Christian Living

Biblical Spirituality and Why it Matters

healthy leaves as a picture of biblical spirituality

Being biblically spiritual is not simply knowing facts concerning the Bible. It is more than having correct doctrine and being able to articulate that doctrine. Biblical spirituality is taking the knowledge, facts, wisdom, and doctrine one knows and putting it into practice in the daily life of the believer. Simply put, spirituality is the living out of spiritual beliefs. Specifically, biblical spirituality is the living out of spiritual beliefs as informed by Scripture.

The importance of living a biblically spiritual life cannot be overstated. Scripture calls the believer to live such a life. The apostle Paul is emphatic when he writes, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). Christians have a mandate to consistently live in a way that imitates God which is most clearly seen in the life of His Son Jesus Christ (John 14:9).

Knowing that biblical spirituality is not simply about sound doctrine, it is understood that it is about life. One’s doctrine, informed by the word of God, informs one’s spirituality. In other words, biblical spirituality is the living out of one’s doctrinal beliefs. However, to understand biblical spirituality, one must begin where the spiritual life begins, and that is with the gospel.

The Process of Sanctification

The Christian life is a process. That process begins at the point of regeneration when a person comes to faith and trust in Christ and in Christ alone for salvation from their sin. From this point forward, Christians are in the process of being sanctified. Simply put, sanctification is growth in the likeness of Christ. The more time goes on, the more mature a believer is, the more they will grow to learn and to live in a way that is like Christ. A Christian cannot be sinless, but we must seek to live a life where we sin less.

This process of sanctification is completed at the physical death of the Christian and glorification follows (Rom. 8:30, 1 John 3:2).

Christians indeed are to live lives that are more like Christ. Sin no longer has dominion over them and they no longer sin as a habit or as a pattern of life (1 John 3:9). It is in this life, the living, sanctified life, that one lives out their biblical spirituality. To do so only happens because of Christ. As Christopher Morgan writes, “[Christ’s] sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, exaltation, and more, ground our spirituality, including such blessings as justification, forgiveness, righteousness, peace, with God, and ‘access by faith into this grace, in which we stand’” (Rom. 5:2).

1Morgan, Christopher W., ed. 2019. Biblical Spirituality. Theology in Community Series. Wheaton: Crossway, 26.

“A Christian cannot be sinless, but we must seek to live a life where we sin less.”

The Spiritual Benefits of Life in Christ

There is significance that comes with confessing Christ as Savior. There is more to it than having our sins forgiven and gaining entrance to heaven. There are also spiritual benefits that come with the new life as a Christian. It is these benefits that allow someone to live spiritually. To quote Steve Lawson:

“Being born again means that God implants divine life within our spiritually dead heart. It is the life-giving act of God, whereby He causes us to be birthed into His family. It means that by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, we are dramatically transformed in the core of our being. When we are born anew, we are made alive to God. In the new birth, God gives us new life that only he can give.”

2Lawson, Steven J. 2020. New Life in Christ: What Really Happens When You’re Born Again and Why It Matters. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 15.

It is this new birth, this being a new creation in Christ that allows a person to live differently than they once did. They can put off the old person, that lived worldly, and put on the new person, that now lives in a biblically spiritual way.

When it comes to spiritual living, external and outward change is good. However, Christians are not concerned with what is good; they are concerned with what is best. An inward change of the heart will manifest itself in external behavior: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:33-34).

People are like trees. A person is known by the fruit they produce like a tree is known by the fruit it produces. However, not every tree is good; some trees produce bad fruit. For every person, what they speak is either good or bad because it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks, revealing their true thoughts. Even if somebody is good at making it look as if they are producing good fruit, the bad fruit will eventually show if that is what is in the heart. It is these words that justify or condemn, because the words come from the heart. If the heart is redeemed, the bad fruit of corrupting talk, for example, will turn to the good fruit of words of grace. Those words of grace will build others up and be encouraging to them (Eph. 4:29-30).

The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Christian Life

Biblical spirituality begins with Christ’s finished work on the cross in regeneration and then continues with the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The production of good fruit is only possible because of the work the Holy Spirit does to continually change the heart from being less sinful and more like Christ.

The work of the Holy Spirit is crucial and is no less important than the work Christ performed. As Richard Lovelace writes:

“To de-emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit, in order to give prominence to the work of Christ, is self-contradictory: to do so ignores the present ministry of Christ and cripples the church and his efforts to live out the extension of his rule on earth. The many references to the work of the Spirit, and Luke-Acts indicate that the prominence of his ministry prefigured in John was fully realized in the life of the early church which had no restraint and speaking of the Spirit’s falling upon believers, filling them for ministry, instructing them and directing their missionary labors, and comforting them.”3Lovelace, Richard F. and Alumni Collection (Princeton Theological Seminary). 2020. Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal. Expanded edition. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 124.

Biblical spirituality is first brought about by the gospel of Christ and enabled by the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual believer.

The Role of the Scriptures in the Christian Life

As sanctification is a process, lasting the entirety of the believer’s life, living a biblically spiritual life is also a process as one learns to live out their life as stated in Scripture. It is Scripture that makes the difference in living for the Christian. Any person, regardless of religious beliefs, can live what they believe is a spiritual life and yet not, in fact, be living in a way that is pleasing to God. Our understanding of what constitutes a spiritual life must be informed by the word of God. Christians do not create a standard of spirituality that God has not prescribed.

The question then remains, how? How is a Christian to live in a way that God prescribes? The simple answer is to read Scripture and do what it says. There is truth in this, however, it is not as simple as it may seem. Living life as a list of “do’s” and “do not’s” can easily lead someone down a path of works-based religion. Again Morgan observes:

“Jesus also stresses the inherently missional nature of his Kingdom community as he calls us to be the “salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13) and the “light of the world” (5:14). These images build on the Beatitudes, in which Jesus associates God’s Kingdom not with human strength and honor but with our spiritual poverty, crying, meekness, hunger, mercy, peace, and persecution. Fundamental to these images is our distinctiveness as the holy Kingdom community (5:3-12). The world is in decay, and we are the salt. The world is in darkness, and we are the light.”4Morgan, Christopher W., ed. 2019. Biblical Spirituality. Theology in Community Series. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 47.

The Role of Spiritual Disciplines in the Christian Life

Spiritual disciplines are an important aspect of what it means to live spiritually as God defines it.

True Christianity and Legalism

Any person, Christian or not, can live within the boundaries of God’s law or human law. Yet this does not mean that that person is living a life like Christ. Since biblical spirituality is the living out of beliefs, then the Christian is called to live like Christ and to be different than the world. This living is more than rule-keeping. It is a testimony to the unbelieving world that we are not of the world and do not live the same way as the unbelieving world does (Rom. 12:2; 1 John 2:15).

Christians live out their spirituality by putting off old, worldly, sinful behaviors and putting on new godly Christ-like behaviors (Eph. 4:17-32; Col. 3:5-17).

True Christianity and Discipleship

Living biblically begins with God’s Word and understanding what the guardrails are within which a person ought to live. In the Great Commission Christ gave the command to preach the gospel and baptize those who come to faith in Christ, and then teach “them to observe all I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). It is through discipleship in God’s Word that one learns how to live their new life in Christ.

True Christianity and Prayer

However, spiritual living also encompasses prayer as our means of communication with God the Father. David Mathis points out that, “Prayer, for the Christian, is not merely talking to God but responding to the one who has initiated toward us.”

5Mathis, David. 2016. Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines. Wheaton: Crossway, 94.

Christians are called to pray as a means of giving glory to God, asking for God’s will to be done, for direction in life, and for greater understanding of Scripture to know how a person ought to live. As Mathis goes on to write, “The great purpose of prayer is to come humbly, expectantly, and—because of Jesus—boldly into the conscious presence of God, to relate to him talk with him and ultimately enjoy him as our great Treasure.”

6Ibid, 95.

Biblical Spirituality and True vs. False Faith

Broadly speaking, there are two types of Christians. The first are true, genuinely converted people who have repented of their sin and have trusted Christ and Christ alone for their salvation. The second are those who claim to be Christian in some way, but have not truly been converted.

The spectrum is wide as to those claiming to be Christian but are not. Many people look and sound like they are truly converted but are not. Some people spend decades thinking they are Christian and as it turns out they never truly believed.

Biblical spirituality is significant in the life of the believer because it reveals who really is a believer and who is not.

In the end, only God knows who truly has Christ living in them because only God knows the inner thoughts (Psa. 139:1-2). This is why the individual believer is to be concerned with their own biblical spirituality first and foremost (2 Cor. 13:5). GotQuestions.org provides valuable insight at this point:

“When Scripture compares believers with unbelievers, it highlights the lifestyle differences. Believers are to be known by their love (John 13:35), their holiness (1 Peter 1:15), and their desire to be like Christ (Ephesians 4:15). According to the whole of Scripture, it is not possible to be a true believer and continue the ungodly lifestyles that warranted God’s wrath in the first place (Ephesians 5:5-7). This is due to the fact that salvation results in a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17). Just as a fish cannot remain on land for long due to its nature, so born-again hearts cannot remain in sin for long due to their new nature.”

Biblical spirituality is significant in the life of a believer because Christians are called to live as those who are in the world, but not of it (John 17:16). Ephesians 4:17-24 is emphatic concerning how Christians must live a life that is set apart from the world and that is different from that of the ‘Gentiles’ (v. 17). People in the world have a hardness of heart, and they do not understand the things of God (v. 18). Unbelievers give themselves over to sin and impurity (v. 19). However, for the believer, that is not the way we are to live because that is not the way we have learned Christ (v. 20). The believer is to put off the old sinful practices to put on Christ-like holiness (vv. 21-24).

What all of this comes down to is living a sanctified life. As Lovelace writes: “We cannot claim Christ justifying work without claiming at the same time his delivering power for sanctification … [R]eal justifying and sanctifying faith involves death and resurrection for the believer; it involves being born again.”7Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, 213.

Saving Faith is Sanctifying Faith

The significance of biblical spirituality in the life of a believer comes back to the gospel—not just the gospel that saves, but the gospel that sanctifies.

Christ did not come and die just so that people could be saved from their sin and be made right with God. The purpose of preaching the gospel is more than to save. As Lovelace rightly points out, it is also to “seek to bring every individual member into the light concerning the depth of his, or her need to appropriate the justifying and defining work of Christ through a response of faith.”8Ibid.

In other words, the purpose of salvation is to live a Christ-like life. The purpose is to be lights in the darkness, to glorify God, and to pick up our cross daily and follow Christ (Matt. 16:24).

“The significance of biblical spirituality comes back to the gospel—not just the gospel that saves, but the gospel that sanctifies.”

Conclusion: The Significance of Biblical Spirituality

Biblical spirituality is significant for several reasons. First, it shows what a person truly is. Second, living a biblically spiritual life shows that a believer is forsaking his- or herself to live a life for God. Lastly, a biblically spiritual life is a life that is an example to others and a testimony to the unbelieving world.

Furthermore, biblical spirituality begins with the gospel. It is the living out of a life informed by God’s word. Biblical spirituality is about living as the light of Christ in the world (Eph. 5:8). All of this is accomplished through all the means that God provides to live a life that is holy as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16).

The significance of living life in a biblical spiritual way cannot be overstated. Living a life of true spirituality as prescribed in Scripture is “incarnating” Christ—being a living picture of the Lord Jesus—to those around us, both in the church and outside of it.

church leaders Pastor Jeff

About the Author

Jeff Nordyke joined the pastoral team at Firm Foundation in the fall of 2022. Prior to that, he served as a deacon for seven years at a local sister church of FFBC, and has extensive experience in church administration, children’s ministry, and youth ministry. Pastor Jeff is a Prescott native and is currently enrolled at Phoenix Seminary where he is working toward an MA degree. He and his wife Sarah have been married since 2003 and have three wonderful children. More from Jeff ⟶

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