Spirituality Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Spirituality

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Spirituality, now a vague term covering a multitude of religious feelings and ideas, for Christians means being filled and guided by the Holy Spirit. The common phrase, “spiritual but not religious” seems to describe a person who is somehow in tune with “the spiritual” (whatever that means) but not tied to any institutional expression of spiritual reality, such as the church or organized religion. Spirituality also tends to be an individual rather than a social or institutional expression.

In Scripture

The Spirit, or Holy Spirit is, as one theologian said, “the shy person of the Trinity.” The standard Biblical term for spirit in both Hebrew and Greek is wind or breath, which does express a mysterious quality of unseen power and vitality.

Breath and Spirit Because spirituality, in the biblical context, is tied to the Spirit of God, it cannot be conceived as merely non-physical. The Spirit of God is deeply involved in creation, hovering over the original chaos (Gen. 1:2). When God creates humans, God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” The close association of breath and spirit, invites us to see spirituality in both the spiritual and physical aspects of human existence.

Creative Energy The Psalmist also expresses the creative energy of the Spirit: “You send forth your Spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.” Psalm 104:30) Spirituality draws us into a deeper connection with creation

Ezekiel In a dramatic and powerful evocation of spiritual renewal, Ezekiel is led into a vast valley of dry bones, symbolizing the deadness of Israel in her relationship with God. (Ez. 37:1-14). As instructed by God, when he speaks the word of God over the dead bones, they come alive and rise up as a mighty army. And God says: “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live….” (vs. 14) Israel’s “spirituality” can only be renewed by the breath of God that comes in God’s word

Jesus’ Spirituality The Holy Spirit is the one by whom God enters the creation through the Virgin Mary (Luke 1: 35), and the Spirit descends on Jesus in his baptism. Jesus’ own “spirituality” is inextricably tied to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost As an extension of the ministry of Jesus, the Holy Spirit fills the church on Pentecost (Acts 2) . From then on, the Spirit guides and empowers the church (Acts 10:19, 44, 15:28), and provides leaders for it (Acts 11:24, 1 Cor. 12:11). True spirituality is pictured here as operating within the growing and developing “institutional” church and for its growth and welfare.

The "spiritual" or resurrection body and the "natural" body In his great chapter on the resurrection Paul distinguishes between the “spiritual” body or resurrection body and the “natural” body. 1 Cor 15: 44-49) Clearly he does not mean that the “spiritual” body is entirely non-physical, but that it is completely under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Points to Ponder

True Spirituality Clearly, the biblical meaning of spirituality is neither entirely non-physical nor outside of institutional expression. True spirituality is live life gifted and governed by the Holy Spirit.

Subversive, Anti-institutional There is also a subversive and anti-institutional aspect to spirituality. The Holy Spirit often seems to wake up the institutional church from the outside in.

Paradoxical Many people find their spirituality strengthened by their institutional involvements, as well as threatened by it. Spirituality and religious institutions are not polar opposites; religious institutions are the inevitable physical expression of spiritual reality.

Anne Lamott: “You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

Albert Einstein: “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”

Mike Yaconelli: “Spirituality is not about being fixed; it is about God's being present in the mess of our unfixedness.”

Brennan Manning: “I've decided that if I had my life to live over again, I would not only climb more mountains, swim more rivers, and watch more sunsets… I would not only go barefoot earlier in the spring and stay out later in the fall; but I would devote not one more minute to monitoring my spiritual growth. No, not one.”

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.