I’ve written a lot recently about spiritual growth and spiritual maturity. The Bible makes it clear that we can grow in our faith and in holiness. It’s not a linear path, in which we are continually helpless and have no part to play. God tells us we can make steps forward in our relationship him, and is always calling us closer, deeper into his ways.
In fact, growing closer to the Lord is the most important task in your life. More important than reaching your dreams or even fulfilling your calling. Everything you do in life flows from everything you are in Christ.
The Bible clearly distinguishes between those who are spiritually mature and immature. The Bible is full of examples of the immaturity of believers who came to Christ throughout the known world. Paul and the other apostles wrote to them in letters that make up our New Testament, and address some major failures, flaws and struggles. Reading about some of these can actually give us hope for our own lives today!
There are many areas that go into maturity in Christ, but here are five few key signs you are growing mature in Christ.
1. You receive the truths of the gospel as it was passed down to you.
A faithful follower of Christ doesn’t add to or take away from the Word of God. You are not the message, and you play no part in the message. You are simply the messenger. In the words of Greg Laurie, “You are simply God’s paperboy,” delivering the newspaper that declares the message about Christ and his ways. The apostle Paul goes so far as to say, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (Gal. 1:8).
Paul is literally saying that even if he himself strays from the pure message about Christ and his teaching, stop listening to him! Clearly, he desired to pass on the message of Christ in all its purity, because that is where the power is.
We see this with denominations that are moving away from core aspects of the gospel—for instance, those who say it’s okay to live in sin and not repent. Their adherents implode within just a few years, because when you take away the core of the message, you take away the power of the Holy Spirit to change hearts and lives, and there is nothing left to stick around for.
There is Holy Spirit power when we preach the gospel as it was passed down to us through the Scriptures.
Paul tells us to establish those foundational teachings about Christ, and continue from there to grow to maturity: “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so” (Heb. 6:3).
2. You stop pointing out everyone else’s sins and start confessing your own.
Alvin Reid says, “I know I am experiencing a fresh touch of God when I stop confessing everyone else’s sins and start confessing my own sins.”
D.L. Moody said, “I’ve had more trouble with myself than any other man I’ve ever met.”
Jesus spoke like this. He taught us: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. You will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (Matt. 7:1-5).
A mature Christian comes to this place where they finally see their own glaring sins and continually focus on repenting in their own lives, and stop trying to be the watchdogs of the world. They understand the weakness of their own flesh. There are moments to speak truth to others, and to the world, but those should be much fewer and far between as we focus on our own hearts.
Mature Christians are much more gracious judges of others because those words of Jesus have struck their heart.
3. You watch your words and know when not to speak.
Immature Christians can’t help but speak their opinions on everything and everyone around them who goes the wrong way. They think they are the world’s spiritual police.
James, known as one of the most mature early Christians, says: “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way” (James 3:2).
This passage is extremely sobering—first, because James calls it as it is: We all make way more mistakes than we care to admit.
Secondly, spiritual maturity comes through being more careful about the words we say.
Ephesians 4:29 and 4:2-3 take us further: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen,” and “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
If you long to mature in your faith in Christ, live in these verses. Pass everything that you do in your Christian life through them. Walk in humility, gentleness and patience for others. Keep a careful guard over your mouth and your online posts.
4. You are less dependent on yourself and increasingly dependent on Christ.
Mature Christians do not make much of themselves and their good works and progress. They make much of Jesus.
They believe Jesus when he said:
As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (Matt. 15:3-4)
Even while mature Christians are growing in faith and holiness, they do not grow more dependent on themselves, because they know their growth comes through abiding in Christ—dependency on Christ alone—and obedience to his command to love God and love others. Mature Christians don’t take credit for themselves; they humbly follow Jesus.
5. You make every effort to build on your faith.
As I said at the beginning of this article, we need to guard ourselves against a fatalistic attitude in our faith. The Bible says we can grow and take steps closer to Christ.
James says, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you” (James 4:8). As we take steps closer to God, we experience his goodness, grace and glory in our lives in new ways.
Mature Christians don’t sit idle in their faith, and assume God will do all the work inside them, when God has clearly called them to “make every effort” to draw near to him.
Matt Brown (@evangelistmatt) is an evangelist, author and founder of Think Eternity, an evangelistic ministry that impacts thousands of people with the gospel each year through live events and online. This article was originally published on Matt’s blog at ThinkE.org.