How to Define Spiritual Maturity

Have you ever heard the saying, "what doesn't kill you will make you stronger?" That statement is simply not true. Tests and trials can't make you stronger, but they will reveal your weaknesses just like a violent rain storm doesn’t make a roof stronger but it will reveal where the leaks are. The same is true in our spiritual lives. It’s a myth that trials make us stronger but they do reveal our weaknesses. They also reveal where we are strong and according to 1 John 2, the types of trials we regularly face can actually be an indication of our level of spiritual maturity.

1 John 2:12-13 (NIV) I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.

The Apostle John is writing to the church but he separates them into three different groups based on their spiritual maturity level. He calls the first groups "little children." This definition creates a clear mental picture of this level of maturity and defines for us a few natural characteristics of these new believers.

The characteristics of children:

  • They are young.
  • They are unable to feed themselves yet.
  • They are dependent. They require others to take care of them.
  • They cannot solve problems on their own nor fight their own battles.

These natural characteristics are assumed by simply calling them children, but John defines them further by the type of battles they regularly fight when he says in 1 John 2:1, "I write this, dear children, to guide you out of sin. But if anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus."

The main battle of the "little children" is the battle over sin and temptation.

The second group of people John addresses is the "young men." Again, this reference creates a clear mental picture and defines for us these simple characteristics.

The characteristics of young men:

  • They can feed themselves.
  • They are independent.
  • They are strong.
  • They can fight their own battles.

John defines this group, again, by the type of battles they wage. He said, "I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one."

The main battle of the "young men" believers is the spiritual battles we wage against the enemy.

The third group of people John calls out is the "fathers." There is much that can be assumed by this reference as well.

The characteristics of a father:

  • They have reproduced.
  • A father can be of any age.
  • They are interdependent.
  • They take the responsibility of feeding others.
  • They take the responsibility to protect others and will fight for others.
  • They want others to go further than them.

Although John doesn't clearly define a battle the fathers face in chapter 2, there seems to be a clear reference that the battles of the spiritual fathers are all fought on behalf of others. They are kingdom battles.

This is a brief introduction to defining our spiritual growth and maturity. I will seek to go much deeper in the next number of articles and hopefully we will be able to clearly define where we are and what it will take to get to the next level. Stay tuned!

Question: Based on these brief descriptions, which one most defines you? Which type of battles do most often face?

Read 1 John 2

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