The spirituality of the New Testament is always absolutely defined by the presence of the Spirit of God. It is not a quality latent in humans. It is not something our meditating and travelling neighbor can develop outside of faith in Christ.
Apparently, we live in an age of increasing spirituality. Magazines and websites are full of articles explaining how to increase the spirituality that is latent within each of us. The advice is often connected to the diet we eat, the attitude we have toward others, or the practice of daily habits like meditation and prayer. If only we could practice patience, tell the truth more, find something to believe in and join a spiritual community, then we would be more spiritual, or so we are told.
We live in a generation that seems to be obsessed with this kind of spirituality – one that is fashionably new, and yet at the same time, rooted in ancient practice.
Everything I have written so far could be written about your natural-food-eating, yoga-practicing colleague. But it could also be describing someone totally different. In John 3, Nicodemus came to speak with Jesus. He was in many ways much more like the impressive moralist of two or three generations ago—that is, someone who looks impressive because of the standards they keep and the things they don’t do. But still, in today’s terms, he is not unlike a 21st century spiritual leader.
Nicodemus believed there is a latent spiritual life within that can be cultivated and developed if you live well. He ate a strict diet, had a certain attitude toward others, and was diligent with daily habits not unlike meditation and prayer. He may have practiced patience, taken pride in his honesty, definitely believed something and been at the heart of a spiritual community.
He really was not a 21st century spiritual man, nor a 19th century moral man, but he was an impressive 1st century spiritual leader and example to others. Nicodemus was morally impressive, highly educated, significantly influential and personally powerful. In almost every respect he was at the top of the pile, and I suspect all of us would have been intimidated if we met him.
Jesus wasn’t intimidated, nor impressed. Nicodemus wanted to talk spirituality with Jesus, but Jesus couldn’t talk spirituality with him. Why? Because, despite everything he had learned, achieved, cultivated and developed, he was yet to even begin being spiritual. Jesus knows what is inside every man, and as he looked inside Nicodemus he saw absolutely no evidence of the presence of the Spirit of God.