Personal Spirituality

In the day in which we live, “religious” has been replaced with the term “spiritual,” which is both ambiguous as well as hard to define. That said, it is clear that religion and spirituality play a roll in the lives of every human being, as we were created to worship. Therefore, as individuals imaging the divine, we all have what might be termed “personal spirituality;” and in the protestant evangelical Christian tradition, personal spirituality is relational and not merely religious. Thus it is common to hear evangelical Christians say, “I don’t have religion, I have a relationship.” But if “spiritual” needs definition, then the concept of a relationship over religion certainly needs clarification.

As a pastor, I have regularly been confronted with the dreadful reality that it is far to easy to default to a pattern of life and ministry that is overly religious. By religious, I mean that daily life and ministry can have an appearance of spirituality and devotion, but be terribly devoid of genuine godliness and sincere worship. In other words, ministry, for the minister, can become inordinately professional. The task of sermon preparation and the sacerdotal functions in the ministry are inherently spiritual; or at least appear to be. Consequently, the minister and those ministered to by him, might wrongly assume that the one doing such things is inherently spiritual too. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Christian in general, and those called to Christian leadership specifically, must never allow the daily disciplines of Christianity (i.e. prayer, Bible reading, memory, etc.) and the functions of Christian ministry to become heartlessly mechanical. As an instrument of worship, the disciple of Christ must aim to worship through these activities and not simply do them by rote. Therefore, enjoying the relationship of Christianity demands Spirit directed devotion and worship; not just a codified ethic.

6 replies
  1. Matt Kottman
    Matt Kottman says:

    Thanks Miles,
    Having a form of godliness but denying it’s power (2 Tim 3:5). When forms replace substance, we live in a world of cardboard cutouts for spirituality instead of true essence. From the outside everything looks right, but it’s only a flat 2-dimensional form, lacking the depth and substance of true devotion.

  2. Eric
    Eric says:

    Nice thoughts. The cliché of “I don’t have religion, I have a relationship,” may have served a purpose at one point, but fits all too well with the vague spirituality that is so common now.

    Do you think the pendulum has sort of swung the other way – the emphasis from pulpits has been on a “personal” relationship with Jesus for so long, that we’ve become comfortable with a mere personal/devotional spirtuality? One that perhaps reads the Bible before work in the morning, but has almost no relationship with Jesus’ church?

  3. don steigerwald
    don steigerwald says:

    In response to this post and it’s couple of replies from others: (And because I believe the readers of this blog are mature enough to hear this….let me apologize now if I’ve gotten a bit crass here….)

    …THIS is eternal life, to know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. John 17:3

    To reply # 1:The power ‘thereof’…… is God. When we have a form we have an idol, a thing representing something, but not the ‘actual’. When the form becomes our focus of worship we become idolaters. (Having the form of Godliness).

    To reply # 2: There isn’t healthy fellowship with Jesus if a person is not in communion with the Body. They could have feelings and a self-centered religious experience, but not true harmonious communion with the Savior, for He has not divorced His bride and He never will. If we love Him, we will love those begotten of Him it’s the fruit of His Spirit.


    The truth is, the thing we find sometimes, is this: we see people more or less enjoying a sort of a spiritual masturbation and not honest intercourse with the creator. Sorry to be so graphic but I think this is a true representation of what’s happening on an inward, Spiritual level at any given time in our walks with God. This is why the power of God is lacking in lives, because HE is missing. They/we worship the God of our imagination, not the true and LIVING God.

    I believe it is this behavior that we and even those who are not born of God find so revolting in the way so many Christians speak of having ‘JUST/Only a personal relationship with Jesus’. It’s that they(insert also:’we’) really aren’t living in relationship with Him, we are rather satisfying our imagination of Him so that our guilt is assuaged and our ego’s are stroked to tell us that ‘we’re’ OK today’. “We’re OK because so and so thinks we’re pretty cool and hey, I am a Pastor (or whatever) after all”, etc. etc.

    Fellowship with God results in awe. It’s automatic. It can’t be helped. That awe is followed closely by contrite hearts, a sense of overwhelming unworthiness and yet profound love. It results in newness of life, love, joy and peace. It eschews religious platitudes. They become like lukewarm water because they are so the opposite of the real and truly refreshing living water of life that comes from the throne of God.

    Because He is awesome, the thoughts of our hearts melt at the thought of Him and our inward parts cringe at the thought of doing anything that would injure Him and separate us from Him in any way.

    As we bask daily in Him and His Word in us, He becomes visible, both to us and to those He reaches out and touches, through us. This is the true religion, this is true Spiritual life. All other “forms” simply can’t compete. They are empty shells.

    Oh taste and see that THE LORD, HE is good. Blessed is the man who trusts in Him.

  4. David Fraser
    David Fraser says:

    This makes good sense and resonates with what I hear when I read 1 Corinthians chapters 2 & 3. We can get lost in ‘correctness’ as we strive to keep anchored in the truth. Isn’t it peculiar how we can be ‘right AND wrong’ at the same time. Technically correct and heartfully awry. Thank God, He is patient with us.

    Saul was mired in ‘religion’ until he met Jesus and began to draw on the relationship. But after meeting Jesus on the Damascus road, Paul never pursued relationship with Jesus by casting off the solid moorings of a scriptural foundation.

    Female grey wolves have been found starved to death in winter, all while having killed and fed and regurgitated it all up for her young. We pastors can commit the same act in error, as we diligently seek to lead and serve our families and communities.

    Your post reminds me and convicts me and encourages me to let it all sink-in. Thanks

  5. Duff Joy
    Duff Joy says:

    Praise God for your new Baby, Zorica & I thank God for your family. Your comments concerning “christian disciplines” we discussed in our Bible Study this week.I take time every week to prepare a study for the group, I take time every morning to hear from God through His Word, but it can and has become mechanical. I go through the motions so to speak. But I am encouraged that even though my heart may not be in the right state, God’s heart for me is. Ps 138:8 God will not abandon His Works! Ps 139:3 God knows all my ways. It brings me great comfort to know that my relationship with God is being held together by His faithfulness. His love for me and kindness leads me to repentance, and causes me to appreciate His goodness.
    I know that I do not know my own heart. But I know that God loves us, asks for us to trust Him, even with my mechanical disciplines! He will not allow His Word to return void! What a promise
    Thanks for sharing

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