A Full and Abundant Life: What It Really Means to Be "Spiritual"February 17, 2016
It seems like many people—Christians and non-Christians alike—have an incredibly misguided view of what it means to be “spiritual.” A truly spiritual person is seen as someone who renounces earthly enjoyments in order to devote themselves to higher, more spiritual pursuits.
For example, a spiritual person will be careful not to have too much fun. That would be worldly. Instead, they monkishly withdraw from the world in order to pursue spiritual things like reading the Bible and praying. In addition, a healthy majority of the person’s conversations need to be about spiritual matters. And don’t forget the distant look in their eyes and the somber tone of their voice—those things are essential if you want to be a spiritual person.
Not surprisingly, hardly anyone actually wants to live that way. And they shouldn’t.
In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” He wants us to have a life that’s full and abundant. Of course, that doesn’t mean we “live it up” by engaging in sinful activities, but it does mean that the ideal Christian life is one which most people would view as desirable and attractive.
If you’re a Christian, please read this very closely. Many Christians think a lot about what we’ve been saved from (that is, our sins being forgiven through Jesus dying on the cross). But we don’t think nearly enough about what we’ve been saved into (the fullness of life Jesus describes in John 10:10).
This fullness of life includes being able to enjoy so-called “regular” things in an even greater way—things like family, friends, nature, food, recreation, material blessings, and even our jobs—knowing that they are gifts from God.
The Apostle Paul teaches us to have this perspective in 1 Timothy 6:17. After cautioning wealthy Christians “not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God,” he balances this out by describing God as one “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” This means God has given us money (and, by implication, other earthly blessings) because he wants us to enjoy it in a responsible way.
As a father, I want the very best for my two boys. I find enjoyment not just in seeing them obey my rules (which I’ve designed for their own good) but in seeing them have fun. I love taking them to playgrounds or out for ice cream because it brings them so much enjoyment. And when they have a good time, I have a good time too. In a similar way, God is a Father who is pleased and glorified as we enjoy his good gifts.
Think about the big picture of the Bible. After describing how God created this world, Genesis 1:31 says that “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” This means that the ordinary things of life were made as “very good” components of God’s creation.
Unfortunately, however, humanity’s rebellion against God resulted in the twisting of God’s good creation. That’s why we have things like wars, crime, natural disasters, diseases, and death. But the Bible says that God is in the process of bringing renewal to his creation. That’s why Jesus performed so many miracles. And one day, he’ll bring about full renewal and restore everything to the way he originally intended for it to be. As he says in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Think about what that means. That means heaven isn’t some other-worldly place of people sitting on clouds and playing harps. It’s a newly-created physical world, complete with all of the good gifts that were originally present in this current world. However, it’s free from the problems of our current world and characterized by perfect peace, justice, love, and prosperity. And best of all, we’ll get to see God’s glory and beauty up close and personal!
What does this mean for the way we live now? Everything.
True spirituality isn’t withdrawing from earthly blessings and enjoyments. It includes enjoying all of these things as good gifts from a loving Father. God is genuinely delighted when we have a good time with our friends, eat a juicy steak at Longhorn’s, or watch the Pittsburgh Steelers win a football game (although enjoying a Bengals victory is questionable at best).
And as we enjoy blessings like these, we can be thankful that we’re simultaneously able to enjoy the vastly superior pleasures of a close relationship with God. As Revelation 21:23 states, God’s new creation “has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light.”