When it comes to determining spiritual maturity we look at indicators in terms of growth, not of achievement. Each Christian is at a different stage of their relationship with Jesus and the desire is for there to be consistent forward movement, not perfection in every way. A Christian who accepted Christ but has lived for forty years outside of a relationship with God will look different than a Christian who has been faithfully growing in their relationship with God for forty years.
The Prerequisite for Growth in Christ: Salvation
We believe in offering frequent opportunities for people to make a decision to put their faith in Jesus Christ. True spiritual growth begins once someone has confessed their sin, placed their trust in Jesus, and started the journey of following Jesus as the leader of their life. Salvation opens the door for a person to begin growing in Christlikeness.
Growth in Character and the Fruit of the Spirit: The Umbrella Over Our Spiritual Growth
Once someone has made a decision to accept the grace of Jesus and follow Him as the Lord of their life, certain characteristics will grow and blossom in their life. These fruit of the Spirit grow through the discipline of the believer, the support of the Church community, and the empowerment and guidance of the Holy Spirit. All seven of the markers of spiritual maturity discussed below should be guided by a life that is growing in Christlike character.
If growth in character is not occurring, there is something severely lacking from the process of growing in spiritual maturity. Though there are hundreds of characteristics that point towards spiritual growth, Paul gives us a succinct list of the fruit that will be born of a life lived in the Spirit.
Christlike Character that guides our spiritual growth and journey:
(This portion was largely inspired and adapted from Timothy Keller’s Galatians commentary).
As these characteristics are growing in us and guiding us, we can then seek to develop the seven areas of spiritual maturity that the Bible teaches us about in the Old and New Testaments.
Growth in Knowing, Loving, and Applying God’s Word
Someone who says that they love God would want to know more about Him. The primary way we do this is by reading the Word of God given to us in the Bible. Anyone who claims to be a Christian and does not feel the need to continue to study the Bible either does not understand what the Bible is or is plagued by pride. As Christians we get our truth and guidance in large part from God’s Word, so we must be committed to studying it faithfully and applying it on a daily basis.
Indicators of Growth Knowing and Applying God’s Word:
Growth in Communicating with God One-on-One and in Community with Others
Passionate prayer includes speaking to God often as well as listening for God’s voice, promptings, and whispers at all times. It also means that we pray often with other believers and seek God’s face in community. In addition, a life of passionate prayer will lead us to pray for and with those who are not yet followers of Jesus. Prayer is a wonderful array of praise, thanks, supplication (asking for God’s help and intervention), confession, and so much more.
Indicators of Growth in Passionate Prayer:
Lifting God Up to His Proper Place
Worship is a lifestyle. We worship in community, gathered regularly with God’s people. We also worship in the flow of a normal day. Our life should be punctuated by praise, celebration, and stopping to honor God for all He is and all He does. Our Worship is both Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. Wholehearted worship comes from our hearts and moves our lips and lives to exalt the God who made us and loves us.
Indicators of Growth in Worship:
We Must Become Less and Learn to Serve
Service walks hand in hand with love; it is impossible to love someone truly without serving them. Christ lived a devout life of service, even to the point of washing his disciples feet and dying for sinful people. He calls us to live in a sacrificial way as well. This means that we must serve both regularly and faithfully in the areas of our gifting to forward the mission of the church. The way we serve and love others reflects on the way we love and serve God.
Indicators of Growth in Service:
We Give Because He Gave It All.
A generous spirit comes from knowledge that God is the owner of everything, that we owe Him everything because of His generous gift of salvation. Our focus is not on getting what we can in this life, but on storing up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy. We place our full lives in His control and our money and resources at His disposal for His use and glory.
Indicators for Growth in Generosity:
Fellowship within the Church
Community is not only about being together but growing towards health in all our relationships within the church. These relationships should be appropriate, supportive, selfless, rooted in humility, and they should provide avenues for grace-filled accountability. Our love for the local church should be so overwhelming that it extends to each individual that is part of it.
Indicators of Growth in Community:
Organically Reaching the World with God’s Love
We must always be pursuing healthy relationships within the church, but also fulfilling the Great Commission by seeking to make disciples of Jesus Christ from those we know outside of our Christian Community. Our primary call on this earth is to reach others with God’s love and function as his ambassadors here on earth. We do this at Shoreline through Organic Outreach to naturally help as many people as possible become totally committed to Jesus Christ.
Indicators of Growth in Outreach: