by Bob Gessner (also check out my wrestling with this in “The True Marks of a Spiritual Man or Woman” )
In these last days we see so many evidences of the natural man and so few of the spiritual man It is likely in our generation that the marks of a spiritual man are not clearly understood. Let us examine a few general characteristics and then take a closer look at some specific marks of a spiritual man.
SOME GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS
1.The spiritual man places greater importance on his inward state than on his physical condition. He is more concerned about exercising his spirit than exercising his body. He places more importance on his spiritual diet than on his physical diet. “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16)
2. The spiritual man understands that adverse circumstances are part of the training of the inward man. He recognizes the eternal value of godly exercise under difficult trials. He sees beyond the immediate hardships and looks ahead to the eternal consequences. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Cor. 4:17)
3. The spiritual man places his time and energy in those things which are not seen. He is keenly aware that what is seen is not lasting, but that which is unseen has eternal value. “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18)
4. The spiritual man recognizes that spirituality is not attained by the efforts of the natural man. He knows that occupation with Christ through the Holy Spirit produces the evidences and traits of spirituality. He does not struggle with attempts toward self improvement, but he quietly grows and is gradually transformed into the image of Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit in the inward man. “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:17,18)
These spiritual attitudes are essential if we are going to be characterized by any marks or evidences of spirituality. They are attitudes that are in a direct collision course with the worldly attitudes of our age. They can only be produced by the working of the Holy Spirit in our life.
SOME SPECIFIC MARKS OF THE SPIRITUAL MAN
The only completely spiritual man to walk this earth was our Lord Jesus Christ. He was God’s perfect man and perfect servant. If we are to understand the traits of the spiritual man, we need to examine those that were manifested by Christ during His ministry. Paul could say, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (I Cor. 11: 1)
1.The spiritual man manifests a spirit of hunger for the Word of God. The Lord Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4) The Lord Jesus loved the Word of God and practiced it fully in His life. The spiritual man will spend time daily meditating on the Word of God, allowing it to permeate his thoughts and change his behavior.
2.The spiritual man manifests a spirit of dependency and prayer. It was said of the Lord Jesus, “And it came to pass in those days that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12) The Lord Jesus gave evidence of His total dependency on God by the constancy of His prayer life. The spiritual man will spend much time before God in prayer because he recognizes his continual need for God’s strength and wisdom in his daily life.
3.The spiritual man manifests a spirit of humility and obedience. The Lord Jesus was able to say: “For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) The Lord Jesus was able to fulfill His mission completely because He did not come to serve Himself, but He came to give Himself in perfect obedience to the Father. The spiritual man will crucify self and put away the desires of the natural man. If we are occupied with seeking self recognition, then we will not be obedient to the desires of our Heavenly Father. If it is our will to please ourselves, then it cannot be our will to please Him.
4.The spiritual man manifests a spirit of compassion for the lost. It was said of Christ, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36) They rejected Him, but the heart of the Lord Jesus was moved as he saw the lost condition of those about Him. The spiritual man will be moved to weeping as he thinks of the perishing multitudes who are rushing onward to hell in this pleasure-mad world. When Paul went to Athens, he did not admire the beautiful architecture, the modem advancements, or the latest fashions, but it is written, “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred (grieved) in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” (Acts 17:16)
5.The spiritual man manifests a spirit of forgiveness and longsuffering toward those who have treated him wrongfully. On the cross, after being treated wickedly by those who hated Him, He was able to cry: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) There could not be a greater example of forgiveness and longsuffering displayed anywhere by anyone. The spiritual man will not harbor “hurt” feelings or grudges. He will tolerate untiringly the crude injustices of ignorant, envious, or jealous attackers. In forgiveness, he does not overlook or become indifferent toward sin, but he does not seek to get even with those who have harmed him. A spiritual man can never be careless about sin because he is keenly aware that the holiness of God forbids such an attitude.
6. The spiritual man manifests a spirit of love toward the unlovely. It was said of Christ’s love for His disciples, “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.” (John 13: ) The disciples were often not lovely in their thoughts and behavior, but He loved everyone of them to the end. In natural love, we love those to whom we are attracted. In spiritual love, we learn to love those who may be repulsive to us when we first contact them. The spiritual man will be driven to seek out those who are neglected and even socially ostracized. He will not try to be one of them, but will seek to help them in both a physical and spiritual way.
7.The spiritual man manifests a spirit of endurance and faithfulness. Near the end of His earthly life, the Lord Jesus prayed to His Father: “I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.” (John 17:4) He was so deeply committed to His Father’s will, that He fully completed the work of salvation for which He was sent into the world. The spiritual man is not characterized by short spurts of energy that are soon expended. He is not always starting new projects without completing others. He is committed to the work that God gives him to do.
Upon careful examination of these marks of a spiritual man, as manifested in the life of Christ, most of us must conclude that there is much to be done in our spiritual life. The garden of our inner man has been neglected too much because of the demands of the physical life. The weeds of this world’s attitudes have smothered the spiritual fruit that the Spirit of God longs to produce in our life. They have been allowed to grow and grow, while the energy of the Spirit remains dormant and unproductive.
The largest room in the world is the room for improvement.