Updated on January 29, 2013
Spiritual, But Not Religious
I am fascinated by people who proclaim themselves spiritual, but not religious. I first started seeing this in the dating/singles world and then later with celebrities as a technique to distance themselves from the sometimes awkward subject of religion. Much like the independent or moderate tags come up when it comes to politics, the term spiritual sounds to some as more worldly, or dare I say transcendent.
The wicked are too proud to seek God. They seem to think that God is dead. — Psalm 10:4 <NLT>
What is meant when someone says they are spiritual?
If you reject the God found in the Bible, you can find all sorts of spiritual movements. From ancient religions, to the occult, mysticism, new age, and even the worship of nature of all things. Charlatans are plenteous, duping the gullible with some new, higher way of thinking, and a brand new cult. They all share the same source – a rebellious and perverted angel determined to drag as many down with him as possible.
Entertainment is saturated with stories, movies, and shows that glorify the supernatural and the occult. People are drawn to stories of superheroes and those with higher powers. Life after death and eternal life are themes that are readily prevalent in every culture and religion.
People experience trauma – death, divorce, sickness or failure, and try to find meaning in philosophy, meditation, psychology or other carnal creations. Many of these while not necessarily evil, may miss the root of the problem which is often spiritual, not mental.
It would seem obvious that on some basic level, people know that there is a spiritual world. And only a fool would dare suggest that there are not forces, both good and evil in the world.
What some may call their conscience, or that “voice in my head” is sometimes the spirit world making contact. The source, if not discerned properly, might lead to deadly consequences if you blindly follow it. And sometimes, it just might be the Holy Spirit sent to keep you from harm.
For example, I was on a drunken fraternity trip in college when from deep inside, I had a very strong notion that it was time to leave, NOW! In an instant, even though I had been partying all day at the lake, I was completely sober and knew in my spirit that it was time to go. I am never one to ever be afraid – part of that is my Christian upbringing, the other part is my 6’5″ frame. So fear was not present. It was just a rather firm suggestion that it was time to go home. I found enough sober drivers to get everyone back on the road and home safely before dawn. The plan had been to stay overnight in a very remote area of a state park. This was in the fall when tourists and families were few and far between, and law enforcement was rarely seen.
I got home and jumped in bed, thinking nothing spectacular about the evening’s events. After church on Sunday, my Mother called. In the middle of the night the Holy Spirit had asked her to pray for my safety. She had no natural knowledge of my trip, or what might be happening to me, so she prayed, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, God’s perfect will. After several minutes, she had peace in her spirit that all was well and went back to sleep. Now that it was Sunday, she was curious as to what had transpired. Remember, this was before mobile phones and text messages. There was no way to contact me that night where we were.
As she shared her experience that night, again this was before I had told her anything about the trip, the events that evening took on a whole new dimension. There had been several rough looking men hanging around the area throughout the day, and more came after sunset. Some of them had even joined us around the fire. They may have viewed so many inebriated, and in some cases, very wealthy frat boys as easy targets. That might not even have been the real danger. Again, I did not sense a threat on any natural level. But God knew there was danger. And he knew my Mother would intercede on my behalf – there may have been others praying for all I know. Because of my Mother’s obedience, and faith in a loving God, 12 young men woke up safely in their beds on Sunday. God gets all the glory!
I have had experiences with darker forces as well. They usually come as sometimes dangerous, sinful, or self-destructive suggestions. For a mature Believer, these imaginations and temptations should be easily cast aside. But I have caught myself yielding to anger, strife, and stepping out of love on more than one occasion. But I repent, and God always forgives me because that is what Love does. And I praise Him for it. Each time this happens, I learn a little more how to master the love walk, growing closer to my Heavenly Father through His Son Jesus.
Evolution cannot explain love. I’m talking about Agape – or the God kind of love as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. The meaning of love has been twisted so much that it is hard to fully understand the term on God’s level. The God kind of love is sacrificial, forgiving, joy, peace, abundance and everything good. Human love is at its core, selfish and falls far short of the ideal.
Love is a spiritual force. Can you imagine a man or woman without God offering unconditional love? It simply is not possible.
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. — John 3:16-17 <NLT>
What does it mean to be religious?
Within the various political “ism” movements out there, religion is often seen as an impediment to the overall goals of the group. To academia and the intellectuals among us, religion is dated, and is pushed into the same category as fairy tales, legends, and fantasy. They probably agree with Marx that it is an opiate of the masses. A view still held by most who have rejected God regardless of their political views.
You may find this shocking, but in some ways I agree with this concept. But don’t stop reading just yet until you hear me all the way. I have always defined religion as all the vain attempts man has made to reach God, or whatever they define as a higher power, and even if they see themselves as a deity.
Religion is man-made ceremonies, dogma, rules, traditions, and all the extra-biblical nonsense you find even sometimes in Christian denominations. During his time on Earth, Jesus made clear his disappointment in religion. He railed against the religious leaders of his time for their refusals to show mercy and enforcing all their man-made religious traditions and rules. The majority of these pushed people further away from their Creator, and made fellowship with their Heavenly Father much more difficult, if not impossible. (Matthew 12, 16:5-12, 20:1-16, 23; Mark 7:1-23, 12, 14:53-65; Luke 7:36-50, 11:37-53; 14:1-6, 18:9-14; John 5, 8:1-11, 9 and many other instances)
I went through a period of philosophical reflection in my life. I looked at all religions and my own faith to make sure I KNEW what I believed. I had ample evidence in my early years of the reality and truth of God’s love. Through the witness of my parents and the miraculous interventions in my life, it was hard to deny. But I had to know the Truth.
None of the religions made any sense whatsoever and relied far too much on works, or had too much uncertainty. I don’t believe the Creator of the universe would be so vague. It came down to either there is a God as portrayed by the Bible – remember, Jesus very clearly stated that if you have seen him, you have seen the Father (John 14), or this was one big giant cosmic accident. I find it hard for anyone with even a hint of intelligence, to believe all of creation just sort of happened one day, and then somehow evolved into even more complexity. There is too much evidence of a master designer, including LOVE itself. It would have required much more faith to believe in a big bang, than a loving Creator.
If you closely examine the life of Jesus, no other human has ever exhibited the life of love better and more thoroughly than he. If God IS love, as scripture maintains, He would act in love – healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the hungry and giving himself for mankind. Which is exactly what Jesus did.
LOVE would do everything possible to reconnect with His lost children. LOVE would crave fellowship with His family. LOVE could not lie, or deceive you in anyway. LOVE would not force you to believe and would give you free will to choose light or darkness. LOVE would be Spirit, Life, Truth and The Way – the ONLY WAY to the Father. LOVE would be eternal. LOVE would forgive and forget. LOVE would make a way, where there is no way, for a fallen, sinful world, to be recreated as righteousness into the LOVE family. There is nothing in this fallen world that compares to the spiritual force of LOVE who IS GOD.
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” — John 13:34-35 <NLT>
LOVE is not religion. It is relationship.
In John 8:12 – Jesus says that he is the light of the world. Whoever follows him will walk in light, not in darkness. That clearly implies that if you do not follow Jesus, you are in darkness. Obviously, he means spiritual darkness, as he says that you walk in the light of life. It is interesting to note that he said this immediately after he was challenged over a woman caught in adultery. The religious leaders and the mob were quite eager to stone the woman. The thought of mercy and forgiveness, or even a realization of their own sin, never entered their minds. They did not really know the true nature of God.
Jesus points out the hypocrisy of their actions. They were always ready to judge someone else, but unwilling to judge themselves where sin was concerned. They did not even know they needed a Savior, and were unwilling to even consider the possibility that the God they claimed to love was in their midst. They were blinded by the evil one and operating in spiritual darkness. But God still loved and died for them.
Within Christianity, you rarely see mobs ready to stone a sinner. But you do see people quick to judge others of even the slightest misstep. Often, its not even sins that get the faithful riled up, but man-made rules and traditions. Maybe its the way they dress, length of hair, how much make-up, whatever the case, there is no LOVE present. Even in Christian churches, you can find envy, strife, unbelief, fear, hypocrisy etc. I suspect this has caused more people to withdraw from Christianity than anything else. This might also explain people distancing themselves from a religious label, and their fear of admitting a faith of any kind. Most likely, they experienced a church not overflowing with LOVE. And if you remove LOVE completely from Christianity, all your left with is religion.
I can remember times in my youth that if the church doors were open, my family had to be there. Every event, service, project required our presence. You can give yourself to every good work, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give your tithes and offerings, attend every covered dish supper, but without LOVE, its all in vain, leading to lots of frustration. Paul says if you do all these things without LOVE, you gain nothing!
The same goes for the people more focused on the spiritual. Paul says that all the prophecies, faith and spiritual knowledge are nothing without LOVE. And if you are experimenting with the spiritual world without God, you are headed for disaster. Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy. If you open the door, he will gladly come in and settle down. Stay in the light, and don’t experiment with darkness.
If LOVE (who IS GOD) is the foundation, everything works for your and the world’s benefit. Faith is empowered, spiritual gifts and knowledge can have the most impact, soul winning becomes effective, joy and peace flow freely, there is an overflowing supply to meet all needs, and LOVE flows abundantly throughout the world. Jesus says it this way:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. — John 15:5, 9-14 <NIV>
It is this relationship with God, through Jesus, that the LOVE flows. You love God, He loves you, together you love the world. With that empowerment, comes everything necessary to change the world. Its not a religion, its a relationship – both with God and people. God’s LOVE makes it much easier to forgive, serve and love not only yourself, but the whole world. LOVE connects you to the Glory of God, the anointing that removes burdens and destroys the yokes of slavery to sin (Isaiah 10:27). The limits and boundaries of this world are removed because all things are possible if you believe. The Holy Spirit dwells in you to comfort and guide you. Where spiritual darkness once reigned, Light now shines without limit. You become a child of your Heavenly Father, a king, and an ambassador for Christ. You live in daily fellowship with the Creator of the Universe. There is no religion, belief, cult, or spiritual force of this world that even comes close.
Read these words of Jesus right before he goes to the cross for you. These are not the words of just a “good man” or a guru starting a new religion. This is the Son of God telling you about the new relationship that is now available between God and man through him.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. — John 14:6, 11-17 <NIV>