A Biblical spirituality is basically a seeking to be holy as God the Father is holy in an intimate communion or relationship with Him through union with Christ by His Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14; John 14:21, 23; 1 Pet. 1:16-17). True Biblical spirituality is knowing that God in Christ has made His “home” with and in His people by His Spirit, and seeking to live out a life that reveals and demonstrates this amazing truth and wonderful grace. As our Lord says beautifully:
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).
A Biblical spirituality is a desire to know, love, obey, and experience God as Father from the heart while fearing and reverencing Him as Supreme God and Lord (John 17:3; John 15:9-11; Rom. 6:4-6, 11-17; Eph. 3:14-21). Spirituality is taking Jesus as Savior and Lord, and living a life of seeking communion with Him through the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). Biblical spirituality expresses itself in the words of our forefather John Calvin: “I offer Thee my heart, O LORD, promptly and sincerely.”
Biblical Spirituality. A Biblical spiritual is just that, it is Biblical. It is not first and foremost an emotional experience; it is not always necessarily an emotional experience (although there is nothing wrong with praying for this). But true Biblical spirituality is a seeking to know, love, obey, and experience God as He is revealed in Holy Scripture, and especially as He has revealed Himself in Christ, and seeking to understand, as well as be transformed by this truth (Rom. 12:2).
All of our experiences should be rooted in the Bible. When we seek Biblical spirituality through Scripture, it must be what God commands and gives His people grace to do. Yet in knowing and understanding all Biblical truth, we should expect an experience of that truth (think of all the Psalms that teach us to rejoice and be joyful in God our Savior!). If we believe something truly, we will act on it, and we should expect to feel it to some degree. If we truly know and believe something in our heads, it should influence our hearts, affections, our wills. Biblical spirituality is the interface between what we believe about the triune God, and how we live. Biblical spirituality is about both our faith in God, and our works that should accompany and follow true saving faith (Rom. 4:18-21; James 2:17-20).
But there have been many errors and excesses in Christian history with even good believers untethering themselves from Holy Scripture, or being imbalanced in their approach to spirituality. For instance, just to name a few examples, there have been those who desired a life of self-denial in humility, but unintentionally placed too much focus on self apart from Christ. There have been those who have had a misunderstanding of salvation being received by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. Those who have been guilty of seeking mere emotional experiences (read: “ecstasies”) apart from the Word of God. Those who have not made a proper distinction between the Creator and the creature, and use language of being “swallowed up” into the deity. Those who have been guilty of making lists that sometimes can (and often do!) take the place of Scripture, and set up legalistic tendencies that are not robustly focused on the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. Those with an unhealthy withdrawal from the world that requires a monastic lifestyle functionally in order to live according to the teachings (or “rules” of the monastery).
As we understand a Biblical spirituality, it is important to be Biblical. We are called to evaluate ourselves, but always with our eyes on Christ as Savior. We are to understand that salvation is by grace alone apart from our works, through faith, because of Christ alone, and any relationship, any true and saving knowledge of God, any good works that we do that are pleasing to God, all are because of the grace and power of the Holy Spirit given to us in our union with Christ! In any true experience of God, we are never to forget that we are sinners approaching God’s holy presence clothed in the righteousness of Christ, coming to Him through the Mediator He has provided, and thus we must make an important and proper distinction from this day and for all eternity between the Creator and we as creatures, and never “lose ourselves and identities” in the Godhead.
We are to seek to follow and obey God in light of the grace that has been given to us in Christ. As those seeking true Biblical spirituality, we are not called to go out of the world, but to fulfill our callings graciously given to us by God, enjoying the created gifts that God has provided for us, while being wholly consecrated from the heart to Him (1 Tim. 4:1-5; cf. 1 Cor. 5:10; Col. 3:17-4:2). Though we should have a wise and healthy contempt for the world compared to the new world that is coming and that has dawned with the coming of the Spirit, we are not to hate the world. We are to seek to glorify God and enjoy and delight in Him in this world, while not falling into worldiness (1 John 2:12-18). This is a paradox. We are to mourn for our sins and brokenness, and the world’s fallen estate, but we are to also rejoice, for the joy of the LORD is our strength (Neh. 8:10; Matt. 5:3-11; Phil. 4:4-9). Maintaining this balance of living in the world as pilgrims and exiles, we are to seek to know, love, obey, and experience God.
Trinitarian Spirituality. A Biblical spirituality is always Trinitarian. The goal of Biblical spirituality is to glorify and delight in the triune God and to enjoy Him (Eph. 1:3-14; Rom. 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 10:31). There are false and dangerous spiritualties bandied about today that seek false hopes through false gods and saviors. This is not Biblical spirituality but demonic spirituality of which we must be careful (1 Cor. 10:19-22; Acts 13:10, 16:16-18; 1 Tim. 3:7, 4:1; Rev. 9:20, 16:14). A Biblical, Trinitarian spirituality teaches believers to go boldly and courageously to the Father, through the Son, our provided Mediator, by the Spirit (Eph. 2:18; cf. 1 Tim. 2:5). The Son is “from the Father” as the Savior and hope of mankind (John 1:14-18). God sent the Son into the world out of His deep and faithful and undying love to His people. Christ was sent “from the Father” to live, die, be raised, and enthroned at God’s right hand, and to then pour out His Spirit in His fullness upon His people (John 3:16-19; Acts 2:33-36). The Father is the fountain of love from which all of the works of the triune God flow forth!
All Persons are equal in substance, power and being, and yet they all three perform specific aspects of our salvation as the one God. In Biblical spirituality, this should be recognized. We should seek to have a relationship with the one God through each Person of the Trinity by praising and enjoying God the Father’s love for us in Christ, adoring the grace of the Son as our Savior, Bridegroom, Mediator, Friend, and King, and living in fellowship with the Holy Spirit and in communion with one another as members of Christ’s one Church! As the Apostle Paul summarizes this Trinitarian spirituality:
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)
Let us remember that the goal of all Biblical spirituality is the glory of God the Father, through the Son our Mediator, by the power and grace of the Spirit. The practice of all spirituality begins with a humble submission to Christ through regeneration by the Spirit, and a daily humble submission in denying oneself and taking up one’s cross and following Him (Matt. 16:24; Eph. 4:1-3; Phil. 2:1-5). The heart of all spirituality is honesty from the heart before God and man, being nothing more, nothing less than a lost and broken sinner saved by grace, who is being transformed by the work of God’s Spirit to be renewed in the image of Christ (Psa. 139:23-24; 2 Cor. 6:6-7; 1 John 3:18; cf. 1 Tim. 1:12-17). Biblical spirituality is considering oneself as a sinner who is being changed daily by the power and grace of God the Spirit and through one’s faithful, God-given, Holy-Spirit empowered striving to work out of this salvation in union with Christ (Phil. 2:12-13; John 15:1-11). It is aspiring to perfection while realistically knowing that as long as you are in this world you will have an agonizing struggle with remaining sin, though you’re a beloved child of God (Rom. 7:21-25; Rom. 8:11-15; Galatians 5:16-25; 1 Cor. 9:27; Titus 2:11-14; Heb. 12:4; 1 John 3:1-3).
Christ-focused Spirituality. Though some spiritualties in Christian history have emphasized the importance of the imitation of Christ, they have sometimes failed to place Christ first and central in our reflection upon this imitation. Biblical spirituality is a Christ-focused spirituality. Christ is our Savior first. He is the Savior of our souls, but He is also our example. The Apostle Peter wrote: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21; cf. 1 Cor. 11:1). In light of the mercies of God in Christ, all that we do in imitation, we are to do as “living sacrifices” (Rom. 12:1-2), running the race with endurance, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our Faith! (Heb. 12:1-2). In a truly Biblical spiritual Christ is central to our knowing God, loving God, obeying God, and experience God. Let us never forget this focus upon the Person and Work of our blessed Mediator, and then go and live for Him in imitation of Him by the Spirit!
Communal and Personal/Public and Private Spirituality. A Biblical spirituality is both communal and personal, it is concerned with the church and with our personal pursuits of “quiet time” with God. Biblical spirituality steers a clear path through the Scylla of Sacramentalism, and the Charybdis of Individualism. Biblical spirituality in its public dimension is an external, outward spirituality that is involved with the visible church (Rom. 1:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:4-14). This involves professing one’s faith, confessing one’s faith publicly before believers and unbelievers in evangelism (Matt. 28:18-20; Rom. 10:9-17; Acts 2:47; 4:4; 5:1-5; 6:7; 11:21). It is seeking to observe and remember the Lord’s Day in order to keep it holy, so that one can participate in the primary means of grace, or the primary means the exalted, enthroned Christ uses to grow and mature His people through the faithful preaching of the word, the biblical administration of the sacraments, and being formally accountable for discipline as members of Christ’s Church (Eph. 4:11-16; Heb. 13:7, 17; 1 Cor. 5:1-5). This public aspect is in living in community in a local congregation of saints, while growing up in Christ, and seeking and growing in one’s spirituality through loving and serving one’s neighbor as oneself (Gal. 6:1-2; Rom. 12:5-13; 1 Peter 4:9-11).
Biblical spirituality in its private dimension is an internal, inward spiritualty that seeks daily to deny self, bear one’s cross, memorize and mediate upon Holy Scripture. It seeks to take one’s sin serious, and to be faithful to God, useful in His service, watchful, and prayerful. This private dimension involves a private “closet” or secret place where only God sees (cf. Matthew 6:1-18). Our Lord Jesus promises a reward of grace (not merit!) in the practice of this: “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:18). This private dimension of spirituality includes daily repentance for sins, a walking closely with God, or keeping in step with the Spirit, praying continually, and in general living with God-given, Spirit-induced, Biblical-focused, Christ-centered zeal for God and His work (Gal. 5:25; Rom. 12:11-12). To walk this way privately is to involve oneself in a difficult spiritual battle as a pilgrim on the way of the King. It is to involve oneself in cosmic warfare that requires the upmost seriousness, sober-mindedness, and watchfulness, while confidently and courageously that your King has won the battle, and all you are to do is to stand in His victory and conquering strength by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 6:10-20).
A Spirituality for Everyone! Do you desire to be spiritual? Do you desire to be spiritual as you are called to be (Gal. 6:1-2)? If you are united to Christ Jesus by His Spirit, and if you are a child of the Heavenly Father through faith in Christ, then you are indeed “spiritual”. In fact, the term “spiritual” in the Bible refers to Christians united to Christ by faith, and usually means “Holy-Spiritual” (Rom. 8:9-11; 12:1; 1 Cor. 2:13, 15, 3:1, 14:37; Gal. 6:1-2).
Do you want to be spiritual? Are you united to Christ by faith? Then earnestly live this biblical spirituality out in your daily life in reliance upon His grace. In Christian history, there were times where the truly “spiritual” folks were those who withdrew themselves from the world to seek spirituality out of the world (even out of the church for some of the excessive spiritualists). These would seek to get the “meat of the word” while the “common” Christians would feed on the “milk” (cf. 1 Peter 2:2, 5). But true Biblical spirituality is really becoming who you are already are in Christ. Christ has “purchased a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). This grace teaches us to renounce ungodliness and worldliness and spiritually trains us to live “self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12). This grace, this love of God, this spiritual reality should be sought by us in Christ because we are spiritual!
The Bible teaches that there are no “spiritual elites” within the church of Christ. Christians are indeed the spiritual elites within the world no doubt, because we possess, or are possessed by Christ’s Spirit, but within the church we all have the Spirit of God, and this makes us truly and biblically “spiritual”. Do we seek this spirituality? Do we seek to know, love, obey, and experience our Heavenly Father in Christ by His Glorious Spirit? In other words, like the Apostle Paul, do you desire to leave your sinful works of self-centeredness behind, and press earnestly forward to take hold of Christ because He has taken hold of you? (Phil. 3:12-16).
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (Phil. 3:12-16).
Do you desire to grow? This is an important part of being a Christian (2 Peter 1:3-12). Within the church, there are definitely different gifts, graces, functions, and callings (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12), but no spiritual elite where only a few can attain to holiness in Christ, and make progress in the Christian life. No, the Bible clearly teaches that “spiritual” is what defines those who possess the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit helps us to live like Christ, knowing, loving, obeying, and experiencing the Triune God. The question is not whether or not you are spiritual in Christ, it is whether or not you are maturing and growing in that spirituality in reliance upon His grace.
Do you want to know more of God’s love for you in Christ? Do you want to possess more of the fullness of grace that is found within Christ? Do you want to be filled with joy in the Spirit as you grow in Him?
Ask Him for it.
In reliance upon His grace, go for it!
This is my prayer for you, dear Ketoctin:
That “you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…” (Col. 1:9-11).
In Christ’s love,