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Marks of a Spiritual Man

by A. W. Tozer

The concept of spirituality varies among different Christian groups. In some circles the highly vocal person who talks religion continually is thought to be very spiritual. Others accept noisy exuberance as a mark of spirituality. And in some churches the man who prays first, longest and loudest gets a reputation for being the most spiritual man in the assembly.

Now a vigorous testimony, frequent prayers and loud praise may be entirely consistent with spirituality, but it is important that we understand that they do not in themselves constitute it nor prove it is present.

True spirituality manifests itself in certain dominant desires. These are ever-present, deep-settled wants, sufficiently powerful to motivate and control the life. For convenience let me number them, though I make no effort to decide the order of their importance.

(1) First is the desire to be holy rather than happy. The yearning after happiness found so widely among Christians professing a superior degree of sanctity is sufficient proof that such sanctity is not indeed present.

The truly spiritual man knows that God will give abundance of joy in His own time, after we have become able to receive it without injury to our souls. But he does not demand it at once. John Wesley said of the members of one of the early Methodist societies that he doubted that they had been made perfect in love because they came to church to enjoy religion instead of to learn how they could become holy.

(2) A man may be considered spiritual when he wants to see the honor of God advanced through his life, even if it means that he himself must suffer temporary dishonor or loss.

Such a man prays, “Hallowed by Thy name,” and silently adds, “at any cost to me, Lord.” He lives for God’s honor by a spiritual reflex. Every choice involving the glory of God is for him already made before it presents itself. He does not need to debate the matter with his own heart: there is nothing to debate. The glory of God is necessary,to him; he gasps for it as a suffocating man gasps for air.

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(3) The spiritual man wants to carry his cross. Many Christians accept adversity or tribulation with a sigh and call it their cross, forgetting that such things come alike to saint and sinner.

The cross is that extra adversity that comes to us as a result of our obedience to Christ. This cross is not forced upon us; we voluntarily take it up with full knowledge of the consequences. We choose to obey Christ and by so doing choose to carry the cross.

Carrying a cross means to be attached to the person of Christ, committed to His Lordship, and obedient to the commandments of Christ. The man who is so attached, so committed, to obedience is a spiritual man.

(4) Again, a Christian is spiritual when he sees everything from God’s viewpoint. The ability to weigh all things in the divine scale and place the same value upon them as God does is the mark of a Spirit filled life.

God looks at and through, at the same time. His gaze does not rest on the surface but penetrates to the true meaning of things. The carnal Christian looks at an object or a situation, but because he does not see through it he is elated or cast down by what he sees. The spiritual man is able to look through things as God looks and think of them as God thinks. He insists on seeing all things as God sees them even if it humbles him and exposes his ignorance to the point of real pain.

(5) Another desire of the spiritual man is to die right rather than to live wrong. A sure mark of the mature man of God is his nonchalance about living. The earth-loving, body-conscious Christian looks upon death with numb terror in his heart. But as he goes on to live in the Spirit he becomes increasingly indifferent to the number of his years here below, but increasingly careful of the kind of life he lives while he is here.

He will not purchase a few extra days of life at the cost of compromise or failure. He wants most of all to be right and he is happy to let God decide how long he shall live. He knows that he can afford to die, now that he is in Christ, but he knows that he cannot afford to do wrong, and this knowledge becomes a gyroscope to stabilize his thinking and his acting.

(6) The desire to see others advance at his expense is another mark of the spiritual man. He wants to see other Christians above him and is happy when they are promoted and he is overlooked. There is no envy in his heart; when his brethren are honored he is pleased because such is the will of God and that will is his earthly heaven. If God is pleased, he is pleased for that reason, and if it pleases God to exalt another above him he is content to have it so.

(7) The spiritual man habitually makes eternity-judgments instead of time-judgments. By faith he rises above the tug of earth and the flow of time and learns to think and feel as one who has already left the world and gone to join the innumerable company of angels and the general assembly and church of the First-born, which are written in heaven. Such a man would rather be useful than famous and would rather serve than be served.

And all this must be by the operation of the Holy Spirit within him. No man can become spiritual by himself. Only the free Spirit can make a man spiritual.




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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10