HOW DOES ONE KNOW IF HE OR SHE IS MATURING IN THE WORD OF GOD?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Recently, a Christian asked me how she could discern if she was growing in the Word of God. In this Bible article, I provide you with the highlights of the information I shared with her. Remember, this concerns Christians. This is not written to non-Christians. Non-Christians reading this should stop now and trust Jesus Christ alone as their personal Saviour. Christ died for their sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). God wants to see lost people trust His Son right now, exclusively. They cannot grow in the Bible if they are not first saved in Christ Jesus! Once they trust Christ, then they can proceed to the counsel contained herein. For those of us who are Christians, we continue!
Friend, wherever you are in your Christian life right now—whether you trusted Christ a few seconds, days, or weeks ago, or you trusted Christ several decades ago—you have much more learning to do in the Bible. Furthermore, just because someone has been a Christian for 50 years does not necessarily mean they are mature in Scripture. Just because they have read the Bible for 50 years does not necessarily mean they are mature in Scripture. In fact, if much or all of that time was spent in denominationalism, it is extremely unlikely that he or she is mature in the Bible. Why? Denominations do not encourage spiritual growth in the Bible. Rather, they encourage indoctrination with the theology that the denominational hierarchy approves. This is a select group of verses combined with church tradition (regardless of denomination). Such erroneous information is useless in the purpose and program of God. It profits the Christian nothing.
Having dealt firsthand with people regarding the Scriptures for over 10 years now, I can honestly say there are so many Christians who are simply not mature in the Bible. Maybe they have grown in Scripture, but not much. Precious few are growing steadily. Some have not grown at all. How have I reached these conclusions? On what basis did I form these evaluations? I will show the standards by which you can evaluate yourself and others with whom you come in contact. It is surely to be enlightening!
Before we begin, think about a simple illustration. Consider the maturity process in the physical world. For example, very young children find noisy vehicles zooming by fascinating. So, they will innocently approach busy streets to “have fun” investigating. Of course, they are unaware of the dangers. Supervising adults must warn these children to stay away from those hectic streets. However, these children will eventually gain enough knowledge about such dangers. As they mature, they will reach a point where they no longer need to be told about unsafe roadways. A child is maturing when he or she begins to think on his or her own. They will know by themselves to stay away from them. They have learned by experience (enough warnings, and/or injuries) to avoid busy roads. Eventually, they no longer need people to tell them what else is right and what else is wrong, and what else is dangerous and what else is safe. They have matured concerning a wide range of situations. Rather than relying on others to guide them, they will become more independent. Finally, they will have children of their own, and they can teach their children all about hazards. The cycle continues with new generations. Bring this illustration into the spiritual world.
First, consider Hebrews 5:11-14: “ Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.  For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.  For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
A “babe” in Scripture is someone who cannot teach the Bible to others. Unable to function on their own spiritually, they have to first be taught Bible basics. Indeed, they cannot handle deeper Bible truths. They are “unskilful in the word of righteousness.” The contrast is a mature person, one of “full age,” an individual who has progressed from “milk” (liquid) to “strong meat” (solid food). That person is described as “by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Unlike the baby, the adult has the ability to judge what is good and what is evil. The adult has not only been instructed, but has also had firsthand experience. As the writer of Hebrews lamented, the nation Israel found themselves, not as spiritual adults, but as spiritual babies. They could not teach the Gentiles the Word of God, for they (Israel) could not even understand the simple things of God. May we learn from Israel’s mistake!
In my own Christian life and ministry, I have become increasingly aware of what is right and what is wrong. Through careful study of the Scriptures, and personal application of them in my life, I can evaluate situations and doctrines I once did not and could not understand. When I trusted Jesus Christ as my Saviour 21 years ago, I only knew the Gospel of Grace. Today, I know much more about prayer, Bible versions, heaven versus earth, salvation in Christ, the Holy Spirit, Satan’s policy evil, angels, the nation Israel, Jesus Christ, Father God, mankind, sin, the Church the Body of Christ, creation, Paul’s special ministry to us Gentiles, et cetera. There was a drastic increase in my understanding of the Scriptures nine years ago, when I was introduced to dispensational Bible study. With every passing year, I have grown more comfortable with Bible passages with which I used to struggle. I can better explain Bible topics of which I knew little to nothing years ago.
When you find yourself teaching others, and they understand, that is a sign that you have matured in the Word of God. Not only have you learned the doctrine (one major point in maturity), you can teach it to others (another major point of maturity). Once they learn the doctrine and teach others, they have matured too. Every time you read a particular verse, or research a particular Bible theme, you “connect-the-dots” just a little more in your mind. You believe them in your heart and your soul is strengthened. You notice truths in “familiar” verses you never noticed before. You begin to connect those truths with other verses you read elsewhere. The “big picture” may come together. You begin to “network” all sorts of verses. What took you five minutes to explain is now 10 minutes. You can provide additional details for people you yourself did not know before. If you take Bible study notes, you can look at them days, weeks, months, or years later and say, “Hey, I know so much more about that topic that I could write double that now!” (I find myself saying that!)
SIGNS OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Here are 12 indicators that you can use to evaluate your Christian life:
- You have a better understanding of Jesus Christ crucified than you did when you first trusted Him. Now you know that Gospel by its Scriptural titles—“Paul’s Gospel” (Romans 2:16; Romans 16:25; 2 Timothy 2:8) and “the Gospel of the Grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Not only do you know that Jesus Christ saved you from hell, but now you understand that He saved you for a purpose. You have become a member of the Church the Body of Christ, able to function in the heavenly places in the ages to come for His glory.
- You can explain/teach the above Gospel of Grace to others in a clear manner. You can share that Good News with lost people that they may be saved unto eternal life. You can also share that Good News with other Christians that they may understand why they were saved unto eternal life. As time passes, these experiences will cause you to better explain the Gospel every time.
- Mysterious or problematic Bible verses have become clearer, although not entirely clear yet. You at least begin to see how Israel’s verses and the Body of Christ’s verses are different and must remain separate. (More study is required.)
- You can explain/teach those mysterious or problematic Bible verses to others, although not necessarily fully. (More study is required).
- Mysterious or problematic Bible verses are now quite easy to understand. You no longer have any difficulty with them. You may now find them enjoyable and eventually consider them “familiar friends.” (Though more study will not hurt. More study may make those verses even easier.)
- You can easily explain/teach those mysterious or problematic Bible verses to others in an understandable manner. (Though more study will not hurt. More study may make those verses even easier to teach.)
- Your prayer-life and behavior will be drastically different. Rightly-divided Bible verses applicable to various life situations will come to you on a daily basis. The more verses that come to mind, the more mature you have become. The more verses you apply by faith, the more mature you have become!
- You have stopped committing certain sins (given up bad habits, for example). Please understand that you will never stop sinning in this life. Sinlessness is impossible while we live in these bodies of fallen flesh. We will be sinless in heaven! Still, God’s grace should change how we live, that we better reflect Jesus Christ!
- Actions you never thought of as sins will suddenly grab your attention. You have a greater awareness exactly what actions of yours are sins.
- Once living for “self,” you find yourself seeking the benefits of others—especially your brothers and sisters in Christ! You particularly will cease behaving in ways that make you a “stumbling-block” to other Christians. Never, EVER pursue your own selfish desires if it means destroying the edification of a fellow believer!
- You find yourself preaching to lost people—no longer in hate or contentiousness, but because you know they are going to hell and you love them too much not to warn them! You find yourself teaching other Christians—no longer in hate or contentiousness, but because you know they are trapped in Satan’s snare of false doctrine and you love them too much not to warn them!
- Finally, if the Word of God grips your heart mightily enough, and you yield to it by faith, you may go on to become a Bible teacher or a bishop or deacon (men only). Women can serve other women, of course, as well as children. NOTE: Becoming a church leader is not always a sign of maturity. I know plenty of “ministers” who are just as ignorant of Scripture and who live just as sinful as (or worse than) church members sitting in the pew. True spiritual maturity is when one becomes a church leader who is able to lead others to spiritual maturity. Immature church leaders are incapable of this; they need to be taught before they can teach others, sadly.
SOME CLOSING REMARKS
Even though we are mature in the Scriptures, that does not mean we stop maturing. No one can ever say they have “learned all there is to know in the Bible.” In the physical life, a young adult can be considered mature (adult) but yet his or her body will continually strengthen and his or her mind will continually grow. As Paul the Apostle himself confessed in Philippians 3:12-16, there is always more room for learning.
“ Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.  Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.”
If you want to see the drastic difference between immature Christians and mature Christians, read the two books of Corinthians and then read the two books of Thessalonians. The Corinthians were the most carnal (fleshly, worldly) Christians in all the Bible. Their lives were such a reproach to Jesus Christ! In stark contrast, the Thessalonians were the most spiritual (Holy-Spirit-led) Christians in all the Bible. They were faithful in the edification process—willingly studying Scripture and applying the grace doctrines by faith. Dear saint, where are you? A Corinthian? Or, a Thessalonian? Only you can answer that. Take time to evaluate your Christian life. Consider the 12 points presented earlier. It is your choice to let Jesus Christ have more reign in your life.