Home > Brandenburg, The Word, Truth > Detection of True Spirituality

Detection of True Spirituality

God has not left men without a basis for discerning true spirituality.  1 John 4:1 indicates that genuine Christians can test “the spirits whether they are of God.”   At the same time, most people have been deceived in this area.  The road is broad that leads to destruction (Mt 7:13-14).  As a  means of validating their condition, men seek after signs (1 Corinthians 1:22) that very often are counterfeits that lure men into a false sense of spiritual security.   From the teaching of Jesus (Mt 7:21-23), we know that at the judgment seat, their tragic deception will be exposed with no future opportunity for correction.  Men can be fooled into trusting in fraudulent indicators of their spiritual states.

In the first chapter of his epistle, James says men deceive themselves with the faulty notion that God accepts the mere hearing of His Word.   This reveals the nature of people’s deceit.  They can rationalize a tolerance of their own disobedience to what God said.   Satan is a deceiver and liar, who would have men mislead by their own unreliable measurements of spirituality.   And the Devil majors on spiritual subterfuge in particular—it’s his domain of activity  (Eph 6:12).

On the other hand, the Word of God is sufficient (2 Tim 3:15-17).  We don’t have to be deceived.  We have the truth, which sets us apart from spiritual error (John 17:17).

Who Is Spiritual?

Sometimes you might hear someone say, “He’s a spiritual person.”  Based on a scriptural evaluation, that would be the same as saying, “He’s a saved person.”  Every saved person is a spiritual person, because at the point of his justification by faith, he has received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9, 1 Cor 6:19-20, 1 John 3:9).  Only believers are spiritual.  No unbeliever is spiritual, even if he says he’s “a spiritual person.”

No believer is any more spiritual than any other person.  The Holy Spirit is a Person.  When someone receives the Holy Spirit, he has all the Holy Spirit that he will ever get.   He doesn’t need any fresh outpouring or anointing.  The concept of “more spiritual” isn’t in the Bible.   God does command believers to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18), which is to be controlled by the Spirit (Rom 6).  When a believer is controlled by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit will manifest Himself in various ways described in the New Testament.

How Does the Holy Spirit Manifest Himself?

The New Testament indicates several different ways that we can discern true spirituality.  We should expect all of these of someone who is spiritual.  Because everyone has equal spiritual resources (Eph 1:3; 2 Pet 1:1-4; 1 Cor 1:7), everyone also has equal opportunity for manifesting true spirituality.  In other words, no one is breathing any kind of pure spiritual air that sets him apart from any other believer.

God isn’t responsible for spiritual lack.  When a man is tempted, he is drawn away of his own lusts (James 1:14).  The Holy Spirit will show Himself through a believer, but more than any one thing, self gets in the way.  Humbling self is an important first step to revealing true spirituality.

First, a person who is filled with the Spirit is letting the Word of Christ dwell in him richly.  Ephesians 5:18 and Colossians 3:16 are parallel passages.  Someone who is controlled by the Holy Spirit is also controlled by God’s Word.  When we disobey Scripture, either in thought, word, or deed, at that moment we are also either resisting or quenching the Holy Spirit.  True spirituality manifests itself in obedience to the Bible.  A Christian life obedient to the Spirit will look like Scripture.

Second, the Holy Spirit will show Himself through the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).   I don’t think the emphasis of “fruit” is in the nature of bananas, apples, or oranges.  Fruit is production.  The Holy Spirit will produce a certain type of attitude that will result in a right kind of behavior.   That disposition is seen in the fruit of the Spirit.  The fruit of the Spirit isn’t something you work on, but a work that the Holy Spirit does in and through you.  And that fruit will show up because the believer submits to the Holy Spirit.  The fruit is all or nothing.  He either is manifesting the Holy Spirit or he isn’t.  If he is, then all of the fruit will show up.  Others will see the Holy Spirit and not self when the Christian is filled with the Spirit.

Third, when the Holy Spirit is in charge in someone’s life, this will show up in God-honoring music (Eph 5:19) and perpetual thanksgiving (Eph 5:20).   The Holy Spirit directs the Spirit controlled person toward praise and thanks, both pointing toward God and away from self.

Fourth, the Holy Spirit will transform the relationships of those who are controlled by Him (Eph 5:21-6:8).  This is how the Holy Spirit fulfills the law through love.  The Christian is directed by the Spirit to meet other’s needs, which are all different by Divine design.  A child has a different need from a parent, an employer from an employee, and a husband from a wife.

Fifth, the particular spiritual giftedness of the Spirit-filled person will show up in His church (1 Cor 12).  The Holy Spirit divides to a church as He wills, providing it His own unique blend depending on its needs.  When the Christian submits to the Spirit, he will fulfill his part in the body.  The whole church is more important than his part in it.   Jesus will be glorified by being manifested by the Spirit through the church in the world.

Sixth, he will preach the Word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).  No believer has any more power than any other believer.  He can be more bold, however, depending upon his submission to the Holy Spirit.  If he’s bold, the Holy Spirit will work through the Word of God unto the salvation of souls.  There is no unique power for evangelism.  The power rests in the Scripture through the Spirit.  Boldness will look, well, bold.  Some may confuse this for pride, because proclamation of truth lacks the nuance that some expect of a fake humility.

We have these six means for detecting true spirituality.  They could be faked for a period of time, but not for long.  However, we should content ourselves with what God’s Word reveals as genuine indicators.   The replacement gauges of spirituality provide people with false positives, fooling them into a dangerous spiritual ease.

How Does the Holy Spirit Lead?

Part of discerning true spirituality revolves around the discernment of the will of God.  How does the Holy Spirit lead?  We’ll approach this question next time.

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  1. Joshua
    December 9, 2010 at 4:16 am | #1

    This has been very useful for me, thank you.

    I came across this the other night in Bible institute, which adds to what you are saying by linking an acceptance of Scripture with spirituality:

    1 Cor 14:37
    If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.

  2. Bobby
    December 9, 2010 at 11:39 am | #2

    Amen. What could be more spirtitual than being born again, then baptized into a NT church and continually obeying the Word of God as a member of the Lord’s body? Sadly, to some such a concept is not “exciting.” They seek after something other than what the Lord has commanded.

  3. December 9, 2010 at 1:59 pm | #3

    This series would make a nice booklet when you finish it.

  4. d4v34x
    December 9, 2010 at 2:50 pm | #4

    I’m a bit confused, Bro. B., hopefully you can clear this up for me. Under “Who is Spiritual” you assert that all believers (and no one but believers, are spiritual, period.

    Does that allow for the full semantic range used in the scriptures. I think of Galatians 6, If one is overtaken in a fault, those “which are spirtual” are to restore him in a spirit of meekness. I understand that to be believers restoring sinning believers. In which case “spiritual” is used to mean “spiritually stronger”. Thoughts?

    Also, is the section titled “How does the Holy Spirit manifest Himself?” intended to help us recognize those who are spiritual as in saved, or those who are Spirit controlled.

    Finally, the fruits of the Spirit are all or nothing??

  5. December 9, 2010 at 10:41 pm | #5

    D4,

    That is a good question, and I did think about it when I wrote that small section. Lewis Sperry Chafer got the title for his best-selling book, He That Is Spiritual, from there, and it is the subject of much controversy. Warfield wrote a criticism of it, which you can read in his complete works. Both present two different views of spirituality.

    I believe that spirituality is an either/or not a more or less. Only Christians are spiritual, and in the context (looking back at the end of chapter 5) people either are walking in the Spirit or they are not. You either submit to the Spirit or you don’t. I do believe it is the Spirit-controlled person, which is not a matter of degree, because again, you only have one Spirit.

    I think that we see spirituality in those means. Only saved people will show those things, and that is how the Spirit manifests Himself. When we don’t see that, it is true, that we are not seeing Spirit-control.

    All or nothing. Yes. Which is one reason for “fruit,” singular.

  6. December 10, 2010 at 2:41 am | #6

    It’s all SO true. Wonderfully written, too. Big encouragement to read this today :)

  7. December 10, 2010 at 8:29 pm | #7

    Thanks … posted as a Sharper Iron filing here

  1. December 21, 2010 at 11:40 pm | #1

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