The Navy loves metrics. We love to be able to quantify data and it is even better if we can put it on a fancy PowerPoint slide. Of course, there is value in getting a clear picture of how we are doing.
When it comes to spiritual maturity, it gets a little more difficult. I don’t think any of us want to go to church and have a PowerPoint slide quantifying our spiritual growth. Our picture would be in one corner and a couple of graphs would fill the rest of the slide. “Well it looks like Paul wasn’t as effective this week. He only took 7 of 15 opportunities to show the love of Jesus.”
Our dilemma is there is value in looking at our spiritual maturity from time to time. It can also be very helpful for new Christians to have some tangible goals and ways to measure if they are on the right track.
I had the opportunity to attend a Bible Study that looked at 2 Peter 1. In the passage is an incredible list that I think really captures spiritual maturity in a very fundamental way. I offer it as a way for you to do a quick check up and see how you are doing.
Here is the passage (2 Peter 1:5-7)
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (NIV)
If you took the seven items on this list and used them as a measuring stick with the first item, goodness, being the lowest level of spiritual maturity and the last item, love, being the highest level of spiritual maturity I think you will get a good snap shot of how you are doing. This isn’t the whole story and please don’t use this on others. Simply ask yourself where you are at.
Here is our scale:
1. Goodness. One of the best things we can tell a new believer to do is to do good things and stop doing bad. In Luke chapter three when people who repented asked John the Baptist what should they do, he gave them simple tasks. He told people to share and tax collectors to stop taking extra money and soldiers to stop extorting people. These were simple basic acts. We also see this in the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19). The first thing he did when he understood what Jesus had given him was to pay back those he had wronged and give to help others. It is a great starting point and the first step on this chart.
2. Knowledge. The next thing we do as we mature is start reading our Bible and learning about our relationship with God. We also learn why we are doing the good things from step one.
3. Self-control. As we learn we become aware of areas we need to change and things we need to stop doing. This requires discipline and self-control. When we start having self-control, we start to see growth and maturity at a deeper level.
4. Perseverance. You know if you have self-control when you see you are having to persevere. Asking someone on a diet how they are doing day two verses asking them how they are doing after week two tells you if they were serious about the diet. At this point in our spiritual maturity the rubber is hitting the road. Our faith is deepening and we are finding ourselves focused on the long haul.
5. Godliness. The next step is to have a sense of devotion and loyalty to God. Our character is is being changed to be more in the likeness of Jesus. The things that are important to God are important to us.
6. Kindness. When it comes to things that are important to God, humanity is very high on the list. How we view other people and our desire to help those around us deepens to the point of being our very nature. We no longer ask “should I help this person?” Instead, we ask “how can help this person?”
7. Love. This is unconditional love. We love to throw around the word love. The best way to understand this love is to compare the love of someone who has been married for a year to someone who has been married for fifty years. Both truly love their spouse but trust me the one who has been married for fifty years has a much deeper understanding of what means to love unconditionally.
So how are you doing? Are you doing good things but have not progressed beyond that and really learned about your faith? Are the things of God important to you but when it comes to others you are not very kind?
This is not all encompassing or the only way to look at it. However, I do hope it helps you pause do a quick check up and challenges you to continue to grow and mature in your faith.