As I shared in the previous post, the ultimate goal of every Christian is to become like Christ. In Hebrews 6:1, we are exhorted to ‘continue progressing towards maturity’, so that we can be able to stand firm in the faith, mature and fully assured (Colossians 4:12).
In the epistles we see that Paul’s objective was more than just evangelism. This can be seen in Colossians 1:28-29: “we proclaim [Jesus], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me (emphasis my own).”
As we can see, Paul’s objective was not merely to preach the gospel but also to present every believer mature in Christ. In the same case, we have a responsibility to progress towards maturity so that we will not be tossed about by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14).
With this in mind, it is necessary to know what the maturity we are pursuing constitutes. Therefore, today I am going to share on what constitutes spiritual maturity so that we may be enlightened in our pursuit of maturity in Christ.
It is worth noting that spiritual maturity is not confined to the spiritual life alone. It profoundly affects our body, mind, soul and emotions as well. Before I delve into this, it will help to clear the ground if we first of all consider what does NOT constitute spiritual maturity:
- It is not an aging process:
The presence of gray hairs does not automatically translate to spiritual maturity. Just because we are aging, we should not conclude that of necessity we are progressing in maturity. It is the intensity of years and not their extensity that is a true measure of maturity.
- It is not instantaneous and final:
Pursuing spiritual maturity is a dynamic process that continues as long as we live (2 Corinthians 3:18). Physical growth demands that we obey the laws of nutrition and health. Similarly, spiritual growth only happens when the essential laws of spiritual growth have been obeyed.
- It is not a mastery of scripture:
Reading the Bible can be an intellectual process that leaves the life of a person unchanged. The accumulation of biblical information is of immense value, but it is only as God’s Word is applied in daily obedience that spiritual growth takes place. “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves… (James 1:22-25).”
- It is not the mere possession of spiritual gifts:
The Holy Spirit sovereignly endows the maturing Christian with spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11), but these gifts of themselves are not the measure of spiritual maturity. This can be seen in the case of the Corinthian church who did not lack any spiritual gifts yet Paul says he could not address them as spiritual but as worldly (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
WHAT CHRISTIAN MATURITY IS
At times the perfect example of the perfect life of Christ may seem so far removed from the level of our attainment that we grow discouraged. Most of us, I included, agree that we have a long way to go as we strive to attain mature Christian character. Also, it is possible to mistake pursuing Christian maturity with seeking perfection. However, this is not the case as we are going to see in a short while.
“When we use the word ‘perfect’ or ‘mature’ when referring to Jesus Christ, we use it in the absolute sense. This is because during His life on earth all His powers reached their full development. He completely fulfilled His Father’s will and attained the standard of perfection that that implied. He also attained the goal for which He came to earth- to redeem a world of lost men and women.
However, when the word is used of men, it is not absolute but relative, as of a child compared to an adult. The word ‘perfect’ in the Hebrews letter does not hold the promise of moral perfection on earth. If that were attainable, how could we ‘keep on progressing towards maturity?’ Therefore, as Paul used the term, it meant ‘mature and complete in Christ.’
Viewed from another angle, spiritual maturity is simply Christlikeness. We are as mature as we are like Christ and no more. He was the only fully mature man. His character was complete, well-balanced and perfectly integrated. All His qualities and capacities attuned to the will of His Father. This is the standard that God has set for us.” (In Pursuit of Maturity, J. Oswald Sanders).
Achieving the standard set before us may at times seem so far removed from our attainment that we feel like giving up. However, we are reminded that we are not alone. We have the Holy Spirit as our Helper (John 14:26) and discipline which is brought about by God’s grace. I cannot overemphasize the importance of discipline in a Christian’s life.
Just as discipline is needed to excel in any field, may it be in sports, music, academics…you name it, so is it necessary when it comes to spiritual matters. In 1 Timothy 4:6-7, we are exhorted to “train ourselves for godliness.” Discipline provides a very suitable environment for spiritual growth to take place. Therefore, whether or not we discipline ourselves in this life will make a huge difference in the kind of life we live.
At this point it is important to make it clear that I am not advocating for legalism at all. The difference between legalism and discipline is the motivation. Legalism is self-centered while discipline is God centered. A legalistic heart says, “I will do this thing to gain points with God.” The disciplined heart says, “I will do this thing because I love God and I want to please Him.”
To read more on discipline in a Christian’s life you can click here. In all this we must not forget that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Therefore, faith is a tremendously important element in progressing towards maturity. Also important to note is that discipleship and spiritual maturity go hand in hand.
In conclusion, it is clear that the true index of maturity is not the possession of gifts of the Holy Spirit, but the production of the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).”
It is my prayer that you have been encouraged to continue more ardently in your pursuit of Christian maturity. My dear brothers and sisters, let us continue progressing towards maturity. There is to be no standing still in our pursuit of maturity.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1 NIV).”
THE RESPONSE/ APPLICATION
Our response to all this is to ask God to show us the condition of our hearts and what could be holding us back. We MUST get rid of every weight, every habit, every association and every tendency that impedes godliness. What things are weighing you down? Is it a relationship? A friend? What you watch and listen to? Social media? Your lusts? Your habits? The call of discipline demands that you throw them off.