What is “spiritual maturity” anyway?
It is hoped for, sought after, desired among the American church. Our portrayal of it is well intended, but is it possible we need to rethink our understanding of spiritual maturity?
1. Are we thinking of a “spiritual” person in defining terms as “a spectator of what is supernatural” or “a participator with the One who is supernatural?”
A spiritual spectator is one who rarely if ever engages in actual spiritual activity in an everyday way. Let me be specific:
We have tended among the American church to consider a person spiritually mature if her calendar is busy with Bible studies. But does learning more and more about spiritual things make us spiritually mature? Not if, in those spiritual learnings, we never participate with the One who is supernatural.
Take Luke 3:11 for instance: He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same” (Luke 3:11 HCSB).
We may study that verse. We may even memorize it. But isn’t our spiritual maturity evidenced by participating with Jesus in what He taught? His teachings are not an invitation to spectate in spiritual life. They are an invitation to participate with Him.
2. Are we thinking of “maturity” as a finished goal or as the journey of becoming mature?
Let me be frank: if we begin to hold the notion that we are spiritually superior to others, whether those we would criticize as carnal within surrounding culture or those we would critique as misguided or worse within worshiping culture, then we are evidencing profound spiritual immaturity.
Jesus asserted that a begging-for-mercy, confessionally sinful, gratefully contrite heart is justified with God, whereas a thinking-I-am-beyond-the-need-of-mercy, pridefully perfect, mistakenly deserving heart is not (Luke 18:9–14). Maybe the more we actually walk with Christ, the less we think of our self-sufficiency and the more we realize our utter dependency on Him.
Jesus did not seem to concern Himself with got-it-together spiritual maturity, but rather with spiritually maturing. Following Him does not mean I attempt to perfect myself, it means I am being made perfect by Someone other than myself.
3. Are we thinking of “spiritual maturity” as evidenced by knowledge and accomplishment or by wisdom and love?
The evidence of spiritual maturity is not biblical intellectualism nor energetic self-improvement. On the contrary, spiritual maturity is evident when the teachings of the Bible appear as daily rhythms in my life, with love and good deeds highlighting His goodness rather than my own.
Is the Bible learned through our heads or through our hands and feet? Is the goal my goodness noticed or His goodness seen?
So what do the Scriptures say?
I encourage you to go read at least the following 4 sections of Scripture along with others you may find yourself. See what they suggest.
Do they support my above suggestions? Rebuke them?
We would appreciate your feedback, insight, and assertions (comment below). I hope to get to interact and learn and then go live His ways with you through this interactive platform.
May we begin to rethink spiritual maturity.
Next month, I will offer a few suggestions about spiritual maturity as understood and lived among a local church family and community.
Until then . . .
Jason C. Dukes, author of Live Sent, Cartas Vivas, and Beyond My Church, has a passion for equipping the church to make disciples. Raised in New Orleans, he is a Christ follower and a leader, a husband and a father, a learner and a teacher, a servant and a brother. Since 2004, he’s been on an amazing journey cultivating a local church expression in the Orlando, Florida, area: Westpoint Church.
Scripture quotations marked HCSB are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.