How do we rightfully pursue spiritual maturity in today’s culture? It’s no secret that we live in a world that conditions us to seek answers to some of life’s most pressing questions through bullet points. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the title of this post and honestly answer the question: “Why did you click through to read it?” Yes, I am sorry; I’m resorting to click bait. However, it is not without purpose.
If you are still reading, I applaud your less than typical propensity to not be easily offended. I further applaud your diligence in choosing to read on.
Before I continue, though, please allow me to explain myself. You see, I am deep into a two-year study of Jonathan Edwards and his 70 resolutions. In tandem, I am applying a “fruits of the spirit” framework. About three-quarters of the way through it, though, I realized I would have been more wise to consider a framework provided by the Apostle Peter.
And from that moment, I’ve become a bit interested in what I’m calling “Biblical Bullets.” The more I have consider them, the more I begin to understand spiritual maturity. I’m sharing a handful here, but I am also aiming to differentiate the Christian conditioning of biblical bullets from the easy steps of the self-help industry.
The self-help industry and big-time bloggers frequently claim they can help us to “Get ABC in X easy steps.” Not surprisingly, the promise that follows is usually something like “for only Y, but if you act NOW, it will only cost Z!”
Sounds great in theory, right? A clear and infallible path to solving this giant thing that has been weighing me down. And best of all, it’s on sale!!! But gee wiz, I gotta act now.
Well, in the wonderful words of Matt Maher, few things (if any) “will fix your life in five easy steps.” But boy do I wish I really could get abs in just six minutes!
Christian conditioning (aka “discipleship” and “spiritual maturity”) is not about a fixed set of easy steps. It’s about lifelong dedication to growing into God’s design for your life. In this regard, you’re seeking after the likeness and character of Jesus Christ. The beloved son of God, in whom the father is well-pleased. (Matthew 3:17)
Within scripture, we receive several Bible bullets and from varying sources. One of the most obvious is the ten commandments (Exodus 20:2-17). Another such list of bullets is the Beatitudes, found in Matthew chapter five. There are many more (feel free to point them out), but for now, I’ll share just four.
Bible Bullets for Spiritual Maturity and Discipleship
Fruits of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23
Fruit results from seeds that are planted in fertile soil and receive proper nurturing. Those seeds sprout, mature, and bear fruit. In essence, they become a visible representation of life well-lived. It is this fact that led me to first categorize Edwards’ resolutions according to this list. However, my doing so, I now realize, was more a matter of wanting them to fit than it was an effective fitting.
Petrine Disciplines – 2 Peter 1:3,5-7
Second Peter puts a focus on the ways God empowers his people. In his grace, he equips and provisions us with all that we need. Developing, therefore, according to his commands is our means of cooperating with and participating in his plan. As Peter shows, it begins with faith. We must then add knowledge to our faith, followed up with self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Having studied the resolutions as I now have, I find this set of Bible bullets to be a more fitting framework for them.
However, much like the Fruits of the Spirit, Jesus, in Matthew 13:31-32, shares that disciplines mature in us like seeds. Just like God’s people, seeds are complete but not yet developed. And just like seeds, if we develop in accord with God’s will, our fruit is visible and of benefit to the world we inhabit, glorifying our God in the process.
Faith Triumphs – Romans 5:1-5
With Romans 5:1-5, we see an illustration of the justified life, which includes peace, hope, suffering, and love. As Matthew Henry says, this Bible bullet list shows, “the happy effects of justification through faith in the righteousness of Christ.”
Justification removes guilt from our sin-filled lives, giving way to peace through Christ. This, of course, brings hope. A hope for the enduring glory of God. Yet, a path of discipleship is not without tribulation and suffering. It is not a perfect life in a few simple steps. It requires effort, perseverance, and constant reconnection of our personal faith.
The Way of Love and Charity – 1 Cor. 13
Finally, let us remember the character of love. In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul takes a full chapter to pontificate on the subject. Here it is noteworthy that the King James version translates the word used for “love” as “charity.” I’ve written on why that might be in this post. Early church leaders modeled this attitude for their flock, and the flock then took that attitude into the rest of the world for all to see. Charitable love is a powerful expression of God’s people.
Some examples include Timothy and Erastus serving the church (Acts 19-22), Aquila and Priscilla risking their lives to serve Paul and the Gentiles (Romans 16:3-4), and Epaphras serving the Colossian church (Col. 1:7). This, of course is a small list of what is many, but it soundly proves the point.
Fixing Your Life in 10-Billion Easy (and Not-So-Easy) Steps
I delivered a Father’s Day sermon in 2018. It’s been on my mind since the moment God revealed some profound realities that changed almost every aspect of the message I had planned. I’ve continued to build upon it as God has led me and I have pondered Edwards’ resolutions.
I am convinced that we’ve watered down what it means to pursue a purpose-filled, refining life. We’ve diluted the kingdom of God and short circuited genuine discipleship. Instead of diligently studying as students of Jesus, we’re scratching lotto tickets, casting stones, and perhaps thinking our eternal diploma will be graded on a curve.
Final Thoughts and Next Steps for Reclaiming Discipleship
We’ve foolishly raced to the bottom and – as a friend from my church describes it – established a “necessary minimum.” Unfortunately, we’ve progressively lowered the threshold for what constitutes that necessary minimum.
So I’m aiming for a 2020 release of a new yet-to-be-titled book that will expound upon all this. Not once will it promise to fix anything in a few easy steps. What it will do, though, is provide newfound perspective on what it means to gain spiritual maturity as you walk with God, provoke a higher aim in your personal discipleship, and help you better consider the legacy you’ll leave on the day God calls you home.
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Chad Gramling is a author and historian who's “refining life, on purpose.” He regularly blogs about his experiences and how God is leading him at <a href="htt;?/1glories.com">1Glories.com</a>. Connect with him on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/1Glories">@1Glories</a> or <a href="Facebook.com/1Glories">Facebook.com/1Glories</a>