THE SIGN OF MATURITY
The “sign of spiritual maturity” is the ability to love in a godly way. How do we know this? It’s a pretty simple answer; to be spiritually mature is to be like God. We’ve been told this by the apostle Paul, to imitate God.
“THEREFORE BE imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God [for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance” (Ephesians 5:1, 2).
The apostle and Jesus’ closest friend on earth, John wrote this,
“He who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love” (1 John 4:8–Amplified Bible translation).
So with those two verses in mind, ‘to know and be like God’, we need to develop a capacity for godly life and Holy Spirit influences us to love. The more we’re filled with God’s Spirit, the greater the capacity and the indication to love. Paul writes, “Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy spirit Who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
Those who ridicule the notion Christians should express love in an emotional way; especially men who hug each other in church or in the church parking lot, have missed the spiritual maturity signs of LOVE.
WHAT SPIRITUAL MATURITY IS NOT; THE WRONG SIGN POSTS
— Being a church member for years.
— Intimate knowledge of your church’s doctrine.
— Going to service every week.
— Being old.
— Being a great preacher.
— Being an elder or “ordained”.
— Know a lot about the bible.
— Being financially well-off or owning a business.
WHAT IS, “ARRESTED SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT”
The apostle Paul was concerned for the spiritual maturity of the churches under his care. And what he mentions to the Corinthian Church, reflected on his own spiritual development.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
What was Paul saying in that verse? Was he talking to just the men in the church? Of course not; he was saying that unless you mature in LOVE (1 Corinthians 12:1-31), you’re just a male [or female] and not a man or woman.
I remember my envy of others when I was a kid growing up. “When can I do this and when can I do that?” The answer always came back to me from my folks, “When you grow up” or “When you become a man” or “When you become mature”, whenever that was to be.
IN THE ‘NATURAL’ PROCESS
Consider the nature of a child for a moment; the smaller the child, the more self-centered he/she is. A small baby thinks only of their own needs; comforts and wants. As the children grow, their awareness of things, people and needs outside of ‘self’ is heightened. Instead of seeing all his own toys, he learns that the same toys might just belong to other children. Gradually, ‘step by step’, the child’s world opens up. As the child matures, the boy or girl moves progressively outside of ‘self’; into the world of others and over time, becoming “socialized”. I am not a child psychologist by any means; I am just an observer of my own three children growing up and my own “growing up”.
Children freezing their emotional and intellectual progress at certain levels are said to become victims. The child physiologist in the natural world call them victims of “arrested development“. We’ve all known adult men and women who appear to be “emotional adolescents“. Such people can even be called “emotional vampires“; sucking the energy of those who come in contact with them. Like children, they use emotions as a weapon. They might even throw a temper tantrum to manipulate their host or shed tears when things don’t seem to fit in with their own self-interest. The problem with the term “arrested development” is that it occurs at both the natural level and the spiritual level.
WHAT ARE THE TESTS FOR “ARRESTED SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT”?
When you are getting your driving permit for the first time, you must take and pass a written test before your actual driving road test. In this test, there are usually pictures of road signs for you to identify; “stop signs”, “yield the right of way signs; “do not pass signs” and etc. and they are but shapes; you have to designate what they mean. Miss the sign recognitions; fail the test!
So what can the tests for “arrested spiritual development” reveal?
Picture of the face of God from
Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam
painted on the Sistine chapel (1510 AD)
Gray hair is generally thought of as a sign of maturity and wisdom. The Bible teaches that not only do those with grey hair deserve respect; but it is also a “crown of glory” to those who are spiritually mature.
“You shall rise up before the grayheaded, and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God” (Lev. 19:32 NAS}.
“A gray head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness” (Prov. 16:31 NAS).
Finding Christians who have been “believers” for decades, yet behaving like “baby Christians” isn’t the exception always. This is probably the case of looking at arrested spiritual development in the face; fighting the same old problems we fought when we were “born again”.
RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS: THE TESTING BEGINS…NOW!
1. Do you still have just as big a problem with your temper as when you were first saved? [mine has improved but still not what it should be].
2. Do you feel spiritually powerless?
3. Do you have long dry spells in which nothing seems to be going on between you and God?
4. Are you unable to generate love, care, and concern for others?
5. Do you still manipulate and control others with spiritual tantrums and other negative techniques?
6. Does anger, hatred, jealousy play an inordinately large role in the way you express yourself?
7. Do you put others down to make yourself look better?
8. Does your life reflect more of works of the flesh than fruit of the Spirit? (Galatians 5)
These questions and their answers are revealing and helpful in taking stock of where you are [me too!], regarding our spiritual maturity.
WHERE DO WE GET THE “POWER” TO BECOME MATURE?
It definitely involves sensitivity, powerful leading of the Holy Spirit. He gives us the capacity to love as God loves (Romans 5:5).
The influence of the Spirit of God in a spiritually immature person, at best, a “flickering ember“; in the spiritually mature, a “roaring flame“. The more we “walk with a purpose”, moving deeper and stepping into the obedience of God, the Holy Spirit’s influence grows greater in our lives.
As the apostle Peter said in The Book of Acts, OBEDIENCE is the key:
“And we are witnesses of these things, and the Holy Spirit is also, Whom God bestowed on those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32).
At the same time, the Spirit not only strengthens our faith, He enables us more fully to understand and be filled with God’s LOVE; God not only loves us, He is LOVE! (1 John 4:8)
Paul prayed for the church this way,
“May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His Glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty POWER in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality]. May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in LOVE and founded securely in LOVE, That you may have THE POWER and be strong to apprehend and grasp with ALL the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that LOVE] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the LOVE of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]” (Ephesians 3:16-19–Amplified Bible translation).
I capitalized the words POWER and LOVE and ALL for emphasis; in what we have available as believers living in ourselves. The Greek word for power in these four verses is, dynamis; it’s where we get the English word from, dynamite. God’s Word says we have T.N.T. available through the Holy Spirit living on the inside (soul and spirit), making God’s LOVE apparent to those around us.
THE HOLY SPIRIT IMPARTS THE POWER
You can NOT be powerful by yourself. Trust me, I have tried and failed. Only the Holy spirit can enable us to transcend our natural human capacities; our limitations.
Jesus tells His disciples in Acts 1, that after they are “baptized with (placed in, introduced into) the Holy Spirit“, something will occur; “But you shall receive POWER (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:5, 8). And the more of God’s Spirit we have, the quicker we’ll attain “spiritual maturity“.
Since the capacity to LOVE in a godly way is the product of the Holy Spirit, then spiritual maturity revealed is the “Fruit”. I’ll leave that thought with you and give you a few lyrics of a spiritual song by Peter Scholtes, based on John 13:35:
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand,
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand,
And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land:
And they’ll know we are Christians by our LOVE, by our LOVE,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our LOVE.
That’s “walking with a purpose” with our “spiritual maturity revealed” to others and only by the POWER of the Spirit living within us!