So in the last blog I threw out a few things that spiritual maturity is NOT. I would much rather leave on a positive note so let’s talk about what spiritual maturity IS.
My simple definition for Christian spiritual maturity is “growing in Christ-likeness”.
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29 ESV)
If a person is truly a disciple then there will be the evidences of the work of God in his/her life to conform that person’s life to the image of Jesus himself.
Sounds good on paper…but what does it mean? What can we look for? I am a simple guy…so I usually break it into these 3 things.
1- They possess (and are growing in) a deep affection for God and Jesus Christ!
A disciple will have a fundamental God-given change in affections. Someone without God- loves self above all others. A believer’s affections have been re-arranged. They may not always get it right…but they have a deep love of God and want to know Him, experience His glory more fully and treasure Him supremely. Someone who is growing in their spiritual maturity has a profound sense of Christ’s centrality to their being and experiences a gradual increase in their reliance on Him in all things.
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30, 31 ESV)
2- They possess (and are growing in) a love and grace towards other people! Along with affections for God, comes a deeper love for His special creation. Real Christians love people! Again, they may not always do it perfectly, but they have a desire to see others experience the love and grace of Christ and willingly enter into and pursue authentic relationships with others. Someone who is growing in spiritual maturity can see a marked increase over time in their love and affection for others.
3- They possess (and are growing in) the fruits of the Holy Spirit!
The verse below tells us what these “fruits” are in a person’s life. Notice they are the “fruits of the Spirit” and are the direct results of the work of God in a person’s life as opposed to “works of the flesh” which are also mentioned in this same chapter. A person who is growing in spiritual maturity has some measure of all of these and is growing in them. They are more loving than they used to be. More peaceful, etc.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23 ESV)
Can it really be this simple?
I would say yes. I do think we often complicate what it means to be a follower of Christ in a lot of ways. As I stated in the last blog, we often look in so many different (and unhealthy) directions to attempt to define Christian maturity. At the end of the day, I think I would rather be growing in the areas mentioned above than in my church attendance, bible knowledge, etc. All of those things can certainly help (and are important), but they may also hinder my growth if they are seen as an end unto themselves.
The simple question remains… Am I changed? Am I growing in my love for Jesus and people? Do I see the work of God’s hand in my life to make me into the image of Jesus? I think these are important questions for all of us to ask! Journey on my friends!