Rev. VanderWal is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Redlands, California.
“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
Growing up in this world, you are surrounded. You are surrounded by all the sights and sounds of this world. You receive its sensations: you touch, smell, and taste all the things in this world. The world’s sights and sounds are growing more intense. You are bombarded from every possible angle. This world’s information is pressed upon you with stunning intensity. Images jar your senses at lightning speed.
A hand from another world, however, has taken your hand. That hand has led you to the other world—a world that is far different from this one. That world is not fictional or imaginary. It is not the world of cyberspace, of a television show, or of a novel. That world is just as real as the one that you inhabit, the sights and sounds of which surround you. That world is the world of spiritual things. That is the world pointed out by Holy Scripture. That is the world you enter by faith. It is known in Scripture as the kingdom of God. “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15). “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17).
The hand that has led you to that other world is the hand of God. In some ways the hand of God has operated indirectly. It has done its work through your parents, your Christian school, your church. It has done its work through the reading of Scripture and the preaching of Scripture. That hand has also worked directly. It has translated you into that other world. It has given you being and existence in that world— regeneration. God’s hand has opened your ears to hear the tidings of the gospel. It has opened your eyes to see the kingdom of God. It has softened your heart to love that kingdom—faith. That hand is the operation of sovereign, irresistible grace, bringing you into the kingdom.
The direct work of God’s hand is absolutely necessary. Without that work, reading Scripture and hearing it preached is like hearing about another world but never entering into it. Without that hand the wonderful tidings of the kingdom are just like another novel or television show. But by that mighty hand of God’s sovereign grace you know that kingdom and your blessed place in it.
Your blessing is to know, enjoy, and grow in that world, the kingdom of God. Becoming mature as a young person and young adult in the faith means that you are able to occupy your place there on your own. You need not be continually introduced into that other, spiritual world by those around you—your parents, teachers, minister. You go into that world and you occupy your place there on your own accord. You find your delight in that world. You enjoy the riches of its peace. There you find blessed fellowship and communion with your God.
To occupy yourself in that world is noted in Scripture in different ways. It is to “walk by faith, not by sight.” It is to be “spiritually minded.” It is “to walk by the Spirit.”
Now consider not only the fact of your place in that other world, but also how strong it is. How spiritually minded are you? How is your walk by the Spirit? How deeply rooted and grounded are you in that other world?
We can ask the same question in a more practical way. How much do you dwell upon the kingdom of God? What place does it occupy in your heart? How often can you say you exercise yourself in that place? How much time do you spend there?
Always there is the answer: “Not enough!” A true answer this is. This world is certainly too much with us. But you must be careful that this answer does not become an excuse. Never adopt the mindset that you are spiritually minded enough to get you by. This is the thinking that characterizes the people who live only in this world of flesh and blood. Yes, they have heard the stories of that other world. They know enough of those stories to know that they should do something about that world. So they go to church on special occasions. Or they try to think about God once in a while. They try to be good, moral people devoted to their families. And they think that on the Judgment Day God will be nice to them and allow them into heaven. This mindset is the mindset of unbelief. It is based on the doctrine of works and is rooted in a fear of hell and an erroneous view of heaven. This mindset must not be yours. This is not what it means to be spiritually minded.
To be spiritually minded means that your desire is always to grow in the kingdom of God. Not to get by, but to flourish. Not to know that you have a place there, but to dwell in that place, even while living, walking, and doing your business in this world.
So what do you do about that answer “Not enough!”? How do you grow in the kingdom? How do you become spiritually strong?
The answer is the constant, disciplined exercise of faith. Faith is the sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell of the kingdom of God. To be strong in faith is to be spiritually minded. If you think of faith as a hand that lays hold on the kingdom of God, then you can consider the increase of faith as the strengthening of the grip of that hand. If you understand faith as an ear by which you hear the speech or music of the kingdom of God, you can think of the increase in faith as the training of that ear in its hearing.
How is that hand strengthened? How is that ear trained? By constant, concentrated use of those instruments. The hand that is never used becomes atrophied and withered. The ear that is never made to hear becomes dull and insensitive.
There are two ways to become stronger in the kingdom and to become more spiritually minded. The first way is to receive, or to hear. You must set before yourself the kingdom of God and spiritual things. You must set them before yourself in all their riches, glory, truth, and beauty. You must set them before yourself as the objects of your desire and happiness. There is your prosperity and peace with God! Now, having the kingdom of God set before you, partake! Lay hold upon it and enjoy its riches and treasures. Fill up your heart with its prosperity and peace. Reach out and lay hold on its strength. Reach out and appropriate to yourself its joy and delight. Seek out the preaching of the Word of God. As you hear, give yourself to eat heartily of the food that is set before you. Memorize Scripture and meditate on it. Seek out your fellow saints, your fellow young people. Talk together about the Word and of the kingdom. Make talk about the kingdom familiar speech upon your tongue and in your mouth. Would others be surprised to hear such talk from your lips? Surprise them, and get them accustomed to such speech from you!
The second way is to give, or to speak. This is the seeking of God’s face in prayer and in other acts of worship. Engage in worship from the heart. The simple activity of prayer, beautifully expressed as drawing near to God (James 4:8; Ps. 73:28; I Sam. 14:36), brings you into the kingdom of God. You stand before the living God, the King of the kingdom you seek. Before Him you speak your words, declaring His praise and glory, rejoicing in Him. Before Him you pour out your heart in supplication and prayer. To Him you bring words of thanksgiving from your heart filled with His blessings. In all this activity of worship, you become more and more conscious of God, His presence, His power, His glory, and His kingdom.
These two ways, giving and receiving, or hearing and speaking, are the exercise of fellowship and communion with God. Receiving from God and giving to Him are the life of the covenant, lived by faith.
This conscious, heartfelt activity of fellowship with God is the very strengthening of your faith. In these times of fellowship your earthly senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell become weaker. In these times the world in which you are born by nature becomes more dim, less noisy and bothersome. At the same time faith becomes stronger. The kingdom of God grows brighter and clearer. Your desire for it grows greater. Your aim becomes higher.
Being spiritually minded means that you are strong and secure in your beliefs. You not only know the truth well, but it has a secure place in your heart. Going about in the world, you are bombarded with its alluring sights and sounds. But you remain unwavering in your principles. As you are exposed to all kinds of different, rival beliefs, you are not enticed. You remain firm in your convictions. In the midst of temptations and trials, you enjoy great, unshakable peace. You are deeply rooted in the kingdom of God. Your foundation remains sure beneath your feet.
Being spiritually minded is also the way in which you are drawn to the proper worship of the Lord in church. You find the popular ways of worship in so many churches to be shallow, superficial, and therefore abhorrent. You find your delight in the preaching of the gospel where the truth of God’s Word is explored in its depths and riches.
How enjoyable and profitable is this spiritual mindedness! The kingdom grows in your heart. Spiritual thoughts become more and more delightful. The covenant becomes more precious. Your heart yearns for God and desires to spend more time with Him. Religious exercises, public worship, and private devotions are not burdensome but sweetly delightful. They are nourishing and profitable for this life and for the life to come.
In spiritual things you find all your happiness and joy. In them you discover your true blessedness ….spiritually!