Today’s world is flooded with inventions that meet people’s needs quickly and easily: instant foods, instant communication, and instant information available on just about anything. However, there is no such thing as instant maturity in following Jesus. Becoming a believer begins a lifelong adventure of knowing God better, loving Him more, and being transformed into the likeness of Christ.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 NASB95
Your growth process in Christ began the moment you received Him. You must continue to walk in Him in order to become rooted and built up in Him and to be established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.
6 So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in him, 7 being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude. Colossians 2:6-7 CSB
Look at the benefits and blessings that are ours because we have been justified through faith in Christ.
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5 NIV
- We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Through Christ we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
- We boast in the hope of the glory of God.
- We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
- And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Look at some of the things we have as a result of being in Christ. This is incredible!
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love, 5 by predestining us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He graciously bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our transgressions, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He caused to abound to us in all wisdom and insight, 9 making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Him 10 for an administration of the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth in Him. 11 In Him, we also have been made an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who first have hoped in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:1-14 LSB
You took your first step toward spiritual maturity when you put your faith in Christ.
- Do you remember the important points of the gospel message you received and believed?
- Do you have the Scripture references for them?
Moving Toward Maturity
Ephesians 4:11-16 says:
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV
God’s desire for us to become mature believers is found in verses 13 and 15.
- Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God
- To a perfect man
- To the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ
- Speaking the truth in love
- May grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ
Verse 14 tells us some of the characteristics of immature believers (children or infants).
- Tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting
Verse 16 speaks to the character of a spiritually mature person.
- From whom the whole body,
- joined and knit together by what every joint supplies,
- according to the effective working by which every part does it share,
- causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Can you see how important each and every one of us is to our spiritual growth process in these verses?
We need each other in the body of Christ.
13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13 NASB95
19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:19-21 NASB95
We must lay aside the old self and put on the new self.
22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:22-24 NASB95
2 Corinthians 3:18 says:
18 We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 CSB
Notice we are being transformed:
- Into the image of Christ
- The Lord brings about this transformation
Some vital aspects of our relationship to Christ are found in Romans.
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. Romans 5:8-9 NASB95
You have been justified by His blood.
We will be saved through Him from wrath.
19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, leading to further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, leading to sanctification. Romans 6:19 LSB
Now we ought to be presenting our members as slaves to righteousness, leading to sanctification.
16 The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, 17 and if children, also heirs — heirs of God and coheirs with Christ — if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. Romans 8:16-18 CSB
We are God’s children and He is our Father.
We are also heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.
Three aspects of salvation in Christ are helpful in understanding God’s plan for believers:
|Past tense—I have been saved…from the penalty of sin.
|My position is in Christ.
|Sanctification / Transformation
|Present tense—I am being saved… from the power of sin.
|My condition is becoming like Christ.
|Future tense—I will be saved… from the presence of sin.
|My expectation is to be like Christ.
When you look at your salvation—past, present, and future—how does this give you hope?
Carefully consider Colossians 3:1-4 below. Can you see how these verses relate to the preceding table?
1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 CSB
The Growth Process
There are many similarities between physical life and spiritual life. Some of the similarities are listed below.
Father and child.
11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children… 1 Thessalonians 2:11 NKJV
Physical training and growth in godliness.
8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8 NIV
Growing into our salvation (maturing).
2 Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow up into your salvation, 3 if you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3 CSB
Can you think of some other similarities between physical growth and spiritual growth?
One of the utmost things for us to grasp and grow in is Romans 6:11-13.
11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. Romans 6:11-13 NASB95
From these verses:
- Consider yourself to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (verse 11).
- You are to not let sin reign in your body so that you obey its lusts (verse 12).
- You are to not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness (verse 13).
- You must take action to present yourself to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God (verse 13).
We are united with Christ in death and resurrection.
5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;… Romans 6:5-6 NASB95
- Our old self was crucified with Him,
- in order that our body of sin might be done away with,
- so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.
God intends for you to reign in life (Romans 5:17), not for sin to reign in your life (Romans 6:12-14). What application do these verses suggest for your life in Christ?
17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17 NASB95
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:12-14 NASB95
You are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), but your relationship to God does not end there. It is just the beginning!
8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10 CSB
- We are His workmanship.
- He created us in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
God is working in us now. He will perfect His work in us until the day of Christ Jesus.
Remember He is doing the work.
6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 LSB
Can you perceive an area where God has been working in you recently?
“What would it mean, I ask myself, if I too came to the place where I saw my primary identity in life as “the one Jesus loves”? How differently would I view myself at the end of the day? — Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?
How to Live
Contrast those who walk in fellowship with God and those who do not using these verses from 1 John 1 below.
6 If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. 7 If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. >10 If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:6-10 CSB
The Mature Life
The mark of an immature believer and the mark of a mature believer is found in Hebrews 5:13-14.
13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:13-14 LSB
Can you name some ways you have encountered good and evil in daily life?
Do you usually desire that justice or mercy will triumph?
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:12-13 NIV
The mature Christians I have met along the way are those who have failed and have learned to live gracefully with their failure. Faithfulness requires the courage to risk everything on Jesus, the willingness to keep growing, and the readiness to risk failure throughout our lives. Brennan Manning, Reflections for Ragamuffins
The attitude mature followers of Jesus ought to possess is found in Philippians 3:13-15.
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. 16 In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. Philippians 3:13-16 CSB
1 Corinthians 15:58 tells us what we believers ought to be doing while awaiting eternity with Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV
Notice the incredible assurance from this verse. Does this motivate you to action?
1 Timothy 4:12 lists some areas in which we can experience spiritual growth.
12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 NKJV
2 Peter 3:18 is another place.
18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 LSB
1 John 4:16-17 tells us about love being perfected in us.
16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. >17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 1 John 4:16-17 NASB95
Toward the end of his life, Paul wrote a letter to Timothy, his son in the faith. In 2 Timothy 4:7-8, look at the statement Paul was able to make concerning his earthly walk with Christ.
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 CSB
What did he expectantly await in the future?
What are you expectantly awaiting in the future?
Things to Remember
- God intends followers of Jesus to mature and become like Christ. God has saved His children from the penalty of sin. While on earth, they struggle with sin, but they can anticipate a sinless future with Christ as glorified beings.
- Faith in Jesus Christ marks the beginning of spiritual growth. Believers have God’s resources available to help them grow.
- Spiritual growth is similar to physical growth. It takes time as God works in believers’ lives. Believers should reign in life, recognizing that God is bringing to fulfillment the work He began in them.
- Growing in Christ is similar to walking. Led by the Spirit, followers of Jesus are to walk in faith, in love, and in fellowship with Christ.
- A mature believer is one who continues to follow Christ, faithfully serving Christ and experiencing His grace and love. God does not forget the work of the believer and will one day reward him.
Points to Ponder
- What has God used to mature you?
- What have you learned during your journey toward spiritual maturity?