Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Is Being Spiritual?

Several years ago, The reality show Survivor set one series in Africa. An African-American contestant spoke of what a spiritual experience it was to be back where her ancestors came from. Several times I have been told what a spiritual and empowering experience it is to go to the Holy land and walk where Jesus walked. Moslems going to Mecca, Mormons visiting the Mormon Temple, Buddhists meeting the Dalai Lama, Catholics visiting some sacred place, and many other groups all have similar experiences. Nearly all of them refer to it as a spiritual experience.

In reality, they are not spiritual in the sense the bible talks about at all. They are purely emotional. Mistaking the emotional for spiritual, many spend their lives seeking the emotional high they once experienced. They become emotional junkies, exhibiting the same need for ever increasing fixes as a drug addict for their drugs. Many cults display this pattern. Eliphaz had a very emotional experience in Job 4:13-16. But it did not make him spiritual, despite his opinion.

Some believe that spirituality is following a certain set of standards. Each group has their own set of standards, often conflicting with one another. Paul states that those conflicts prove a lack of spirituality.

Charles Solomon, author of Hand book To Happiness and The Rejection Syndrome, realizing these things were not spiritual, focused in a different area. Looking at the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23, he concluded that a spiritual person would be emotionally healthy, since the fruit of the spirit was very similar to what was viewed as emotional health. Based on that conclusion, he proceeded to develop a way of identifying spiritual strengths and weaknesses by testing for emotional strengths.

Before we could be approved as missionaries, my wife and I were required to participate in sessions with Dr. Solomon. On the Taylor -Johnson Temperament Analysis he administered, I scored slightly below normal in almost every area, while my wife scored above far above normal in every area, sometimes so much that her scores did not even stay on the chart. We were told that My wife was the most spiritual person he’d ever met. I came away feeling that I must be one of the least spiritual. Any questioning of her decisions thus became a demonstration of my lack of spirituality, even when they were about things the Bible clearly said.

While much that Dr. Solomon said was scripturally accurate, he failed to realize that as John 3:6 tells us, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” They are totally separate things. Galatians 5:17 says “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” Emotional health, at least as defined by the world, is in opposition to true spirituality. The resemblance is superficial. Once I understood this, I realized that neither my wife nor myself were spiritual.

Study revealed that to be spiritual involved allowing the Holy Spirit to control our mind. This totally changes our focus, and our attitude. The change in attitude will affect our actions. Spirituality is not about doing certain things, but having a spiritual attitude. Notice the stress on the mental attitude in the following passages.

“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. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8)

“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. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

“But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (I Corinthians 2:15-16)

“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

Paul will focus on the attitude and the resulting actions throughout the book of I Corinthians. The attitude is spiritual, whether the actions are or not id determined by the whether th Holy Spirit is directing th actions. Focusing on the actions cannot produce spirituality. A carnal attitude will produce carnal works because it is the result of a carnal state. Throughout this study, we must focus on the underlying attitudes, not just the actions.

II Corinthians is focused on bringing others to a spiritual state. Paul repeatedly uses his own life to demonstrate how to lead others to a similar spiritual state. He repeatedly stresses that God uses everything that happens to him for the benefit of others.

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