Many of us were raised in churches where we were taught that being “spiritual” meant going to church every Sunday, praying long prayers, and memorizing lots of Scripture. At some point, we began to equate spirituality with discipline, following rules, and lots of hard work.
But this was never God’s idea.
This is the world’s idea of spirituality, characterized by rules, laws and traditions, rituals, and confidence in our own abilities. The focus is external – our self-effort and religious activity.
Unlike worldly spirituality, true spirituality, according to the Bible, focuses on the internal – our connection with God. In fact, the whole goal of our spiritual life is summed up as this: to know Christ and to have a relationship with Him. Our spirituality is not based on human efforts but by the means of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Likewise, being spiritual isn’t about what we do but about what Christ has already done on the cross.
In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul addresses this issue of true spirituality and how we can experience it. He writes: “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh…” (3:1-3)
In these three verses, Paul makes two main points about spirituality:
1. True spirituality is always rooted in relationship and results in joy. Being spiritual isn’t about following a list of rules driven out of guilt. It’s about being in relationship with the Lord. Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord!” because the natural byproduct of a relationship with Christ should always be joy!
2. Religious traditions can be harmful to our spiritual zeal. Paul warns the Christians in Philippi to stay away from the “dogs” – a name that he uses to refer to the Judaizers – a religious sect who taught that in addition to believing in Christ one needed to follow the Jewish law and adhere to its practice of circumcision. Doing certain external things or following rules in order to get right with God basically negates what Christ did on the cross.
Paul shows us that the main difference between true spirituality and false spirituality is that one is grace-focused, and the other is guilt-induced. Rituals and rules, if needed, should flow from grace and confidence in the work of Christ.
So then, how do we experience true spirituality? We certainly can’t do it by “trying harder” or by accomplishing religious activities. The only thing required is that we give our whole hearts to God. Over time, when we progressively and intentionally come to know Christ deeper and deeper, we become more and more like Him.
This week we’re starting the series, True Spirituality. In it, we’ll uncover the truth about spirituality, as well as what it means to be spiritually mature and how to get there. As we take this journey together, my prayer is that we’ll be able to more clearly see what God’s path to true spiritually looks like, so that we can more fully experience His goodness and live out the life He desires for each one of us.
Keep Pressin’ Ahead,
Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip