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Being Religious vs. Being Spiritual

December 17, 2008

I was in an online meeting the other day. Part of the topic was “what is the difference you see between being religious and being spiritual. Here is my take on it:

To me, being religious has more to do with structure and ritual. It has to do with how we do the things we do in our lives. Anyone can do something religiously, being totally dedicated to persistently doing something. Doing things is not bad. To me…it boils down to why you do it.

If I do something because I think it will earn salvation for me, or brownie points with God, then I am way off base. There is nothing I can do to earn salvation. There is nothing I can do that will make God love me more or love me less. If I do something because God says to do it and I love Him and desire to obey Him…that is good.

Being spiritual is also something we all can do. In fact, we all are spiritual beings. We all worship something or someone. The question is…”who, or what, do I worship?” That can get tricky. I can say with my mouth that I worship Yahweh, the God of the bible, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yet, I can then turn to other things for my comfort, strength and hope, which makes me an idolater.

So my desire is to be spiritual in the sense that I am loving and have a heart that is totally in love with and surrendered to my Creator…the true God of the universe. I want to love and serve Him…and Him alone.

My spirituality is not determined by my external actions. Rather, my external actions are determined by my true spirituality.  If I truly believe what God says, then I am going to choose to walk in it…even if my “feelings” and emotions are screaming at me to do otherwise.

That is a huge challenge. It has taken me years of walking that out as best I could to get to where I am today….and I still have such a long way to go! Even as strong as my faith is, I have my times of fighting fear and of questioning, etc. The difference now is that those times are much fewer…and much shorter in duration.

I can catch the lies much more quickly and counter them with truth. I don’t sit in them for a long time like I used to. Sometimes, I actually don’t even succumb to them at all. I just let them fly by. A lot of the time, though, I still have to consciously choose to do that.

There are times when I am much more vulnerable emotionally. That is where the religious rituals, such as exercises of prayer and bible reading, can help me keep my heart connection with my Abba strong.  Or they can help clear it up if it gets muddied by my straying from the truth and/or from obedience.

I need the spiritual heart connection that I have with my Abba. I also need the disciplines that some might call “religion”. They go hand in hand. I don’t see them as being separate. I see them as being partners, like flip sides of the same coin. Both are important.

Without the heart connection, religious disciplines really don’t mean anything. Without the religious disciplines, the heart connection may not ever get really strong. In fact, it may even weaken because I won’t be learning the truth that enables me to become free from the lies.

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