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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We’re body and spirit, but only one’s alive!

     Paul had a unique definition of “life.” Life, for instance, was not what he was experiencing in his physical body. His body was merely a vessel for his sinful nature, and his sinful nature only “bore fruit for death (Romans 7:5).” To Paul, a body controlled by its sinful nature “is dead because of sin,” Romans 8:10, and talking of his own body he cried out in Romans 7:24, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” In Paul’s experience, there was no life to be found in his body. Instead, it was hell-bent on killing him. 

     “But,” he added in 8:10, “if Christ is in you…your spirit is alive.” The body may be dead but there’s this other part of us called “spirit,” and that’s the bit where life is. We’re body and spirit, but only the spirit part of us is truly alive. And then it’s only alive if Christ is in us.

     For a human being to come to life, therefore, or experience life for the first time, he needs to have Christ living his life in him. “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ (8:9),” and that’s important because “there is no condemnation for those who are in (or belong to) Christ (verse 1),” and that’s important because condemnation means death. But there’s no death if there’s no condemnation, and there’s no condemnation if we belong to Christ and he’s living in us. “Life,” then, to Paul, is the Spirit of Christ bringing the “spirit” part of us to life by living God’s life in us. Life for a human, therefore, is defined as God-life in us, and until we have God-life in us, we’re not alive. 

      Or, put another way in verse 11 – “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” That’s a startling verse because our bodies don’t automatically come with “life” when we’re born. We have to be “given life” at some later date, at whatever time the Spirit lives Christ’s life in us. There is no life in our mortal bodies otherwise.

     And what is the evidence that the Spirit has given us life? It is our desire and ability to obey God and please him, verse 10 – “your spirit is alive because of righteousness.” What righteousness? We want to “put to death the misdeeds of the body (verse 13).” That’s the Spirit at work in us, and that’s our proof we’re truly alive.