Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.
Edwin Hatch, 1835-1889
Am I willing to face the truth? Am I able to recognise the truth before it hits me in the face? My purpose in writing is to show that truth belongs to God, our Creator, and that He has shown us the Truth through the Bible and the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. When someone accepts these things as the Truth they arrive at a door to a new spiritual life. Through the door is forgiveness and freedom from guilt, hope, peace, and joy. Beyond the door is a path of truth and love. This path is spiritual, and its air is the breath of God.
The Christian truth about being spiritual is not the same as the general idea of spirits that infuses human experience. The Bible teaches us that there is a difference between the soul and spirit.
Hebrews 4:12 NIV For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
The Bible words are:
SPIRIT: RUACH (Hebrew) and PNEUMA (Greek) –describing a stormy wind – a current of air – used to describe the life of something that cannot be seen We see the effects of it but cannot see it.
SOUL: NEPHESH and PSUCHE – the soul. These word define human life and character rather than mere vitality that exists in the rest of nature. By implication human life that is rational and immortal.
Humans have experiences and feelings that are beyond explanation and distinguish us from the animal world. Some animals are ‘spooked’ by gravitational or sudden climate changes, they can sense fear, and smell danger. Humans have ‘out of body’ episodes, are influenced by witch doctors and hypnotists, can be ‘possessed’, can experience unusual healings, speak in strange languages, and encounter beings beyond this physical world (angels). Many religions and beliefs teach that there is life beyond death. These phenomena are not so easily explained but, instead, rely on the uncharted maps of psychology. That word comes from the Greek ‘psuche’ meaning ‘soul’. These beliefs and phenomena separate us from the rest of creation. Humans have memory, intellect and the ability to ask and answer questions beyond the simple matter of survival or animal need. It is this difference that has given rise to religion, science and philosophy and the arts.
Although we share basic, physical makeup with all kinds of creatures, we are distinct in that our purpose on earth was to rule and to care for everything. We have a bone structure like other animals, we have brains and blood like other animals, we have instincts like other animals. But we are different. God created us to be spiritual beings.
What is being spiritual? Do animals, trees, or rocks have spirits? Some religions would claim they do – that they hold power belonging to gods. The word ‘spirit’ is used to mean anything, from the nature of a thing to a ghost. For example, the cult Star Wars films carry the idea that there is a “FORCE” (spirit?) for good and a corresponding one for evil. Native Americans have complex ideas about spirits. There are many different beliefs across Native American Tribes, but a prevailing idea is that animal spirits interact with humans. There are religions that have spirits or gods for almost everything. The name ‘pagan’ is used to describe these religions that focus on spirits in the natural world. Other names given to this kind of belief are heathenism and pantheism. Beliefs and practices based on deities, spirits and the natural world are ancient. The Bible describes these religions as idolatry.
I may be oversimplifying our distinction from animals but it remains a fact that only humans have complex vocabulary, write poems and stories, create music and art and have organised systems of politics and religion. Humans also have ‘otherworldly’ ideas. This can be seen in the plethora of supernatural and horror films and stories. It can be seen in the numerous temples, cathedrals and religious buildings everywhere. Paul explains all this:
Romans 1:19-20 NIV … what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. (20) For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Paul goes on to show that this has not led to awareness of God but to worship of idols. Much of what we call, ‘spiritual’ is truly no more than the efforts of the soul. Our psychology, our imagination, and our desire to survive, work together to develop systems of religion and social order. They are not from God’s Holy Spirit. They emanate from human fear and superstition. Paul emphasised this distinction when he wrote to the Christians in Corinth:
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NIV (1) Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. (2) I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. (3) You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?
‘Mere men’ have souls and spirits that are not in contact with their Creator. Because of this the spirit is dead. Dead in trespasses and sins. The Christian faith teaches that the spirit is ‘quickened’, like when a baby suddenly starts moving in the womb, when we turn to God from idols and believe in Jesus. God’s Spirit brings a new spiritual birth that grows and progresses alongside our natural human lives. The new life needs nurturing through spiritual food and the love of a spiritual family. The purpose is to grow to be more like Jesus Christ. The future beyond this life is to become sons of God. Paul explains this in his letter to the Romans (especially in chapter 8):
Romans 8:19 NIV The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
The Son of God, Jesus, glorified God in all He did. That is the Christian’s destiny – to be like Jesus. The truly spiritual life will begin to do this now, in this life, even with the weaknesses and faults of our human lives. We are already New Creations and have God’s Spirit helping our spirits to glorify God. Wearing special clothes, belonging to a special Christian group, having special knowledge or manifesting special behaviour will not make me spiritual. What counts is how and where we ‘walk’ (think, behave). It is our closeness to Christ that makes the difference.