What does it mean to be spiritual? Most agree that being spiritual is a good characteristic, but the instructions on how to become more spiritual are all over the place. In order to quickly sift through much of the nonsense, we need to recognize something important. God is a spirit (John 4:24). As a spirit, God is the perfect source to give instructions on how to be more spiritual.
Because of the Charismatic Movement that began around the early 1900’s, the idea of being spiritual is tied to the miraculous. A visit to a pentecostal or Holiness church will include people prophesying, interpreting, and making incoherent sounds. It is believed that the manifestation of these “gifts” is proof that one is spiritual.
A quick read through of the book of 1 Corinthians should immediately put this idea to rest. It is clear that this congregation had people who were endowed with miraculous gifts from the Holy Spirit (12-14). But First Corinthians is one of the least “spiritual” books of the Bible. Paul tells them in 3:1, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.” All of those spiritual gifts did not mean that they were spiritual.
Balaam’s donkey is another important story to look at. In Numbers 22 Balaam ’s donkey refuses to take another step forward because the Angel of the Lord is in his path. Balaam hits his donkey three times to try and get it to move. In 22:28 it says, “the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?”. If the miraculous makes something spiritual, then that was one spiritual donkey.
Some people think that being spiritual is tied to the emotional reaction you have to worship. Many churches today plan their worship service as a big emotional rollercoaster. The preacher wants you to laugh, cry, and sit on the edge of your seat in a state of hysteria so you can walk out saying, “that was a very spiritual service”. Emotions will always be a part of worship, but emotional worship is not always spiritual worship.
God is a spirit. That makes His instruction the authority on what makes worship spiritual. What a blessing that we have God who has essentially said, “If you want to be spiritual, take it from me because I am a spirit.”
Jesus said that the Father wants people to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). In order to have a spiritual worship service to God, it needs to involve my sincerest feelings of my spirit but it must be governed by the truth. The truth is the word of God (John 17:17).
We reject the idea that lighting candles is true spiritualism, because God never said anything about lighting candles in His truth. It is the same reason we reject using crystals for a “spiritual” experience. It doesn’t matter how emotional these things make people, you can’t be spiritual if you are not seeking the approval of the Almighty Spirit in Heaven. When we begin to do things in worship because we want to, it immediately becomes carnal.
This principle must be applied consistently. We can all pile on against mystical spiritualism of crystals and candles, but churches are filled with carnality under the banner of being spiritual. The performance based, rock band fueled, instrumental worship service is carnal. It is not spiritual because it is not according to the word of God.
Not wanting to get the cart before the horse, we need to realize that we must become spiritual before we can be more spiritual.
In John 3:6 Jesus tells Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” We are born of flesh and blood. In order to become spiritual, we need to be born again into a new spiritual life. Jesus say’s there are two components to this new birth into a spiritual life. They are water and the Spirit (3:5).
A quick study of the new Testament clarifies exactly what it means to be born of Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 4:15 Paul says, “I have begotten you through the gospel”. In 1 Peter 1:23 it says we are “born again… through the word of God.” Jesus testified that “the words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). To be born of the Spirit is to be taught and come to a point conviction by the gospel (John 16:8).
The water of John 3:5 is obviously in reference to baptism. It can only be viewed as something else by much effort in twisting the scriptures. In Mark 16:15-16 Jesus gives instructions for the salvation on the world. He tells them to preach the gospel and whoever believes (spirit) and is baptized (water) shall be saved (born of the spirit/enter the kingdom). The connection with John 3 is so obvious and simple. To become spiritual, one must participate in the spiritual birth process of obeying the gospel in baptism (Romans 6:4, Col 2:12-13).
No person is born full grown. In the same way, when someone becomes a Christian, they are a “babe”(1 Cor 3:1). A babe in Christ will have some carnal or worldly characteristics. In 1 Peter 2:2 we are told to “long for the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby”. As a child needs food to grow so do we. That food is the word of God. This food will help us to get rid of “all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking”. It will also help us to possess those true spiritual qualities listed in Galatians 5:22-23.
It is impossible to become more spiritual if we don’t make an attempt to remove every bit of worldliness from ourselves and to add the virtues of God (2 Pet 1:3-9). The word of God is the tool to accomplish this transformation (2 Tim 3:16-17).
I hope you see the pattern of being more spiritual. The spiritual person is made spiritual through the new birth according to the word of God. The Spiritual person is someone who has dedicated their life to growing in the application of the word of God in their life. And the spiritual person is one that worships God in the way that He has authorized in his word. To be more spiritual, one must work to align their entire existence with what is revealed in the word of God.