Jul 20, 2009
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Spiritual Maturity: The Process to Christ's Likeness

Spiritual maturity is not the norm in our society today. Many believers do not manifest in their lives, the marks of spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is marked by knowing how to handle problems and apply right principles from the Bible to every circumstance of life. We have three great enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. They seek to hinder us from glorifying God. These enemies do not want us to apply truth to our lives. They desire to enslave us to the circumstances of life and prevent our spiritual growth. We overcome these enemies as we maintain our fellowship with God, through daily operating in His power. When we are living in God’s power we think as Christ thought. When we’re tested to go independently of God, we value what Christ valued (the Father’s will). When tempted to fear, we handle problems as Christ handled problems, with confidence and obedience.

Spiritual maturity is an aspect of the believer’s sanctification called experiential sanctification, in which the believer becomes more set-apart unto God daily. [1] How do we reach spiritual maturity? How do we accomplish the mission set before us in the plan of God? How do we glorify God in every area of our lives and reap great blessings? How do we break from our old way of thinking and how we do things to God’s way of thinking? We are in the devil’s world to glorify our Savior.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Farther who is in heaven (MAT 5:14a, MAT 5:16).

It should be the daily aim of every believer to advance to spiritual maturity whereby he begins to manifest Christ’s character in any and every circumstance of life. When those around us see that we respond to trials with confidence in God, and temptations with obedience, God is glorified. When God is glorified in every circumstance of our lives we reap fantastic blessing in time and eternity (1CO 2:9). Spiritual maturity is not something that happens instantly the moment we trust Christ as savior. Because of the world, the indwelling sin-nature, and the devil, it is a daily gradual process of development.[2] It is daily depending on the provisions that God has made available.

The two power options God has given believers to fulfill his plan is the power of the Holy Spirit, and the power of the Word of God. There are many ideas and methodologies on how we obtain spiritual maturity. Are these ideas and methodologies Biblical?

In this study, we will examine tools that God has made available for every believer to fulfill His plan for their lives. This study is important because if we do not operate in God’s power we will not reach the goal of spiritual maturity. Thus, we will not glorify God in time and we will miss out on fantastic blessings.

The Process to Spiritual Maturity

Salvation- The Potential for Growth

The moment an unbeliever puts his entire trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as his savior he is born again. The Holy Spirit comes to indwell the believer and bring about a new creation in the believer (2CO 5:17). He has been brought into a family relationship with God (GAL 3:26) and now has the power and potential to reach spiritual maturity.


Divine Power for Spiritual Growth

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit after His coming on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). This is not an emotional experience. Every believer has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit whether you feel like you do or not. The word of God teaches that every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and not just a selective few (JOH 7:37-39; ACT 11:16-17; ROM 5:5; 1CO 2:12; 2CO 5:5). It is a gift from God and not because of works. So no matter if you have sinned as a believer you are still indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Charles Ryrie says:

“The acid test of whether or not the Spirit indwells all believers is whether or not He lives in sinning Christians. Clearly He does. 1CO 6:19 was written to a very spiritually mixed group, some fine, spiritual group, but many who were carnal and worldly; yet Paul did not say that only the spiritual group were indwelt by the Spirit.” “[3]

  1. All believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, those who are committing sin and those who are not.
  2. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a gift from God and not given based on works.

All believers have the potential to grow to spiritual maturity and manifest Christ like character in any and every circumstance. We must allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives in order to grow to spiritual maturity.

Therefore putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the Word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation (1PE 2:2 NASB).

We put aside sins in our lives by naming those sins unto God. The promise for forgiveness is found in 1 John 1:9. Once God cleans us of sin the Holy Spirit then controls us and helps us understand and apply the Word of God. Spiritual maturity is not easy, it’s a discipline. The believer must resist the temptation to think, do, and say things that do not bring God glory.

The Battle for control
Every believer has the indwelling sin-nature that tempts him to commit personal sins. When we yield to the temptation to sin we are under the control of the sin-nature and thus carnal[4]. When we are under the control of the sin-nature, we manifest the work of the flesh (GAL 5:19-21), which does not glorify God. God’s plan is that we be controlled by the Holy Spirit at all times. We do this by resisting sin and confessing known sins in our lives (1JO 1:9; 1JO 2:1-2). Anything that goes against the Word of God is sin (thought, word, or deed) and grieves the Holy Spirit. There are three categories of sins faced by believers:

  1. Thinking sins: Fear, worry, anxiety, panicking, self-pity, arrogance, jealousy, envy.
    Thinking sins cause us to be very emotional and to focus on self rather than God who has a plan for our lives.

    Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today (EXO 14:13a, NASB).
    Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you (DEU 31:6, NASB).
    For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? (MAT 6:25)

    God allows trials to come in our lives to prove our faith and character. When we are tried, we need to draw upon in our mind the promises we have learned from the Word of God. God commands us to think His Word which reminds us of His power and faithfulness. When a believer thinks otherwise, he has sinned and needs to name his sins. When we apply the Word of God to the trial we manifest our gradual spiritual growth.
  2. Sins of the tongue: Lying, criticizing, gossiping, judging, maligning.

    Therefore lay aside falsehood (lying), speak truth each one of you with your neighbor, for we are members of one another (EPH 4:25).
    Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measure to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to you brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? (MAT 7:1-4)

    We are to avoid the temptation to commit sins that relate to others. These sins can hinder our growth and progression in the plan of God.

    This I command you, that you love one another (JOH 15:17).

  3. Action sins: murder, adultery, drunkenness, drug abuse, stealing, fornication (idolatry), lack of prayer, lack of studying the bible.
    Apostle Paul writes:

    And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit (EPH 5:18).
    He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor (get a Job), performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need(EPH 4:28).
    For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor (1TH 4:3-4).
    Pray without ceasing (1TH 5:17).

    When we are obeying these commands we are filled with the Spirit and allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives. We grieve the Holy Spirit (EPH 4:30) through sinning and quench (1TH 5:19) the Spirit by failing to confess our disobedience to the Word of God. God in grace and love will discipline us if we’re not growing. Many believers continue to live in prosperity even in carnality but that is God’s grace period. He is gracious and gives us many opportunities to judge ourselves. If we reject or ignore His plan, his justice will act. The writer of Hebrews makes it clear:

    “… and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives…. We have had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live... All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”(HEB 12:5; HEB 12:6; HEB 12:8; HEB 12:11)

The Filling of the Holy Spirit

The filling of the Holy Spirit is the opposite of drunkenness. When a person is drunk with wine he is under its influence and makes bad decisions. The Holy Spirit helps you concentrate and give you mental focus as you seek to learn and apply the Word of God. The believer is to be:

  • Fully possessed by the indwelling Holy Spirit: God the Holy Spirit fully possesses us when we are clean of all unconfessed sin. God being perfect Righteousness can not fellowship with us when we sin. Therefore we must name the sins we know to be in our lives. “Be filled with the Spirit” is a present active command (EPH 5:18).
  • Fully influenced: When we confess our sins the Holy Spirit then can influence every facet of our lives as believers.
  • Filled with a certain quality: The Holy Spirit leads us to Spiritual maturity as we maintain fellowship with Him (EPH 3:16-19) and produce the fruit of the Spirit (GAL 5:22-23).

Two Facets of the Filling of the Holy Spirit

There seems to be two facets to Spirit filling. The first may be described as a sovereign act of God whereby He possesses someone for special activity. It occurs in LUK 1:15 (John the Baptist), LUK 1:41(Elizabeth), LUK 1:67 (Zacharias); ACT 2:4 (the group on the Day of Pentecost); (Peter), LUK 1:31 (the believers); LUK 9:17 (Paul); and LUK 13:9 (Paul). The second facet of the Spirit filling may be described as the extensive influence and control of the Spirit in a believer’s life. It evidences an abiding state of fullness rather than the specific event. It produces a certain character of life and seems to be a close synonym to spirituality. It is indicated by the Greek word plere or pleroo pneumatos agiou. It occurs in Luke 4:1 (Christ); ACT 6:3; ACT 6:5 (the first helpers of the apostles); (Stephen); ACT 11:24 (Barnabas); ACT 13:42 (the disciples); and in EPH 5:18 (believers). [5]

God’s objective for the believer’s life after salvation is that he advances to spiritual maturity. It is through the Word of God learned, believed, and applied that we advance to spiritual maturity. Peter writes:

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. (2PE 3:18 NASB)

Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the Word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation (1PE 2:2a NASB).

Sins in the believer’s life whether in thought, word, or deed hinder the growth process. You can not learn the Word of God without the power to do so. The Holy Spirit is the teacher of truth. Our Lord Jesus Christ said:

But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. (JOH 14:26 NASB)

Therefore the Apostle Paul writes:

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (EPH 4:30)

The Word of God

The mind for Spiritual Growth

The first priority in the Christian life is to find a pastor who is fully trained to teach doctrine. In The pastor’s job is to give instruction, principles, and procedures from the Word of God for living the spiritual life. In order for use to really be effective in our witnessing to the world we must know Christ and. In In every aspect of life, knowledge comes before service, action or production. The coach can’t expect his players to work effectively without first teaching them the basics of the game. The pastor’s job is to give instruction, principles, and procedures from the Word ofGod for living the spiritual life. To really be effective in our witnessing to the world we most know Christ and His work on the cross. God provides the gift of pastor-teacher, the power of the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and the local church so believers can grow in grace and represent our Savior.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2TI 3:16-17).

The Word of God was given to us by God for our profit. This verse tells us in what ways the whole ream of God’s Word is beneficial:

  1. For teaching. The Lexical Aids to the New Testament defines the Greek word Didaskalia; as that which belongs to a teacher.[6] It is also defined as that which is taught; teaching and instruction. The Bible gives us the truth upon which we are to base our perspectives and make our decisions in life.
  2. For reproof. The Greek Elegchos means; conviction. It implies not merely change on the basis of which one is convicted, but also the manifestation of the truth of that change, the result to be reaped from that change, and the acknowledgement of its truth inwardly to the accused person. The Holy Spirit use scripture to convict us of error, and show us when we have wandered off course.
  3. For correction. The Greek Epanorthosis; from epanorthoo, to set right again, correct, from epi. It means correction or amendment of what is wrong in a man’s life. The Word of God sheds light on the right way we should be going. If we are humble before God when he corrects us and we confess our sins and amend our ways, we will begin to change and grow spiritually. The believer is back on course again.
  4. For training. The Greek Paideia; originally instruction of children, from pais, a child. It evolved to mean chastening because of all the instruction giving to the child. This word means chastening and discipline with the goal of raising children to maturity. The Bible is the guide to lead us from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity.[7]

We are to learn the Word of God in the Power of the Holy Spirit. Then we will learn how to think in any and every circumstance.

“The goal of Bible Study is not simply to determine what it says and what it means, but to apply it to one’s life. Bible Study is an intellectual pursuit in which we seek understanding of what God says. But Bible study must go beyond that to include spiritual discipline, in which we seek to put into practice what we read and understand. Heart appropriation, not merely head apprehension, is the true goal of Bible study. Only in this way can believers grow spiritually. Spiritual maturity, in which we become more like Christ, comes not just from knowing more about the Bible. It comes from knowing more about the Bible and applying it to our spiritual needs.”[8]

When our Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil to act independently of His father these were His Words:


Likewise, when we are tempted to act independent of God and disobey Him we need to think the Word of God and apply it to experience. The issue in spiritual growth is humility. Humility is a way of thinking that is free from arrogance. It is the way of life which submits to legitimate authority and responds to the Word of God obeying its commands. Paul writes:

Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves (ROM 13:1-2).

Governing authorities can be your parents, your boss, police officers, pastor- teachers, and the highest authority which is the God of the Bible. Authority has the right to give you a command. We are not to obey any authority that tries to organize us to go against the Word of God. We understand from the Word of God that we are to obey those in authority. Our Lord Jesus Christ obeyed the authority of His parents when they found Him in the temple (LUK 2:51). God’s plan for our lives is that we be like Him in every facet of our being (thought, words, actions).

The believer who obeys the Word of God in all circumstances is growing to spiritual maturity and is a humble person. He is growing in His commitment to God.

But prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. (JAM 1:22)

But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does (JAM 1:25).

Apostle Paul gives us an example of application of the mind of Christ when he wrote:

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY, says the Lord. BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS UPON HIS HEAD. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (ROM 12:19-21).

We understand from the word of God that even if someone wrongs us, we are not to take matters in our own hands. God sees everything. When someone wrongs us it is an opportunity to follow Christ’s example. He prayed for those who crucified him (LUK 23:34). Stephen followed Christ’s example while being put to death:

Lord do not hold this sin against them! (ACT 7:60)

The Apostle John writes:

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or with tongue, but in deed and truth (1JO 3:16-18).

Many believers are ignorant of doctrine. They go to churches that tickle their ears (2TI 4:3). Among those few who teach sound doctrine, there is little application. Some doctrinal Churches are missing application and not knowledge of scripture. Many know much about the Bible but apply so little of it. The Christian church needs to focus more on a personal relationship with God whereby we cherish His word and seek to apply it to every area of our lives. Knowledge of your responsibilities as a Christian is not what produces spiritual maturity but making the choice to apply the Word of God to life situations.

In conclusion, we see that it is God’s power that produces spiritually mature Christians. God makes the provisions for spiritual growth and our part is to utilize what he has provided. God has provided a local church, pastor- teachers, the Bible, and the power of the Holy Spirit. The believer needs not to depend on any system that leaves the dependence on the Holy Spirit and the Word of God out. The believer in Jesus Christ is to maintain the filling of the Holy Spirit and think the Word of God in all circumstances of life, and; apply its truths to the problem. This is the true process to spiritual maturity.


[1] Experiential sanctification is a process by which the Holy Spirit is conforming the believer more and more to the likeness of Jesus Christ.

[2] The sin-nature is the corrupt nature passed to mankind genetically through Adam that tempts us to commit personal sin. Sin comes in three categories: thought, word, and deed. We all were born sinners because we all have the sin-nature at birth. The sin-nature tries to prevent spiritual growth.

[3] Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology, (1999)

[4] Carnal is from, the Greek sarx, meaning flesh. It is the opposite of being spiritual. Sarx covers that domain of our fallen nature made subject to vanity in which sin springs up (ROM 7:18). The believer is carnal when he sins and does not confess His sin. His deprave nature controls him.

[5] Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology, (1999)pp.434

[6] Lexical Aid to the New Testament, Compiled and edited by Spiros Zodhiates, NASB Hebrew- Greek Key Word Study Bible (Chattanooga, AMG)

8 Gene Cunningham, The Basics, ( Hot Springs: Basic Training Bible Ministries), 1988-89) pp.54,55

[8] Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, (Colorado Springs: Victor, 1991) pp.13