By Dr. Roger Barrier, Crosswalk.com
I’ve been a Christian for quite a while, but I’m not sure how to tell if I’m really growing spiritually. Can you give me some sort of measuring stick so I can tell how well I’m doing?
The single greatest tragedy in the church is the Christian who refuses to grow up.
Here is a simple checklist I use which will help you determine your level of spiritual maturity.
But first, let me begin by sharing a few principles about spiritual growth:
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6 Principles about Spiritual Growth
1. There Are Different Levels of Spiritual Maturity.
The apostle John mentions three levels: children; young men and women; mothers and fathers:
I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one. (1 John 2:12-13)
2. God’s Design Is for All Babies to Grow Up Spiritually!
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:14-15)
3. Spiritual Growth Is a Long-term Process.
You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. (Revelation 2:3)
4. Spiritual Babies Do Not Automatically Become Spiritual Mothers and Fathers. They Must Do Those Things Which Produce Maturity.
Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
5. Many Christians Fail to Mature Because of Sin, Pride, Laziness, Materialism, Ignorance, or Failure to “Sell Out” to Jesus Christ.
Major Ian Thomas: "I have discovered an interesting thing about American Christians. They do not usually come to church to learn anything. Whatever they do not yet know themselves they think is not really necessary."
6. Why Should I Bother to Grow Up In Christ?
Because our heavenly crowns and rewards will be given according to the profitability of our ministry on earth.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
A Checklist for Evaluating Your Spiritual Level
This checklist is based on John 2:12-14 (see above), where the apostle John delineates the following three levels of spiritual maturity: spiritual children; spiritual young men and women; and spiritual mothers and fathers.
Spiritual infancy commences with the understanding that we are sinners, Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, and we can have a relationship with Him by asking for forgiveness.
2. Am I Secure in the Fact that My Sins Are Forgiven? Or Do I Still Struggle with Believing that God Could Forgive Me After All the Sins I Have Committed? (1 John 2:12)?
Trusting Jesus Christ as Savior and the assurance of our salvation in Him comes down to a decision. We choose to believe God’s Word and have faith in His promises. Making and standing strong on that choice is a mark of spiritual maturity.
3. Have I Overcome the World (1 John 5:4)?
The word "overcome" basically means "no longer fooled, no longer deceived.” Spiritual children understand that the world's way is not the way that God has called us to live.
A person may be a Christian for 20 or 30 years, but he/she is still a baby if they value and seek the things of the world.
4. Am I Having a Difficult Time Applying the Bible to Everyday Life (Hebrews 5:13)?
For example, spiritual children have trouble sorting out issues like the biblical grounds for divorce, or for giving, or for knowing God’s will. As we mature, seeking out biblical truth and relying on the Holy Spirit for wisdom becomes second nature.
5. Am I Certain that I Am Not Following False Teachers or False Doctrines (Ephesians 4:14)?
Mormons tell us that over two-thirds of all converts to Mormonism are people with an evangelical Christian background.
The gospel of salvation taught by Paul is, “Faith plus nothing equals salvation.” Salvation is a free gift based on grace. On the other hand, the false gospel of Mormonism includes a number of steps in place of the “nothing” which must be accomplished to reach what is termed the "Third Heaven."
Spiritually mature Christians are not fooled by false teaching because they know the Bible well.
6. Do I Struggle with Spiritual Fears and Insecurities (Matthew 10:26-28)?
"I'm afraid that if I tithe, I won't have enough money left to meet my needs.”
“I sometimes wonder whether or not I am truly saved.”
“I am afraid that if I sin too much God won’t love me anymore and I will somehow lose my salvation.”
Confidence in God’s promises—trusting Him to supply our needs—is a mark of spiritual maturity. It’s most often gained as we trust God through hardship and experience His presence.
7. Do I See Signs of Steady Spiritual Growth or Am I Backsliding into Stagnant Carnality? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).
How long can I remain a baby Christian before I am stuck in “carnality” or unspiritual? Paul taught the Christians at Ephesus the “whole counsel of God” in three years. I believe that if we haven't made great strides in our Christian walk in three years, we are in grave danger of becoming carnal or unspiritual.
8. Am I Praying to Be a Spiritual Mother or Father at Any Price?
This is the most difficult prayer you’ll ever pray … and the one God will always answer.
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Evaluating the Characteristics of Spiritual Young Men and Women
1. Am I Developing Strong Spiritual Muscles by Consistently Training with the Spiritual Disciplines? (2 Timothy 1:9)
There are at least nineteen spiritual disciplines mentioned in Scripture.
Some of them are meditation, prayer, fasting, Bible study, simplicity, confession, and worship (I recommend Richard Foster’s: “Celebration of Discipline” for a detailed study of all of them).
2. How Well Do I Know the Content and Teachings of the Bible? (Acts 17:11)
What does it mean to "know the Bible?" I'll give you a test just for fun.
What is the main theme of the book of Obadiah?
Except for two words, which two psalms are exactly alike?
The 10 Commandments are found in two different places in the Old Testament. Where?
The book of Ephesians is just like what other New Testament book?
What is the only miracle found in all four Gospels?
I've tried to ask you some very simple questions about the Bible. You can't read the New Testament over the years without knowing that Colossians and Ephesians are just alike. You can't read the Psalms consistently without being shocked that Psalm 13 and 56 are just alike.
Once the Word of God is hidden in your heart, your experience, practice, and the Holy Spirit all work together to enable the spiritually mature to minister effectively.
The word "overcome" used in 1 John 2 means "to be no longer deceived by Satan’s workings and devices.” Satan's basic work against Christians is in the area of lies and deception. His tools are temptations, accusations, and insinuations.
Not only are spiritual young men and women able to adequately defend themselves in battle, they are able to help those who have been ensnared in Satan’s traps as well.
Evaluating the Characteristics of Spiritual Mothers and Fathers
1. Am I Consciously Developing a Deeper Intimacy with Jesus? (Psalm 73:25)
Spiritual babies delight in their experiences. Young men and women delight in their understanding of the Word of God. Mothers and fathers delight in Jesus Himself.
2. Am I More Likely to See Life from God’s Perspective or from Mine? (1 Corinthians 2:11-16)
Spiritual mothers and fathers have spent so much time communing with and experiencing Jesus that when a situation arises, instead of having to figure out the pros and cons, they already know God’s intentions.
They can see a situation and say I know what God would do here. Spiritual children wouldn't have the slightest idea of what God would do. Spiritual fathers come to the point where they think like God instinctively.
3. Do I Refuse to Judge Others on Earth Because of a Growing Understanding that God Is Bigger than Anyone Can Fathom? (Romans 11:33)
I've heard spiritually immature Christians say, “This is what God said and this is the way it is. If you don't do it this way, you're not doing it God's way."
Others say, “I know what the Bible means, don’t try to confuse me with the facts!”
I'll illustrate the futility of anyone thinking they have a monopoly on understanding God very simply.
A man from San Francisco wades out into the Pacific Ocean, sees the waves, touches the water, estimates the temperature and observes the coastline and cries gleefully," I know the Pacific Ocean." The truth is, he knows basically nothing at all about the Pacific Ocean.
God is higher, greater, and infinitely more complex than any human mind can comprehend. We tend to forget that God is greater than we can imagine!
4. Spiritual Mothers and Fathers Help Spiritual Children Grow Up.
Paul wrote tenderly to his church in Thessalonica, "We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel, but our lives as well." (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8)
Spiritual mothers and fathers nurture spiritual children by ensuring that they get fed the word of God and learn basic Christian doctrine. They help them set in place morals and values that develop strong character. They teach them to pray, fast, and worship. They teach them how to be intimate with Jesus. They help them discover their spiritual gifts, and know God’s will for their lives, and prepare them to be men and women of God.
Let me encourage you to pray for God to make you a spiritual father at any price. That is one prayer that I guarantee God will answer.
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