Is. 1:17 Learn to do what is right!
Give the oppressed reason to celebrate!
Take up the cause of the orphan!
Defend the rights of the widow!
This last year, George Barna’s survey indicated that many churchgoers and faith leaders struggle to define spiritual maturity. In America, this should not be! We are the wealthiest nation and have the most Spiritual resources on the planet. Yet we struggle to know what it means to be spiritually mature.
George Barna’s survey revealed 5 problems in the American Church: 1.) Most Christians equate spirituality with following rules 2.) Churchgoers are uncertain about what their church expects about spiritual maturity 3.) Believers have one-dimensional views of spiritual maturity 4.) Pastors fail to give a relevant definition of spiritual maturity with objectives; they favor activity over attitude 5.) Pastors don’t know where to reference the Bible for indicators of Spiritual maturity.
I once had a mentor who gave me a great definition of spiritual maturity (See below). Notice the phrase a Christian with a life worth emulating. What does that mean? What is the Christian life?
Spiritual maturity is:
The process where a Christian with a life worth emulating commits himself or herself for an extended period of time to a few individuals who have been won to Christ, the purpose being to aid and guide their growth to maturity and equip them to reproduce themselves in a third spiritual generation.
In Isaiah 1 we can get some helpful insight about what it means to be a Christian with a life worth emulating. In this passage, God is indicting Israel- not because they did not produce sacrifices, not because they did not pray enough, not because they did not go to the temple, not because they did not tithe. They did all of that, yet God said that he hated their worship. Why? Because it was sin-stained celebration. Based off this passage alone, we can discover what spiritual maturity is not.
Spiritual maturity is not:
1. Following rules
2. Engaging in spiritual activities
3. Confessing that you are a follower of God (or Christ)
4. A single-dimensioned definition
5. Vague and difficult to discover in Scripture
Measuring spiritual maturity begins with acknowledging who God is. Today we confess Jesus as Lord. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s revelation to man as foretold as early as Genesis 3:16 in Scripture. 1 John 2:6 says that those who confess Jesus must also walk as Jesus did. When someone does this, then he has a life worth emulating.
What did Jesus do?
When John the Baptist was in prison, he sent people to Jesus to find out who Jesus is. Jesus instructed John’s followers to tell John what they heard and saw: The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them. Jesus had strong affinity for mercy, justice and humility.
Spiritual maturity starts by confessing Christ, but it extends to the very core of our being. It is not about being doctrinally correct so much as it is about living spiritually correct. What I mean by that is that claiming to have faith in Christ is not just verbal. It also involves communicating with your life.
Indicators of faith include learning to do what is right, promoting justice, giving the oppressed reason to celebrate, taking up the cause of the orphan, and defending the rights of the widow. Life before Christ is one that tolerates injustice, propagates evil, and has no place for mercy. Yet as we mature in Christ, we learn to live according to the Spirit. When we do that, new fruits are produced in our life. We live as imitators of Christ.
If we let this concept guide our lives, then there would be less confusion about why we follow certain rules and engage in spiritual activities. Not only that, but we would not be so concerned about confessing our allegiance to Christ so much as living for Him in a way that extends justice, mercy and righteousness. When asked how we measure our spirituality, we will be less inclined to say that we tithe, pray, read our bibles and attend church. Instead we will humbly submit our story about the new fruit that has come from a radically transformed life and has fully engaged in the person and message of Jesus Christ.