At the beginning of this series, I asked if you were “helping or hindering your spiritual journey”. I posed three questions, which now fit nicely with today’s warning on the danger of spiritual immaturity.
First, where are you in your current faith walk? Secondly, what would motivate you to seriously consider the five (5) warnings? And finally, where does Jesus Christ fit in your life today?
It is now time to move these questions from their previous position as the backdrop for this series to the focal point for our exploration of spiritual immaturity. We begin this journey by contrasting it with its opposite–spiritual maturity.
What is spiritual maturity?
As I researched this topic of spiritual maturity, there were varying views and opinions as to its definition. For some it is a process; for others it is a pathway to follow. And still others see spiritual maturity as the goal of the believer’s life. That being the case I offer several views for your consideration.
Commitment to Transformation
Dallas A. Willard, an American philosopher known for his writings on Christian spiritual formation, describes spiritual maturity as taking place “when we are drawn close to a life with Jesus. We, by the grace of God, behave differently because we have been transformed.”
This transformation occurs as believers intentionally build and live their lives as disciples of Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God. This transformation occurs as believers commit to grow, commit to change, and commit to learn.
Using Willard’s description, spiritual maturity is a process. One that never ends until we reach heaven and are face-to-face with our Savior (1 Cor. 13:12). Using this description, the question I would ask is this. As 21st century believers, do we behave differently?
Building on the Foundation of the Gospel
Ligonier Ministries, founded by the late Dr. R.C. Sproul, exists to proclaim, teach, and defend the holiness of God in all its fullness to as many people as possible. In “Four Essentials of Spiritual Maturity”, author and contributing writer Kent Hughes outlines four key areas needed for spiritual maturity.
While these essentials are directed to pastors, they also outline key responsibilities for believers who desire to be spiritually mature. They include:
- Christ-focused exposition of the Word—Christ is the source and sustainer of spiritual maturity
- Cautious “striving” to accurately present the Word—described as “struggling in preaching the gospel mystery”
- Commitment to the Christian community—”to comprehend with all the saints” (Eph. 3:18-19)
- Christian maturity demonstrated—the believer is a living testimony of what love and devotion for God should look like
Using Hughes’ description, spiritual maturity is a pathway. One that is to be passionately pursued (2 Tim. 2:15). That pathway includes leading people to Christ. Using this description, the question I would ask is this. As 21st century believers, are we intentional in building our lives on the foundation of God’s Word?
Passion to Persevere
Lastly, I present the viewpoint that spiritual maturity is a goal. The specific goal is the believer’s capacity to persevere. The believer is both able to weather the storms of life while also proclaiming the glory of the Lord.
Oswald in his book, Spiritual Maturity, describes it this way:
Spiritual maturity is not a level of growth Christians achieve but the passion to press on in Christ. As we embrace God’s Providence, the work of the Holy Spirit, the character Christ desires, the terms of discipleship, hardship, and more, we can move from infancy toward the fruitful maturity we were created to enjoy.
Pastor Andy Stanley, senior pastor and founder of North Point Ministries shares a similar viewpoint: “Spiritual maturity is measured in terms of persevering faith not perfect behavior.”
The Apostle Paul also describes spiritual maturity in terms of the early churches’ ability to persevere. Faced with fierce and continuous persecution for their faith, they were told not to “faint” in their work for Christ (2 Cor. 4:1, 14-17; Gal. 6:9; Col. 3:15). That is perhaps the reason the writer of Hebrews included spiritual maturity as important for this group.
Using this description, the question I would ask is this. As 21st century believers, are we able to persevere? While we may not face religious persecution, how we respond to the current state of our world, i.e., health pandemic, economic uncertainty, and civil unrest, can be an indicator of our ability to “hold fast our faith” (Heb. 10:23).
Now is the Time
God needs spiritually mature, 21st century disciples who will represent His Kingdom. These disciples must be willing to proclaim, defend, and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Especially in a post-modern world that is hostile to Christianity.
Most importantly, 21st century disciples must show and share the love of Christ–even to those who may hate us (Luke 6:27-36). We no longer can depend only on our pastor to provide outreach to the lost and to the disenfranchised. Neither can we wait for the church’s mercy ministry to provide for the homeless and the impoverished. The “them” is now “us”—our family, our neighbor, and our co-worker.
The physical church is temporarily “ON HOLD” for many of us. Other churches may be operating at a reduced capacity. But God is calling us today to be what He designed us to be—The Church (1 Pet. 2:4-6). As the Master Builder, God places His living stones just where He wants us to be (1 Cor.12:18). Spiritual maturity is not an option—it is a necessity for the world we live in today!
Next week we will explore the “Failure of Spiritual Immaturity”.