Aren’t we all very “spiritual,” really?

A lot of people nowadays consider themselves to be very spiritual. I wonder what they use as a definition of “spiritual,” though. Is it the deep emotions one feels while seeing or hearing something inspiring, or “out-of-body” sensations one experiences from deep meditation, or visions one receives when being intensely religious, or hearing voices in one’s head from some outside force – or what? People come up with all kinds of reasons for thinking they’re experiencing something spiritual, but how do they know it’s spiritual? Do they even know what “spiritual” is? And by what authority do they go by to prove what they’re experiencing is spiritual?

The Bible, meanwhile, describes exactly what makes somebody spiritual. A spiritual person is one who “lives according to the Spirit,” Romans 8:4, or has the Spirit living in him (verses 9 and 11). And what is this Spirit? It’s the “Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead (verse 11).” And what is the evidence that someone has this Spirit living in him? “Those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires (verse 5).” So, what does the Spirit desire? To “please God (verse 8).”

There is, therefore, a very clear definition in Romans 8 as to which people are spiritual, why they are spiritual, and what the evidence of them being spiritual is. People who are spiritual have the Spirit of God (or Christ) living in them (verse 9), the clear evidence of which is “life and peace (verse 6),” which Paul defines as submitting to God’s law (verse 7), being able to fully meet the righteous requirements of the law (verse 4) and putting to death the misdeeds of the body (verse 13). The desire to please God by submitting to his will and not to one’s own will is a clear indication of God’s Spirit living in a person, and of a person living according to the Spirit. Paul summarizes it simply as, “if Christ is in you…your spirit is alive because of righteousness (verse 10).”

But doesn’t verse 10 also mention “your spirit,” meaning WE have a spiritual side to us too? Yes, and scripture supports it. All humans are born with both body and spirit, but the spirit part in us only comes alive “because of righteousness.” What gives the spark of life to our spiritual side is righteousness, or the desire and ability to please and obey God. And what produces that desire and ability in us in the first place? The Spirit. We are, therefore, only truly spiritual if we have the Spirit, and there is no spirituality in us otherwise.

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Not “how” did our universe begin, but “why”

Isn’t science grand? It knows when our universe began, it confidently states how it began, and now it talks of our universe expanding so fast it will exceed the speed of light and the stars will disappear from our sight. They’ll be moving away faster than the light travelling back from them, so to our eyes the night sky will turn black one day, as if no stars existed at all.

But we’re still in that wonderful period of time when the universe can be seen and studied. We have lots of time still to peer at its marvels. It’s amazing how we can do that from where we sit, on this tiny speck of a planet circling a smallish star on the outskirts of just one of billions of galaxies, but we’ve discovered it’s within our power to know how it all began.

Amazing. But now we’ve done that, what next? Oh, I imagine the universe has lots of surprises yet to keep scientists intrigued and busy for a long time to come, but isn’t enough known about our universe already that we can move from “How did it all begin?” to “Why?” and ask ourselves WHY our universe began in the first place?

And what’s wrong with asking “Why?” Even if the universe “just happened” for no reason and it really is a complete fluke, it did itself a horrible disservice by creating humans who want to know why it happened! We’re always asking why; we never stop asking why. But why should we stop when we find ourselves in a universe so intricate, so exquisite and so staggering to our senses that we’d burst if we couldn’t ask how and why such an amazing piece of work exists. Even if scientists could prove that something can come from nothing, why did the Big Bang create something so beautiful? Why didn’t it create blobs of lifeless nothing all the same size instead?

But who dares to answer the “why” questions? Scientists don’t; they’re only interested in how things happened. Evolutionists don’t; they’re only interested in proving evolution. Atheists don’t; they only live for the moment. No imagination in the lot of them. They’ve lost that lovely mind they had as children that responds to this amazing creation and never stops asking “Why?” It’s in us to ask why from the time we could turn over rocks to see what’s under them, so why stop asking why now? Don’t stop with “HOW the universe happened.” We’ve got that figured out. Can we now please move on to “WHY it happened?”

The greatest train journey ever

I was on my first train at 5 years and I’ve loved trains ever since – waiting at the station as the train draws in, jumping on board, pulling out of the station, picking up speed, watching the landscape flash by. It’s wonderful. All is under control, the destination is fixed, no worries, just sit back and enjoy the journey.

I was intrigued, therefore, years later, when I heard about “The greatest train journey ever.” It was a train of remarkable proportions, racing through history for hundreds of years, stopping in every century to pick up passengers. From what I read in the brochure it had all the promise of the train journeys I’d loved as a youngster, so when it drew into the station to pick up passengers in my century, I eagerly jumped on board.

I found myself in a compartment with several passengers already in serious conversation together. Noticing me, they immediately beckoned me over. “Do you know what this journey is all about, young man?” one of them asked me rather sternly. I admitted that I didn’t. “Well, you should,” he replied, “because if you want to stay on this train you have to know the rules and regulations.”

So they took me through the list of rules and regulations. “Do all those,” the person said, handing me the list, “and that’s your ticket to the end of the line. If you don’t follow them exactly, the Inspectors take away your ticket and out the door you go at the next station.”

This didn’t sound like the train journeys I’d come to love at all, I thought. On those journeys I simply went for the ride and the train got me to where I was going. Trusting the engine driver was ticket enough to get me there safe and sound. So I had to say something in reply: “But it says here in The Greatest Train Journey Ever brochure that ‘the one who calls you is faithful and he will do it‘, not me and keeping all these rules and regulations.”

“Where’s it say that?” one man asked briskly. ”

1 Thessalonians 5:24 it says in the brochure,” I replied.

“Does it now?” he said. He took out his glasses and peered at the brochure. He read it out loud, along with 1 Corinthians 1:8 and 1 Thessalonians 3:13. He looked up and said, “You know, I never realized that’s what the Bible said, so from now on I’m going to sit back and enjoy the journey.”

“Interesting you should say that,” another man replied, “because it says in the brochure here – in 1 Peter 1:8 – that enjoying the journey is what it’s for.”

Where does luck come in?

Does God have everything figured out, or does luck come into the picture, too? When I hesitated for a second before crossing the road and that little pause meant the difference between crossing safely and being hit by a passing motorbike, was that luck or God?

It can only be one or the other, right? If God wasn’t involved, then it was luck that saved me. But if life is “as luck would have it,” then it’s horribly unfair because “some people get all the luck” while others “luck out.” If, however, as some believe, our universe happened as a freak of circumstance and life just evolved haphazardly from that point on, then that’s the life we’re stuck with. We’re ruled by Lady Luck, and you’re either in luck or out of it. You’re in luck, for instance, if you’re born to a good family and you have good health, a good job, good marriage and good kids. Most people on this planet, however, aren’t so lucky. They suffer horribly. “Luck isn’t on their side,” but too bad, old chap, too bad.

And that’s the world of evolutionists and atheists – a purposeless existence ruled by accident and chance. They highly disapprove, however, of life being ruled by supernatural forces instead. Bring God into the picture and now we’re ruled by fate, they say, meaning our lives are predetermined, measured and judged, and any straying from a strict code of behaviour results in punishment and eternal damnation. And for atheists that’s a far worse picture than life ruled by luck. I heartily agree. Life ruled by false religion is a fear-driven tragedy. But luck isn’t exactly appealing either – especially for the unlucky. So, fate or luck, it’s hardly a pretty picture, but are they the only two alternatives?

No. Neither fate nor luck rules us. Our lives aren’t predetermined, but nor are they accidental. There’s purpose to human life, that God created us to revel in, but he doesn’t force anyone to comply with it. He enables our participation, but doesn’t threaten us into participating. I can exploit to the full what God has provided, or totally ignore it. God never removes freedom of choice. He lets us be ruled by Lady Luck, if we so wish.

But for those who seek greater meaning in life than just circumstance ruling them, there’s John 3:35: everything has been placed in the hands of Jesus Christ, who lives to enable us to experience what he’s experiencing.

So where does luck come in? We’ve already got all the luck we could wish for – in a God who wants to share all that he is and has with us.

“You see me you see the Father”

Jesus came to reveal God to us. It was “job done” for him, then, when he could report in, “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me,” John 17:6. He also said, “I have made you known to them and will CONTINUE to make you known,” verse 26, so Jesus is still on the job revealing God to us.

But why reveal God to us? “IN ORDER THAT the love you have for me may be in them (same verse).” It was God’s LOVE FOR HIM that was so important for us to know. And why is that important? Because the love God has for Jesus can be in us, as well. That’s what Jesus was praying for here, that we could know God’s love like he knew God’s love, so we can have the same loving relationship with God that he has. That’s why he also asks “that I myself may be in them,” so Jesus can actually LIVE that relationship he has with the Father in us.

So when Philip said to Jesus, “Show us the Father” and Jesus replied, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,” John 14:8-9, Jesus meant the relationship he and the Father had. To see him (Jesus) was to see the Father as well. They came as a relationship. Which is exactly what the disciples saw in Jesus. Everything Jesus said and did was either from the Father or for him. Jesus’ entire life and work was directed toward the Father, and clearly the Father’s life and work were being done through Jesus. They were working completely as one. Jesus also talked openly of the love his Father had for him, which the disciples saw proof of in how the Father answered Jesus’ prayers with amazing miracles. Well, seeing what kind of relationship with God a human like Jesus could have, the disciples wanted it too, so they asked Jesus to teach them to pray so they too could experience that same amazingly intimate and instant communication with the Father that Jesus had.

It was all very new to them, because they had no clue until Jesus turned up that God was their Father and they could approach him as God’s hugely loved children. But this is what God sent Jesus to us for, to reveal that we humans really can have this kind of relationship with God, and it was Jesus’ job to demonstrate it in all its beauty. We humans can actually be one as the Father and Jesus are one, verse 22. It was there to be seen in Jesus.