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What does it mean to be “spiritually mature”?
Spiritual maturity is the process and the plan achieved in becoming more like Jesus. Once we are saved, every Christian begins the process of spiritual growth and is on the path to becoming spiritually mature. According to Paul, it’s a process that is ongoing and does not end in our time on earth. In this post, we’ll examine the characteristics of the spiritually mature.
God’s Word is clear in teaching those who follow Him that He wants us to become more and more like Jesus.
“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)
While we may assume that the word “image” means what someone looks like on the outside, Jesus wants to change us from within, removing everything that does not honor Him and replacing it with His love and purity.
This is spiritual maturity; to reflect the love of Christ in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
These are the attributes of God, the fruit of the Spirit, and something every Christian should desire. This is the way to walk with Him every step of the way.
Will we ever reach this goal? Not likely this side of heaven, but, one day, when we enter heaven and enjoy fellowship with God forever, we will.
In the meantime, we can strive for spiritual maturity right now. God wants to begin changing us from within and making us more like Christ while we are still on earth. Only in Heaven will that process be completed; sin’s power over us will be destroyed, and we will inherit that heavenly home Christ has prepared for us.
As we begin to spiritually mature on the inside, we will display the characteristics of God on the outside – to others. Spiritually mature Christians will reveal the fruit of God’s Spirit in our daily lives, and all other Christian virtues will round out a Christ-like personality.
In Philippians 3:12–14, Paul discusses the full knowledge of Christ. He admits that he has not already received the full knowledge of Christ, but that he will continue to develop to be spiritually mature:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.. –
Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV)
To be spiritually mature, we have to radically prioritize. We are to replace what pleases us, as humans, with that of what pleases God.
13 Signs of the Spiritually Mature Christian
- Understands the difference between right and wrong and chooses what is right.
The Bible is a manual for what is right and wrong. Learning God’s instructions for recognizing the difference between wrong and right and using it to navigate life is of key importance. As a spiritually mature Christian, we are to know the difference between right and wrong and choose what is right.
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. –
- Is Convicted by God’s Word to Press On
As we learn more of God’s Word and walk in closer fellowship with Him, we begin to develop our beliefs into convictions. Our lives become controlled by our convictions. As the truth of God’s Word begins to rest in our Hearts, fill our minds and shape our thoughts, it will produce principles or convictions that we don’t want to violate. This is what sanctification is about—being inwardly compelled to obedience.
The Apostle Paul suffered greatly, in many ways, during his ministry—imprisonment, beatings, shipwrecks, and numerous unfounded accusations from false teachers.
In 2 Corinthians 4, he describes the difficulties that he faced and that we believers may face in our lifetimes:
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. –
2 Corinthians 4:8-11 (ESV)
Every day he faced the reality that he could be killed. In each town he visited to share the Good News, he was persecuted, offended others, and thrown out of synagogues, and into prison. His whole life was a constant cycle of opposition and oppression.
What made him continue despite the hardship he faced? Quite simple:
In verse 13, he quotes the Psalms, saying, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak.” That is conviction.
That conviction shaped Paul’s life and ministry. Earlier in 2 Corinthians 1:12, he stated:
For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. –
2 Corinthians 1:12 (ESV)
In Acts 23:1, he says, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” in Acts 24:16, he says this: “So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.”
Paul’s firm convictions, which are rooted in Scripture, helped him to live a righteous life, with a clear conscience.
Are you living your life with a clear conscience with words and behaviors rooted in the truth of Scripture?
- Is not swayed by false teaching
We are to be so grounded in the truth of God’s word, that we recognize falsehood – what is of God and what is not. Society bombards us with messages to put ourselves first, to listen to this one or that one, but the only teaching we are to cling to as truth is God’s.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. –
1 John 4:1(ESV)
- Is rooted in love
Our words and actions should demonstrate love to other believers and all of mankind. We are to love as He first loved us. We don’t have to agree with them, we don’t even have to like them, but we do have to love them.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 13:35 (ESV)
- Serves the church
A Christian cannot grow to spiritual maturity without connection and fellowship with other believers. A spiritually mature Christian needs to find where she can serve and find encouragement.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. –
1 Peter 4:10-11
- Lives with an eternal perspective
The spiritually mature Christian lives with the knowledge that our time on earth is temporary. What is important is not the trials of the day, but the hope of eternal life.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. –
Colossians 3:2 (ESV)
- Controls her tongue
It’s hard to always say the right thing at the right time, and often, we react before thinking or praying about our response. A spiritually mature Christian speaks with wisdom and knowledge of God and uses words that build up rather than tear down. Most of us can agree how tough this is to do. Yes, we will mess up. That is why we have to continually work toward spiritual maturity.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. –
Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)
- Reflects God’s character to the world
When people see you and your words and actions, do they see Jesus? (See this article here on living like Him)
A spiritually mature Christian strives to display God in her words and deeds.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God...-
Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV)
- Can see spiritual growth in themselves and don’t measure themselves on the highs and lows of life and their faith.
We all have bad days and don’t always honor and please God in our words and actions. Just like a football team cannot measure themselves by their worst game or their last fumble or even their best game or touchdown, we cannot measure our spiritual growth by one good day or difficult period in our lives. Spiritual maturity is ever growing, ever-evolving.
so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; –
Colossians 1:10 (ESV)
- Has peace that surpasses all understanding.
Despite bad days, difficult times, and stressful moments, a spiritually mature Christian knows that God is in control and has peace that does not make sense to those who are not in fellowship with God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –
Philippians 4:7 (ESV)
- Employs regular spiritual disciplines
To be spiritually mature, we need to regularly employ spiritual disciplines, including meditation, Bible study, prayer, solitude, worship, community and fellowship, confession, and fasting. These are non-negotiable practices for spiritual maturity. Please don’t misunderstand me. You don’t have to do all of these each day and check them off of your to-do list. Continued intimacy with God depends on these disciplines, and we are to strive for this intimacy with God. Make them a regular part of your life, and your maturity in Christ will grow. People who struggle with consistency in their walk with God then to be the same people that place everything before God – often in the mask of “busyness”.
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; –
1 Timothy 4:7 (ESV)
To dive deeper into Ephesians on a level you haven’t before with Kneel Before the Throne, Exploring Ephesians.
The discipline of putting the truth constantly at the forefront of our minds is crucial.
If we are not, yet, spiritually mature, we must read everything we can that faithfully and accurately explains the Word of God to us. We need to study the Bible and memorize Scripture; we must read commentaries from biblical scholars, listen to sermons from faithful expositors, and read the biographies of godly saints whose lives display the kind of maturity we want to see in our own lives. We must soak our minds in the Scriptures, fueling the Spirit’s sanctifying work.
While it may seem simple, it’s a step that many believers fail to take. They don’t understand why they continue to face and give in to the same temptations and why their love walk with the Lord seems distant. They don’t understand that by not growing in the Word of God, they are slowing their spiritual growth or treading water in the same place.
- Has a Thirst for God’s Word
The love of God’s Word is a consistent theme throughout the Bible, particularly in the Psalms. Psalm 119 is a beautiful account of the psalmist’s love for the truth and his delight in the law. But, we also see an exhortation of his love for Scripture in Psalm 19.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward. –
Psalm 19:7-11 (ESV)
David says, in Psalm 19, that God’s Word is “more to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb” (verse 10).
As we expose ourselves to the Word, we begin to understand what it says. It begins to form our convictions, and then it becomes our sincere affection and desire to follow God’s commands.
We begin to thirst and hunger for the Word of God. Peter described it this way:
“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” –
1 Peter 2:2 (ESV)
To be spiritually mature and to grow in faith only comes when we know the Word, when it shapes our convictions, and when we learn to long for the sustenance it alone can provide.
- Serves the poor and others in need.
A spiritually mature Christian looks for ways to serve others in word and deed.
You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land’ –
You may enjoy this brief devotional video on Real Spiritual Maturity by Pastor Tony Evans.
Where are you on the path to spiritual maturity? Which of these spiritually mature characteristics do you display? Which do you need to work on? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
For a great resource on spiritual maturity, check out this book: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life in Christ by Peter Scazzero I’ve read it and loved how convicting it was to me! God is speaking to me through the words of the author.
You may also wish to check out one of these other books on spiritual maturity.
The Emotionally Healthy Woman: Eight Things You Have to Quit to Change Your Life by Geri Scazzero, Peter Scazzero
Because He Lives,