What are the marks of spiritual maturity?
In a world where many people live for the "quick fix," it can be difficult to see the marks of spiritual maturity as we grow closer to Jesus Christ.
It is important that we realize salvation - as important as it is - is just the first step in a lifelong process of sanctification. Once we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, we open the door for the Holy Spirit to begin changing our hearts to conform us to Christ. Through this process, the marks of spiritual maturity will become more apparent.
The marks of spiritual maturity are called "fruit of the Spirit" by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23. He defines them as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." So when we look at ourselves after being saved, we should see these things in greater measure, while things like jealousy, envy, anger, hatred, lust, gluttony, and sloth diminish.
We are partners with the Holy Spirit on this ladder of spiritual maturity. We are not expected to become like Christ in our own strength, nor are we to sit back and let the Spirit do all the work. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12 to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling."
The tools are readily available - God's Word, prayer, and action. They work together, feeding off one another. For example, when we pray for discernment before reading a Bible passage, we may learn a lesson that challenges us to reach out to someone in our community with love. We may also find ourselves doing God's work and suddenly find new meaning in Scripture.
Reading the Bible is an important way to get to know God better. John 10:3-5 illustrates this in the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep.
"The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice."
God is constantly calling to us, but often we don't recognize His voice or we confuse our own desires with His will for our lives. When we are familiar with His voice through Scripture, we will find that communication is vastly improved!
The transformation process is not always comfortable. We may be called by God to change our lives in ways we would never have envisioned. Some changes may alienate non-christian friends and even family members. But we can pray continually that they, too, will come to know Christ and follow the same process.
The marks of spiritual maturity also provide us with a way of discerning when we are confronted by self-righteous men who may falsely proclaim themselves to be Christians. If they seem angry, confrontational, or judgmental rather than patient, kind, and humble, there is a good chance they are following some other god.
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