Spiritual maturity. Spiritual growth. What does this mean and what does spiritually mature look like in the Christian life?
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When I was first saved back in 1981, I was considered a baby in Christ. And like babies, the spiritual food I was feeding on was like milk or formula before I progressed to food with a little more substance.
The Bible calls this “spiritual milk” when someone who is new in the faith begins to learn about his/her faith and how to live like a Christian.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:2 “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat:…” And like a baby who progresses from infancy to toddler, then preschool, that child’s ability to eat solid food progresses as he develops.
As a Christian, when we develop in Bible knowledge and how to follow Christ, we mature from spiritual milk to the meat of the Word. This is the spiritual growth that every born-again believer goes through.
Today, we’re going to look at 16 traits of spiritual maturity in the believer. These traits are found in the Word of God and provide a solid foundation for spiritual maturity.
It goes without saying that before someone can grow spiritually strong in the Lord, they must first have experienced the new birth, or, in other words, be born-again. So, with the understanding that you need to be a child of God, let’s examine these traits of spiritual maturity in the born-again believer.
The Process of Spiritual Growth
As mentioned earlier, when someone first becomes a Christian, they are new in the faith and are learning what it is to be a believer and follow Jesus Christ.
By the way, do you fully understand what Jesus provided for you on the cross? Your salvation is free, yes, that’s true, but it came at a great cost to Jesus. If you want to reaffirm what you know, then understanding salvation is a good place to start.
The progression of spiritual milk to spiritual meat does not happen overnight or within a few weeks either. It often takes years because just when you think you have a good understanding of the Word, you learn something new and you keep on growing. The key is to have a teachable spirit, meaning, be willing to learn and grow in the Lord.
Spiritual growth is a process. You may be a fast learner and grow at a quicker pace than someone else or you may need to take things slower for a slow steady pace. Either way, your pace is your own and you’ll grow as you desire to know more of God. That, by the way, is one of the traits of spiritual maturity, a desire to know God.
16 Traits of Spiritual Maturity
As mentioned above, possessing a teachable spirit is important if you want to be spiritually mature.
Let’s look at these traits of spiritual maturity as listed in random order.
1. Desire to Grow
In Paul’s letter to the believers in Corinth, he said, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.”, 1 Corinthians 3:2. Paul was teaching them the basic tenets of the faith as they were not yet ready for the stronger food.
In Peter’s letter to the saints, he encouraged them to be spiritually mature when he said, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:”, 1 Peter 2:2.
Between Paul’s teaching and Peter’s teaching, we are encouraged to desire to grow more in the Word, in its understanding and knowledge, to develop spiritual maturity.
2. Develop Faith and Trust in God
As you study the Word, your faith and trust in God should develop to the point that you depend on God and not what the world offers. Faith and trust go hand in hand as they are intertwined with each other.
King Solomon wisely taught in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.“
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him”, Hebrews 11:6.
3. Obedience to God
It naturally follows that when you trust God no matter what, you’ll be obedient to Him.
God desires that we obey Him, not to be robots or puppets, but out of our love for Him. God has the best plans for us so why not obey Him since He knows what is ahead for us and we don’t?
This partial verse in 1 Samuel 15:22 reminds us that “…Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,…”
When others see your obedience to God, they recognize this as a sign of spiritual maturity in your life.
To help you grow spiritually, here is a FREE download of a 31-Day Prayer Calendar for Your Spiritual Growth.
4. Surrender Your Will
Another step of spiritual growth is the trait of surrendering your own will in favour of God’s will. Part of this surrender is with regard to sin. Born-again believers who love Jesus will not purposefully set out to sin.
The Bible lists various kinds of sins that are prevalent in the world and when you purposefully choose not to sin, you are surrendering your will. You are preferring to be obedient and desire His will in your life than what any short-term pleasure sin can offer you.
I’ve been reading a bit from the Expanded Bible lately and here’s what John says about doing God’s will: “If people ·choose [desire; want] to do ·what God wants [God’s will], they will know that my teaching comes from God and not from me.” John 7:17.
So, the choice is yours and mine whether we surrender our will to do God’s will. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather do God’s will than my own as I know I’ll fall flat on my face doing things my way!
5. Desire the Word
Desiring to grow spiritually encompasses desiring the Word of God. Loving God’s Word is being enthralled with it; is seeing new truths every time you read it; and it is a love for studying the Word.
2 Timothy 2:15 is Paul’s encouragement to Timothy to love the Word to the point of studying it regularly so he can handle it properly when teaching others.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
It’s when you study the Word regularly that you grow in knowledge and understanding of God’s will for your life. It also teaches you how you should walk in the Lord, too.
6. Walk in the Spirit
Another trait of spiritual maturity is walking in the spirit. As you develop your trust in God and study His Word, you learn how to walk in the Spirit. Basically, this means being sensitive to the Spirit as you go about your daily activities. Carry on conversation with Him and allow Him to direct your footsteps through the day.
Paul wrote to the church in Galatia in Galatians 5:16-25 what this means. Let’s look at this part, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”
Of course, Paul was talking about the Old Testament Law that New Testament believers were not bound to.
So, as you daily walk in the Spirit, surrendering your will to God’s will, you won’t be caught up in walking in the ways of the world.
The spiritually mature believer will also have a spirit of humility. Let’s look at the meaning of this word.
Dictionary.com defines it as a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.
Humility is seen as
- putting others first, esteeming the other person better than themselves, Philippians 2:3.
- recognizing that Christ is first above yourself.
- not boasting about yourself or your achievements.
- seek knowledge to learn more as they know they don’t have all the answers, Proverbs 1:2-3.
- possess an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness, 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
- humbling yourself in the sight of the Lord and when you do that, He will lift you up, James 4:10.
Humility is a character trait that God loves to see in His children!
8. Aware of Their Words
When a believer is aware of the magnitude of their words, spiritual growth will abound. James reminds us that the power of the tongue can start fires, wound people, and offend others, James 3:2-10.
The spiritually mature believer will be careful of their choice of words to choose to be a blessing to the hearer rather than offensive.
Another thing the spiritually mature Christian will know is the power they hold in their words. Words can lift you up or discourage you. When they speak of their own lives, they will use words that bring about positive change.
For example, by trusting the promises of God to be “yes and amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20), they will simply speak the promise they are standing on, believing that it will come to pass, Hebrews 11:1.
My blogger friend, Melissa Davisson from Cups to Crowns wrote a great post called Three Key Habits of a Mature Christian Woman that you might be interested in as well.
9. Doer of the Word
Spiritual maturity is visible when believers put into practice what they are learning.
James wrote that we are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only, James 1:23. This means that when you learn what you ought to do or how you ought to conduct yourself, you need to practice it, to do it.
When the Bible says not to do something, ie, not to fulfill the lust of the flesh, then don’t do that. It’s hard, yes, because oftentimes we don’t think of something as being ‘lust of the flesh’. A study on this topic would be an eye-opener for sure!
10. Does Not Point Out the Sins of Others
Jesus taught about the board and the beam. Look at Luke 6:41-42 as he talked about not pointing out someone else’s sin when you have sin in your life, too. The spiritually mature believer knows he must confess his own sins on a daily basis rather than condemn others for their sins.
And then, as Holy Spirit leads, you can tactfully help your Christian friend to deal with his sin, Luke 6:42b.
11. Dependent on Christ
Spiritual maturity depends on not only following Christ but depending on Him every. single. day. Dependence on Christ is keeping your eyes on Him at all times.
What does this look like? For one thing, it is believing everything Jesus said, taking Him at His word for the promises He made.
These promises are “yes and amen in Him” (2 Corinthians 1:20), they are done and complete. It is knowing that Jesus will never leave you (Hebrews 13:5) so you can depend on Him with your life.
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12. Strong Faith in Action
To grow strong in faith requires a continual understanding of the Word of God. It requires dependence on Christ and in being Spirit-led. It requires having a teachable spirit so you are always learning from the Word.
When your faith is being tested, that’s when you fully trust Jesus to get you through the difficult times. Spiritual maturity is seen as a strong faith acted out in your everyday life no matter what is going on.
13. Not Easily Offended
Just as spiritual maturity shows itself in humility by putting others first, it also shows itself by not taking everything said personally. The Christian who possesses spiritual maturity does not get offended easily, Proverbs 19:11 and Proverbs 10:12.
14. Spiritual Authority
As you become spiritually mature in the Lord, you will also develop a strong sense of your spiritual authority given to you by Jesus Himself, Matthew 16:19, Luke 10:19, Luke 9:1, Matthew 18:18-20, John 20:19-24.
When you exhibit your spiritual authority in Christ, your spiritual maturity shows through.
15. Secure in Your Identity
As you study the Bible and learn about who you are in Christ, it is important to remember this when tough times come. The spiritually mature Christian will stand on the Word and not let the enemy persuade him to think he is anything less than who Christ says he is.
Your spiritual maturity shows up when you are secure in your God-given identity through the cross and what Jesus Christ provided for you.
16. Christ-Centered Community
The Church of God is vital to the Christian’s life, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. You cannot ‘do life’ very well without community and for the believer, that community is gathering together with fellow Christians.
Hebrews 10:24-25 encourages us to meet regularly to encourage one another and stir up each other in the faith. It also says not to neglect each other.
Paul encouraged the saints in Galatia to bear one another’s burdens, Galatians 6:2. The best way to do that is in gathering together to encourage one another in prayer and fellowship.
When you make and take the time to have community with other believers, your spiritual maturity shows. You are also being a ‘doer of the Word’ and displaying your love for one another and for Jesus.
Bonus: #17. Consistent Prayer Life
One more, very important trait of spiritual maturity is the spiritually mature believer will desire to have a consistent prayer life.
While we can go without prayer some times, we know that that is not a good habit to get into. A prayerless life will lead you astray and cause you to drift from God.
A strong prayer life is where you have consistent time with God, whether it is as you wake up in the morning or before bedtime. It may even be that you carry on a conversation with God throughout your day.
Talking with God regularly is vital for the spiritually mature believer.
Don’t forget to download your FREE digital 31-Day Prayer Calendar for Your Spiritual Growth!
Wrapping up Spiritual Maturity
Well, there you go, 16 traits of spiritual maturity that spiritually mature Christians should possess. Remember as I said at the beginning, that spiritual growth is a process and you won’t come to the top of the mountain overnight.
I’ve been a Christian since 1981 and I’m still learning about spiritual maturity and how to walk in the Spirit. Somedays I think I have it all together and then God shows me something else…and I know I have more learning and studying to do! Your whole life is a journey toward perfection and your spiritual growth develops day-by-day, week-by-week, and even year-by-year.
There is so much to learn from the Word of God and that’s why it is important to have regular Bible study time. Even if you’re studied a particular book before, I encourage you to study it again because you will have a fresh look at it the second or third time around.
That’s what spiritual maturity is all about, having a teachable spirit to grow in your desire for more of God.
Well, that’s it for me! It’s your turn now. Would you like to add anything?
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Cindy Barnes has been called by God in the early 80s to be a teacher of His Word. She is a serious student of the Word, focusing on the Inductive Bible Study Method since 2007. Her passion is to teach women how to study the Bible using this method. In addition, she desires for women to develop an intense yearning to draw closer to God through reading and writing out the Bible.
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