What are the characteristics of a spiritually mature Christian?
Maturity is difficult to define, and living it out is no easy task.
The fifth-grader may be more mature than the first-grader, but does that make the fifth-grader completely mature? No.
Can we define what the characteristics are that define the spiritually mature Christian? We can certainly give it a shot. But before we get to the characteristics, let’s expand the topic. People can be mature in one area and immature in another. Some believers have faith to raise the dead and no faith to raise an offering. Some husbands are strong at the office and weak at home.
Other Christians respond with faith when their car breaks down and fear when personally challenged. Have you ever met a Christian that handled most of life well and fell apart when corrected? I sure have.
Few believers have the maturity chip mastered. I have met a handful of saints that I consider mature. I am not saying they are perfect, and I am sure they fail like all of us.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and I am not an exception to that truth. There are areas of my spiritual life that are impenetrable for the enemy. And then, there are areas of weakness that reveal my immaturity and impatience.
A passage in the New Testament has captured my mind for many years.
By your patience, possess your souls. (Luke 21:19, NKJV)
This passage refers to a horrible time in scripture when parents betray kids and face death. These are the conditions where the scripture commands that we “possess your soul.” I love the challenge, but that scripture challenges my spiritual growth.
Luke 21:19 is a great place to start the question of; mature or not so mature?
So how do we determine the characteristics of the spiritually mature?
Inspect the Fruit
“For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. (Luke 6:43-44, NKJV)
A tree is known for its fruit. Since maturity is our focus, let’s use that topic to filter conversation. My question is, do we examine all the fruit or some of the fruit? If we look long enough, we will discover some fruit in our life that does not resemble Jesus, right?
And even more so, we will eventually find fruit that resembles humanity and flesh. Yes, we are a spirit trapped in a human body-the perfect (Spirit) is swallowed up in imperfect (society).
I find then a law that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good, for I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-15, NKJV)
So yes, even though we have followed Christ for years, we are considered wretched. That is true of me.
Have you ever been so angry you could easily say a few choice words? I sure have. I don’t speak the choice words, but the temptation is there. Is there a difference between wanting to cuss and just not speaking out? I may even voice the obscenities under my breath. Did God hear me? Yes, probably. So, does that define me as immature?
I know that my spiritual maturity begins with following Christ fully, even while failing.
A major part of being mature is the choice to keep following Christ and never turn back.
Follow Christ fully
If we look at the disciples, we see failure, misunderstanding, and spiritual negligence-much like us. But through it all. Yes, Jesus takes us through and not around the struggles and failures, and we keep on following Jesus.
The life of the disciples was messy. The disciples struggled with understanding the teachings of Jesus and His ways. They said wrong things and behaved in inappropriate ways. Does this remind us of ourselves? Yes. Yet, we must prod on through the struggles and walk with God through our sins and situations. It is often in a struggle that we experience our best teachable moments.
This is where it gets a little tight. I have seen mature believers without a teachable spirit. You can walk with them, fellowship with them, and hang out, but they repel when a teachable moment happens.
Some believers think they have it all together. Spiritual success often results in pride and arrogance. Pride is easy a major topic in the scriptures and around the religious folk. Even the disciples dealt with pride. Being proud makes you a scoffer. Scoffers reject teachable moments.
Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hates you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. Proverbs 9:8-9
We must resist being the scoffer. Scoffing stifles your spiritual growth and isolates you from walking alone.
This point is the most important of the entire article.
We have lost the art and importance of respecting and honoring our leaders. If we are too big to follow, we are too small to lead.
We do not have to look far to witness a total disrespect for authority. Even our White House propagates a disregard for police officers and other authorities. We also see this in our schools, college campuses, and churches.
In matters of authority, the underlying principle is submission. In God’s wisdom, He has chosen some to hold authority and others to be under authority. The most surprising thing is that God has taught that humility is the highest qualification for those in authority.
Hebrews 13:17 teaches us to submit to our spiritual leaders because they watch over our souls as ones who will give an account to God.
I am convinced that the body of Christ is fragmented and immature because of a lack of humility and submission. Maturity is not about perfection; it is about being perfected.
To summarize our thoughts we must inspect our fruit, follow Christ fully, be teachable, and respect those in authority. Will this make us perfect? No.
But it will assist us in growing in Christ.
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