A recent study on spirituality by the Barna Group reported that many churchgoers as well as church leaders have a hard time defining and measuring spiritual maturity. The most surprising statistic to me in the report was that 81% of self-identified Christians endorsed the statement that spiritual health means “trying hard to follow the rules described in the Bible.” Even among those surveyed who believe that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works, four out of five concurred that spiritual maturity is trying hard to follow the rules.
I think the survey results reveal that many Christians still have an inadequate understanding of the grace of God and what it means to walk by faith in Christ each day. It’s easier perhaps to fall into the trap of believing one can somehow measure their spiritual maturity by checking off how many of the “do’s” have been performed and how many of the “don’ts” have been avoided. Nevertheless, real spiritual maturity isn’t evaluated by how well we perform a list of tasks on a check-off list.
There are spiritual disciplines which undoubtedly help us to grow in Christ-likeness and we ought to cultivate and give attention to those each day. In fact, we’ve been looking at some of those disciplines on Wednesday evenings in a series of Bible studies on the steps to spiritual maturity. But ultimately our spiritual maturity is a reflection of the character of Christ being built up within us by His indwelling Holy Spirit as we abide in Him. Perhaps the best measurement of our maturity as Christians isn’t the number of check marks on some man-made list, but the degree to which the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is reflected in our lives. That fruit will be evidenced as we focus our attention not on a set of rules to keep, but on living in constant fellowship with Christ, growing to love Him more each day.