**Guest blog by a fellow author, Patti Greene. Please see her website here for more of her work.**
Spiritual maturity and spiritual growth manifest in a Christ-follower’s heart from the moment a person accepts God’s gift of salvation through faith in Christ until they meet Jesus face to face.
Are you becoming more spiritually mature? Does delight break out within your soul when witnessing to a maturing Christian? Does sadness surface when spotting a stagnant Christ-follower choosing the wrong path?
Believers come in all ranks, from those just saved to those who are glorifying God right up until their final days.
In the Army, the rank one holds decides their pay grade and how much responsibility he is given. While a corporal may be responsible for a small group of soldiers, a major might command 10,000—15,000 soldiers. In all branches of the military, one can fast-track their career by taking advantage of added training and educational opportunities.
This same pattern arises once a person follows Christ as his or her Savior. Upon salvation, Christ-followers are automatically enrolled in a fictitious class titled “Spiritual Maturity.” Individuals decide how far they choose to progress with this never-ending course. Barely passing the class or excelling to a high degree of competency is a personal choice.
Line Segments, Lines, Rays and Angles
In Home School Math, the lesson Lines, Rays and Angles gives four geometric definitions. 1
1. A line segment occurs when two points are connected with a straight line.
2. A line has no beginning point or end point. It continues indefinitely in both directions.
3. A ray starts out at a point and continues off to infinity. We can show that by drawing an arrow at one end of the ray.
4. An angle is made up of two rays that have the same beginning point.
But, how does that relate to spiritual maturity?
Line Segment: When a person is born physically, they embark upon their life journey. Their journey starts when they are physically born and ends when they physically die. Their lifeline is from Point A to Point B.
Line: Many religions live on a line; their beliefs imagine there is no true beginning and when they physically die they are either morphed into an animal/insect or are physically born again, i.e. phrases like “in my next life I’m coming back as a cat, a dragon, a New York Rockette, an anesthesiologist, etc.” may be heard.
Ray: When a person accepts Christ, their spiritual journey begins, and they are automatically enrolled in the Spiritual Maturity course. This class begins at one’s spiritual birth and continues forever.
Angle: vertex point X – represents Christ for both types of believers. Christ-followers have a choice in which ray they want to follow: the easy laid-back Christian life or a more progressive path. It’s interesting to note that the angled center (called a vertex) represents Christ for both types of believers.
One ray strives for a life filled with the fruits of the Spirit, growing in love for Jesus Christ and with the anticipation of living an eternal life in Heaven with the Christ-follower’s first love: Jesus. This person’s love for Jesus becomes stronger and stronger as he anticipates reaching Heaven one day and spending an eternity with Him.
The other ray represents a choice to either stagnate or lean towards a sinful lifestyle—always fighting the flesh. Unfortunately, some of these souls may believe they are Christ-followers but have never received the gift of grace God has offered them.
So, in “mathematically” defining a progressive spiritually-maturing believer, they are rays striving to start at the vertex, where the two paths diverge and follow the Godly ray.
As a student in the Spiritual Maturity class, your spiritual timeline may include peaks and valleys. However, to be moving in the right direction, the ray should be resting on an inclined line always progressing to a higher level until it reaches Jesus in Heaven.
When I look at my own spiritual ray, I have many peaks and valleys. The peaks are times of extended growth, heightened dependence on the Holy Spirit, glorious worship and Biblical promises all coming to life. The valleys include breakups, fears, disappointments, spiritual attacks, confusion, and pain.
But, when my mind has stayed on Christ during the valleys, God always comes to my rescue in time. Sometimes I can look back and see how God orchestrated that valley to increase the slope of my incline to be closer to Him. Even when I cannot humanly see any good coming out of a trial or temptation, Biblical principles have taught me to trust Him even if He never shows me His purpose until Glory.
Missing Out: On a Level Plane
I don’t understand why some believers are content to sit back, believing they’ve done all they need to do for God. My inability to understand it is because when I accepted Christ, I hit the road running. I’m not saying I didn’t fall back, down, and twirl around some, but fortunately, I was able to pick myself up quickly. It was like two steps forward, one step back; okay, to be honest, maybe sometimes there were four or five steps backward!
But over the years in my Christian walk, I have seen church members who attend church every Sunday, sing in the choir, take their children to every church activity available, and still remain stunted in their spiritual growth. I ask myself why all the time!
I hate to use the word lazy and Christian in the same sentence, but I wonder if it isn’t laziness on their behalf.
They sit in church Sunday after Sunday just to feel good about going to the House of God. Or maybe they are there to make a work connection. Some don’t seem to grasp the principles they hear at church or Bible study—rarely applying them to their lives. I don’t understand how, in a 168-hour week, they can’t find time to open God’s Word. How can they disregard daily (or even weekly) prayer? Why do they only pray in a crisis? Why do they ask others to pray for them over and over when they don’t take the time to pray for themselves?
I frequently wonder what people miss when they are not desirous of God’s presence. Lookers-on may be identified by many “ranks” of spiritual maturity they hold using Army terminology—a golf course private, a pew-sitting specialist, a Bible teaching corporal, or a “fanatical” Major.
Sometimes I am awed by their lack of personal commitment. But at the same time, I am so cognizant that one day even I might fit into one of these categories. I could easily become a “they.” With all sincerity, humility, and prayer, I pray that never happens, but nobody in this life has reached the point of perfection and that includes me, your parents and even your pastor. All who have accepted Christ occasionally experience cold hearts, judgmentalism, prayerlessness, or selfishness in themselves.
Making people feel bad by approaching this subject is not my style, but I do believe addressing these facts openly and honestly encourage a dormant disciple to become a vibrant follower on the way to a deep spiritual maturity.
Tips to Mature in Your Faith
- Be Still Before God.
By praying, reading, meditating on His Word, and being quiet before God, we are filling ourselves with His presence. We are making time and room for God to speak to us, share His wisdom with us, and grow each of us into the person He intended for us to become from the start.
- Allow God to Work Through Your Sufferings and Trials.
Too many believers avoid God because they blame God for their ordeals. Many nominal believers don’t want to undergo suffering; they believe by avoiding God that troubles will evade them. Their understanding is faulty because sufferings prepare us to be used by Him and our trials can draw us into a deeper relationship with our heavenly Father. Through our pain and affliction, we are directed to His principles, which allow us to see glimpses or outright directions for His purposes.
- Pray for a Deeper Faith.
By praying for a deeper walk, one learns more about the One who cares for us more than anyone else in this world. It’s easy to sit back and listen to the undertakings others have achieved for Christ when you aren’t interested in asking God what you can do for Him. Many don’t want to serve Christ; they believe they already have His promise for eternal life and that is enough. But O dear soul, if you only knew what you are missing!
Two Character Traits to “Hold at Bay” while Deepening Your Faith
- We must not think more highly of ourselves than we ought. We must remember that it is God who decides the measure of faith each person possesses at each interval of spiritual growth. Let us pray for humility by praying fervently, not boasting, realizing how weak we are, count others as more significant than ourselves, and help others succeed.
- Do not be afraid to allow God to fill you with His presence to the point where others will notice a change in you.
Ten Powerful Characteristics of Spiritual Maturity
According to Frank Powell, the author of “10 [sic] Marks of a Mature Christian”, there are indicators we can use to gauge our maturity as a Christian:
- The highs and lows of life don’t impact your relationship with God.
- You find value in the “daily-ness” and trivial seasons of life.
- You are at peace with situations beyond your control.
- You don’t allow disciplines to take a back seat.
- You maintain a childlike sense of wonder and awe.
- You do not compare yourself to others.
- You listen to others who have a different viewpoint … with the goal of growing and not correcting.
- Your heart breaks for the poor and marginalized.
- You understand Christianity doesn’t have an on/off switch.
- You have a sustainable rhythm to your life.
Adding a #11, Powell also mentions that spiritual maturity is not about age, achievements or appearances. ²
Benefits Available to a Follower Fully Committed to Christ
As a fully committed Christ-follower, we have [the]:
- Ability to become so closely aligned with God that He becomes our entire reason for living
- Ability to develop the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control
- Access to God, His guidance, and His Holy Spirit through prayer and Bible study
- Capability to see and feel His presence in both the mundane and the exciting times
- Capability to know His will
- Joy seeing God move in the lives of our friends and family
- Power to effectively communicate with Him (in total honesty)
- Protection from the “evil one” when we “put on” the full armor of God: Belt of Truth, Breastplate of Righteousness, Shoes of the Gospel of Peace, Shield of Faith, Helmet of Salvation, and Sword of the Spirit (Read Ephesians 6:10-24)
- And, the list could go on and on.
For the rest of Patti’s blog, including suggested scriptures, prayers, crediting editing and works cited, see here.