What Is the Difference Between Being Religious and Being Spiritual?

This week, Pastor J.D. finishes the Ask Me Anything series based on his new book, Essential Christianity. The final question is, “What is the difference between being religious and being spiritual?

Show Notes:

    • This is a really important question because the fastest growing category in the United States is “spiritual but not religious,” which I talk about in my book, Essential Christianity.
    • Simultaneous to this growing interest in spirituality, there is also a decrease in trust in religious institutions and historic traditional religious belief systems.
    • Just listen to talk shows, Hollywood, sports starts and you will hear the message of “I have a religious side to me—I really want to commune with the divine, but I’m just not part of organized religion.”
    • So for Christianity, the world’s largest religion, it sounds like it’s pretty bad news… but it might not be. I think there is a good and bad version of the “spiritual but not religious.”
      • The bad version is, “I want religion on my terms. I’m not really interested in God or anybody else in telling me what is right and what is true. I don’t want morality dictated to me by anything. I want to find truth within me.” It’s a toxic, self-actualization way of thinking and it’s everywhere.
      • The good version of it is that a lot of the formal religious structures including ritualism and authority structures are being questioned. Jesus taught something entirely different from those things. Jesus focused not on religion but on a relationship (loving God with all of your heart, loving your neighbor as yourself, the gospel is a gift of grace that you receive). So, detaching from an unhealthy dependance on religion can be a good thing.
      • One of the thing that surprises people when they read through the Bible for the first time is how central a relationship and communion is with all of Christianity.
        • If you look back at the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve walked with God. God led them out in Exodus and led them with a plow by day and a pillar of fire by night. When Jesus came they called him God, with us, Emmanuel. Now with the Holy Spirit he is God in us.
        •  Jesus went so far to tell his disciples that if they have the choice between having him, Jesus, with them or having the Holy Spirit inside of them, they should choose the Holy Spirit if they really understood what the Holy Spirit could do for them.
  • All of that to say that the experience with the Spirit is supposed to be so incredible that it really defines all of Christianity, which is ironic that a lot of people think that you now choose between spirituality and religion because, at least in the Bible, they really are one in the same. You cannot have a relationship with God and not commune with his Spirit.
    • This leads a lot of people to say, “What does the Holy Spirit do exactly?”
      • In Romans, Paul identifies several things:
        • The Spirit enables us to believe in Jesus. The fact that you are convinced that Jesus is Lord and submit to him is all produced by the Holy Spirit.
        • The Spirit produces the life of Christ in us. Throughout Romans 8, Paul keeps saying the Spirit is life. In Romans 5 Paul says the Spirit sheds abroad Christ’s love in our hearts, which means he gives us a felt sense of God’s presence and his love.
        • Paul says the Spirit prays for us with groanings that can’t be uttered.
      • The main things that the Spirit does is he sheds abroad Christ’s love, communicates Christ’s presence, and he fills us with the spiritual fruits—the love, joy, and peace that characterize life in the Spirit.
    • So if find yourself saying, “I want to be spiritual and not religious” I would actually say that’s not a bad place to start as you turn toward Christianity because Jesus, in many ways, was the opposite of religion. It was religious people who were most against him. The New Testament describes really knowing God as fellowship in the Spirit.

For more from Essential Christianity, order your copy today!

Want to ask J.D. a question? Head to our Ask Me Anything hub to submit your question.

As always, don’t forget to rate and review this podcast!

Find Pastor J.D. on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Other Sermons