But how do we get into shape Spiritually, and what are the benefits of doing so?
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Time for another Friday End Times post.
How many of you work hard on keeping your body in shape? And how about keeping your mind in shape?
We spend time, effort, and money to stay in good physical and mental shape. But what about getting into Spiritual shape? How do we do that, and what will it do for us?
Getting our souls in good Spiritual shape is the most important way to exercise in these End Times. This is something we all need to focus on. So that’s the topic for today: Getting into shape, Spiritually.
Train for a Spiritual Life
Listen up, everybody: It’s time to flex our Spiritual muscles! It’s time to get into shape—Spiritually. And what does that mean?
In Part 49, I took an in-depth look at 1 Timothy 4:1-7. Today we’re going to look at 1 Timothy 4:7-8, and use that as the springboard for today’s topic. In the second half of 1 Timothy 4:7, Paul teaches the importance of becoming Spiritually strong. The importance of Spiritual training. Let’s take a look:
(7) […] Train yourself for a holy life! (8) While physical training has some value, training in holy living is useful for everything. It has promise for this life now and the life to come.1 Timothy 4:7-8 (CEB)
In these verses Paul tells Timothy it’s time for Spiritual exercise! In verse 8 he acknowledges that physical exercise (workouts, training, and so on) has its value too. But Spiritual exercise is much more valuable according to him. This is because Spiritual exercise benefits us both now in this life and in our true eternal life to come. Physical exercise only benefits us now in this life. **
** Of course we shouldn’t neglect our physical exercise either. Our bodies are sacred since they were made in God’s image. We must exercise to keep our bodies as healthy as possible, showing them the most respect we can. But the benefits of Spiritual exercise go beyond this.
Humans are creatures of flesh and Spirit, who are also gifted with a mind. We are body, mind, and Soul, and each of these aspects must be mastered. It’s great to get into physical shape, exercise and stay healthy. It’s great to read books and get into shape mentally. But how do we get into shape Spiritually, and what are the benefits of doing so?
Getting into Shape, Spiritually
Let’s start with how to get into Spiritual shape, and then we’ll discuss the benefits.
What we need to do is simple and straightforward, but following through and doing it is the hard part. In short, we get stronger Spiritually when we engage with our Spiritual side. This means contemplating Spiritual things, engaging in Spiritual practices, prayer, attending Spiritual services, reading Spiritual books, and so on.
We do need to be careful though, because not all Spirituality is safe. New Age, for example, is a demonically-inspired belief system of demonic deceptions. See my book review of The Second Coming of the New Age for a great book on that topic. I recommend that book for anyone who wants to know the dangers of the false New Age spirituality. I write about New Age on this blog from time to time. But New Age isn’t the only danger. Mormons follow a demonically-inspired false Gospel written by a polygamous pedophilic false prophet that degrades the divinity of Christ. This false Gospel brings Jesus down to a level He doesn’t belong on while raising us humans up to a level we don’t belong on either. Mormonism is every bit as Spiritually fatal as New Age.
So we need to be careful about what Spirituality we get involved in. Displaying crosses and saying prayers doesn’t mean that everything’s alright. We need to be Spiritually discerning, and test every Spirit (1 John 4:1). That means comparing what we’re told with the truth of inspired Scripture, God’s Word, the Bible. This is our guide for deciding what Spiritual practices can be followed and what must be avoided. The Christian Faith is the only true Faith; all others are false. But within Christianity, different denominations have different Spiritual practices and sometimes differences in theology. Most of these differences are acceptable and don’t mean much in the end. But test the Spirit when introduced to new Spiritual practices.
Just because it’s Spiritual doesn’t mean we should be involved in it. We must not blindly follow any practice we come across without thinking about the Spiritual consequences of it. What we must avoid at all costs—and confront and oppose—is any Spiritual practice that honors any god other than the LORD. We must never offer prayers, praise, honor, or worship to any other god, because all other gods are false and are demon spirits. This is one test we need to run on every new Spiritual practice we’re interested in.
Well, I’ve given enough warnings for now. Let’s talk about Spiritual practices for getting into Spiritual shape!
The number one Spiritual exercise to start out with is prayer. We need to pray every day. Prayer is our connection to God, our lifeline. Prayer is how we talk to God. God wants to hear from us, even though He can see into our hearts. He still wants to hear from us, and Prayer is how we do it.
Prayer is something that people who aren’t Spiritual neglect. They don’t care for it or understand it. They think it’s meaningless. But this is why they’re not Spiritual, and as long as they don’t pray they’ll never become Spiritual. At the same time, the best way to start becoming Spiritual is to start praying. Prayer may feel meaningless to you at first, but will become more meaningful the more you do it.
Spiritual beginners often wonder what they should pray. What words they should say, and so on. But that’s not important. What we need to do is speak honestly and openly with God. Formulaic prayers mean much less to Him than hearing what’s in our heart.
Speak honestly and openly with God! He doesn’t want to hear from us only when we’re happy with life and with Him. He doesn’t want to hear from us only when we’re going through hard times and we need His help. He wants to hear from us all the time. He wants to hear about all our ups and downs, our victories and our rock bottom times. He knows what’s in our heart, so we can’t hide anything from Him. He’ll know when we’re not saying how we truly feel.
When we’re angry, we must let Him know (respectfully). When we’re sad, lonely, we must let Him know. When we’re happy, we must give Him thanks. If we tell Him how we honestly feel, He can heal our hearts and give us what we need. So we should talk to God as if we were talking to a good friend. That’s the best way to pray—our true feelings, straight from the heart.
The mindset of only praying official prayers from the church, ones that we didn’t write ourselves, leads people further away from God instead of closer to Him. We aren’t trying to pray the right combination of words to “unlock” a blessing from God. That would be casting magic, which is an abomination to the LORD. And we aren’t being disrespectful if we address God with any prayer other than the Our Father and so on.
Spend time focused on prayer, be aware of what we’re doing and be deliberate about it. But don’t worry about praying “official” prayers written by any church. Speak to God straight from the heart, and ask Him for help in the most straightforward way. That’s how we pray.
This item and the next are very closely connected.
The flesh and the Spirit are opposed to each other (refer to Galatians 5). If we follow the urges of our flesh nature for things like food, sex, and comfort, then we neglect our Spiritual side. If we follow our Spiritual side, and deny the urges of the flesh as best we can (it’s not possible to completely neglect them and still live), we become more Spiritual. We refer to this dynamic as walking in the flesh vs. walking in the Spirit.
Walking in the Spirit is a great Spiritual workout, and builds a lot of Spiritual muscle quick. The number one way to start walking in the Spirit is to start fasting.
The most pressing urge of the flesh is the urge to eat, of course. We can survive without sex, entertainment, or comfort but we can’t survive for long without food and water. And that’s fine, we were made that way. But what we eat, and how much, is an area where we often indulge the flesh and kill the Spirit without thinking about it. If we aren’t aware of what we eat or what we’re buying at the grocery store, we’re almost guaranteed to indulge the flesh and eat more than we need. Not only that, we also lean toward foods that taste good, which probably means sugar, which means junk food. If we don’t discipline our flesh, without realizing it we’ll drift toward over-indulging our flesh with junk food.
That’s where fasting comes in. Fasting is a great Spiritual exercise, because it attacks that number one urge of the flesh. Exerting discipline to subdue this number one urge of the flesh is like a power workout for our Spiritual muscles. Our Spiritual side comes alive and is more active as our flesh nature is subdued and conquered through disciplined denial.
I can give you a firsthand example of what it’s like when our Spiritual side becomes the more active of the two sides. I often have vivid Spiritual dreams from the Holy Spirit, rich with symbolism and personal prophecies and more. But when I’m fasting, I get a ton of these vivid Spiritual dreams in succession—about one every night! This is a Spiritual benefit of the Spiritual practice of fasting. When we deny our flesh, we reap Spiritual benefits.
We all have different Spiritual gifts, so you might get some different benefits. But I can assure you that your Spiritual side will grow as long as you’re fasting, as long as you’re denying your flesh. The Spirit and the flesh are opposed, so when one side grows weaker, the other side grows stronger and more active.
When I’m fasting, I usually eat one small meal a day. All meat is off limits. I also don’t eat fruit, because it’s good and I like it, so I should sacrifice it when fasting. If I enjoyed fruit, I’d be indulging a desire of the flesh instead of crucifying it.
When I fast, I eat nothing but vegetables and water, like Daniel did during his fast which he describes in Daniel 10. So I eat a small meal of beans, boiled vegetables, and some crackers (which violate the rules of the Daniel 10 fast). My goal is to eat as bland a meal as possible, because I’m stuffing myself full of delicious Spiritual food. All I need to do is keep my body alive. I’m being Spiritually nourished from on high, so I don’t need to worry about nourishment. The only beverage I drink during a fast is water; I give up coffee and juice.
You can decide how you want to fast. There are many fasting rules out there you can get ideas from. What you can do may be limited by your age or medical condition. It doesn’t honor God for us to harm or even kill ourselves, so we must not do more fasting than we can handle.
Crucifying the Flesh
This is very closely related to fasting.
The urges of the flesh make us crave more than food. Sex, comfort, and entertainment are all things we crave and seek out. But as mentioned above, indulging in these things (indulging the flesh) makes us less Spiritual, while denying ourselves these things (crucifying or denying the flesh) makes us more Spiritual.
Imagine a spectrum with flesh at one end and Spirit on the other. If we indulge in activities that please and stimulate any of the physical senses (sensual pleasures), then we get closer to our flesh nature. And that’s not a good thing, because the flesh is always aging, declining, and passing away. That, and it’s always lusting after sinful indulgences of all sorts.
We want to deny the urges of the flesh, pushing us further toward the Spirit end of the spectrum. Then our Spiritual side will grow, and that’s what we want because that side of us is the one that can have eternal life. This is one reason why Paul said that Spiritual exercise pays off in this life and the next.
The more we deny our flesh and ignore its urges, the more active our Spiritual side becomes. So we must learn to endure some physical discomfort, and introduce that into our life. Don’t buy nice furniture. Don’t decorate the house. Live a simple life, the simplest life possible. Have as few possessions as possible. Don’t have sex outside of marriage, and have sex in moderation (to avoid becoming obsessed with it). And we must train ourselves to be content without any entertainment, to be content with silence.
Crucifying our various urges of the flesh in this way will boost our Spirit. Only you and God know what urges of the flesh you’re most hooked on. Pray to God for Wisdom on that topic, if you’re not sure. Whatever pleasure of the flesh you think you “can’t live without,” that’s your Spiritual stumbling block right there. Deny yourself that thing you “can’t live without,” and be amazed at the Spiritual awakening you’ll enjoy.
Bible Study and Spiritual Reading
Reading the Bible and other Spiritual books is good Spiritual exercise. For one thing, it turns our mind in a Spiritual direction, making us contemplate the things above instead of the things of earth (Colossians 3:2). Reading books that turn our minds in a Spiritual direction will make us more Spiritual over time, of course.
God’s Word is inspired. The Bible is God’s gift to us, left behind for us to read every day for guidance, comfort, knowledge, and much more. Reading the Bible is a pleasure, one we’re blessed to be able to enjoy. Reading it will encourage and guide our Spiritual growth. People who don’t read it (which unfortunately includes Christians) don’t enjoy that Spiritual guidance and growth.
I can tell you firsthand that neglecting to read the Bible leads to becoming less Spiritual over time. Before we know it, we’re barely Christian anymore. To be strong in our Faith, we need to engage with God’s Word and study it. Studying it keeps our mind on it, which is the right thing to focus on.
Another good thing to read is books about the Christian Faith. Although these books can never be on the same level as Scripture, they still turn our minds toward the things above and not the things here on earth. These books lead us to contemplate our own Faith and Spiritual progress. This is a good thing. And this is why reading Spiritual material will always be good Spiritual exercise.
The only caution here is to remember to test the Spirit of every book (1 John 4:1). Anyone can write a book and get it published, and they can write anything they want. Not every Christian book is Biblically sound though. We must test what we read against Scripture, and reject any writing that violates God’s Word.
Fellowship with Christians (Going to Church)
Finally, attending church services at an active and Spiritually healthy church is one of the best ways to get Spiritual exercise, and build our Spiritual muscles. Christ intended for His followers to worship together as a group. Something special, something Spiritual happens when everyone gathers to worship God together. A healthy church that’s moving in the Spirit is a precious thing. After I leave the service at my Protestant church, I’m energized and come home to get a lot of work done. This “Spiritual energizing” is the benefit of going to a Spiritually healthy church.
Not all churches are inspired though. Some churches are dead or dying. Some are uninspired and dull. Some churches are lukewarm, teaching a watered-down Gospel that only conveys a “feel-good” message which doesn’t challenge anyone to change, condemn sin, or demand personal sacrifice of any kind. Trying to live the Gospel is one of the hardest things we can ever do—it demands of us everything. It takes everything we’ve got; it’s not easy.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing though. Church is a great place to meet other Christians, some of whom can mentor us on our Spiritual path. It also introduces us to people who are Spiritually like-minded. We need this community to stay strong in our Faith and Spiritually healthy. We need their support, encouragement, and mentoring, because this Christian walk isn’t easy. And when we can help them, we must do so. We help them when we’re strong, and get their help when we’re weak, thus fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
And devoting the hour or two hours each weekend that we would rather spend doing other things is a great Spiritual exercise itself. We’re denying the flesh (what we want to do, would rather do) and going to church to spend time praising and honoring God. To spend time immersed in the Spirit. Now that’s a Spiritual workout!
If there are no active churches in your area, or none that move in the spirit, you’ll have to meet this need by meeting with other Christians. Remember, where two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, Jesus is there with them too (Matthew 18:20).
(20) For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.Matthew 18:20 (CEB)
Producing Good Fruits
The New Testament clearly states the benefits of Spiritual exercise, the benefits of living a Spiritual life. The benefits are the “fruits of the Spirit” described in Galatians 5:22-26. In Galatians 5, Paul explains the push-pull dynamic between the flesh and the Spirit. He explains that walking in the flesh vs. walking in the Spirit produces different fruits.
Walking in the flesh produces hate, fighting, emotional instability, and much more. You can read it in verses 19 to 21. Although Galatians 5 deserves an in-depth study, this post is already quite long so I’ll leave it for now. But take a look at the passage (“selfish desires” in the CEB translation means the flesh):
(16) I say be guided by the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires. (17) A person’s selfish desires are set against the Spirit, and the Spirit is set against one’s selfish desires. They are opposed to each other, so you shouldn’t do whatever you want to do. (18) But if you are being led by the Spirit, you aren’t under the Law. (19) The actions that are produced by selfish motives are obvious, since they include sexual immorality, moral corruption, doing whatever feels good, (20) idolatry, drug use and casting spells, hate, fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, (21) jealousy, drunkenness, partying, and other things like that. I warn you as I have already warned you, that those who do these kinds of things won’t inherit God’s kingdom.Galatians 5:16-26 (CEB)
(22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. (24) Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires. (25) If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. (26) Let’s not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other.
There are immediate benefits to living a Spiritual life, to doing Spiritual exercise and building Spiritual muscles. We become more Spiritual and less selfish (flesh). We become more loving, joyful, at peace, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and having more self-control. All these things will make our life better, more enjoyable and fulfilling, and with less conflict. This is what happens when we crucify (deny) our flesh and work hard to make our Spirit side the stronger one.
And that’s not to mention the benefits after our physical death. Being more Spiritual, we understand that there’s more to life than this world. That this life is only temporary, but our true life is in Christ and it’s eternal. Doing our Spiritual workouts and becoming more Spiritual helps us to prepare for our true eternal life (as far as that’s possible).
Live a Spiritual life! Do Spiritual workouts! Build Spiritual muscles! It pays off both here and now and in the eternal hereafter.
Not Easy, but Well Worth it
In early 2019 I started getting back into physical shape, started exercising again. I kept it up the whole time and I’m in good physical shape right now. Later in 2019 I started reading books again, making that a habit. I started getting back into mental shape. And I’ve now read 38 books since the fall of 2019, most of them about Christianity. I’ve kept up the habit and I always have a book in progress now. I’ve gained nice Wisdom from this, both Spiritual and secular Wisdom.
But getting into Spiritual shape? My Spirituality was all messed up for most of 2019. I was lost deep in the New Age deception most of the year, until Christ pulled me out of that. That’s a story for another time. But I started getting into healthy Spiritual shape at the end of 2019. I flexed my Spiritual muscles through prayer, fasting, reading God’s Word, reading Pious books, and crucifying the flesh.
It’s not easy to live a Spiritual life in our modern world. The temptations and distractions of the world are all around us, all the time. They’re designed to tempt and distract us, pulling our attention from the Spiritual and placing it on the material (the world). It’s tough to ignore that and engage our Spiritual side, setting our sights on the things above instead of the things of earth (Colossians 3:2).
But the benefits of living this Spiritual life are immense. The greatest benefit being peace of mind. Tuning out all the irrelevant distractions and worries to focus on the one thing that matters: Jesus Christ and the health of our immortal soul. Life is much more enjoyable and peaceful when we tune out the noise of the world and tune into God.
Try it for yourself and see. You’ll see how life is different when you engage your Spiritual side, and let it grow.
We’ve got to be in great Spiritual shape in these End Times! If you don’t pray, don’t read the Bible, etc., then now is the time to do it! Now is the time to become Spiritually healthy and strong.
It’s good to workout and exercise our bodies, but we know those will die one day. It’s time to put our best effort into working on our souls, which will live forever if we’re Spiritually healthy now.
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Until next time, be strong and do good!
Your new best friend in Christ,
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