7. Spiritual Maturity
Purpose: The purpose of this session is to give the disciple understanding which will help growth toward maturity.
1. The disciple will understand the key factors in becoming an adult Christian.
2. The disciple will understand the difference between spiritual maturity and spirituality.
3. The disciple will understand the relationship between spiritual maturity and spirituality.
4. The disciple will be able to bring to his life the kind of fellowship with the Father that will produce much fruit that remains, John 15:16.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day.
2 Peter 3:18
1. Mutual prayer, sharing and accountability.
2. Discuss the session materials.
3. Discuss the questions.
4. Discuss new terms.
5. Discuss journaling to monitor growth.
6. Scripture memory.
Scripture describes three classifications of man in I Corinthians 2 and 3.
There is the natural man who is positionally related to Adam. This man may be good, but what he produces in his life can at the most be human goodnesses. These human goodnesses are totally unacceptable to God, Isaiah 64:6; Romans 8:8. The natural man has never experienced new birth.
There is the spiritual man who is positionally related to Christ through justification and experientially controlled by the Holy Spirit. The spiritual person bears the “fruit of the Spirit” which is pleasing to God and is what we are made for, Galatians 5:22-23. Spirituality is an absolute. Only those who have experienced new birth can be spiritual. One who is justified is either spiritual or carnal.
There is the carnal man, or “man of the flesh” who is positionally related to Christ but experientially is controlled by himself. This person produces nothing that is pleasing to God, and lives like the natural man lives. This, as spirituality, is an absolute. A believer is either carnal or spiritual. Both the spiritual man and “men of the flesh” are related to Christ. The man of the flesh controls his own life.
As a believer in Christ, I make the choice concerning what kind of a person I am. I am at any given moment either “spiritual” or “of the flesh.”
How Does One Practice Spirituality?
I. Spirituality requires a commitment to obedience. Disobedience breaks the control of the Holy Spirit in my life. There are two ways of sinning that will break His control.
A. Grieving the Spirit, Ephesians 4:30. This is breaking a specific or known commandment in the Scripture.
B. Quenching the Spirit, 1 Thessalonians 5:19. This is failure to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit which is given in ways other than the Scripture. But the Holy Spirit never leads me to do something contrary to the Word of God.
II. What shall I do when I realize I have sinned?
A. Confess on the run, 1 John 1:9. Confession means agreement with God that my behavior was sinful. It is the word homologeo which means literally “to say the same thing.”
B. After confession, I am to believe that I am forgiven, Col. 2:8. This is not as easy as it may seem. All of us have “hang-ups” including many that are psychologically oriented that can hinder our acceptance of forgiveness.
III. At any given moment in time, I am either spiritual or carnal. Not a little bit of each. I am either totally spiritual or totally carnal. No one is any more spiritual than another even though our lives may differ in many ways.
IV. The practice of spirituality has great significance in relation to the Bema, the judgment seat of Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:10. This award seat is where “how” I build, and what sort of building it is will be evaluated. The practice of spirituality, therefore, has great significance not only in quality life today but in differing glories of life to come in eternity.
Spirituality deals with my health, while maturity deals with my growth. Maturity is a matter of degrees whereas spirituality is always an absolute.
What is involved in my maturation?
I. Doctrine — significant accumulation of teachings of Scripture, 1 Peter 2:2,3; Isaiah 28:9-10.
II. Stress — difficulties, Romans 8:28. Growth never takes place in a vacuum. See also James 1:2-4
III. Faith — being able to develop the proper attitude toward stress, Hebrews 12:3, 5, 11.
IV. Grace — not a doctrine but rather an attitude or an action of grace in everyday life. “They saw the grace of God.” This is apparently the virtue of accepting others without being judgmental.
V. Reproduction — When I grow to maturity physically I can have children. When I mature spiritually I can reproduce spiritually. Although any believer can reproduce, maximum reproduction comes with spiritual maturity.
Becoming Spiritually Mature
I. My involvement with the Scriptures must become comprehensive and systematic. Acts 20:32.
II. I must learn how to survive in a “pressure cooker” world.
A. Growth never takes place in a vacuum, James 1:2-4.
B. My attitude toward pressure is crucial. We are not fatalists, but it is important that I see that this is just what I need at this present moment in my overall development.
Pressure can be corrective, 1 Corinthians 11:30.
Pressure can be directive; Paul and his Macedonians call.
Pressure can be productive, John 15:2; James 1:3.
Pressure can be purifying, Job 23:10.
Pressure can be preventative, (Paul’s thorn in the flesh).
C. Being able to find meaning is most important, Romans 8:28-31.
D. Further meaning and instruction is found in Hebrews 12, which teaches that the Lord disciplines those He loves.
III. I must take responsibility for personal failure and reducing defensive behavior. Typical responses are often called ego defenses. The most common of these are:
IV. I must be willing to confess my sins and make restitution as fully and as quickly as possible.
How to Know The Father
I. Interact with Jehovah on a daily basis in ways that help you learn what He is like.
II. Know His names — especially the compound names of Jehovah.
III. Learn to love and deepen your love for Him. Love can be reciprocal and absorbing, with gratefulness and adoration.
IV. Commit to knowing the Scriptures — going beyond daily devotions.
V. Pray and fellowship with Him.
VI. Engage in active fellowship with other believers.
This is a session on the subject of spiritual maturity. There are some general understandings that are necessary as we begin to investigate the subject of spiritual growth. It is important that these be very clear, and the first part of this study will attempt to make them easily understandable.
Physical and emotional maturity can be experienced by any person, whether one is a Christian or not. Spiritual maturity, however, adds a dimension to maturity for the Christian. Because of this, maturity is somewhat more complex for a Christian because of the added dimension of relationship with the Father. The Christian has the Spirit ______ __________ indwelling him, Romans 8:9. This truth brings an additional aspect to the maturing process, and makes Christian maturity more complex.
First, then, one’s maturity is always relative (i.e., more or less). There are several important facts involved in this statement. The first is that spiritual maturity deals with _________, 1 Peter 2:2-3. This means starting at one place and beginning to move toward another. Usually the first stage of development after birth is called ___________. In a similar way, the beginning point in spiritual growth can be called spiritual __________. Infancy seems to be characterized by the need for ____________, Hebrews 5:12-13, if one is yet a babe. Because one may be more or less untaught in the Word of Truth, he therefore might be termed an _____________. But he is always more or less an infant. Because of this, we say maturity is _____________, or “more or less”. Relative refers to being more or less — never is maturity a matter of being absolutely mature, but always_________ or __________.
Secondly, maturity is always process-oriented. Process takes time. Process is something that develops over ___________. It also involves interaction with things or events in my environment. Because maturity develops as process, we might say that it takes____________ for a person to become mature. Interaction involves doing something in relation to what happens to me. I cannot simply be passive and expect to become __________. In summarizing this point, I might say that maturity involves my active involvement with information and “happenings” in my ____________________.
Thirdly, it is correct to say that maturity is unique for every individual. God has made each one of us different from the other. We are each intelligent in our own way. We each have grown up in different environments. Our experiences vary and are never the same as another’s. Because of these realities, we might say that we are all ___________ in a little bit different way. No one looks just like another. Our maturity, characterized by relative qualities, is ______________ – oriented and ______________ in the way it develops.
What is a Spiritually Mature Person Like?
First we would say that what we know is important in spiritual maturity. It is crucial that we have a growing information pool — information about the world and the life that we are now experiencing. I need, of course, information concerning life in general. I also need information concerning the new life I have experienced through Christ Jesus my Lord. This I can find only through the Scriptures. Jesus stated that man needs to live, not only on bread, but on ________ _________ _________ ______________ ______ _____ ______ _________ _____ ________, Matthew 4:4. In what book is this word?_______________. Difficult things in Scripture are often called ________ ________, Hebrews 5:14. Simple things are referred to as the __________ __________ of the Word, 1 Peter 2:2-3. It is simply impossible to become a ___________ Christian without taking into my life the Word of God. And I do this by beginning with the _________ and I move to the _________ ___________. Later in this discipleship ministry we will introduce you to some varied methods which will enable you to add the Word of God to your information pool. It is sufficient now to say “the Word is necessary.” It is imperative! One cannot move toward maturity without it. A spiritually mature believer is one who knows and understands how to handle and interpret the ______________.
A second and very important aspect of a spiritually mature person, and one that is foundational to the rest of growth is that which relates to the basic principles by which he governs his life. Many function rather informally and have never organized the principles by which they live and survive. The spiritually mature person will have a lifestyle that is well systematized. This will included concepts concerning truth — its nature, source, and endurance. It also includes knowing where he is going, what is really important to him, and what he appreciates. Knowing where I am going is like having a goal or map. A goal is having direction concerning ________ ___ _____ going. Goals are pursuits in my life that are _______________ to me. One who is without goals has nothing upon which to base his behavior in any organized fashion. He becomes directionless and scattered.
Truth is also important in one’s philosophy of life. We learn “right” and “wrong” early in life. This is related to a system of truth we finally adopt that governs our behavior. Two questions must be answered concerning truth: Where does it come from and what is it like? In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the _____, the ________, and the ________. Jesus emphasized truth. We call this revelation, if we are talking about the Scripture, or the embodiment of truth if we are talking about Christ’s Person. Truth that comes from Scripture is called ____________. This means that it was revealed to us, otherwise we would not know it. The Bible refers to itself as being given to man as __________ ____ ________, 2 Timothy 3:16. Truth also is given through natural law. The Psalmist says, “The heaven’s “are __________ _____ ______ ____ ______,” Psalm 19:1. The consistency of things in nature speaks of God’s existence. There is order in the universe. There seems to be purpose. These things we refer to as natural law.
Another aspect of truth relates to its nature. Two words quite important to know at this point are relative and absolute, which describe the nature of truth. Relative refers to something that is true some of the time, while absolute speaks of something that is true all the time. Write in one statement or two what you believe the nature of truth is (as you function in the world today).
A third point to make is one that relates to more psychological aspects of my being. This has to do with how I feel about myself — my self-concept. Much has been said about self-concept or self esteem in recent years, and the church is beginning to be open to aspects of biblical truth that relate to this variable of human personality. Self-concept has to do with how I feel about myself. It is the organization of all the ways I see myself and becomes the grid through which I interpret what goes on in the environment which is around me. How I see myself is called my _______ - __________. In relation to what has just been said, why is self concept important?
Sometimes we see self-concept related to humility, and this is acceptable and biblical. Humility is seeing myself as I really am. In a very real sense, humility is accepting myself as I truly am. Having a realistic view of myself is b_____________. If I am an excellent concert pianist, but I try to be h________ by denying the fact, I am really not being humble but deceitful. One sin I commit by denying how I really am is ________ ________, Exodus 20:16. I can, of course move in the other direction and find myself thinking unrealistically and more highly than I ought to think. It is enough to say at this point that maturity includes a feeling about one’s self that he is “enough” in a situation because Christ dwells in him, Colossians 1:27. To think this way is to have a relatively positive _________-_________.
A fourth descriptive point when considering maturity is one that is extremely important. A mature person is one who is able to handle stress more effectively. Stress is a “given” in the life of any human. It is impossible to be alive and not have ___________. The only people without stress are those who are in cemeteries. But there is a characteristic involving maturity that is supremely significant. A mature person is enabled to handle_______________ with greater efficiency.
James tell us in 1:2 that we should approach stress in what way?
What is pleasing to God according to 1 Peter 2:20?
What is a significant sign of our sonship or membership in the family of God? Hebrews 12:6. ______________, _______________ and ______________ are the results of stress that is being dealt with in satisfactory ways, Romans 5:3, 4. The mature Christian is one who has learned and has confidence that _______ __________ will work together for good, Romans 8:28, as far as God’s children are concerned. This truth has been called a “soft pillow for a tired head.”
Therefore, in summary, we can say that growth does not take place in a vacuum. ____________ is necessary. God is concerned that we learn how to deal with stress effectively, therefore He allows us to experience ___________ for our profit, Hebrews 12:10b. Our attitude is crucial, however, Hebrews 12:5-7. We are not to forget __________ _____________ or ___________ when we experience chastisement or training.
The fifth aspect of the experience of maturity is that of reproducing ourselves — or having babies. When people grow up, they increase their family size by ______________. Reproduction is also a mark of spiritual maturity. As we move toward adulthood, spiritually, we are able to fulfill the command to __________ __________, John 15:16. You will notice that the “fruit” is to ____________.
Not only is being able to reach out and introduce men and women to Christ a part of maturity, but “following up” is also of the utmost importance to see that the fruit remains. Of course, everyone and anyone can introduce another to Christ at any point in his spiritual development, but for maximum reproduction, one must be relatively mature. We are able to bring forth fruit and through discipleship help it remain.
A sixth and final descriptive aspect of maturity is grace. Grace is, of course, a doctrine most of us champion. But in a practical sense, grace is an attitude as well—an attitude of how we see others. It is equivalent to the psychological variable that is called acceptance. See also Romans 15:7; Acts 11:23.
We demonstrate ____________ in practical ways when we don’t “look down our noses” at another person, or when we remove ourselves from being “God” in another’s life. Paul is talking about this aspect of maturity when He says we ought to __________ _______ ________ who is _________in faith, Romans 14:1. Grace is not demonstrated when we ________ one another, Romans 14:13. Therefore, continued evaluation and judgment of another Christian is actually making my life devoid of ____________.
In summary, maturity is always r__________, which means “more or less.” We must take action to help ourselves grow to maturation. List some of the things you must do to encourage growth in your own life.
Be as open as you can be. What have been some of the major hindrances to growth in your own life?
What are you going to do about these hindrances?
Questions for Review and Discussion
1. When we say that maturity involves a process, what do we mean?
2. Why is my self-concept so important in movement toward maturity?
3. React to the following statement: “The troubles I have are just the troubles I most need in order to grow.”
4. How would you characterize an “old” Christian (20 years or more in the faith) who has never introduced anyone to Christ, and who is not spending time in the Scriptures in any systematic way? (Please think about this and then write a bit on the question.)
5. What is the problem in the life of someone who says “since I have become a Christian, my life has been smooth sailing. All my problems are over and life has been really easy?”
It is important to understand that the most basic thing involved in the Christian life is growth.—one’s movement toward maturity. Without this, the life is destined to be dwarfed and inefficient. It is vital that one grasps the concepts involved in this movement.
It is important to remember that maturity is always relative. By this is meant that it is a matter of “more or less.” One of the indications that I am moving toward maturity as a Christian is that I am able to handle “meat” as well as the milk of the Word. The meat involves knowing the truths of Scripture and practicing them. Obviously, growth takes time and is a matter of process.
Although there are certain characteristics of maturation, everyone will mature a bit uniquely. The description of a spiritually mature Christian is as follows. Be sure you know these and emphasize them in your daily walk.
1. The spiritually mature believer is one who is growing in his grasp of truth. There is no maturity without becoming more aware of the world, and for a Christian, more aware of his spiritual resources as given in the Word of God.
2. The second characteristic involves a well-defined philosophy of life. This must be clear and concise. The spiritually mature Christian knows who he is and where he is going.
3. A third characteristic is a positive self-concept. He feels relatively positive about himself. This is, of course, related to being obedient to Christ. A positive self-concept is not opposed to true biblical teaching about humility.
4. The ability to handle stress is also important. The spiritually mature believer must understand that true spiritual maturity involves the adequate and efficient handling of stress. In reality, there can be no growth without a personal encounter with difficulty.
5. Spiritual maturity will enable the believer to bear maximum fruit. When he grows up physically, he can reproduce (have babies). The same is true of his spiritual life. He will bear some fruit and perhaps help it re- main,” John 15:16.
6. Finally, grace in a practical sense is involved with maturation. A mature person does not see himself as “God” in the life of another. The more mature he becomes, the more “acceptance” will be demonstrated in his life. Maturity is not the same as spirituality. The former is connected with growth, and the latter with health.
Related Topics: Discipleship