Paul wrote to the churches he planted to urge them towards progress and spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is a mark of a disciple-maker, so how does that practically manifest in our lives today? In three short verses, Paul gives us a list of characteristics of spiritually mature disciples.
Love for God and People
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more…” (Phil 1:9)
Not only is love the foundation for the two greatest commandments (Matt 22:37-40), it is also what Jesus said would be the easiest way to spot a true follower (John 13:35).
Paul says that love should abound. Is there an excess, an overflowing, a running-over of your love for God and others?
“…in knowledge and depth of insight…” (Phil 1:9)
Mature Christians are growing in their knowledge of the Word every day. They see it as the GPS for their lives (Ps 119:105).
Disciple-makers are also consistently growing in their knowledge of God. Understand the difference in knowing about God and actually knowing God. Knowledge of the Bible is academic, but knowledge of God is experiential.
Moses had a knowledge of God that was unrivaled in all the Bible (Ex 33:18). King David’s search to know God resembled an animal’s search for water in the desert (Ps 42:1-2).
“…so that you may be able to discern what is best…” (Phil 1:10)
Mature disciples use God’s Word as a tool for spiritual discernment in their lives (Heb 5:13-14). They do not just hear it on Sunday or in their small group; rather, they are immersing themselves in it daily to gain the wisdom they need to navigate life.
Christians use spiritual discernment to determine if something is beneficial to their calling to make disciples, or if it is going to serve as a distraction (1 Cor 10:23).
Character and Integrity
“…and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,” (Phil 1:10)
Pure (inner attitude and motives) and blameless (outward behaviors and words) are attributes of mature Christians. Without righteousness, even our prayers become powerless and ineffective (James 5:16). Paul is not referring to perfection, but to the ongoing journey of sanctification.
Filled with Fruitful Works
“…filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—” (Phil 1:11)
Mature Christians live lives full of fruit. Occasional results are not the mark of a dedicated disciple; a consistent lifestyle of impact is (Gal 5:22-23). So how can we produce such results? It comes first and foremost through abiding in Christ (John 15:4-5). In the Kingdom strategy, abiding leads to producing.
Bringing Glory to God
“…to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:11)
Mature disciples live a life for the glory of God. Jesus said our lives would be marked by this (John 15:8) and that it would result in others giving glory to God as well (Matt 5:16).
Instead of being like the Pharisees who sought to receive all of the honor for their actions, mature disciples leverage every aspect of their lives to bring God glory (1 Cor 10:31).
Spiritual maturity shows through loving God and others, deep knowledge, spiritual discernment, character and integrity, being filled with fruitful works, and bringing all glory to God. We are all still a work in progress, so keep growing every day.