You are much more than a body with a brain that strains by will power to do good things and avoid bad ones. You are a son of God. Sons are God-breathed. Estranged sons are mere flesh lacking spirit and life. There’s a primitivism that comes from stone-aged, law-bound religion and there is the primordial union with God that belongs to us as His daughters and sons.
Spirit as in spiritual in God’s terms means spirit and life. It is indistinguishable from truth because it is ‘what is’ and flows into the world from I AM. Spirit makes us participants in God’s life. God is a spirit and we are spirits with bodies. Our new creation life of Christ come in the flesh is a re-instatement of who we were meant to be – the Sons and daughters of God who are life-giving spirits. It is no coincidence that Jesus as the Son of Man is also The Life-Giving Spirit. This preamble is meant to introduce the contention that most of what is deemed ‘spiritual’ by the secular mind is in fact religious and that which is deemed spiritual in some Christian cultures is in fact religious and not spiritual at all. Spiritual is not ‘being good.’ But it is ‘being.’ It is being a son of God.
Jesus states this when He urges that the flesh accomplishes nothing for the Kingdom and Paul affirms it when he warns that religious observances have no power to curb our carnality, elevate our being or transform the soul. He wrote,
‘Such regulations indeed have an appearance of [religious] wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence’ Col 2.23 NIV.
This means that Christianity as a religion has no power to transform our lives. It means that Christ as our life is the key to becoming who we already are in Him. In the Kingdom we are not religious figures fulminating against fun. We are sons and daughters of God in spirit and in truth bearing the presence and the resurrection life of God. The is the new and living way in contrast to the old and dead way of attempting to make religion out of the knowledge of good and evil.
As Paul said, ‘The law is for sinners.’ But Christ our life is for sons and daughters of God. We are the latter as soon as we received Jesus.
The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner is relevant here. He is like the religious man who shoots down the soaring Holy Spirit because He is too free, too exuberant, to irreverent concerning human rites and holiness; too much Himself and too untrammeled by the illusion of well-being sought in legalism, tradition and conformity. So the meanness of religion in him shoots the bird down. But sadly, since he chooses the flesh and the law He sentences Himself to wear a dead bird around his neck.
‘By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place’ Heb 10, 20 NLT.
In religion we are not spiritual because we are not alive in God, not filled with His person and not ignited with spirit and life. ‘Commandment keeping’ does not make us spiritual, which must be sad news for some!
The conceit of religion is this. It comes down to the fact that the mind of Christ and the new and living way of life is regarded as less substantial than the law and the old covenant so it must be shot out of the sky so that one can find security in law and dogma. But here’s the thing. We become becalmed in a Sargasso sea of religion and futility. The old and dead way has no life. It has no power to confront Islam or overcome personal sin. The sexual abuse saga in the church is evidence of this. Religion provides no victory for the lost. It multiplies the same old same old until it fades away or the Mariner repents and receives the new and living way as His own way.
‘There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death’ Prov 16.25 NIV.