We are living in a time when it is obvious that many of the people who should be respected for their integrity and sincerity often are criticized for not having any integrity at all, and they are criticized too for not being serious enough! Perhaps these condemnations are why it is increasingly harder for us to place our total trust in our teachers or professors, lawyers, doctors, police officers, firefighters, military personnel, government officials, journalists, and our ministers and Christian friends.
Where today’s institutional “church” is concerned, too many of the Christians who function as the spiritual/religious leaders who also teach the Word of God are the people who frequently are criticized for their lack of integrity (character/honesty) and sincerity. It is apparent that the apostle Paul must have seen this lack of integrity and sincerity in the first-century “church,” because in Titus 2:7 he warns those who teach the Word of God this way: “And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching” (NLT).
In spite of this warning, there are 21st century Christian spiritual/religious leaders, functioning as Bible teachers, who speak ungodly thoughts and do ungodly acts, and many of these Christian spiritual/religious leaders often use this disclaimer: “The Lord knows my heart.” To them, this disclaimer is supposed to imply that they are not responsible for any bad outcomes, because they only had “good intentions” in mind, despite the fact that their words and/or actions resulted in something contrary to “good works.” The truth is that even though these Christian spiritual/religious leaders claim to be moral and/or religious people, their character and earnestness often prove them to be otherwise.
Furthermore, just like we know that there are Christian believers who speak ungodly thoughts and do ungodly acts, we also know that there are unbelievers who say these words: “Jesus is Lord.” Since there are many moral and/or religious unbelievers who sincerely say that they believe Jesus is Lord, then what makes them unbelievers is something other than their character and sincerity. For sure, Jesus the Christ declares that there will be MANY who call Him Lord, Lord who will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but He does not use their lack of character and sincerity as the reasons why. The Lord, however, does tactfully reference their obedience, desires, and determination, for it is their obedience to God’s Word and their godly desires (righteous motives) and determination to do the Will of the Father that cause our Lord to recognize those moral and spiritual individuals who get to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matthew 7:21-23).
Thus, whether or not a 1st or 21st-century person is a born-again believer or a devoted unbeliever, this much is true: A distorted point of view of what it means to be spiritual is not new. Moreover, our trusted “spiritual/religious leaders” are guilty of teaching their distorted perspective to many people, and their skewed point of view has done more to hinder these individuals’ spiritual growth than to facilitate it.
From the time of the Scribes and Pharisees, when our Lord preached and taught, until our time of televised spiritual/religious leaders, spirituality continues to be measured by external appearances rather than by the motives of the human heart. In His day, by teaching the Scribes and the Pharisees that spirituality goes beyond the letter of the Law (that spirituality reaches into the spirit of the matter; see Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42), our Lord turned the Jewish religious leaders’ definition of spirituality inside out and the Jewish religious system upside down.
Knowing that we would have spiritual/religious leaders who would not agree on what spirituality really means is probably why God not only has Jesus the Christ’s Sermon on the Mount preachings and teachings included in the Holy Bible but also why He inspired the apostle Paul to teach the Corinthians about spirituality, as spirituality pertains to having and using spiritual gifts (those spiritual ‘things’ that come from the spirit realm of the Holy Spirit).
In 1 Corinthians 12:1-3, the apostle writes:
Now, dear brothers and sisters, regarding your question about the special abilities the Spirit gives us. I don’t want you to misunderstand this. You know that when you were still pagans, you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols. So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit. (NLT)
From these verses we understand that the apostle Paul believes there are two kinds of spirituality: (1) False Spirituality that comes into our spiritually dead, unclean spirits by way of Satan’s deceptive and demonic spirits, and these deceptive and demonic spirits are those that lead us astray—lead us away from worshipping a living, speaking God to worshipping speechless idols; and (2) True Spirituality that comes into our born again, saved, righteous spirits by way of God’s truthful and Divine Holy Spirit, and God’s truthful and Divine Holy Spirit is the One who leads us toward God and toward an intimate relationship with a living, speaking God, instead of away from Him.
For sure, the Scriptures make it clear that true spirituality involves using our Holy Spirit given spiritual gifts, power, and authority to glorify God by the love that we show to Him and to our fellow human beings, by the camaraderie, unity (harmony), and shared goals we have with one another, by the fulfillment of our evangelistic and discipleship responsibilities, and by the sacrificial, unselfish lives that we live that are pleasing to God and our Lord, Jesus the Christ. However, as mentioned earlier, spiritual/religious leaders distort this definition of spirituality. Indeed, when spiritual/religious leaders teach that a benchmark of superior spirituality is the spiritual gifts people not only have but also use, then they have distorted the definition of what God means by spirituality. For these church and ministry leaders, any believer who does not have, or does not use, any of the spiritual gifts, specifically those listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, this believer has an inferior spirituality. Moreover, any person who is thought to have an inferior spirituality cannot be a pastor, trustee, deacon, Sunday School teacher, choir member, and so forth, in these spiritual/religious leaders’ churches and/or ministries.
Without a doubt, their superior/inferior spirituality is nothing more than the Scribes and Pharisees’ old external appearance standard that Jesus the Christ teaches is wrong to use, especially when this standard is used to judge a person’s spirituality (cf. Matthew 23:25-26; Luke 11:38-40). The truth of the matter is that spiritual gifts are neither the standard for judging spirituality nor the yardstick for measuring the rank/function a believer will have in the institutional church.
Not using spiritual gifts as a way to judge someone’s spirituality is the reason why, for example, when the Corinthians begin to misuse their spiritual gifts, power, and authority in conjunction with creating divisions and cliques, and when they begin to abuse their liberties and begin to allow carnality to outweigh spirituality, the apostle Paul writes his two letters to them to warn them about their superior spirituality attitudes. The apostle makes it clear to these Corinthians that true spirituality DOES NOT motivate people to judge individuals’ functions or importance in the local church or the Body of Christ by the spiritual gifts, power, and authority these individuals have and use. He also makes it clear that true spirituality DOES NOT motivate people to use their spiritual gifts, power, and authority to cause divisions and cliques within the local church or the Body of Christ. Then too, the apostle makes it clear that true spirituality DOES NOT motivate people to pursue personal glory, to promote themselves, or to make themselves prosperous.
This same apostle also gives quite the opposite definition of spirituality than the one that spiritual/religious leaders often have distorted. For the apostle Paul, true spirituality ONLY motivates individuals to use their spiritual gifts, power, and authority sacrificially. He adds that true spirituality motivates people to make sure that “others” receive the help and edification they need, first! Lastly, where spirituality is concerned, the apostle makes it clear that the Corinthian church members who have chosen him as their spiritual leader must know that his actual preaching and teaching demonstrate the power of the Gospel only because he relies on the power of the Holy Spirit!
Therefore, when Apostle Paul says, “So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3, NLT), he is declaring that the Holy Spirit ONLY can influence people to speak the Divine Truth about Jesus the Christ. Thus, if believers say that Jesus is accursed (v. 3a), then it is evident that these believers have misused their spiritual gifts, especially those spiritual gifts that involve speaking a word of wisdom, a word of knowledge, prophesying, speaking in many tongues, and interpreting tongues (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10)!
As mentioned earlier, just as some unbelievers can speak Gospel truths, like saying, “Jesus is Lord,” believers can speak ungodly thoughts or do ungodly acts. In the Corinthians’ case, the apostle Paul knows that many of the Corinthians he is addressing have done just that—spoken ungodly thoughts and/or done ungodly acts—while claiming to have spirituality. The spirituality that many Corinthians have, however, is representative of their present evil age. From this last statement, we can draw this conclusion: Just like the Corinthians’ Greek wisdom is not Almighty God’s wisdom (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:4-8), the spirituality that Corinthian church members have claimed after they have said that Jesus is accursed (an anathema) is not from God either (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3a)!
That is why apostle Paul warns the Corinthians, especially those Corinthians who have the God kind of spirituality, about their need to be careful not to allow themselves to be led astray, once again, by the same deceitful and demonic spirits who, while they were yet unbelievers, led them astray to worship speechless idols. If they let demonic spirits lead them astray this time, now that they have accepted Jesus the Christ as their Savior, they will end up speaking lies about the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:2-3a).
Since there are some Christian Corinthians who have called the Lord an anathema, the apostle Paul teaches them that only demonic spirits can influence these believers to speak lies about Jesus the Christ. Therefore, if only demonic spirits can influence believers to speak lies about Jesus the Christ, then it must be true that only demonic spirits can influence believers to do evil deeds.
On the other hand, God’s Holy Spirit influences believers to view their spirituality, spiritual gifts, power, and authority in light of the Cross so that they will come to understand the reasons why God has allowed His Holy Spirit to give believers these special abilities. Believers are given their spiritual gifts, power, and authority so that they might perform good deeds that glorify the Father, as well as meet the needs of others, and so that they might speak about and interpret the spiritual (deeper things) of God according to that which the Holy Spirit gives to them to say. In other words, the Holy Spirit is the One who influences believers to use their spiritual gifts, power, and authority with integrity and sincerity, according to the degree that the Holy Spirit works in them (cf. Ephesians 3:16-20).
Knowing, however, that believers often will display improper Christian ethical behaviors (that they might say ungodly things and do ungodly acts) is why the apostle John tells believers that they must try EVERY spirit so that they might know which spirit is from God and which spirit is from the Devil (cf. 1 John 4:1). Since this battle between good and evil involves whether or not believers are able to discern, spiritually speaking, which spirit is influencing their thoughts and actions, then this battle definitely is NOT just in their minds!
Contrary to what some of the most renowned televised apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are preaching, teaching, or writing about that concerns the battle against good and evil being in the minds of believers, God and the Devil are not just battling for control of their minds but rather for control of their souls! Since the heart is the center of all spiritual activities in each human being, the heart consists of the soul, mind, will (determination), desires, intellect, conscience, feelings, and emotions; in essence, everything that contributes to each individual’s unique personality. For this reason, it shouldn’t be hard to comprehend why both God and the Devil are battling for the control of EVERYTHING that makes mankind a living soul!
For sure, because the Holy Spirit is the One who is the breath of life in us, then we need to know what are His other functions. One of the Holy Spirit’s functions in this world is to glorify Jesus the Christ by revealing His majesty and glory, which are written about in God’s Word. Other Holy Spirit functions are for Him to reveal all of God’s Divine Truths and “deeper things”; for Him to convict people of their sins; for Him to influence people to accept Jesus the Christ as Lord and Savior; for Him to fill believers with passion, power, and authority; for Him to endow believers with spiritual gifts; and for Him to produce in believers a Christ-centered life. While fulfilling His earthly assignments, the Holy Spirit ONLY can proclaim and bear witness to Jesus the Christ’s Lordship, and He does so because God sent the Holy Spirit to us: (1) to enable us to see Jesus the Christ’s glory, majesty, power, and authority so that we will decide to submit to God’s Will and to Jesus the Christ’s Lordship; and (2) to enable us to see Jesus the Christ’s purity and righteousness so that we will pattern our lives after our Lord and Savior’s life.
Therefore, God’s love and grace provide the Holy Spirit for us so that He will be the ONLY One who not only influences our dead spirits to receive by faith the preached Word pertaining to our need to be born again, but also so that He will be the ONLY One who influences our regenerated spirits to confess and repent ours sins, and the ONLY One who influences our regenerated spirits to accept Jesus the Christ as our Lord and Savior. Likewise, when Jesus the Christ returns to this Earth, the Holy Spirit will be the ONLY One who convicts EVERY tongue to confess that Jesus the Christ is Lord, even though many who confess this Divine Truth at that time will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matthew 7:21-23)!
The apostle John also says:
And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God (1 John 4:13-15, NLT).
This same apostle also says that if we say that we love God but hate some of our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, then we are liars, because we cannot say that we love God, whom we cannot see, and with the same mouth say that we hate some of our fellow Christians! This voiced hatred is a clear contradiction of God’s Word. God commands those of us who say that we love Him to love our Christian sisters and brothers (cf. 1 John 4:20-21).
In some other Scriptures, the apostle John declares:
So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:6-7, NLT).
Similarly, the apostle Paul tells the “spiritual” Corinthians that, when the Holy Spirit speaks through them, He ONLY can give them Divine Truths to speak. Therefore, if there are “spiritual” Corinthians using their spiritual gifts (their word of wisdom, word of knowledge, different languages, discernment of spirits, prophecy, interpretation of languages, and so forth) to curse Jesus the Christ (to say that our Lord is an anathema; to claim that He is cursed or damned, and, thus, cannot be redeemed), and then they support what they claim by declaring that the Holy Spirit gave them what to say, then these people are liars!
So when the apostle Paul makes it clear that the Holy Spirit could NEVER say that Jesus the Christ is an anathema, he is both calling these “spiritual” Christians a liar and correcting these liars. In essence, the apostle is declaring that God’s Holy Spirit could NEVER lie on or about Jesus the Christ by leading believers to say that Jesus the Christ is an anathema, because to do so would mean that the Holy Spirit is calling God the Father a liar. Certainly, there are Scriptures that tell us that God neither is like humans who tell lies, nor like humans who change their minds (for example, see Numbers 23:19).
Now, while there are some 21st-century Christians who believe that a person cannot be spiritual (have spirituality, spiritual gifts, power, and authority) and speak lies against Jesus the Christ, this belief is not biblically sound. The Corinthian believers in apostle Paul’s day are proof that believers can have true spirituality yet lack the proper discipline that keeps their sinful habits in check.
According to apostle Paul, these Corinthian believers are spiritual, for they have received the Holy Spirit who has revealed to them some spiritual truths that ONLY the God kind of spiritual people can understand (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:12-14), but because they were very immature, spiritually speaking, they were living in such a way that they demonstrated a depressing deficiency in their spiritual perspective. As a consequence, since they had not grown to the level of spirituality that the apostle Paul believed they should have been, the apostle says that he only could talk to them like they were babies (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
This child-like level of true spirituality is where many of us today live, move, and have our being. That is why spiritually mature Christians constantly must remind themselves that NOBODY becomes morally perfect at the moment he or she becomes saved. Moreover, spiritually mature believers must remind themselves that every believer will not take the same amount of time to reach a mature level of spirituality. Spiritually mature believers also must keep in mind that the Scriptures warn them that in the last days, even God’s very elect (His chosen; those who have received salvation) can be deceived and end up turning away from their faith (cf. Matthew 24:24). These truths are why the Christians who have true spirituality must be careful not to allow themselves to be influenced by demonic forces whose goal not only is to lead these believers to say and/or do things that are ungodly but also their goal is to get believers to think about their sin-guilt and then feel so guilty about their sins that they turn away from the Gospel’s Truth!
For sure, until we are glorified, we will continue to do and say things that neither glorify nor please God. However, when we know who we are in Jesus the Christ (know that our identity has changed and that we are justified, are declared righteous in the eyes of God), then we also will respond immediately to the Holy Spirit, who not only disciplines us but also teaches us how to correct our sinful and morally unethical behaviors.
In other words, we believers still sin; however, we DO NOT practice sinning. This last statement means that although we still can sin, after we have been saved, we cannot make a habit of sinning, like the Devil does, and like we did when we were unregenerate and unsaved sinners, because Christ Jesus helps us in Heaven as our advocate, and because the Holy Spirit in us disciplines us and influences our immediate repentance of the sins we have committed (cf. 1 John 1:8-10; 2:1-2; 3:8-9; and 5:18). Furthermore, even though we still sin, we ARE spiritual and have the God kind of spirituality, simply because we have the Holy Spirit in us. This last statement also is true of the spiritual Corinthians. They too have true spirituality because they have the Holy Spirit in them. The Holy Spirit, thus, not only is inside ALL of us who believe in Jesus the Christ so that He can convict us of our sins, but also He is inside us so that He can help us by teaching us how to grow up, spiritually speaking!
Then too, there are other modern-day Christians who believe that God’s Holy Spirit ONLY speaks through born again, saved Christians. However, this belief is not biblically sound, either. The apostle Paul also uses the Corinthian church members to confirm to these Corinthians, and to today’s believers, that it is possible for God’s Spirit to give believers and unbelievers the ability to confess that Jesus as Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3b). Indeed, we who are now saved are nothing more than sinners ho have been saved by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus the Christ, which the mighty workings of the HOLY SPIRIT make possible, starting when He, while we are still habitual sinners, first convinces us that we need to be born again, and continuing His influence until we are reconciled and restored back to our right standing in God (cf. Romans 5:8-11). After we are justified, it is through the Holy Spirit’s progressive sanctification, the process of taking us from one level of glory to the next level of glory, we ultimately receive our glorified bodies (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18)!
The point that we must not forget, however, is that demonic spirits can influence believers as well as unbelievers! This truth is why the apostles Paul and John warn us to be careful about which spirit(s) we are allowing to influence us. If the Holy Spirit is not influencing and leading us, then it is Satan’s demonic spirits who are influencing and leading us. The battle is indeed not with flesh and blood beings, but rather with those spirits who exist in the spirit realm (cf. Ephesians 6:12), which is why, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, we must pull down every wicked imagination that raises its ugly head up against the Divine knowledge about God and Jesus the Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
When all is said and done, we must use our spirituality, spiritual gifts, power, and authority ONLY to reflect the Divine Truth about God’s Divine Light, instead of using our spiritual abilities to spread Satan’s lies about this world’s darkness! Therefore, just like the Corinthian church members are not being led by God’s Holy Spirit to use their spiritual gifts of discernment, prophecy, wise advice (word of wisdom), special knowledge (word of knowledge), and so forth, when they call our Lord an anathema, today’s believers also are NOT being led by the Holy Spirit when they use their spiritual gifts to speak this same lie! Both the 1st century and 21st-century believers, the ones who use their spiritual gifts to spread lies about Jesus the Christ, are misusing their spiritual gifts.
Thankfully, God allows the Holy Spirit to speak through today’s willing and obedient spiritual leaders who are eager to teach us about the kinds of spiritual abuses that were happening in the Corinthian church, and are still going on in today’s churches. Spiritual leaders like these are the believers who, having the God kind of righteous motives, are doing the Will of Father God who wants them, and us, to live and walk in the Holy Spirit 24/7 (cf. Galatians 5:25-26).
Believers’ true spirituality, spiritual gifts, power, and authority are the works of the Holy Spirit, and these works are supernatural because they come from God who lives in the spirit realm. However, false spirituality also involves the spirit realm, but it is that realm where Satan lives!
At the end of each day, the difference between true and false spirituality, then, will be in knowing which spirit is leading us—the difference between true and false spirituality will be in knowing whether we are being led by the Holy Spirit of God, or whether we are being led by Satan’s demonic spirits! This knowledge also will help us to resolve our problems with dishonesty and hypocrisy, which we display every time we teach distorted views of God’s Truths, and every time we misuse the spiritual gifts God has given to us through His Holy Spirit.
Also, please read my post: Are Spiritual Gifts Still Misunderstood?