What Is It To Be Spiritual?
Spirituality is as natural as sunlight, and as illuminating. It is not something that one dangles on the outside, nor is it evidenced by pious phrases and postures. It is not a rotundity of voice or a certain folding of the hands in prayer that designates a spiritual man. Spirituality is something within. It flows, like sap, from the vine out into the fruitful branches.
Spirituality is not something that disintegrates the personality, leaving part of us up in a supposed spiritual plane and the other part of us dragging in the dust. Spirituality can no more be divorced from the whole personality than the top branches of a tree can be severed from the soil in which the roots grow.
Spirituality is not something that binds us unnaturally. It does not say, "I can’t do that, because I am spiritual, but (under the breath) I want to." Such a person is not restricted by spirituality but by a love of his own "spiritual" reputation.
Spirituality so releases us that we are free to move in the rarefied air of the divine will. Our volition has become so united with God that we know the freedom of heaven and can pray without reservation, "Thy will be done," knowing that His will is the most blessed thing in earth or heaven. Such a release will make one childlike and natural. Spirituality avoids extremes. More specifically, it may be designated under three heads.
One who is spiritual is discriminating without being critical.
The spiritual life is not the critical life. One who fancies himself spiritual and able to detect evil will soon find himself lapsing into a critical attitude that continually points to the thorns and never sees the rose. The perspective becomes so warped that the whole landscape is distorted; nothing looks right; there is always something that needs fixing.
This critical attitude prohibits one from giving praise or commendation where it is due, for fear that the recipient would become proud, and pride – how abhorrent! But at the same time the critic has set up his own standard of spirituality to which he expects everyone else to bow down. It is his golden calf.
This does not mean, however, that spirituality is not discriminating. Mere gullibility is not spirituality. "He that is spiritual judgeth [examineth] all things" (1 Cor. 2:15).
The spiritual man is able to inspect all things from the Saviour’s point of view. He does not have a spiritual art gallery where certain men and women are set up like statues on pedestals of perfection. He does not love the brethren because he sees in them no blemishes but he loves them in spite of the blemishes. He knows something of the love that covereth, and is tempered with knowledge and discernment (Phil. 1:9).
He knows what to love and what not to love. He can enjoy his fish not because there are no bones in it but because he has learned to put the bones to one side. He is able to appraise matters not idealistically but realistically, and then commit himself and his brethren to Him who has begun a good work and is able to perfect it (Phil. 1:6).
He does not chafe either at his own faults or at the faults of others. He knows full well that the divine Architect will never stop till each one is presented "faultless before the presence of His glory" (Jude 24).
One who is spiritual is separated without being Pharisaical.
Pharisaism thanks God that it is not like other men. It stands in the temple, aloof and self-satisfied, feeding on its own egotism and enjoying the diet. It prays to itself, not to God. Its standard is "other men," not heaven.
Pharisaism says, "How spiritual I am." It is separated, but separated unto itself, seeing only its own "holy" figure in its mirror of self-admiration. Pharisaism pulls its self-righteous robes around it and cries, "Stand by yourself, for I am holier than you are." Pharisaism sits on its pinnacle, like Simeon Stylites, apart from men and infinitely removed from God.
The spiritual man, however, is separated first of all from himself. The subtle element of selfhood does not taint his separation. He never takes an I-told-you-so attitude. He does not pout, like Jonah, because Nineveh does not crumble; he is not concerned because he seems to be discredited when the people repent and calamity does not fall; neither does he desire "the woeful day."
He, like Jeremiah and other prophets, mourns over the chastisement which, though he saw it coming he nevertheless tried to avert. He has learned, like his Master, to reprove with tears, and to weep over Jerusalem.
In the second place, he is separated from the standards of others, even Christians. He realizes that others may be able to do things he cannot. What other persons think is not his criterion, though he is willing to learn from anyone. He knows that he must separate himself from both the praise and blame of others.
In the third place, he is separated unto God. He knows that as far as he is concerned, he must walk with God alone, no matter what others may do. He partakes of the "divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4). Spirituality to him is a matter of intimate and individual attachment, and anything that disrupts that relationship is ruled out of his life. It is enough to know that he pleases Him who "hath called us to glory and virtue" (2 Pet. 1:3).
One who is spiritual is wise without being conceited.
Conceit is the cap that fools wear, and its bells toll the death of all sane thinking. Conceit is consummate ignorance. "If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know" (1 Cor. 8:2).
Such a man is so intoxicated with the sense of his own knowledge that his vision is blurred. His knowledge has so inflated him – for "knowledge puffeth up" (1 Cor. 8:1) – that he is truly stuffy. Conceit digs its own grave, and is hanged, like Haman, on its own gallows.
But the spiritual man is wise without degrading that wisdom by conceit. He knows that his wisdom is a gift (James 1:5; 3:17). It comes from above and falls on the lowly like showers upon the mown grass.
The man who has wisdom is nothing but an earthen water pot that holds wine for the wedding feast. The governor of the feast never thought of praising the pots that held the wine; they were simply fortunate enough to be on hand ready for use.
The spiritual man is conscious of the frailty of the vessel, and praiseful of the gift. Consequently he is meek. "Meekness of wisdom" (Jas. 3:13) is becoming to all who own it, and is essential to all who would retain it. The spiritual man does not "think of himself more highly than he ought to think" (Rom. 12:3). He views himself sanely. He has no inclination to praise his spiritual acquisitions as though he were worthy, or had attained them by his own credit.
At the same time he knows there is no merit in violently berating himself, thus putting on a show of mock humility. He calmly faces himself, knowing what he is because he has come to know what God is. His wisdom affects his relations to himself, to his work, to others, and to God. The enlightenment it brings causes him unhesitatingly to renounce all that he is, and meekly accept all that Christ is.
In other words, to be spiritual is to reveal Christ, for spirituality in its final analysis is Christ. Just to the extent that Christ is revealed in any man, just to that extent is that man spiritual.
From Message of the Cross.