In the last post I attempted to prepare us eventually for what spiritual growth might look like scripturally by looking at the 1 John 2:12-13 passage in which three groups are identified by the Apostle John. Those groups are children, young men, and fathers. I suggested that these perhaps present a picture of what spiritual maturity might look like.
But to make sense of it all, it might be helpful and maybe even necessary to dispel some wrong assumptions about what spiritual grow is first.
A description of certain assumptions on the part of some people actually tells us what spiritual growth IS NOT. I'm going to mention four out of many posibilities. By doing this, I will lay the foundation for eventually showing, at least in my opinion, what real spiritual growth is in Kingdom living. For now, however, it is important to see what these false definitions of spiritual growth are because they are so widespread and you'll eventually see why they can be so dangerous as well.
The first I'll mention is "bible knowledge." When I say this, I always want to add the little Latin phrase "per se" which means "in and of itself, or by itself." Bible knowledge, by itself, is not spiritual growth at all. The Pharisees in the day of Jesus would be case in point.
I've personally known people who could explain everything there was to know, from their perspective at least, about every horn, every crown and every toe of the dreams and visions in Daniel's book or Calvin's T_U_L_I_P system or every single Escatological viewpoint known to man. Yet those same people exhibited very little of what the scriptures actually identify as true spiritual growth.
Then I've known some young believers who thought the Epistles were the wives of the Apostles, but, boy did they remind you of Jesus. [That's a bit of an overstatement but you know what I mean.]
In 1 Corinthians 8:2 Paul gives a very wise assessment of knowledge being alone. he say, "We know that we all have knowledge. yet knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing as he ought to know.1 Corinthians 8:2 NKJV.
Knowledge is valuable only as it is applied to a conforming of our lives to Christ in a fashion that we will later show as spiritual maturity. If bible knowledge does NOT find fulfillment in that fashion, it winds up being ONLY biblical or doctrinal facts that will tragically deceive some people as to their true state of immaturity spiritually. We all know people who argue, fight, separate, condemn and generally despise other people because of differing on certain biblical doctrines and show nothing of the grace, love and acceptance of Christ. Is that spiritual maturity? I don't think so!
Another mistaken notion about what spiritual maturity is would be "religious activity." This is probably the major mistake of the Southern Baptist churches with which I've been associated all my spiritual life. I've often been amused when someone would tell me about someone and describe them as being a "godly person." It could be a pastor, deacon, or regular old stick-in-the-mud kind of church member, but when giving the reason for saying that, it is usually a litany of the activities they've been faithfully involved in across the years. "They never miss church, [church is the place down on the corner which is foreign to scripture of course.] they teach a Sunday school class, they tithe, they serve on several committees, they even go to visitation." [Notice, they mention nothing about character.]
All of this activity was proof [in their mind] of the statement that the person they were describing was a truly godly person. You can that see godliness to them was something you do. Only it isn't of course, as we shall see.
Then there is the mistaken thought that "time" is synonymous with spiritual growth. In other words, the longer you've been a christian the more spiritually mature you MUST be. Being older and having spent time in experiencing life as well as having a knowledge of scripture is important as the word "Elder" being used along with "bishop" and "pastor" for church ministry indicates.
But time doesn't any more guarantee spiritual maturity than time guarantees a godly marriage. Some of the worst marriages for which I've had to offer counsel have been those where the couple have stayed together for years all for the sake of the kids, or for the sake of reputation, or out of fear of facing the struggles that are needed to built a healthy marriage.
Spiritual maturity has little to do with a calendar at all. Paul the Apostle was amazed that after many years the Corinthians were still on milk and he had to say, "neither yet now are you able to eat meat." Meat is for the mature and milk is for the immature and time had not brought about a change in their spiritual diet at all. Time has to be redeemed according to scripture because it is incapable of achieving anything on it's own except a loss of strength, stamina, health or anything else youth has automatically.
Knowledge, activity, and time. All important, but none of the three are the equivalent or even the evidence of spiritual maturity. But there is one other thing to mention about spiritual maturity that is often mistakenly thought about it.
When spiritual maturity IS EXPERIENCED it does nothing to improve your standing with God. We are" accepted in the beloved" and we are "complete in Him." The most spiritually immature believers, as well as the most mature believers, whomever that might be, have no different standing with the Father because of their spiritual condition at all. God doesn't love us more when we grow spiritually and He doesn't love us less when we wallow in infancy spiritually. He doesn't accept the one who succeeds spiritually one whit more than He does the abject failure spiritually.
There are benefits to growing spiritually and even costs when we don't, but those are not on the part of our Father. He loves and accepts us on the basis of His Son whom we call Lord and that standing is settled for all of time and eternity.
So why grow spiritually? And if we do, what will it look like? I'll address this next time.
Meanwhile, think about the distinctiveness of "getting," "doing" and "being." They're pertinent.