There is a peculiar discrepancy in the outlook of many Christians between the Gospel, and spirituality. More succinctly put, a discrepancy between the concepts of the power of the Holy Ghost, and the teaching of the word of God.
The common outlook seems to be that spirituality is somehow seperate from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I think that the discrepancy comes from two central mentalities, the first giving birth to the second. The first mentality that seems to seperate the Gospel from practical spirituality comes, I think, in regarding loftier theological concepts or systematic theologies as though they were central to the Gospel.
No doubt seminarians must spend their intellectual capacities on something worthy of cognitive stimulation… I mean, if someone is training to be a pastor, or missionary, they have to have intellectual substance to their ministry beyond the Gospel, right? But systems of theology seem to dominate much of biblical teaching though they are not necessarily central to the Gospel in any way. For example, I will pick on Calvinism; I am not a Calvinist, and I hope any who may be reading this will not be offended when I say, mastery of the concepts of Calvinism are not central to the Gospel AT ALL (even if I thought the system of theology were true).
How does the concept that all events are pre-determined by God even relevant to a person’s making the decision to follow Christ? (Personally I think its actually detrimental to the gospel, because it relies on God’s intentional election of people to damnation, which is not God’s will (1 Tim 2:3 & 4; 1 Peter 3:9), and when unbelievers grasp the concept of Calvinism that God has elected people to reprobation it automatically makes them distrust God’s character.) I hope Calvinists don’t feel too singled out, my point is that rather than mastering in the Gospel, which perhaps is too simple intellectually, many ministers seem to focus on studying systematic theologies, which they think will give them a greater understanding of the character of God. Once the minister thoroughly understands the system of theology in question, their ‘deeper biblical teaching’ seems to revolve around instructing believers in the system of theology they have learned.
Rather than getting prophetic, revelatory instruction from the word, we focus on not necessarily Gospel-centric theological systems as our deeper biblical training.
Once someone is saved and has read the bible, what more do they need? How do we train them for ministry? HINT: Its not through intellectual exercises. ‘For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.’ (1 Cor. 4:20)
The other mentality that I think contributes to the discrepancy between the Gospel and spirituality is the seemingly perpetual struggle between the concepts of law, and grace.
This is somewhat derived from the mentioned ‘intellect vs. spiritual’ idea, as the struggle between the law and grace is a hitch-up found in many theological systems. We look at God’s word, and spirituality as quasi-synonymous concepts to the law, and grace. Compound that with unnecessary theological concepts that people try to get across as they ‘preach the Gospel,’ or teach the word from a standpoint that was learned from human intellectualism, rather than as spiritual students of the Gospel.
First, the issue is not law vs. grace. The law was nailed to the cross with Christ (Eph. 2:15), and need not be adhered to at all. Rather, we are to live by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16). If we have put our faith in Christ, we are under His blood, so grace applies completely. Rather than following the law we follow the leading, and conviction of the Holy Ghost. Conviction, one may say, is like the law – but it is not; it is a safeguard so that we don’t obey the flesh and fall into sin. If our mentality is love toward God, wherein we intend to cooperate with Him, and be obedient to His desires then we will learn principles of righteous behavior through understanding the law (in this way we uphold the righteousness of the law), but it does not bind any believer. We are bound, rather, to keep in step with the Spirit.
True conviction is spiritual, so even if one were to be considered a ‘legalist’ for following the conviction of the Lord, then the issue is not law vs. grace, but our flesh vs. the Spirit of God, and we are elevating our own soul and flesh and not the spiritual.
Which leads to a third mentality which creates this discrepancy in our thinking between the Gospel and spirituality, which is: emotional temperment (this is flesh, carnal).
Often we see people who are highly emotional, and or more extroverted and theatrical as ‘more spiritual’ and people who are introverted and intellectual as uptight, legalistic, or ‘religious.’ This is an outward, carnal assessment. It is also assumptive, and generally incorrect. Just because someone gets more emotional doesn’t mean they are having a deeper spiritual experience than the person next to them. On the other hand it also doesn’t mean they aren’t. But we have a tendency to assume the more exuberant personalities are spiritual, and the more reserved are not (or less).
Have you ever heard people say things like: ‘He is a ‘law’ person, but I am a ‘grace’ person.’ Well one person might have a temperament which appears more ‘gracious’ than another perspn, but this is not necessarily a spiritual response, it could merely be a personality difference (which is at the level of the soul, not the spirit).
Spirituality comes from interaction with the Spirit of God; one person may naturally be more spiritually sensitive than another, but as the goal of the Gospel is to reconcile God with man, His word is INSTRUCTIONAL in spirituality. Would you like to become more ‘spiritual’? The way to do it is to PRACTICALLY APPLY the Gospel.
According to Ephesians 1:3, the Christian has already been blessed with ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS. Did you know that?
Your level of spirituality is on the basis of the level to which you avail yourself of the Gospel of Jesus Christ… and you have access through His blood (which is clearly revealed in the word). The amount that you avail yourself to the Gospel will be directly on the basis of how much you actually believe God’s word (faith without works is dead).
Do you actually believe that Jesus blood has granted you full access into the holiest of all, and God’s immediate presence (Heb. 10:19 & 20)? Do you believe it enough to avail yourself constantly to an awareness of His presence?
Do you believe that we are blessed with ALL spiritual blessings? Do you believe it enough to find out what they are? To learn to implement them in our lives?
When Christians are caught up in some sort of error, or deception, or are in the throes of confusion, I find that ussually, the error, deception, or confusion would have been avoided if simple Gospel Truths were simply believed. Some of the greatest errors prevalent in the church (and, I believe, the great deception of the latter days) are clear contradictions of scripture which we have intellectually compromised with, rather than holding to the Gospel (link here for example of what I mean with a prevalent error in evangelical Christianity).
Still, we delineate between the power of the Holy Spirit, and the word of God. Odd though because we wouldn’t know about the Holy Spirit if He had not been promised to those who believe the Gospel (Acts 19:2). Howbeit, I believe that even if God’s word were taken away, the Holy Ghost would teach it to those who availed themselves to His voice. The Apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament was fully taught the Gospel by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 1:12). When he communicated what he received to those who had known Christ in the flesh, they affirmed that he got it all right (Gal. 2:2-8) – and then on top of that credited many of Paul’s writings as scripture (2 Peter 3:15 & 16). Did Paul not say: ‘Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.’ (1 Cor. 11:1)?
As the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul was the disciple of Christ via the Holy Ghost, rather than Christ in the flesh. Ah! So in PAul there is a discrepancy between the Word, and the Spirit! No, Paul studied the scriptures, and recommended his students do the same:
2 Tim 3:15-17
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
2 Tim 2:15
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Paul said: ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel for IT is the POWER OF GOD unto salvation TO EVERYONE THAT BELIEVETH…’ (Rom. 1:16)
The power of God IS the Gospel. The Holy Ghost is promised to those who believe the Gospel… there is no discrepancy between the message, and spirituality, the message IS THE SPIRITUALITY – but only when we BELIEVE it.
The Spirit and the Word are one (1 John 5:7 KJV). That’s how Paul attained his revelation of the Gospel: the Spirit of God taught Him the New Covenant through the Old Testament scriptures. The Spirit of God and the Word of God affirm the same thing, they affirm what the blood of Christ affirms.
Fellowship with the Holy Ghost is attained through faith in God’s Word, and understanding of God’s word is attained through the Holy Ghost. He it is who will teach us all things, and REMIND us of what God’s word says (John 14:26).
There is no distinction between the Gospel and spirituality; True (and lawful) spirituality is attained through observing the Gospel by faith.
There is no limit to the depths of your spirituality if you believe the Gospel. The only limit on your spiritual attainment is the limit of how much you believe God’s word (and act on it – faith without works is dead).