After years of walking with the Lord, the apostle Paul said, "I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be" (Philippians 3:12 NLT).
Truly spiritual people will always recognize that there is so much more to learn and so much more in their lives that needs to change.
In contrast, self-deceived people — people who think they are spiritual but really are not — think they know it all, which only shows how little they know. They are like those whom the Book of Revelation describes from the church of Laodicea, claiming to be rich and lacking nothing. But God's assessment was that they were "wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked" (Revelation 3:17 NLT).
So how can we know if we are truly spiritual people? In James 1, we find three things that we as Christians should be actively doing if we are really seeking to live godly lives:
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (vv. 26-27 NKJV)
If you are a true Christian, a truly spiritual person, you will:
Control your tongue. The true test of a person's religion is not his ability to speak his mind, but to hold his tongue. That is why the psalmist wrote, "I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will curb my tongue when the ungodly are around me" (Psalm 39:1 NLT).
As Christians, we may pride ourselves on the fact that we don't steal from others or attack other people or commit immoral acts. But we may bring pain worse than a blow to the body by wounding the heart of someone with our words. We can steal someone's good name and their reputation, and that, too, is sin.
Gossip, slander, and backbiting are extremely widespread sins in the church today, so we must seek to control our tongues. If you are a godly person, then you will exercise self-control over what you say.
Care about others. "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble..." (James 1:27 NKJV). This phrase "to visit" suggests the idea of caring for or looking after. It is the idea of not just seeing someone in need, but taking action to help meet that need. Jesus said that if you give a drink to strangers or invite them into your home or clothe them or visit them when they are sick or in prison, it is the same as doing it for Him (see Matthew 25:35-40).
Keep yourself unspotted from the world. Have you ever worn an outfit that you didn't want to spill anything on? Doesn't it seem that you always spill on it? If I am wearing jeans and a T-shirt, I don't spill anything. But if I am wearing a suit and will be going to a meeting or maybe giving a little talk, I will always spill on myself. It happens immediately: a big stain somewhere. Even when I cover myself in napkins, inevitably, a big glob will find its way through that one, little, microscopic gap in the napkin. To try and keep oneself unspotted takes effort.
While Scripture says we are "kept by the power of God through faith for salvation" (1 Peter 1:5 NKJV), we are also to keep ourselves pure (see 1 Timothy 5:22). Rather than being a contradiction, this shows us there is God's part and there is our part in keeping ourselves unspotted from the world.
God will keep us. The question is, do we want to be kept?
You see, true spirituality is not measured primarily by what we say, but by what we do. Truly godly people will come humbly to His Word, recognizing their great need for Him and His truths. Truly godly people will control their words. Truly godly people will reach out to those who are hurting and will keep themselves unspotted by the world.
In short, truly godly people will be doers of His Word — not just hearers.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!