As a seed grows when it’s planted and watered, followers of Christ grow in spiritual maturity when they are planted and watered in good soil.
In the Bible, Jesus describes a fictional scene of a farmer planting seeds. Some seeds fall on the path, some on rocky places, some on thorns, and some on good soil (Matthew 13:3-8), but only the seeds that fall on good soil grow into healthy plants. Jesus explains the meaning of the story this way: The one who hears the Word of God and understands it is the one who grows in their faith (v. 23).
The Christian life is a relationship with God that develops over time. To grow in spiritual maturity (that is, to grow spiritually) is to look more and more like the person God designed you to be — more and more like Jesus. What does it mean to grow spiritually? Journey with us as we explore the answer to this question.
Spiritual growth is the journey of growing in faith to know more about God and become the person that He created you to be.
Peter, one of Jesus’s closest followers during the time He was on earth, encourages us this way: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, New International Version).
Paul, a leader in the early church who wrote much of the Bible’s New Testament, describes this growth in another way: “We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10).
The type of person that God wants you to be is one who is characterized by His qualities: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Bible has a lot to say about what it looks like to grow spiritually. Here are some important verses of Scripture that can help you understand what it means to be spiritually mature.
God begins the work in believers and will continue it.
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).
There is a hunger for knowing God.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6, NIV).
God equips you through His Word.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV).
You can grow by meditating on God’s Word.
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3, NIV).
The Holy Spirit teaches you to have the characteristics of spiritual maturity.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV).
The characteristics of spiritual maturity make you productive and effective in serving God.
“Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8, NIV).
Growing in maturity and discernment is the natural and right path. Staying the same is not.
“Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14, NIV).
God builds up His followers to worship Him as a community.
“Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to Him, the living Stone — rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him — you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:1-5, NIV).
Jesus followers in community become more mature to look like Christ together.
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:15-16, NIV).
You should follow the example of more mature believers.
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV).
Hard times are opportunities to grow. You can be thankful for them.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4, NIV).
There are three elements that are essential to growing to spiritual maturity: grace, truth, and time. The article “How We Grow (The Growth Model)” describes this process in the light of these three elements. Truth is found in God’s Word, which corrects, trains and challenges us. Grace is seen when we realize that we make mistakes along the way and experience God’s patient forgiveness. Time is essential, since maturity will not come overnight but is a process and a journey.
Experiencing Christ with others can have important benefits. Relationships with other believers allow you to encourage and support one another.
You can grow in spiritual maturity by persevering in following God’s plan through the trials and challenges of your life (James 1:2-18) and living a life that is Spirit-filled — that is, learning to be aware of and listen to God’s Spirit, who lives within all Jesus followers (Ephesians 5:18; Romans 6:11-14).
Community also plays an important role in character growth, brings God’s Word to life, gives prayer a life-changing impact and is vital for telling others about Christ.
We have written content designed to help you learn more about growing spiritually. This content can be found in the “Spiritual Growth” section of Cru.org.
When you are growing spiritually, it won’t be a secret. Active spiritual growth is usually visible, and there are several things that make it evident:
A desire to spend time with God to learn more about Him (2 Peter 3:18).
Desire to dig deeper into the truths of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 2:2).
Learning and teaching others the truths of the Bible (2 Peter 3:18).
Growing in grace with forgiveness (Titus 2:11-14).
Desiring to obey God (John 14:15; James 1:19-25).
Spiritual maturity looks different for every person. Compare yourselves to what the Bible says and not how others are doing. When you have faith in God, it will show itself in how you live your life (James 1:26).
This is a journey that lasts a lifetime — let’s journey together.
Become more intentional about taking steps of faith; download MissionHub, an app designed to help you talk to your friends and loved ones about Jesus.
Understand and experience living in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Get together with a friend to pray, read the Bible and talk about your spiritual growth.
Mentor someone else to help them — and yourself — grow spiritually.
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