If you’re not growing, you’re backsliding. A growing Christian is a mature Christian, so let’s consider what maturity means.
What Spiritual Maturity Looks Like
“I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:12-13a).
All who are saved are in one of these stages of spiritual growth.
Christians, what is our goal? Buildings? Baptisms? Crowds? No. We are to be progressing to Christ-likeness. Our goal is the same as Paul’s: “that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28b). The word translated here as “perfect” does not mean sinless. It means spiritual maturity—a Christian in full bloom.
What Maturity Is Not
Maturity is not health. If you are born again and that is as far as you’ve gone, then you are spiritually healthy, but not yet mature.
Maturity is not giftedness. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). The believers in Corinth had never grown up. But they were gifted. (See 1 Corinthians 1:4-7.) Because they were immature, they used their spiritual gifts as toys rather than as tools.
The Three Stages of Spiritual Growth
Which stage are you in?
“I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake” (1 John 2:12).
Baby Christians live in the realm of feelings. They’re singing, “Glory, hallelujah! Thank You, Jesus, for saving me.” To them, everything is new and glorious. And that is legitimate! You have to start as a child.
Children are wonderful, but they have a lot of faults. Little children are selfish, rude, and inconsiderate—and sometimes they’re just plain mean. If you take those characteristics of childhood and say, “That’s what a Christian is like,” people would say, “Then I don’t want to be one!”
Do not be judgmental of spiritual children, and do not judge Jesus by them. They are saved, but they have to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18a).
The Church ought to be full of newborn Christians—but it is a sad thing when a church’s newborns never grow up.
SPIRITUAL YOUNG ADULTHOOD
“I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:13b).
There are thrilling wonders in childhood, but there is triumphant warfare when you become a warrior and worker.
“I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you” (1 John 2:14b).
You cannot be a worker or a warrior without the Word abiding in you. Not just “you read it”—it abides in you. You are transformed by it. “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).
Satan wants spiritual children to remain as children. That is why he keeps them from the Word of God. If you wonder why you can’t overcome, it may be that you are neglecting the Bible.
“I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning” (1 John 2:13a).
Spiritual fatherhood involves intimacy with Christ. A spiritual father has spiritual children. A father provides. Fathers have wisdom to give, because they have known God the Father.
We do not change gears between each stage; we add each stage to the last one. Keep the wonder of childhood. Keep the strength, warfare, and service of young manhood. But add to that fatherhood, and go on progressing.
How We Become Mature
You may think that spiritual growth is not possible for you.
The Apostle John wrote the Book of 1 John. You might picture him as being white-haired, with a kind face—a spiritual father. But he was not always that way.
John had a hair-trigger temper. Jesus nicknamed him the Son of Thunder. (See Mark 3:17.) John was selfish—he once came to Jesus and said, “When You get your kingdom, I want to sit at Your right hand.” (Read Mark 10:35-37.)
But John grew.
He came to be called “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” No longer was he selfish—when he wrote the Gospel of John, he didn’t even use his name. He was no longer intolerant of other people; he speaks in 1 John about having fellowship one with another. John became mature.
In order for you to grow into spiritual maturity, there must be:
It is impossible for you to grow without a spiritual birth. Some people think, “I’m going to get better and then I’ll give my heart to Christ.” That is like saying, “I’m going to grow up and then get born.”
Come as you are—as a sinner—and be born. That is when you will begin growing spiritually in the knowledge of Christ.
- Spiritual Nourishment
John said to young men that they are strong because “the word of God abides in you.” (See 1 John 2:14.)
Dwight L. Moody was an evangelist greatly used by God in the 19th century. He once said that he used to pray for faith, but didn’t seem to have it. Then he read: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). So he stopped asking for faith, and instead prayed, “God, help me understand Your Word.” He felt enormous faith growing when he got into the Word of God.
Some people window shop through the Bible. “Oh, what a sweet verse. I’ll put that one on my refrigerator.” But Moody devoured the Word of God and put it into practice.
“But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).
If you want to be physically strong, you have to exercise. If you want to be spiritually strong…exercise. Would you like to be a warrior? Start today. Make sure your heart is clean, then pray for your pastor, your nation, your church, and Christians worldwide.
Find a job and get to it. Stop worrying about what you can’t do, or about what others do. Get your heart right, get your beliefs right, and let your church train you for service.
You can be instantly spiritual—receive Christ, repent of your sins, and God will fill you with the Holy Spirit. But you will not be instantly mature.
God takes forty years to grow an oak. Day by day, year by year, you will find yourself progressing to maturity. You will feel a childlike thrill at the wonder of it all. You will have the victories of young manhood. Then you will have the wisdom of a spiritual father, able to provide wisdom for your spiritual children.