“May [God] grant you to have among yourselves the same mental attitude that Christ Jesus had.”—ROM. 15:5.
1, 2. (a) How do many view spirituality? (b) What key questions about spirituality will we consider?
“BEING a spiritual person has made me happier, and it has helped me deal successfully with daily trials,” says a sister in Canada. A brother in Brazil states, “Our 23 years of marriage have been very happy—thanks to our efforts to be spiritually-minded.” And a brother in the Philippines notes, “Being a spiritual person has allowed me to have peace of mind, and it has helped me improve in my dealings with brothers from different backgrounds.”
2 Expressions like those portray spirituality in a favorable way. As a result, we may be moved to ask ourselves, ‘How can I grow as a spiritual person and enjoy more fully the benefits described above?’ However, before we answer that, we need to understand clearly what the Bible says about spiritual, or spiritually-minded, people. In this article, we will answer three key questions. (1) What does it mean to be a spiritual person? (2) What examples will help us to progress in our spirituality? (3) How will our effort to have “the mind of Christ” help us to be spiritual people?
WHAT IS A SPIRITUAL PERSON?
3. How does the Bible’s description of a physical man differ from that of a spiritual man?
3 The apostle Paul helps us to understand what a spiritual person is by drawing a contrast between a “spiritual man” and “a physical man.” (Read 1 Corinthians 2:14-16.) What is the difference? The “physical man” is described as not accepting “the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them.” On the other hand, “the spiritual man” is someone who “examines all things” and who has “the mind of Christ.” Paul encourages us to be spiritual people. In what other ways do physical and spiritual individuals differ?
4, 5. What are the characteristics of a physical person?
4 Consider first the attitude of a physical individual. The world has a predominant attitude that centers on the flesh. Paul describes it as “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:2) This spirit influences most humans to adopt a common attitude—simply follow the crowd. They are focused on the flesh. As a result, the majority of them do what feels right in their own eyes and make no effort to live up to God’s standards. A physical, or fleshly-minded, person is often excessively concerned about prestige and material pursuits or about defending what he feels are his rights.
5 What else might identify a physical person? People who engage in any of “the works of the flesh” fall into that category. (Gal. 5:19-21) Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian congregation identifies a number of other characteristics of those who have a fleshly attitude. These include: promoting divisions, taking sides, fostering dissensions, taking one another to court, showing a lack of appreciation for headship, and being self-indulgent in food and drink. When confronted with temptation, the fleshly-minded person weakens and gives in. (Prov. 7:21, 22) Jude spoke of those who would deteriorate even to the point of “not having spirituality.”—Jude 18, 19.
6. What identifies a spiritual person?
6 What, then, does it mean to be a “spiritual man”? A spiritual person is inclined toward God, the opposite of the physical person. Spiritually-minded individuals strive to “become imitators of God.” (Eph. 5:1) This means that they make an effort to have Jehovah’s thinking on matters and to look at things from his point of view. God is very real to them. In contrast with fleshly-minded individuals, they try to bring all their ways into harmony with Jehovah’s standards. (Ps. 119:33; 143:10) Rather than focus on fleshly works, the spiritually-minded person endeavors to show “the fruitage of the spirit.” (Gal. 5:22, 23) To clarify the expression “spiritually-minded” further, think of this comparison: An individual who is skillful in commercial affairs is said to be business-minded. Similarly, someone who keenly values spiritual or religious interests is called spiritually-minded.
7. What does the Bible say about spiritually-minded people?
7 The Bible speaks highly of spiritually-minded people. Matthew 5:3 says: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the Kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.” Romans 8:6 shows the advantage of being spiritually-minded, saying: “Setting the mind on the flesh means death, but setting the mind on the spirit means life and peace.” By focusing on spiritual things, we gain peace with God and with ourselves now and the prospect of everlasting life in the future.
8. Why is effort needed to develop and maintain spirituality?
8 However, we live in a dangerous environment. Since fleshly attitudes are all around us, we need to put forth real effort to develop spirituality and to guard it once we have it. If a person loses his spirituality, he creates a moral vacuum and the polluted “air” of this world will rush in. What can help us to prevent that from happening? How can we grow spiritually?
EXAMPLES TO LEARN FROM
9. (a) What can help us to grow spiritually? (b) What examples of spiritual people will we consider?
9 A child can become mature by observing his parents and copying their good example. In like manner, we can grow spiritually by observing and imitating spiritually strong people. Conversely, fleshly-oriented people serve as warning examples for us. (1 Cor. 3:1-4) The Bible contains both types of examples. But since our goal is to grow as spiritual people, let us take a look at several positive examples of individuals we can imitate. We will consider the examples of Jacob, Mary, and Jesus.
10. How did Jacob show himself to be a spiritual man?
10 First, take the example of Jacob. As is true of most of us today, Jacob did not have an easy life. He had to put up with his fleshly-minded brother, Esau, who intended to kill him. On top of that, he had to deal with a deceitful father-in-law, who repeatedly tried to exploit him. Yet, despite being surrounded by “physical” men, Jacob was a spiritual man. He had faith in the promise made to Abraham and devoted himself to caring for the family who would play a special role in the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose. (Gen. 28:10-15) Jacob’s words and actions reveal that he had God’s standards and will in mind. For example, when he felt threatened by Esau, Jacob said to God: “Save me, I pray you . . . You have said: ‘I will certainly deal well with you, and I will make your offspring like the grains of sand of the sea.’” (Gen. 32:6-12) He obviously put faith in Jehovah’s promises to him and his forefathers and wanted to act in harmony with God’s will and purpose.
11. What shows that Mary was a spiritual person?
11 Now consider another example, that of Mary. Why did Jehovah choose Mary to become Jesus’ mother? No doubt because she was a spiritually-minded person. How do we know that? She showed clear evidence of spirituality in her beautiful expressions of praise when she visited the home of her relatives Zechariah and Elizabeth. (Read Luke 1:46-55.) Mary’s statements show that she had a deep love for God’s Word and was thoroughly familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures. (Gen. 30:13; 1 Sam. 2:1-10; Mal. 3:12) Note, too, that she and Joseph, although newly married, refrained from sexual relations until Jesus was born. What does that indicate? It shows that both of them were more concerned with Jehovah’s will than with satisfying their personal desires. (Matt. 1:25) As time passed, Mary carefully noted what took place in Jesus’ life and paid attention to the words of wisdom he spoke. Furthermore, she “kept all these sayings in her heart.” (Luke 2:51) She was clearly interested in God’s purpose in connection with the Messiah. Does not Mary’s example help us to think of how we can put God’s will first in our life?
12. (a) In what way did Jesus resemble his Father? (b) How can we imitate Jesus’ example? (See opening picture.)
12 Yet, of all the people who have lived, who is the most outstanding example of a spiritual person? It is Jesus, of course. Throughout his life and ministry, he showed that he wanted to imitate his Father, Jehovah. He thought, felt, and acted like Jehovah and lived in harmony with God’s will and standards. (John 8:29; 14:9; 15:10) Note, for example, how Jehovah’s feelings of compassion are described by the prophet Isaiah, and compare that description with what the Gospel writer Mark reports about Jesus’ feelings. (Read Isaiah 63:9; Mark 6:34.) Are we like Jesus, ever ready to show compassionate concern when we meet people who need help? In addition, Jesus devoted himself to the work of preaching and teaching the good news. (Luke 4:43) All such feelings and actions are marks of a spiritual person.
13, 14. (a) What can we learn from modern-day examples of spiritually-minded people? (b) Relate an example.
13 Aside from Scriptural examples, there are many modern-day examples of spiritually-minded individuals who have made great progress in reflecting a Christlike personality. Perhaps you have noticed their zeal in the ministry, their outstanding hospitality, their compassion, or other fine qualities. They, like us, have battled weaknesses and imperfections while trying to develop those godly qualities. Rachel, a sister in Brazil, says: “I loved to follow the world’s fashions. As a result, I did not dress very modestly. But learning the truth moved me to make the needed effort to be a spiritual person. Making changes was not easy, but I became happier and found real purpose in life.”
14 Reylene, from the Philippines, had a different challenge. She focused on pursuing higher education and good employment in order to get ahead in life. She says: “My spiritual goals started to fade. But I began to realize that something was missing in my life, something far more important than my job. As a result, I redirected my focus to serving Jehovah.” Since then, Reylene has been a living example of putting faith in Jehovah’s promise found at Matthew 6:33, 34. She says: “I know for sure that Jehovah will take care of me!” Perhaps you know of similar examples in your congregation. Are we not moved to imitate such faithful ones as they follow the Christ?—1 Cor. 11:1; 2 Thess. 3:7.
HAVE “THE MIND OF CHRIST”
15, 16. (a) To be like Christ, what do we need to do? (b) How can we expose our mind to “the mind of Christ”?
15 How can we personally imitate Christ? The Bible at 1 Corinthians 2:16 speaks of having “the mind of Christ.” And Romans 15:5 refers to having “the same mental attitude that Christ Jesus had.” Therefore, to be like Christ, we need to know his pattern of thinking and the full range of his personality. Then we need to follow in his footsteps. Jesus’ mind is focused on his relationship with God. So being like Jesus makes us more like Jehovah. For these reasons, it becomes clear how important it is to learn to think as Jesus does.
16 How can we do this? Jesus’ disciples saw his miracles, heard his discourses, watched how he dealt with all kinds of people, and observed how he applied godly principles. They said: “We are witnesses of all the things he did.” (Acts 10:39) We, however, cannot observe him directly. But Jehovah has lovingly provided the Gospel accounts that can make Jesus’ personality come alive in our mind. By reading and meditating on the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we expose our mind to Christ’s mind. We thus can “follow his steps closely” and “arm [ourselves] with the same mental disposition” as Christ had.—1 Pet. 2:21; 4:1.
17. How will thinking like Christ help us?
17 How will learning to think like Christ help us? Just as nourishing food strengthens the physical body, feeding our mind on Christ’s thinking fortifies our spirituality. Gradually, we come to know what Christ would do in any situation. This, in turn, helps us to make decisions that leave us with a clean conscience and God’s approval. Do you not agree that these benefits give us good reason to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”?—Rom. 13:14.
18. What have you learned from this discussion on being a spiritual person?
18 We have considered what it means to be a spiritual person. We have also seen that we can learn from good examples of spiritual people. Finally, we have learned how having “the mind of Christ” helps us to grow as a spiritual person. However, there are several other aspects of spirituality that we should consider. For example, how can we analyze the strength of our own spirituality? What more can we do to cultivate it? And how will our spirituality impact our daily life? The next article will help to answer these questions.