I remember when I was an adolescent overhearing my grandma talking to my parents about my immaturity. I would probably have been more wounded had I understood what they were talking about.
When adults assess a teen’s maturity like that, they’re usually talking about his social maturity.
What about his spiritual maturity, though; how do you assess growth there? Jean Piaget gave us models for
cognitive and social development – scales by which to assess such abstractions. But ask the average parents about their child’s spiritual maturity and they may struggle to find such a scale.
Churches and religious leaders try to fill in the blanks. “Love God, love others,” was my church’s motto, boldly affixed to the sign out front. I’ll bet your church has had something similar on its sign.
You can pick your own path or model for getting to spiritual maturity:
“Be more disciplined!”
“Walk in freedom!”
“Get a seminary education.”
“Work in an orphanage.”
Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matt. 7:20) But does that mean an emphasis on fruit of the Spirit or outward fruit?
The subject of spiritual growth is fuzzy. Am I behind or ahead? Should I work harder or relax?
like to suggest that a person’s growth in the spirit correlates to their ability to wield authority. I see
four realms in which we all have the opportunity to wield spiritual
authority. We’re not necessarily more mature because we have authority
in one realm as opposed to another. But if you have authority in all
four of the realms, then you have certainly grown spiritually.
Where does authority come from? In
the first chapter of the Bible, God delegated spiritual authority. We
humans lost it, and he’s been looking to help us get it back ever since.
He told Adam to “take dominion,” meaning, “exercise authority over a given realm.” We
need to understand the realms where God wants us to take dominion.
Ephesians 6:12 says “We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood
enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world.”
a hike with some guys last summer, I first sensed God speaking to me
about four different levels or realms where we’re called to wield spiritual authority. This is where the “authorities of the unseen world” contest us for dominion.
1. Self – Keeping your heart pure, devoted, and passionate. Keeping your head
free from lies, Maintaining your priorities and key relationships.
2. Family – Those you are committed to love for life – those people you’ve
permanently taken into your heart. Sons, daughters, spouses, and parents
plus others God has given you.
3. Tribe – Your community of friends who share your spiritual DNA, who encourage
you and call out greatness in you. You may covenant with them to share
life and to do your dreams together.
4. Kingdom – God’s rule and reign on this earth. He cares for all people and
especially targets the widow, the orphan, the sick and the oppressed. He expects
his followers to bring hope to them.
can advance in our ability to exercise authority in a new realm by experimenting. These experiments often take the form
of journeys like the one that Jesus sent his disciples on in Luke 10.
Going on spiritual journeys can be a great way to accelerate the growing
process. This is why short-term missions are so important – when done as Jesus did his, they help us make significant spiritual growth steps.
understood that we have to practice taking authority. If you’ve not
wielded authority before, it may not feel natural. You may feel awkward –
all of us need practice. When Jesus sent his disciples on separate
journeys in Luke 9 and 10, he gave them spiritual authority and told
them to practice using it. He gave them authority over demons and
authority to heal. He knew they needed small-scale journeys to
experiment with wielding it.
As you periodically take stock of your life, you may be happy with the way you’ve grown in a given realm. Perhaps you experienced regular attacks of self-doubt and fear while growing up. But now you’re confident in who God made you to be.
If you hear a lie floating through your mind, it’s easy for you to exercise spiritual authority in that realm and dismiss it. It’s a thrill to experience spiritual growth like that.
The question is, how much authority do you have in the realm of the family? And do you have a tribe of people that has your back? Or have you begun to understand what Jesus calls “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom”? Matthew 13:11
If not, don’t settle for less. There’s much more that God wants to give you if you’ll reach for it.