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WHAT IS SPIRITUAL MATURITY? HOW CAN I BECOME MORE SPIRITUALLY MATURE? By Ezekiel Kimosop There is no express biblical definition for spiritual maturity but a number of scripture passages do convey this idea with clarity. It is instructive that spiritual maturity is a process rather than an event. No believer ever graduates from the school of spiritual growth but there are signs that manifestly affirm that the believer is mature and stable in their faith. How do we know that someone is spiritually mature? Let us examine some relevant passages. In 2 Timothy 3:15-17 Paul reveals that traditional Jewish religious training had a profound effect on the life of young Timothy and that Scripture is the principal instrument of spiritual instruction. In Ephesians 4, Paul lists down church ministry offices and declares that their purpose was to prepare and equip the saints “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: (Ephesians 4:13). This is the ideal position contemplated by Scripture which conveys three dimensions of spiritual maturity. The first level is associated with the station in spiritual development where the believer is brought into the unity of the faith. This is the spiritual consciousness that every child of God experiences in that they belong to the fellowship of believers within the context of the local and universal church. The second dimension is the growth of the believer's knowledge and intimacy with Christ. The believer discerns the person and divinity of Jesus Christ and the purpose of His finished works of the cross. This is what biblical scholars refer to as sound christological development. This can only come from the discipline of the effective and consistent study of the word of God and our daily devotion to Christ by the leading of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13-15). One of my seminary professors once stated that there must be a healthy balance between the word and the Spirit. This implies that we should not ignore the word of God at the expense of prayer. We shall end up growing into "prayer warriors" who have little scripture knowledge! Conversely, we should not neglect spiritual devotion and prayer at expense of the word because this builds our intimacy with the Holy Spirit and grows our discernment. Spiritual maturity is the work in progress of an effective discipleship process in the hands of mature believers. Apollos was a beneficiary of this process (Acts 18:24-28). Sadly, poor discipleship accounts for some of the heretical teachings that are are popularly embraced in some Christian communities today. A heretic is a teacher who teaches error and rejects biblical correction for it where it is legitimately offered. Faithful teachers are those who handle biblical truth with godly fear and are careful to raise other leaders of their kind. The third dimension can be wrapped up through a description of the end process. The mature believer grows to a measure of stature that manifests his fruitfulness in Christ (Galatians 5:22), as well as his firmness and confidence in knowing and handling the word of God such that he is no longer tossed about by all manner of doctrines and teachings that contradict Scripture (Ephesians 4:14). One of the signs of spiritual immaturity in a believer is the “nomadic” culture where they go about seeking a “new experience or new revelation” rather than faithfully sticking with a Bible believing church. Some eventually fall into congregation that teach heresy. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul exhorts Timothy, saying, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” While some have identified this verse with formal biblical training, this scripture does not exclusively render this context even though seminary training does carry some lifelong benefit and enhances ministry capacity. The exhortation is meant for every believer because we must wrestle with the word of God such that we continually discover the mystery of God’s revelation in the written Scriptures. Spiritual maturity does not merely arise from the study of the word. A believer must embrace all the spiritual disciplines that the Bible defines for us. These include obedience to the Great Commission in witnessing for Christ (Matthew 28:19-20) Prayer (Matthew 6:9-15; I Thessalonians 5:17), Christian fellowship (Hebrews 10:25); availing ourselves as vessels of honor that the Master can use in His service (2 Timothy 2:20-21), Worship (Psalm 100); enduring suffering and rejecting worldliness and all its allures. Spiritual maturity is therefore a process that ultimately draws us closer to Christ and increases our capacity to discern the will of God for our lives. It builts us in the most holy faith (Jude 1:20).
Jesus described the process of spiritual development to maturity in Matthew 5:3-6. Then he described how a spiritually mature person would serve in the kingdom of God to transform the world in Matt 5:7-10. A Christian is not spiritually mature unless they are doing what Jesus did. Maturity Step 1 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God." We need to recognize and understand every day that we cannot do anything of eternal value for the kingdom unless we remain connected to Jesus - as he described in John 15:4-8 - like a branch remaining connected to the cine. When we stop being poor in spirit (humbling ourselves) we become proud and independant - useless to the kingdom of God. Maturity Step 2 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." The greatest impediment to spiritual growth is the presence of sin in our lives. We need to have a spirit that mourns our sinfulness so we are ever diligent to identify the sin that creeps in, confess it, repent of it, and receive Jesus cleansing for a fresh start. This sensitivity will also guard our hearts and minds when temptations come, before we have a chance to fall into sin. God comforts us with his forgiveness, his cleansing and by clothing us with his robes of righteousness. Maturity Step 3 "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." The Greek word that Jesus used for "meek" is a peculiar word. The most common usage of this word in 1st century life referred to "a fully trained war horse". So a better translation might be "Blessed are the fully trained,for they will inherit the earth. Jesus said he only did the works he saw his Father doing and only spoke the words his Father gave him to say- he was trained by his Father in Heaven. Jesus is our trainor and we must constantly be willing to surrender to his leadership so we can benefit every day from the lessons he is teaching and practice sessions we are given. Maturity Step 4 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (filled)." When the greatest desire of our hearts, all the time, is to be in the presence of God - living in obedience to his will - then we hunger and thirst for his righteousness. God is pleased to satisfy our desires by filling us with his Holy Spirit. This is the abundant life that Jesus promised. What can be more fulfilling than the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). It is the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to complete the good works that God prepared in advance for us to do. Kingdom Service Step 1 "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy". When our spiritual eyes are open to see the needs in the world around us, the compassion of Jesus leads us to reach out with the love of God and do what we can to help meet those needs. We quickly realize how limited our resources are so we naturally give these needs to God in prayer. God is pleased to use us to deliver his merciful blessings as the expression of his boundless love. Kingdom Service Step 2 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God". When we are growing in maturity our purity (holiness) is evident for the world to see. People can actually begin to see who Jesus is and start to understand his mission in the world. Our personal purity is a powerful witness and attraction to drawing people into the kingdom of God. Kingdom Service Step 3 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." Once we have experienced the peace of God and are being filled with peace by the Holy Spirit, it is only natural that this peace will spill over into the lives of others in our circle of influence. We will want people we know to find peace with God by accepting his gift of salvation. We will help people make peace with each other, saving marriages and restoring friendships. Kingdom Service Step 4 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." When we are maturing spiritually to the point where we are engaging in the activity of the kingdom - loving and blessing others, demonstrating purity and holiness, bringing peace to the world, we will inevitably clash with the forces of evil. Our actions for God are pushing back their kingdom and the will fight to resist us. The more we mature we will also have the spiritual discernment to see what evil is doing around us. We will know where to take our stand and how to advance the cause of God's goodness while pushing back the presence and power of evil. Spiritual maturity is what we were created and saved for. So we could be God's agents to redeem the world he created. Through us God is transforming his world to look more like he intended at creation. This is a foretaste for us of what his new creation will be like in the new Heaven and new Earth.
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