Obviously, in my line of “work” I’m often asked to comment on the subject of how someone who is devoted to following Christ should pursue spiritual maturity. I’ve learned to add to this conversation that spiritual maturity encompasses so much more than merely thinking of it in terms of “discipleship” (an often used church word). Perhaps a better way to look at this is to consider spiritual maturity as the ongoing desire and development of what it means to represent the best of humanity; which is exactly what Jesus calls us to (especially note the Sermon on the Mount- Matt. 5, 6, 7) and is what Jesus truly modeled in the context of his “earthly” life.
Another great place to look in the Bible for key principles and support for spiritual development as I’ve described it above is the Book of James, which is really a manifesto or manual on spiritual maturity. So, without consuming this blog with a verse by verse or chapter by chapter breakdown of both the Sermon on the Mount and James’ book, here’s a couple key things to consider as you desire and develop spiritual maturity.
Follow Jesus! I know that sounds “churchy” and simplistic, but this needs to be understood more in terms of modeling your life after Jesus as depicted in the Gospels, and less, if at all, like what is prescribed by most churches- which can be very institutional. Following Jesus is not a religious activity whatsoever! It’s “relating” to Christ and Christ “relating” through you as you continually deepen your “relationship” with him.
Find a mentor! Just read 1 and 2 Timothy and see just how important and powerful both mentoring and being mentored are. Yet, so few who attempt or suggest they desire and/or are developing spiritual maturity incorporate mentoring/coaching into it. We all need some “instructions” (note 1 Tim. 1:18) from someone who is definitely smarter, wiser, more spiritually mature, and who models what it looks like to represent the best of humanity “in Christ!” As a matter of fact, mentoring- both being mentored and being a mentor, is the best means of relational accountability; which is the only way that accountability can really be measured and mean something!
Fellowship in a Life Group! Here’s my bottom line philosophy regarding life groups, small groups, community groups, or whatever name you want to give them: You need a safe place with sincere people where you can “practice what you preach!” I live 5 miles from the Broncos training facility and every week, especially during the season, the team is out there on the practice fields practicing their “game plan” in preparation for game day! Without actually putting into practice what we “preach”- our game plan, not only are we hypocrites, we fail miserably to truly show up in Christ in the “stadium” of our cultural setting! Teams practice on purpose- to win the game! Shouldn’t we do the same and more so in a setting that is conducive to consistently preparing us for cultural engagement with authentic Christlike attitudes and actions?? “Practice”- learning and living “truth” with practical application, is the purpose of Life Groups!
Faithful service! At the end of the day, faithfulness and followthrough are all we have that proves our credibility; not only with God, but just as importantly, with our fellow man! One of the most powerful statements that Jesus made, that regrettably seems to never be considered or included in our conversations on spiritual maturity is this: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many!” Matt. 20:28 NLT. Although some may want to debate this, Jesus is not implying serving in the church setting; which can be exclusively how church folk view service and more sadly, how they measure their spiritual maturity. On the contrary, by virtue of both Jesus’ attitude and actions towards the “religious” and those he came to “ransom” its very clear that he insisted on serving those who most needed to be served. Representing the best of humanity and thus relating how Christ wants us to live our lives among those who are like “sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:35-38) really does come down to showing up every day to not be served, but to serve!
When the above four things are consistent in your life, you will be developing spiritual maturity!
(c) 2012, Terry Broadwater. For personal use only. All other uses contact firstname.lastname@example.org.