praise?  One does not get the impression that God honoring His centuries- old promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:3), providing salvation, or working in the lives of the saved in the first century was met with mundane faces, dour expressions, or monotone declarations. What is an inappropriate expression of spiritual emotion?  It was NOT and is NOT a relationship with God devoid of emotion. 

(c) Perhaps it was or is a desire to impose on Christians the American concept of manliness.  Those of you who are older should know the concept well.  Everything is a matter of calculated logic void of emotion.  God is obeyed “with the head not with the heart.”  If a man hurts, he does not cry.  If a man is happy, he “keeps his composure.”  Men never show how they feel—if a man shows feelings, he is weak.  Strength is expressed by never showing emotions.

Unless . . .  unless what?  It is okay to cry if your team loses an important sporting contest—just do not cry in a church gathering regarding spiritual realties. It is okay to express uncontrollable joy if you get that enormous buck or that outlandishly large fish—just do not express joy in a church gathering in regard to spiritual matters.  Love God with all your heart—just do not show your heart at a church gathering in regard to God matters.  You can lose your composure when “we” win a world championship—just do not lose your composure in a church gathering.  There are times when it is manly to hug, to shout, to cry, to go “crazy,” or to wear your joy on your sleeve, but there are rarely such times in a Christian gatherings.  The only emotion that is appropriate for church gatherings is anger, but only when anger can be used to intimidate or express outrage.

My wife had an uncle who returned from WWII.  Communication was hard then, and his family did not know if he was alive or dead.  When the war ended and he suddenly, unexpectedly appeared at home, his father welcomed him with a handshake as if he had never left home.  In fifty years of preaching, I have encountered several such men several times.

And we wonder why people lose interest in congregations that reflect the appearance of cold indifference.  In an age that increasingly sees the strength and value of relationship, indifference toward each other or the praise of God will not touch hearts.  Loving God “with all the heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37) and therefore loving God’s people (consider Matthew 5:43-48; 1 John 1:5-7 and 4:7-11) requires expressing joy in manners that are legitimately joyful.


More Specifics About the Spiritual Person 

For the Christian, the God of the Bible is the God who exists and directs his (her) life.  This living God demonstrated (demonstrates) His love for people in (a) addressing the impossible problem humanity produced, (b) patiently providing a basis for solving the problem, (c) sending people a Savior in Jesus Christ, (d) teaching people [who may be quite different culturally or socially] how to live in relationship, and (e) providing a peace based on His continuing forgiveness, mercy, and grace expressed in Jesus Christ.

The impossible problem is the problem of rebelling against God and His values.  Instead of destroying all people, God persevered with humanity even though human rebellion perverted His creation and His intents.  Instead of destroying humanity, He provided humanity a Savior who did for humanity what humanity could not do for itself.  The resurrected Jesus now exists to save, not to punish.  God through Jesus Christ made it possible for people to reestablish an enduring relationship with Him.  In that relationship there is forgiveness, mercy, and grace that make peace with God possible.  In that peace, there is safety instead of alienation.

The spiritual person in Christianity is the person who correctly integrates the physical with the spirit by understanding and applying God’s enduring values.  This is not a simple task that is easily achieved, but a continuing task as the physical and the spirit wage a constant war on each other (Galatians  5:16, 17).  It is not as simple as discovering a correct institution and placing your faith in the institution, or discovering a “correct system” and placing your faith in that system. It is finding a Savior (1 Timothy 1:16, 17), entering that Savior (Galatians 3:26-29), allowing that Savior to lead you to God (John 14:6), and allowing God to teach you His values.  The result: (a) your behavior changes and (b) your relationship with God endures (Romans 12:1, 2) as evil attacks and harasses.

The spiritual person exists in this physical realm to champion God’s values and purposes.  He (she) exhibits God’s values even when people who do not believe in God’s existence regard any physical investment in the spirit to be a foolish waste of effort, life, and sacrifice.  The spiritual person sees life as a stepping stone to a destination, not the destination itself.

The spiritual person and the physical person are in basic contrast.  The spiritual person defines success differently than does the person who only acknowledges the physical.  The spiritual person sees life and existence differently than does the person who sees only the physical.  The spiritual person and the physical person typically have little in common.  The spiritual person and the physical person each mourn as they witness what is regarded to be the other person’s wastefulness in the use and focus of life.

As we continue to think together, we will seek to do two things: (a) explore some of the dimensions of being a spiritual person, and (b) affirm that without God’s activity in our lives, no one can make himself (herself) spiritual.  Spirituality has a divine component that requires Christians’ cooperation, but Christians cooperate with God to produce spirituality.  Spirituality is not merely created by and sustained through the person’s efforts alone.