Faith, God, Grace, Holy Spirit

What Is The Difference Between Religiosity and Spirituality?

Religiosity is defined as the state of being religious or too religious. Religiosity usually entails extreme zeal and affection outside and beyond the norms of one’s faith or beliefs. It is an inappropriate devotion to the rituals and traditions of a religion. Whenever a Christian takes his/her eyes off a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, religiosity/religiousness can be the result. It is often easier to observe the rules, rituals, and traditions of a religion than it is to maintain a passionate relationship with the Lord. Do we serve God in order to “earn” His love or to be seen and admired by other people, or do we serve God because we love Him and are grateful for the wonderful salvation He has provided? Religion, ritual, and tradition are not the problem. However, the attitude behind the religious practice can be a problem for some.

When we are born again, we receive the Holy Spirit who seals us for the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead us “into all truth” (John 16:13). Part of that truth is taking the things of God and applying them to our lives. When that application is made, the believer then makes a choice to allow the Holy Spirit to control him/her. True Christian spirituality is based upon the extent to which a born-again believer allows the Holy Spirit to lead and control his or her life.

The apostle Paul tells believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit. “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). The tense in this passage is continual and therefore means “keep on being filled with the Spirit.” Being filled with the Spirit is simply allowing the Holy Spirit to control us rather than yielding to the desires of our own carnal nature. In this passage Paul is making a comparison. When someone is controlled by wine, he is drunk and exhibits certain characteristics such as slurred speech, unsteady walk, and impaired decision making. Just as you can tell when a person is drunk because of the characteristics he displays, so a born-again believer who is controlled by the Holy Spirit will display His characteristics. We find those characteristics in Galatians 5:22-23 where they are called the “fruit of the Spirit.” This is true Christian spirituality, produced by the Spirit working in and through the believer. This character is not produced by self effort. A born-again believer who is controlled by the Holy Spirit will exhibit sound speech, a consistent spiritual walk, and decision making based on the Word of God.

Therefore, Christian spirituality involves a choice we make to “know and grow” in our daily relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ by submitting to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This means that, as believers, we make a choice to keep our communication with the Spirit clear through confession (1 John 1:9). When we grieve the Spirit by sin (Ephesians 4:30; 1 John 1:5-8), we erect a barrier between ourselves and God. When we submit to the Spirit’s ministry, our relationship is not interrupted (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Christian spirituality is a consciousness of fellowship with the Spirit of Christ, uninterrupted by carnality and sin. Christian spirituality develops when a born-again believer makes a consistent and ongoing choice to surrender to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus gave Nicodemus, a Pharisee and prominent member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, a lesson on Christian Spirituality when he came to see him one night (John 3:1-21). Jesus spoke of the necessity and nature of regeneration or the new birth, and at once directed Nicodemus to the source of holiness of the heart. Birth is the beginning of life; to be born again, is to begin to live anew, as those who have lived much amiss, or to little purpose. We must have a new nature, new principles, new affections, new aims. By our first birth we were corrupt, shapen in sin; therefore we must be made new creatures. No stronger expression could have been chosen to signify a great and most remarkable change of state and character. We must be entirely different from what we were before, as that which begins to be at any time, is not, and cannot be the same with that which was before. This new birth is from heaven, and its tendency is to heaven (cf. John 1:13). It is a great change made in the heart of a sinner, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that something is done in us, and for us, which we cannot do for ourselves. A regenerated person acts truly and sincerely in all he does. He desires to know what the will of God is, and to do it, though against his own worldly interest. A change in his whole character and conduct has taken place. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Spirit, and is become the commanding principle of his actions.

The woman at the well follows on the heels of Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus. In John 4:4-42 we read about Jesus’ conversation with a lone Samaritan woman who had come to get water from a well (known as Jacob’s well) located about a half mile from the city of Sychar in Samaria.

Christ asked the woman for water. She was surprised because he did not show the anger of his own nation against the Samaritans. Christ took the occasion to teach her Christian Spirituality: he converted this woman, by showing her ignorance and sinfulness, and her need of a Saviour. By this living water is meant the Spirit. Under this comparison the blessing of the Messiah had been promised in the Old Testament. The graces of the Spirit, and his comforts, satisfy the thirsting soul, that knows its own nature and necessity. What Jesus spoke figuratively, she took literally. Christ shows that the water of Jacob’s well yielded a very short satisfaction. Of whatever waters of comfort we drink, we shall thirst again. But whoever partakes of the Spirit of grace, and the comforts of the gospel, shall never want that which will abundantly satisfy his soul. Carnal hearts look no higher than carnal ends. Give it to me, she said, not that I may have everlasting life, which Christ proposed, but that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water. The carnal mind is very ingenious in shifting off convictions, and keeping them from fastening. But how closely our Lord Jesus brings home the conviction to her conscience! He severely reproved her present state of life. The woman acknowledged Christ to be a prophet. The power of his word in searching the heart, and convincing the conscience of secret things, is a proof of Divine authority. It should cool our contests, to think that the things we are striving about are passing away. The object of worship will continue to be the same, God, as a Father; but an end shall be put to all differences about the place of worship. Reason teaches us to consult decency and convenience in the places of our worship; but Christ gives no preference to one place above another, in respect of holiness and approval with God. The Jews were certainly in the right. Those who by the Scriptures have obtained some knowledge of God, know whom they worship. The word of salvation was of the Jews. It came to other nations through them. Christ justly preferred the Jewish worship before the Samaritan, yet here he speaks of the former as soon to be done away. God was about to be revealed as the Father of all believers in every nation. The spirit or the soul of man, as influenced by the Holy Spirit, must worship God, and have communion with him. Spiritual affections, as shown in fervent prayers, supplications, and thanksgivings, form the worship of an upright heart, in which God delights and is glorified. The woman was disposed to leave the matter undecided, till the coming of the Messiah. But Christ told her, I that speak to you, am He. She was an alien and a hostile Samaritan, merely speaking to her was thought to disgrace our Lord Jesus. Yet to this woman did our Lord reveal himself more fully than as yet he had done to any of his disciples. No past sins can bar our acceptance with him, if we humble ourselves before him, believing in him as the Christ, the Saviour of the world. This is true Christian Spirituality.

Let us ask our Lord Jesus to give us living water to quench the thirsting of our souls with the song “Fill My Cup, Lord”:

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