The Mark of Spiritual Maturity

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The Spiritual Man Series

“We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect (mature) in Christ.  To this end I also labor, striving with all His energy working powerfully within me.” Col. 1.28-29

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom…” 2 Tim. 4.1

“For you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children— encouraging you, comforting you, and urging you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” 1 Thes. 2.12

In the Beginning: Maturity

God created man (Adam) mature. God did not begin with a fertilized egg, or a baby, but as a complete whole man. He intended to have a created being that could oversee the works of His hands. God ordained that this man be someone that can gain understanding, undertake responsibility, make wise choices, and be physically strong enough to continue His work by planting and harvesting and bearing offspring. This first man understood the fundamental principles of life, of a mate that complements him making him whole, and of the seed, which is essential for producing subsequent generations, whether human, plant, or animal.

Adam was created as such: first with a soul to define who he was, it would be the seat of his mind with which he could think, store information, and feel emotions; secondly, he was given a body with which he could interact with the world around him being able to see, hear, smell, touch and to taste; and one final element was necessary, he needed a spirit with which to commune with Him, for God never intended for man to be isolated and be left alone to his own imaginations. This interaction was necessary for man’s remaining character development that needed an infusion from God. What Adam was to become morally, in character and understanding, could not be left to man’s own sense of logic and reasoning (as from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) but needed the tutoring and discipline of God Himself (as from the Tree of Life.) “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth.’” Gn. 1.28

Even the seed-bearing animal and plant life on the earth was created mature, complete, ready to fulfill its ultimate purpose, which is, to bear fruit and to reproduce others after their kind. Is it not safe to assume that God’s ultimate purpose in all creation is maturity? –to be of full age, fully developed, and, having begun from simple grace or favor of God, to bear the fruit of maturity satisfying to God and others. Without maturity beautiful flowering plants will never come to bloom, acorns will never fall from the oak tree, fields of grain will remain as high grass, and there will be no animal litters or sons and daughters. Without maturity human beings would remain immature, child-like in thought and character. Today, everyone on this planet is a judge of the maturity of fruit, either the fruit in the lives of other human beings, or the fruit from seed-bearing animals and plant life. The greater the quality of fruit, the higher the price will be paid for it. It is desirable. Poorer quality fruit, whether an apple, a sack of wheat, or a calf, is worth less. Children are precious and desired to have, but immature as they are, they make little contribution to society. Rather, children make more demands on society to feed, educate, protect, and provide for their well-being. That is the nature of a child.

A Time of Judgment

So man expects fruit from all creation, and desires the highest quality. But even more so, God expects and judges fruit from His creation. Jesus taught,

“By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’” Mt. 7.16-23

This is a very sobering scripture regarding becoming mature and bearing fruit acceptable to God. The word good used in the above verse, “every good tree bears good fruit,” means inherently good, good in its nature, whether seen or not. It means its character is good and acceptable to God.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive his due for the things done in the body, whether good [fruit] or bad [fruit].”
2 Cor. 5.10

All mankind will pass before God at the Great White Throne judgment and be judged according to their deeds [works]. Rev. 20.11-15 But the promise of judgment made here in Corinthians pertains to the Judgment seat of Christ, the “Bema Seat.” This factual statement was made regarding believers, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” and again, the “good” in this verse also means intrinsically good, regarding the character of the heart and not just good deeds.

God is interested in the intrinsically good fruit produced in maturity whether a fig tree (see parable of the barren fig tree, Lk. 13.6-8) or a believer. An oak tree must become inherently good, with deep roots to withstand storms, broad branches to house nests and bring shade, thick trunk for good lumber, and abundant acorns for animal feed and the generation of new oak saplings. It takes 20 years for an oak tree to even begin to mature to a point of dropping acorns. Only then does it fulfill its Godly ordained purposes. So also the believer must become inherently good, that intrinsic goodness issuing forth from the heart, of Godly moral judgment, kindness, humility, love of the brethren and of God, and being led of the Spirit in the work of the Kingdom and the building up of the Church. To this degree, testing and judgment will surely come.

The Marks of Maturity.

With even a casual glance of the Church as a whole today, one cannot help but notice a high degree of religiosity has set in. This is a mark of immaturity. On the one hand the people have become satisfied with the routine of Sunday services, Sunday school, sermons, rituals, holy days, etc. On the other hand, though seemingly active “in church activities,” they are without depth of spiritual substance being caught up with the busyness of the world, lack of empathy for the well-being of the Body of Christ, often tossed about or confused about fundament doctrine, having character issues, and little understanding of God’s eternal purposes. They are missing the marks of spiritual maturity. By this time, they be in the process of becoming mature:

  1. A spiritually mature believer is patient and perseveres in difficult times. He does not lose faith, become doubtful or lose focus. The commitments he has dedicated his life to remain strong. James has much to say about this: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Jam. 1.2-4 Commitment is very weak in the world today. This is witnessed by the divorce rate, contract breaking, church hopping (by both members and pastors,) friend abandoning, and self-seeking people of today. In times of crisis or lore of greater blessing old commitments weaken and are loss to chase the greater gain. A man is without value in society or the Church if he cannot abide by his word of promise.

In the natural, take for example the soldier in the midst of a furious battle. Few others are placed in such dire straits. Yet he presses on towards his objective, never losing sight of its goal and his commitment to his fellow soldiers endures, even strengthens in light of such adversity. Vows and pledges become binding in the soul. James continues, “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer awaits the precious fruit of the soil—how patient he is for the fall and spring rains. You, too, be patient and strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.  Do not complain about one another, brothers, so that you will not be judged. Look, the Judge is standing at the door!” Jam. 5.7-9 Judgment is more than on breaking the ten commandments, “It judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Heb. 4.12

  1. A spiritually mature believer has undergone, and is continuing to undergo, character modification. Maturity means the (slow but inevitable) acquisition of each fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Gal. 5.22-23 Each and every one reading this must admit to the need for furthering of each of these character traits in their lives. I do so with deep yearning in my heart but am powerless to do so on my own. For here to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is of no avail, I desperately need the Tree of Life—“for without Me (Christ) you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15.5)

If we were to take these nine spiritual character qualities and condense them down into one and only one over-riding character quality, I submit it would be humility. Humility is a Godly trait. It executes His righteousness. It is a low view of one’s own importance and abilities. It is becoming “selfless,” one whose concern is empathetic and concerned with the welfare of the brethren. It is an inner lowliness of one who depends upon the Lord rather than self. “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” 1 Pet. 5.5 Just how important is humility?…

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity,

whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in a high and holy place,

and with the oppressed and humble in spirit, to restore the spirit of the lowly

and revive the heart of the contrite.’” Is. 57.15

Jesus declared, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Mt. 11.28

And, in concluding discussion on this character trait of the mature, let us not fail to meditate upon the scripture, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Gal. 2.20 Amen. This must become the root source of our humility, for without Christ, we can do nothing of true spiritual value.

  1. A Spiritually mature believer reacts according to faith rather than his own logic or emotions. In the natural, religion is logical for it represents the best man has to offer God. So man attempts to follow a set of commandments, have worship services, prays, performs all the rituals of that religion, and involves himself in its programs. In addition the natural man is often swayed by his emotions such as moving songs or motivational sermons. But we cannot trust these emotions as they are often confused with the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The way of the Spirit is by faith, and oftentimes faith is not logical to man, nor is it emotional, but is deliberate according to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Remember the definition of faith: “Now faith is the substance (assurance) of things hoped for, the evidence (conviction) of things not seen.” Heb. 11.1 The new birth is not logical but is spiritually factual. Eating the body and drinking the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ at the breaking of bread (communion) is not logical but is factual, by faith. Dying to the flesh and living by the inward life of Christ is not logical, or emotional, but is spiritually factual. Nor are things hoped (anticipated) for logical; things like eternal life, resurrection from the dead, a new heaven and earth, and no need for a sun for the presence of God will suffice, are all things anticipated (hoped for) but are not logical to the natural man.

The natural man or the immature spiritually might reason that since God is love and compassionate all the world will be saved, but this is not factual; or he may reason that since we are born of God we are as gods and can speak into existence things like healing, and prosperity, but again this is not spiritual truth. This is not denying that healings do occur as a gift of God but not because we are as God and speak the words abra cadabra (lit. to speak into existence) and it becomes so. Logic and emotion and wishful thinking may play a role in religion but not in the life of the spiritually mature.

  1. The spiritually mature’s worship centers upon thanksgiving and showing gratitude to God and to others in the Body of Christ. This important principle was demonstrated by Christ in the count of the healing of the ten lepers and were told to go show themselves to the priests:

“When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back, praising God in a loud voice. He fell facedown at Jesus’ feet in thanksgiving to Him—and he was a Samaritan. “Were not all ten cleansed?” Jesus asked. “Where then are the other nine? Was no one found except this foreigner to return and give glory to God? ”Then Jesus said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well!” Lk. 17.15-19

At the last supper Jesus began His blessing by giving thanks. 1 Cor. 11.24 The apostle Paul frequently encouraged the brethren, “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything.” Eph. 5.20 (See also Col. 1.12, Col. 3.17, 1 Thes. 5.18) And again, the writer of Hebrews, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Heb. 13.15 To be in a humble spirit and filled with thanksgiving is being in a righteous position before God.

Prayer might be for what we need, but thanksgiving is for what God has given us, and “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms.” Eph. 1.3 This thanksgiving is to be given audibly as well as in the heart, and as well as expressed by doing. It is being in a state of grateful consciousness moving in the act of thanksgiving. It is the attitude of a humble and indebted spirit. Oh thank Him for His calling upon our lives, for redeeming and sanctifying us to Himself; for our adoption or placement as sons and daughters; for His grace that pardons and justifies us; for becoming our Father as we are given new birth of His spiritual seed; for sending the Holy Spirit to indwell us; for qualifying us for heaven, and for eternal life itself; for the promise of the resurrection and of a new heaven and new earth wherein righteousness dwells: and for the torn veil through which we may in good conscience and surety of heart draw near to Him; and for the Church, which is the Body of Christ, of which we are a functioning member.

  1. The spiritually mature have both knowledge and understanding of the mystery of the Church, the Body of Christ: “God put everything under His feet and made Him head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Eph. 1.22-23

There is an understanding and awareness that does not come from logic, the physical senses, or emotions but by revelation, unveiled by the Spirit of God Himself. This was foreshadowed as natural Israel in the Old Testament. It is represented today as the Church, a living tabernacle of God: “Therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens of the saints and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. In Him the whole building is fitted together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together into a dwelling place for God in His Spirit.” Eph. 2.19-22

However, the company of people who were Israel, and are now the Church, are yet to become the bride of Christ. This fact is proclaimed in the heavenly scene:

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him the glory.

For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.

She was given clothing of fine linen, bright and pure.

For the fine linen she wears is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then the angel told me to write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.’” Rev. 19.7-9

So, the mature believer sees himself or herself as a functioning member of the Church, whose ultimate purpose is the preparation of a holy and pure Bride to be presented to the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ at His coming. Even as a pile of stones do not make a building but must be trimmed and set into place, so too a congregation of believers do not make the Body of Christ, but must be chosen and sanctified for this purpose, and each member set into place by the placement of God and connected to the other members to form the Body of Christ, a living organism. The apostle Paul was consumed with this thought: “We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect (mature) in Christ. To this end I also labor, striving with all His energy working powerfully within me.” Col. 1.28-29 It seems that in Paul’s mind his commission went beyond a basic proclamation of the Gospel to include the preparation of each man and woman perfect, or mature in Christ, so each may participate as the corporate Bride of Christ.

All too often believers are at best “members of a church,” a part of its congregation, but not a functioning member of the Body of Christ. There is an independent attitude or thought among the people, that though they are a member of this or that organization or denomination, they are not a part of the living organism of something greater, the Body of Christ. To this they are yet as little children, immature. They have not given their lives for the sake of the brethren, to lay the “self” upon the cross of crucifixion. They seem to say, “it is all about ‘being saved’ and ‘going to heaven’ when you die,” but little do they understand in that there is the ongoing formation and preparation of a people to become mature sons and daughters of the Father and a Bride for the Son; mature in character, in purpose, and in function.

This is not the task of a loner lamb as each must be in the sheep fold and a contributing member to the life of the fold. Nor should any ministry, pastors, teachers, evangelists, psalmists, administrators, prophets, etc. be loners in ministry but must be in union and submission to the Head, who is Christ, and to His Body, the manifestation of Himself in the earth today. We are cautioned in the scriptures about this individualism: “He who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound judgment,” Prov. 18.1 and “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. For if one falls down, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to help him up! Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one may be overpowered, two can resist. Moreover, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecc. 4.9-12

In regards to this fully functioning Body of Christ, scriptures go on to read, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head.  From Him the whole body, fitted and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love through the work of each individual part.” Eph. 4.14-16

  1. A spiritually mature believer see his or her particular calling into the Body of Christ as function of service, that is, what he or she does as a contribution to the building up of the Church; and not as holding an office or title and therefore doing the duties of that office. Nothing is done for self-gain or glory but is simply led on by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. Take the common word pastor for example. If one assumes it as an office or title they are confused and that can lead to error in function and in heart. That one would see their position or calling in the Body of Christ as a hierarchy placement with oversight (of a congregation.) This can lead to an incorrect relationship in the Body, the Church, and can also bring pride and delusions of authority. However, if one assumes pastor to mean function, as one who shepherds a flock, it is no longer a matter of position, title, authority, or any particular responsibility to do, rather it is an outflow of spirit, from within, to rise up and minister to the souls of the Church to protect, nourish, and counsel.

“As a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and a partaker of the glory to be revealed, I appeal to the elders among you: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is among you, watching over them not out of compulsion, but because it is God’s will; not out of greed, but out of eagerness; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” 1 Pet. 5.1-4

The elder spoken of in the preceding verse means someone who is mature and has assumed the ministry of caring for the flock. This same principle should be applied to teachers, evangelists or missionaries, worship leaders and psalmists, prayer warriors, administrators, ministry of helps, and so many more. Remaining faithful to your calling to the Church is a mark of maturity.

  1. The spiritually mature do not rush impulsively into important actions, or into accepting strong doctrines but first prayerfully seek the intuition and discernment of the Holy Spirit. They dutifully search the Word of God whether this be true and find confirmation in the wisdom and witness of the Body of Christ. These two, intuition and discernment, are the senses of the Spirit, and wisdom is true understanding.
  2. The spiritually mature have been sanctified (Heb. 10.10) and are being sanctified (Heb. 10.14), that is, their lives are continually being set apart to God and His purposes and Kingdom and away from the lusts and enticements, and busyness of the flesh and the world. The mature in Christ are continually being drawn into ministry of the Gospel, the functioning and edification of the Body of Christ, and pressing into the realities of the Kingdom of God; all in final preparation for His return. His or her thought turns from what God can do for me to how I may serve my Father and Lord Jesus Christ; and how the Kingdom of God might become a reality in my life and that of the Church, and be manifested in the earth today.

These are some of the marks of maturity. Are they the only marks? No. But these are some of the weightier measures of our life with which we must enter eternity. People are most often under the notion that the final judgment in that day regards gross sin and they assume God is most merciful and forgiving and they will make it to heaven. But believers know better. Judgment for them, and as eternal habitants of the Kingdom of God, the new heaven and new earth, includes a weightier examination of spiritual maturity: of character, faithfulness, function and purpose. Under the Old Covenant the people were judged, and rewarded or not, by their ability to keep The Law. But this is not the case under the New Covenant in Christ. His commandments are put into our minds and written upon our hearts. They are weightier and receive greater eternal reward or loss thereof. (See the gold, silver, and precious gems of 1 Cor. 3.12-15)

In Closing please consider the following verse of scripture:

“For you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children— encouraging you, comforting you, and urging you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls (more accurately, is calling) you into His own kingdom and glory.” 1 Thes. 2.12

To walk in a manner worthy of God, is the whole law of Christian conduct in a nutshell. There may be other detailed commandments and ordinances, but they all may be deduced from this one. In the natural, a child “walks worthy of the parent” when he or she lives their life in such a way to bring honor on that parent in which he or she has been taught to do; and not to bring disgrace on the parent; or pain in his heart caused by misdeeds. He or she carries out the principles of the family into his own life. As a young lad, I still remember my parents saying, “You’re a DeVitis, now act like one,” meaning be one of integrity, respectable, and well thought of. But now the believer is of the family of God, and of the Body of Christ, the Church, of a higher calling.

A true Christian honors His Father and His Lord. He lives so as not to bring reproach upon Him. In the end, the glory spoken of here, in 1 Thes. 2.12, is God’s own glory which will be manifested to the believers on the return of Christ. They will share, in partnership with Christ in this glory. This is the eternal hope of all true believers. The degree of this inheritance lies in the balance of His fair, impartial, and true judgment.  

Picture of Daniel DeVitis

Daniel DeVitis

Daniel P. DeVitis (Dan) has served in ministry for over 50 years. Since 1972 he has overseen a home church, Immanuel Fellowship, Shippensburg, PA, where he currently resides with his wife Petra. He was a professor of Geography and Earth Science at Shippensburg University until his retirement in 2003. He now serves as an elder in Unto Full Stature Ministries where he continues to author newsletters, write articles, and speak at leadership conferences and churches at and abroad.
Picture of Daniel DeVitis

Daniel DeVitis

Daniel P. DeVitis (Dan) has served in ministry for over 50 years. Since 1972 he has overseen a home church, Immanuel Fellowship, Shippensburg, PA, where he currently resides with his wife Petra. He was a professor of Geography and Earth Science at Shippensburg University until his retirement in 2003. He now serves as an elder in Unto Full Stature Ministries where he continues to author newsletters, write articles, and speak at leadership conferences and churches at and abroad.

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