“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV)
Here Paul explains how he does not consider himself mature, but is constantly striving for perfection in his growth as a Christian. Spiritual maturity is a subject hard to describe and will humble you as you try to explain what it is, because you will more than likely find out that you are not as mature as you thought. The reason for this is: you will never be spiritually mature until you are a spirit.
Your maturity is an internal thing, it’s between you and God, not necessarily seen on the outside, and not shared with others; it’s all in your actions. It shows in how you handle life, how you face adversity, how you communicate with those who are new to the faith, or just being interested in spiritual things.
You must remember how it was for you in the beginning, when you first started following Christ–what knowledge did you have then? The new Christian is going to have doubts and questions as well, and as a mature Christian, it’s up to us to remember that and to teach others how we managed to get through those early growing pains of devotion to Christ. You can’t belittle them, you can’t condemn them for the things they do that are not pleasing to God. You must remember how it was for you, how uncertain you were about God in the beginning.
Following is a list of what being a mature Christian entails:
- As mature Christians we will constantly try to find ways to expand our knowledge and walk uprightly, striving to become perfect in this imperfect world. Admittedly, striving for perfection seems to be an impractical measure because more than likely we will never achieve it in this world, but we can set it as our goal, as a kind of guideline, if you will.
- The spiritually mature believer is always growing, learning to accept the truth and becoming more aware of the ways of the world, seeing evil for what it is, and realizing that quite often even an innocent mistake can lead to trouble in a Christian’s walk. To battle the evil in the world, a mature Christian must be able to turn to The Word as a resource and pray for wisdom to understand what God has to say. So avoiding the world and its troubles is no way for a mature Christian to handle adversity, they must learn to face trouble with prayer and Scripture and learn what they can through the experience; it’s the only way a Christian can grow spiritually.
- The spiritually mature Christian is going to be able to look back on their life and actually see how everything that happened in their lives worked together as God intended (Romans 8:28), and has made them who they are today. Every incident pleasant or otherwise has contributed to make them who they are. With that knowledge they must learn to share with others the path that was taken and encourage them to accept the good with the bad as a sign of spiritual maturity.
- Another sign of spiritual maturity is your attitude. Is your spiritual walk evident in your own mind? Do you feel good about the way you handle stress and adversity? Are you confident in your understanding of God’s ways? If you happen to be weak in certain areas, are you willing to admit your weakness and strive to improve? Within yourself, do you realize that you must face adversity in order to grow? (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
A mature Christian is able to accept those around them for who they are, not what they do, and they will practice what they preach, there is nothing more damaging to a Christian than scolding another for a certain sin, and then later being seen sinning in the same way. The sign of maturity is when a Christian can face the world and all its ugliness, accepting that there is evil in the world, but not ever giving up on another lost in the world, or succumbing to its draw.
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil,” Hebrews 5:12-14 (ESV).
How mature are you spiritually, and what are you doing to continue to grow as a Christian?