This question is not intended to be judgmental or legalistic. Its purpose is, hopefully, to be helpful as you consider where you are in your journey with Christ. I ask myself the same question. Am I a mature Christian?
Christian maturity is not about your age or how many years you have been a Christian. It is also not subjective. It is not based on how we “feel” about being a Christian or what anyone else thinks or feels about our maturity as a follower of Jesus Christ. All that matters is God’s objective view of our maturity as a follower of Jesus Christ.
[Podcast version available at the end of this post.]
God and Maturity
What does God think about where you are as a disciple of His Son? This is just between you and God. No one else will know how you answer unless you tell them. Are you mature? immature? somewhere in-between? don’t know?
God has guided His people toward “maturity” for millennia. Look through every writing in the Bible and you’ll see God’s fingerprints all over the pages as He leads His people toward maturity.
God calls His people “children” for good reasons. They are children because God is their Creator and Father. Children, as good parents and grandparents know, should grow physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. We expect our children to mature in all those areas. We become concerned when our children don’t mature in those areas. We read books about raising children to learn more about how our children should be maturing. We take them to doctors and therapists when we see a lack of growth (maturity) with our children.
God is also concerned that His children mature. How does God view our maturity?
Observe and obey all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 12:28
Obedience is a primary way God’s judges a Christian’s maturity. It begins when we are literally young children:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth. Ephesians 6:1-3
Jesus exemplified obedience as a Child. Though He was God in Flesh, He subjected Himself to His mother and earthly step-father.
Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Luke 2:51-52
Jesus also exemplified obedience as a Man. Though He was equal with God the Father, His will was to do the will of His Father.
For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 6:38
Obedience to God comes down to our behavior, how we conduct ourselves every day. It’s how we behave toward God and others. It’s how we resist temptation and falling back into previous ways of thinking and acting.
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, Be holy, for I am holy.’ 1 Peter 1:13-16
How is your obedience to God? excellent? good? fair? needs work? Again, be honest with yourself. This is just between you and God. It’s helpful to examine your maturity in Christ.
Are you loyal to God? to others? What do I mean by that? Ultimate loyalty expresses itself in ultimate love. Jesus explained it this way:
Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:29-31
The Apostle Paul explained ultimate love in Christian maturity this way:
… 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; 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, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 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 4:13-16
Jesus said this to Satan as the devil tested Him in the wilderness:
It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ Matthew 4:4
Being loyal to God includes being loyal to everything He says. What God says is true is true. What God says is false is false. Believing that and acting on it is at the heart of loyalty. If we say we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength yet don’t do what He says (obedience), we are demonstrating disloyalty and a lack of love toward God.
Jesus said that one of the primary marks of discipleship is to “observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). The Apostle John went so far to write that “by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). Obedience is at the heart of loyalty as a follower of Jesus Christ.
Christian maturity — including obedience and loyalty to God — includes being fruitful. However, not everyone who names the name of Christ is fruitful.
Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:14-15
You probably recognize those verses from Jesus explaining the parable of the sower to His disciples. What we see here is about people who hear the Word of God (“The seed is the word of God.” v 11) and “go out,” but their lives are “choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life.” What about their maturity? They “bring no fruit to maturity.”
Out of the four types of people who hear the Gospel, only one group hears the word “with a noble and good heart” and “keep it and bear fruit with patience.” Jesus called that the “good ground.”
Being “fruitful” is key to Christian maturity. Mature Christians will “bear fruit.” It’s as simple as that.
By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. John 15:8
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. John 15:16
Notice that a mature Christian glorifies God the Father by bearing “much fruit.”
We are not fruitful in and of ourselves. Fruitfulness comes from our connection to Christ.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. John 15:4
How do we know if we’re being fruitful? Look at what Jesus said about the necessity of His followers bearing fruit.
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:2
One way we know that we’re being fruitful is God the Father (My Father is the vinedresser. v 1) “prunes” every branch. What does that mean? The Greek word kathairó (prune) means “make clean by purging, to cleanse, to purify, to remove undesirable elements.” The idea is to eliminate anything that is fruitless by purifying.
Any of you who’ve worked with plants know about pruning. Pruning is the process of stimulating growth by cutting dead and dying branches. That gives the plant room for new growth and also helps prevent disease and insect damage.
People with expertise in growing grapes say that one of the most common mistakes growers make is not pruning hard enough. Harder (heavier) pruning leads to more fruit and a better quality of fruit.
God does the same thing with His children. He works in our life to prune (purge, cut away) anything that would hinder our being fruitful. How do we know whether He’s pruning us? Study the Bible. Everything we need to know about how God “prunes” for fruitfulness is in the Bible. Here are a few examples:
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. Ephesians 5:8-11
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. Colossians 1:9-12
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26
There’s a lot more we could write about Christian maturity and we have. We’ll list some resources for you at the end of this article.
However, let’s quickly review the three important areas of Christian maturity we’ve addressed here:
- Obedience to God
- Loyalty to God
- Fruitful for God
How are you doing? How am I doing? Important question for all of us to consider in our service to the Great God of our Salvation.
But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. Galatians 6:4
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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