Most of us have probably heard someone say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious”. What they mean by that is probably as diverse as the number of people saying it. But a common thread that would connect all those comments is a focus on what’s inside a person rather than a belief in God who is above the person. In other words, “I think about ‘god’ in my own way with whatever personal opinion I have, instead of believing in any particular god of any particular religion.” As Christians, we recognize the falseness of that thinking right away. Yet, sometimes even Christians have made the comment.
St. Augustine, a famous ancient church father, is quoted as saying: “You made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” That’s a rephrasing of Psalm 62:1, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.” We’re all “spiritual”. Everybody is. God has made us that way, body and soul. In a perfect world before sin entered, the spiritual connection between God and mankind was complete and harmonious. When death and separation came into this world through sin, that harmony was broken. But our Lord still reaches out for every soul. And every soul naturally knows that he is there. There is a restlessness, an empty hole, a spiritual searching that exists in every human. And there can be all kinds of religions in the world which have been invented to try to fill that hole, or there can be all kinds of people who think spiritual thoughts on their own apart from religion, but no soul will find true rest until it comes to a knowledge of Christ. “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:3,4)
You and I need God’s forgiveness. We need his promise of eternal peace that comes through the reconciling blood of Jesus, given for us. We need to be at harmony with God now and perfectly in heaven. And we won’t find that by looking inside ourselves and simply saying “I’m spiritual.” Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63) Paul reminds us that is by grace we are saved, and this comes to us by faith. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) This is where church comes in. This is where organized Christian religion comes in. This is where hearing God’s Word comes in. Everyone is “spiritual”. But there is no spiritual rest except in Jesus, who comes to us through the Gospel.
The question asks, “What do people mean when they say they’re spiritual but have no use for God’s Word or the Church”? It doesn’t really mean anything. Our spiritual life and spiritual safety is connected with God’s Word. Without God’s Word, ultimately the road leads to spiritual death and eternal spiritual separation from God - still “spiritual”, but spiritually lost.
If it’s Christians who fall into making the comment, one suspects a cover-up one way or another. One is that it’s trying to explain away the breaking of the 3rd Commandment. That’s the one that commands us not to despise preaching and the Word, but to regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it. Why stay away from the Word, and forget the Sabbath Day? “I’m spiritual, I just don’t go to church.” The other suspected cover-up goes even farther down the road of tempting God. That is that a person is flaunting his or her disrespect for the 1st Commandment, about having no other gods. Instead of keeping the Lord Jesus in the heart as front and center, people might set him aside for their own notions or opinions – in essence inventing their own “god”. How does it sound? “I’m spiritual, just not tied to any one religion”. Not good! Remember, “He who belongs to God hears what God says.” (John 8:47)
But … None of us have to fall into that falsehood! God promises us spiritual rest and fulfilment! Instead of leaving us to figure out our own personal religion or to wander aimlessly in a wasteland of lost souls seeking solace – he reaches out for us and says, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Come and be nourished by the Word of God. That’s the privilege all of us have. Our rest is found in God alone. He has given us the blessing of true spirituality. Thank you, Lord Jesus! None of us ever have to wander in the darkness of being spiritual, but not connected to God!
Blessings in Christ,