Beware of Super Spiritual People and Communities

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Colossians 2:18–19

Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

CONSIDER THIS

A wise professor of theology once remarked to me to beware of people who profess special revelation from God. He said the more “spiritual” things get, the more dangerous and even demonic they become. Today’s text reminds me of that conversation so many years ago.

One of the challenges these early churches dealt with was the heresy of Gnosticism. Gnostics claimed they had received special revelation from God. This knowledge set them apart from ordinary Christians and became a source of power and elitism for them. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.The irony is how these people, whom Paul calls “unspiritual,”  become known as ultra-spiritual people.

The mark of a spiritual person, in the tradition of Jesus, is not in some kind of super-spirituality but the holiness of his or her humanity. Jesus did not become a human being so that we could become something other than or more than human beings. He became a human being so that we could embody the holiness of humanity.

Paul warns the Colossians and he warns us today to be wary of super-spiritual people and super-spiritual communities. These people and groups tend to define themselves not by the revelation of the gospel common to us all, but by extra revelations and special teaching. You have to go there and to them to get it. Only certain teachers and leaders are anointed to share it. And because it often gets framed in orthodox biblical categories and the language of supernatural dimensions, it can be so alluring and seem so right.

Paul said one of the hallmarks of such persons and communities is false humility. People who “delight in false humility” do so by putting themselves on a higher plane than others. They claim to be humbled to receive such revelation, which ironically serves as a veil to mask their pride in being so chosen.

The hallmark of real Christianity is not elevation but descent. It is not revealed through people who venture higher up, aspiring for more spiritual experiences, but those who journey downward, ever increasing their experience of loving and serving others.

They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. (v. 19)

What we need is Jesus, our Head, and we can only be connected to him through his body, the church. God is growing the church. God is not searching for super-spiritual people to grow the church, but for ordinary saints.

That’s Domino #2/18; another warning sign: beware the super-spiritual. They tip all right, just not in the right direction.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, in whose image we are made and on whom we fix our gaze, for it is only in beholding him that we can become like him. I renounce my own quest for super-spiritual status. I want to be a holy human being, one in whom you are pleased to dwell and through whom you delight in revealing yourself. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. Have you ever been around people (and/or communities) who set themselves apart by their own experiences of God, humbly claiming a kind of super-spiritual status? Were you drawn to follow and become like them?
  2. What do you make of this notion of the more “spiritual” something or someone is, the more dangerous he or she (or it) becomes?
  3. What do you observe about the ways Jesus teaches and demonstrates what it means to be spiritual?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

5 COMMENTS

  1. #1) I have been exposed to folks who are known by their frequent claims that “the Lord told them this or that”, and did so with a type of arrogance that betrayed their claim to being super-spiritual. When those red flags appear, it’s time to compare what is being said as some form of prophecy, with what is clearly written in the Scriptures.
    #2) Sheep in wolves clothing are extremely dangerous to a Christian community because they possess a spiritual power from the dark side that enables them to mislead those who are uninformed when it come to knowing the orthodox meaning of Scripture. A tree must be judged by its fruit.
    #3) For someone to exhibit true spirituality they would look and act like Jesus. True spirituality displays itself in a life poured out in humble service to others, to the glory of the Father.

  2. I think this Scripture is much broader than merely referring to the “super spiritual” It refers to us all Christians.

    Modern Christianity is full of “idle notions” (ideas without implementation). It often produces religious pride that masquerades as “false humility” by trying to prove its closeness to God through theological knowledge, religious titles, church attendance, and/or special experiences. However, hearing about Jesus without actually doing what He says is disobedience. It breaks our connection with Him as the Head and quenches the Spirit. Thus, it undermines HIs literal Headship and control of His body and makes Him a mere figurehead (like the Queen of the United Kingdom).

    The Bible defines the children of God as “all who are led by the Spirit of God,” not as “all who claim to be led by the Spirit of God.” Those led by the Spirit will live in ways that are humbly aligned with the Bible. They will obey the Head, the living Jesus, instead of their own desires, feelings, and opinions.

    • Before I read you post this morning, I posted this on Facebook:

      When you’re led by the Spirit, you’re on God’s fieldtrip. Jesus takes you to special places & guides you to amazing encounters.

  3. Early on in my journey to understanding, one of my teachers framed it in the most practical way: Through Jesus, God is enabling us to become the truly human persons God originally created us to be. It was amazing how much that concept of it shifted the dynamics. But then I found it a relief to learn that the starting point of the Christian faith is I am a broken and confused mess. The hard part has been just how much the church was a part of that brokenness. Although, I am not convinced how well the current attempts at revival/fixing the church are addressing the ways in which Mainline Protestant Christianity was broken/fell short. When I returned to the church as an adult, I knew there was much I needed to learn. A new way to worship/”do church” was not on the list. The path I ultimately took literally helped me engage the teachings of historic Christianity through an eclectic set of teachers from the communion of saints past and present, including John Wesley.–it was quite the ride that left me looking askance at what is currently happening right here and right now. It also confirmed my suspicion that the church does not have to get everything “right” for God to be able to connect with a person. Which makes the current chaotic church landscape that much harder to discern. My years with Mainline Protestant Christianity which was the basis for my own journey to understanding taught me that It is never about what we do, it is always about what God does. I am now de-churched and running an antique mall where I am experiencing God’s grace more as a gentle stream than a raging torrent. It is my training ground for being human and holy.

    Based on the comments about church that I hear from the range of people passing through, it is unclear how much a true “fix” is going on vs more problems being created. The best adjective/verb I have heard that describes the current church/Christian landscape is “churning”. I found it easier to navigate running a small business during a pandemic than trying to understand the current church landscape where I do not doubt somewhere in all the chaos Our God is at work!

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