When a baby is born, there are several things that the mother is expected to look out for medically that will prove that the baby is growing well. For instance, the baby must show sight development, cognitive abilities, weight, immunity and others. Then, after a while, the baby is weaned from soft foods to hard foodstuff, no longer crawling but walking, running and doing life by themself. That baby, with this evidence, is said to be maturing well.
In the same way, once we get born again (John 1:11-12), we are expected to show spiritual maturity in our walk with the Lord. Hebrews 5:12-14 calls us to move on from being infants into maturity, eating solid food. Much as it is comparable to a baby’s birth and growth, this maturity is independent of the years we have been in the faith. Many have been in the faith for several years, but they are yet to exhibit the characteristics of someone maturing spiritually. So what should we look out for in gauging our spiritual maturity?
The first sign of spiritual maturity is love. Love for God, believers and sinners.
- For God. When God had taken the children of Israel from slavery, he commanded them to exhibit love for him. He says they should love him with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength (Deut. 6:4). The growing believer embarks on a journey of loving their God deliberately. Jesus said in Matthew 10:37 that anyone who does not exhibit a deep love for Jesus- more than they love others close to them- cannot be his disciple. A supreme love for God is a critical point that our hearts are getting deeper in commitment and maturity to our God. Do you see this sign in your life? Is your love for God so extreme that it would be as hatred compared to all other loves?
- For Believers. But maturity is also seen in how we love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus said in John 13:34-35 that he is giving us a new commandment- to love one another. He mainly talks to his disciples and tells them that loving each other is a witness to others that they belong to him. This brotherly love causes us to serve our brothers and love them as we love ourselves (Gal. 5:13-14). In 1 Peter 4:8, we are called to love one another earnestly because love covers a multitude of sins. The bond of love among believers is a testament to the work of the Spirit in our hearts, maturing us into the believer he wants us to be. Do you love your born-again people? Is your love for them growing?
- For Sinners. Most ultimately, maturity in the believer is seen in how we love those who hate us or are not part of the fold. We know we are growing when we start loving the ‘unlovable’ around us. Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-47 that loving those who love us only has no particular reward, but loving those who are enemies is evidence of the Father’s love in us. He says it is the call to be perfect as our heavenly Father. Do you love your enemies? Is your love for them growing?
Spiritual maturity is evidenced in how we progress in this matter of love. Love for God, believers, and sinners.
OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S COMMAND
Secondly, we know we are maturing if we notice growing obedience to the commandments of God as revealed in the scriptures. God told King Saul that obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22). Saul walked contrary to God’s instruction, thinking it was better to offer a sacrifice now that the prophet had delayed. Many people falter on this matter because we have ideas about how God needs to see our efforts. On this matter, Jesus said that the outward expression of our love for him is obedience (John 14:15). The one who walks in obedience will know the love of the Father. Christ promises to make his home with that one (John 14:23). There is a blessing in walking in obedience. The challenge for many believers is that they want to take shortcuts in this journey. People mostly want to be loved but want to avoid the responsibilities attached to the journey of maturity. For such, Jesus warned in Luke 6:46-49 that the floods of judgment would overtake you whenever you finally meet God.
GROWTH IN KNOWLEDGE:
- Of Scriptures (Psalm 119:105). Have you read your Bible cover to cover yet? Many believers would dare say that it is a legalistic approach to make someone read through the bible. It is an unfortunate approach to think we can boldly love what we do not know or understand well. If the word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), then knowing the full story in the scriptures is key to our spiritual life. There is great reward in growing our knowledge of scripture because the Law of God instructs the man of God (Psalm 19:7-11). Those who read the scriptures are those that are most likely growing spiritually.
- Of God (Eph. 1:17, Col. 1:19, 3:10-11). Jesus said in John 17:3 that eternal life is knowing the only true God and Jesus. We know the details of eternal life and what it means to be saved through the scriptures. Do you know the Father’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness? All these characteristics are revealed to us in the scriptures and expressed in our lives as we interact with others. As we mentioned, this knowledge leads to obedience and spiritual growth.
GROWTH IN DISCERNMENT
Discernment is the ability to distinguish between truth and error. There are many decisions we face daily, and the Spirit of God grows us in our discernment. Spiritual growth means that, by the Holy Spirit’s power, we can discern in three different ways:
- Testing everything with God’s word. (Hebrews 5:13-14). The word of God is like a mirror and a light that exposes that which is heretical, unbiblical, and ungodly (James 1:22-25). The growing believer will use the scriptures as the word of God as a plumbline and not empty humanistic notions. Are you testing critical decisions with God’s word, or are you making choices based on feelings of heart?
- Testing what truly builds the soul. (1 Cor. 10:23) Only some things we do are acceptable. Some things may seem innocent, but they are against what enlightens the soul. Spiritual maturity means that we know what God uses to build us up and what defiles us (much as it may not seem so). Some things may look and feel good but are not God-glorifying enough to enrich our souls. Are you considering what builds your soul? If so, you’re growing spiritually.
- Distinguishing what is evil. (1 Thess. 5:21-22). The other area of discernment is in knowing evil from good. The devil masquerades as an angel of light to deceive many (2 Cor. 11:14). We know we are maturing when we see a growing tendency to walk away from evil.
Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), but Paul reminds us that it is not the end of it all. Ephesians 2:10 adds that our salvations are for good works that God already prepared. Much as good works do not save us, we see that we are saved for good works. The work of the Spirit inside the believer is to lead them to the good works God prepared for them. Paul calls it the fruit of righteousness in Philippians 1:11, which comes through Jesus Christ and not for selfish glory but for God’s glory. James says that our works show our faith (James 2:14-17), an excellent mark of spiritual maturity. A mature and healthy tree bears fruit, which is evident to all who see the tree. Are people seeing your fruit? If so, you’re growing spiritually.
Finally, the mark of spiritual maturity that all saints should exhibit is living their lives for the glory of God and not the praises of men (1 Cor. 10:31). Men’s applause only last in this life. But living for God’s glory means that God is the focus. Why do you do the things you do? Is it so that men can see God? Jesus called out the Pharisees for loving men’s praises more than God’s (John 12:42–43). Ask yourself if your relationships, work engagements, friendships, and other life interactions are consumed more with what you want or what the bible says. Living for the glory of God means making every effort to have Godly character and outcomes in all our endeavours. That is possible through the work of the Spirit and relying on Jesus to strengthen you to walk in obedience (John 15:4-5, Galatians 5:16, 2 Corinthians 3:18).
Just like a baby, maturity takes time and effort as well. Scripture is at the centre of a maturing life. When you love the word of God, you are guided in the way you should go. Having accountability partners is key to our maturity. A daily walk in quiet times is also a great ingredient. If you feel stuck, follow us at kuzaapp.com, and you will find material fitting for your maturity.