What Does Maturing in Jesus Really Look Like?

Ever wonder if we’re becoming more or less like Jesus? Or what it means in our day to day life to be a “mature” Christian?

I’ve always been a big fan of the practical. Fluffy pie in the sky theology just won’t do it for me. And if you’re like me in this, you too are hungry for some practical application. Scripture speaks a lot about maturing in Christ. And we hear about it often in church sermons and Sunday school. But what does it really mean? And how can you know for sure if you’re more mature now, then say, compared to how you were five years ago?

The Single Litmus Test For Maturity
Is there any way to measure our Christian walk? Some way to quantify it, not for legalistic purposes, but to see if we’re really getting closer to Jesus or just fooling ourselves?

The answer is a resounding yes! We do have practical, relational advice from Scripture. In fact, it all comes down to just one basic thing: How well do we embrace God’s two greatest commandments? The two greatest commandments were deliberately put in this order:

1. Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind.  And
2. Love your neighbor like yourself.

If you do this more and more, you are clearly becoming mature. Indeed, there’s a lot of practical advice from Scripture on the second greatest commandment. But interestingly, not so much on the first one.

So I’ll start with the second commandment. A commandment where we are to love a person we can see, hear and physically touch. But much of this blog will be about unpacking the command that is far more challenging. We know a bit how to love someone who is flesh and blood; a person we can grab hold of and hug. But how do we love a holy, awe inspiring, eternal God? A spirit-being so vastly different from us, that we cannot see, feel or hear him in the same way as our neighbor from across the street.

The Second Greatest Commandment: Are We Maturing in Loving Others?
The Bible lays it out plainly. We’re to love our neighbor like ourselves. We are to give to those in need, pray for our enemies, forgive those who hurt us, and be slow to speak, quick to listen and slow to become angry. We are to bear holy fruit.

As the Apostle Paul writes to us in Galatians 5:22-23:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

None of us can do any of this on our own. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. So to achieve the slightest gains, we must supernaturally press into our relationship with Him for even the smallest things. (Yet another reason why the first commandment is even greater than the second.)

But while many Christians do turn to Jesus when in trouble, they still have no idea if they’re growing or shrinking in their Christian walk. And sadly, some deceive themselves with the love of money and the love of worldly things, so that their love for their neighbor grows cold. Are you too being deceived? Is your love for your neighbor growing? Or just growing cold?

Spot Test To See If You Are Growing or Shrinking in Your Love for Your Neighbor
In general, maturing Christians will identify more and more with the statements in blue and less and less with the statements in red. So how does the new you compare with the you of five years ago?

  • I get more excited to use my $ to bring people together.
  • I get more excited to use my $ to buy new things.
  • These days, I have more connections with different types of people.
  • These days. I have fewer connections because in this crazy world I need to surround myself with people more like me.
  • I get along the same or better with my relatives.
  • I cut off many of my relatives because of their craziness over politics or money.
  • I am less likely to immediately take offense with those who disagree with me.
  • I fight more with others because of their crazy views that don’t make any sense.
  • People come to me with their problems because I measure my words, and am slower to anger and quicker to listen without suddenly blurting out my opinion.
  • People come to me for support when they want to trash other people or vent about politics.
  • My things give me joy but I also like to see others lifted up by them.
  • My things give me joy and I worry I’m going to lose them.
  • As I grow older, I find I have more compassion for people unlike me.
  • As I grow older, I realize I’m glad to live away from those weirdos who vote, think and act unlike me.
  • I pray more for people these days.
  • I pray less for people but more for social causes and political change.
  • When all is said and done, I find I have more peace.
  • When all is said and done I find I have more worry.

The First Greatest Commandment: Loving God
The Bible commands us to love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength. But what does this mean? And how do we know if we are getting any better at this?

As for loving the Lord, Jesus has not left us in the dark here. In James 4:8 He says we’re to draw near to God and God will do likewise with us. Elsewhere Scripture says that we love the Lord by obeying His commands. And in Luke 4:8 we are to worship the Lord our God and serve Him only.  So at the very least, loving God means obeying Him, spending both quality and quantity time with Him and worshiping Him. Jesus Himself says we are to abide in Him.

We are given even more guidance through Israel’s warrior prophet and greatest King. In Psalm 18, King David, a man after God’s own heart says:
I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.  Likewise, David says in Psalm 37:4 that we are to delight ourselves in the Lord and He will give us the desires of our heart.

So loving God also means we are to praise and delight and abide in Him. In my experience, so few Christians know how to do this. After all, how can you praise and delight in someone when you barely know them? Or when you’re far too busy to spend quality time with them?

This is why part of our praise, worship and abiding must involve reading what Scripture says about this wonderful God of ours. If we are to praise and delight in Jesus, we must know more about His personhood. And this means reading more on what the Lord has done, how the Lord describes Himself, what His promises are, and how our King has shown his power and protected his people throughout the millennia.

But God Is Not Like My Neighbor. God is Spirit. So How Can We Possibly Love Him?
Now you may rightfully ask: But God is spirit. Won’t praising and delighting in Him be just another fruitless exercise? Sort of like talking to a window? The answer is NO WAY.

True, unlike our neighbor, God is spirit. But that doesn’t mean God is unknowable. In fact, the Lord wants to be known. Our King actually promises us that when we draw closer to Him, He will supernaturally fill us with His presence! So this is not psychotherapy or some empty exercise. Your prayer and praise time is where you commune with the creator of the cosmos! And when you do this, Jesus empowers you to love Him even more!

As Elizabeth Spencer writes in 7 Ways To Delight Yourself in the Lord, we are to:

  • Get To Know Him
  • Spend Time with Him
  • Take an Interest in Him
  • Think about Him
  • Talk about Him
  • Prioritize Our Relationship with Him and
  • Look Forward To Being with Him

Spot Test To See If You Are Growing in Loving God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength

  • I am praising Him more and more for His kindness, His wisdom, His mercy and His holiness.
  • I am growing more amazed by God’s face, not just His hand.
  • I am falling more in love with the Giver than His gifts.
  • I get excited more and more when I see the Lord working in others.
  • I reserve daily prayer and praise time where I can be with Him without interruption.
  • I yearn more and more for His presence.
  • I get more excited when I read Scripture and see the power, character and Holiness of our Living Eternal God.
  • I want to show people more grace because this is what Jesus does for me.
  • I have a growing desire to please Jesus as I get to know Him better.
  • More and more I realize the amazing grace He shows me every single day.
  • I have a growing desire to abide in Jesus because of who He is and what His plans are.
  • I ask Him how to abide in His presence.
  • I find myself praising Jesus throughout the day, and having impromptu talks with Him.
  • I sing to Him more.
  • I want to please Him more, even when it means putting aside my own wants and plans.
  • I am trusting Him more. (I’m less quick to just do it my way.)
  • I am praising Him more and more throughout the day.
  • I ask Him not just what to do, but how to be.
  • I don’t try to go forward and simply ask for His Blessing. Rather I ask for His perspective.
  • When I read about the Lord in Scripture, I praise Him right then and there.
  • I find myself telling others more and more about what the Lord has done for me, including other Christians who need encouragement.
  • I look for more ways to love and to give, so that my Lord will smile.
  • I am quicker to drop anything or any relationship that comes between me and Jesus.
  • I praise the Lord more and more as I realize how much He loves me, and that apart from Him, I can do NOTHING.
  • More and more, I avoid arguments that would grieve the Holy Spirit and not glorify the Lord.
  • I find myself thanking Him more for refining me, even through my suffering.
  • I am more and more willing to be wronged, than to dishonor the Lord.
  • I am always asking the Lord to empower me so I can love Him and love others. (even when it hurts)
  • I ask the Lord to give me His heart for the things He values most.

Worship Songs

Look What You’ve Done (Tasha Layton)

Made To Love (Toby Mac)

Promised Land (Toby Mac)

Other Blogs

7 Ways to Delight Yourself in the Lord (Elizabeth Spencer)

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