What does it mean to be spiritually alive?

By Wendyl Leslie

The traits of those who are alive spiritually and mature in Christ, as compared to those who are spiritually dead, are profound. It's like the difference between night and day. You can't miss them.

The following highlights the some of the more salient traits of those who alive spiritually:

1. They earnestly seek fellowship with God as well as with people who love Him. These folks are easily recognizable for their zeal for all things pertaining to God and godliness. They epitomize the words of Jeremiah: "You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13). It was John who described them as those who believe "that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him" (1 John 5:1). They are those who "love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. They love their neighbor as themselves" (Mark 12:30-31). They are known for their love for one another (John 13:35), and wouldn't hesitate "to lay down their lives for friends" (John 15:13).

2. They are highly sensitive to sin. The spiritually alive person is truly mindful of the sinful realities in their life. They strive to "walk in the Light as He Himself is the Light" (1 John 5:7). They "confess their sins" (1 John 1:9). They know that to live for God is to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16) which means being totally devoted or dedicated to God. They know assuredly that they have been set aside for His special use and set apart from sin and its influence.

3. They're known for their strict obedience to the Word of God (1 John 2:3). Obedience to the commands of God produces assurance — the confidence "that we have come to know Him." It means they are more than just obedient to His word, but that the spirit of obedience permeates every fact of their lives not only in letter, but in spirit: "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (1 John 2:6).

4. They have a high expectation for Christ's return. They have the mindset of the apostle Paul who wrote: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body..." (Philippians 3:20-21). Because of their expectation of the Lord's return, their hope leads them to living sensible lives. It's that high expectation that compels them to live and conduct their lives more and more into the likeness of Christ. This is evident in their reaching out to others and fulfilling the great commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

5. The Christian who is spiritually alive has a drastically different way of relating to God. They are no longer a slave to sin (Romans 6:14, 17-18). Not only are they acutely aware of sin, as we've seen, but sin becomes less of a pattern in their lives. Instead, they demonstrate a daily pattern of righteousness. They no longer "practice sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother" (1 John 3:9-10). And this brings us to the sixth trait or characteristic of the spiritually mature, spiritually alive person...

6. They love other Christians. "The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes" (1 John 2:9-11). Those who love other Christians do not need to be taught to love because it is instinctive, implicit, and inherent within their nature. It's as Paul wrote in Romans 5:5, "The love of God has been poured out within our hearts." It is natural for the spiritually alive person to "do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith" (Galatians 6:10). Such love for fellow Christians is a benchmark of the Christian faith.

7. Spiritually alive and spiritually mature Christians experience answered prayer. "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight" (1 John 3:22). When those who are spiritually alive approach God, they trust that they will receive whatever they request because they obey Him and do the things that pleases Him. This statement follows what Jesus said in His final discourse to His disciples, as recorded in John 15:7: "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (See also Matthew 7:7; 21:22; John 9:31.) When a spiritually alive believer is abiding in Christ, and Christ's words are abiding in the believer, his or her prayers will be answered.

This does not mean that all requests are granted; the context of John 15 suggests that the prayers should pertain to fruit bearing and glorifying the Father. The same holds true for John's statement "we will receive whatever we request." Believers' requests will be honored by God when they are focused on accomplishing God's will. Christ taught His disciples to pray "May Your will be done here on earth" (Matthew 6:10). Obedience is the result of the Holy Spirit's work in His people, teaching them to desire God's will, so that their prayers grow out of this accord between God's will and theirs.

8. They experience the promptings of the Holy Spirit in their lives. First John 4:13 tells us: "By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us His Spirit." Their lives demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit's working in all the things they do and say (Colossians 3:17). Paul describes these fruits or manifestations as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). You recognize such people because the Bible makes it clear that "the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16).

9. The spiritually alive person is able to discern spiritual truth and error. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God" (1 John 4:1-3).

The Hebrew writer said, "But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14). This verse contrasts the spiritual babies (Hebrews 5:13) with the spiritually mature. Interestingly, those who are called "the mature" (or those who are now complete) are mature because they have disciplined themselves to discern good and evil. They have trained themselves on "solid food," that is, they have learned about and appropriated the high-priestly role of Christ. Spiritually alive Christians constantly examine themselves, turn away from sin, and learn what actions, thoughts, and attitudes will please God. These people "have trained themselves' to discern good and evil."

10. Those who are spiritually mature and alive suffer rejection and persecution. John made this clear: "Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you" (1 John 3:13). The truth of the matter is that, to the worldly, those who are Christians "have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things" (1 Corinthians 4:13). Though we as believers, especially those are alive spiritually and mature in their faith, have many promises, there is one that is often overlooked: "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12). Those who stand up for Christian values can expect opposition and hostility from the world. Based upon the testimony of countless believers who have lived before, it can be expected that spiritually mature Christians will face some form of persecution or resistance. Absence of persecution may not mean unfaithfulness, but if one's life as a Christian never affects the world, we may have to question the depth of their commitment.

One of the most powerful test of the spiritually alive person is demonstrated not only in the changed life of that person, but more so in how he affects those around him. They're different, they're unique...and they're easily distinguishable from their counterparts in the world. They exemplify the words of Peter: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God...declaring the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God" (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Published 7-20-15