And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
God didn't just save us so we could go to heaven. And He didn't just save us so we could live "our best life now" and be prosperous, healthy, blessed, comfortable, and happy. There's nothing wrong with those things and it's great when God blesses us with good things. He definitely does that for His children who are truly following Him. But God saved us also so we could become more like Jesus, more like Him. He saved us so we would grow spiritually into strong, mature, believers who would be ambassadors for Him in this fallen world.
Yet so many Christians are still in the baby phase. They go to church, even read the Bible and pray, but they never mature in their walk with the Lord.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 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 Ephesians 4:14-15
So, how can you tell whether you've grown up spiritually or not? Here are some great qualities which may help determine where you are and where you need to be. Now, if you're a new Christian, I wouldn't expect you to be in the advanced stages, but if you've walked with the Lord for 20-30 years, and you find yourself in the "child" phase, there might be a problem. This is not meant to condemn anyone or make you feel bad. My purpose is to help people see where they are and realize their need to keep pressing forward.... to fully submit to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to do His work in their hearts.
Babies in Christ
Ignorant - A babe in Christ does not know the Bible well (yet). This person doesn't quite yet know right from wrong. He or she is still somewhat in the world. They may still curse, overindulge in food and alcohol, and be easily swayed this way and that by various doctrines and fads. They will not yet know how to do battle spiritually, nor will they understand what books, movies, tv etc.. things they should avoid
Irritability - Babies are easily spoiled and hence become irritable when they don't get their way. They need lots of reassurance and comfort constantly. They are easily frustrated, easily distracted, and easily hurt.
Fickle Faith - Their faith is not yet strong so when things don't go the way they expect or God doesn't answer their prayers, they get mad and either go pout or turn away from God altogether.
Unsteadiness - children are not dependable. You ask them to do something and they either rebel or start doing it and get distracted, or they forget. This person may start volunteering at something but then quit. He or she may arrange meetings, but never show or always show up late. You basically cannot count on them.
Curiosity - this person is always poking his or her nose into places they shouldn't. They tend toward gossip and want to know everything about other people.
Talkativeness - This person loves to talk about themselves. They just love to talk! They talk about everything, including portraying themselves as experts on the things of God. They also tend toward talking about other peoples' faults when they aren't present. They complain about the way church is run, the pastor, or how they were treated by so and so.
Insecure - this person gets easily offended by other people's words or actions. They don't easily forgive and they often hold grudges and want revenge. They keep a record of all wrongs done to them and wallow in their own self-pity. They have a temper
Weak in faith - this person doesn't quite know the Bible yet. They know enough to quote it out of context and be dangerous, but they don't know it well enough. Therefore, they are easily tossed and turned by various fads and doctrines and can even be persuaded to give up their faith and head down another path
Minimal fruit - This person may be beginning to exhibit some fruit of the Spirit, but not much of it and not all the time (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.)
Not led by the Holy Spirit - This person may hear from the Holy Spirit on occasion, but they rarely recognize His voice. Hence, they normally do not obey. They would prefer to make their own decisions, anyway, and not have God tell them what to do. They, therefore, run headlong into major life decisions that normally cause them trouble and pain. Then they blame God.
Still lured by sin - Sin still has its appeal to the child in Christ. They struggle daily with temptation for things like cheating, lying, greed, hatred, bitterness, pornography, and bigger things like fornication or adultery.
Not looking for Jesus's return - this person is still too in love with the world to want to leave. End times has no interest for them because it scares them.
Little power in Spiritual Battle. - this person may know enough about satan and demons to be dangerous, but he or she is still afraid of them and doesn't have the faith to do battle and win.
Esteems Earthly things lightly - this person's faith as grown to the point that they feel like an alien on this Earth. They know they are just passing through and their real citizenship is in heaven. Hence, they don't really care for the pleasures and riches and things of this world, but their entire focus is on pleasing God. This person has no trouble tithing his time and money to the Lord well above any 10% requirement.
Deadness to both praise or criticism - this person neither gets puffed up by praise or upset at criticism. Their only concern is what the Lord thinks of them. Mankind's praise means nothing, nor does his censure. They don't upset when insulted, treated harshly or even persecuted unfairly.
Not easily flustered - when disaster strikes, this person doesn't get upset but immediately turns to God in prayer.
Knows the Word of God - this person has memorized Scripture and read the Bible so many times, they know it more than they know anything else.
Knows how to do battle - this person is confident of his or her place of authority in Jesus over all the powers of the enemy and has done battle successfully.
All the Fruits of the Spirit are evident
Led by the Holy Spirit on a daily basis - The mature Christian hears the voice of God, recognizes it, and instantly obeys. (Most of the time. I'm not saying this person is perfect)
Ability to recognize God at work - This person will recognize God working in most every situation around them. In particular he or she will trust God even when going through very difficult times, knowing that God is at work for a good purpose.
Watching and praying for the Lord's return - this person is so in love with Jesus that they are constantly watching for signs of His return. They can't wait to escape this world and be with Him.
Sin as little to no appeal - Sin disgusts the mature in Christ. They not only hate it when it appears within them, but they hate it when they see it in the world. They no longer want to do the sinful things they used to do. Rather they abhor those things.
Walks in Love - this is the ultimate test of a mature man or woman of God. God is love and if we walk with Him and grow like Him, then we must also walk in His kind of love. What is His kind of love? From 1 Corinthians 13 (Amplified version)
- Endures with patience and serenity
- Is kind and thoughtful
- Is not jealous or envious
- does not brag
- is not proud or arrogant
- is not rude or self-seeking
- is not overly-sensitive or easily angered
- does not keep an account of a wrong endured
- does not rejoice at an injustice
- rejoices in the truth
- bears all things (no matter what comes)
- believes all things (looks for the best in everyone)
- hopes all things (remains steadfast in difficult times)
- endures all things (and grows stronger through it)
When any of us can walk daily in this kind of love, we have truly reached spiritual maturity. I'm not there yet. Some days, I'm far from it... but like Paul ....
I press on toward the goal to win the heavenly prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature [pursuing spiritual perfection] should have this attitude. Philippians 3:13-15
(Parts of the information in this post taken from Kenneth Hagin's book Growing up Spiritually)