WEEK THREE: HOW DISCIPLES GROW – Stage Four

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This week covered the stages of spiritual growth, the basic characteristics and needs of each stage, and key phrases people in each stage may say.  This week was very helpful to me in showing that discipleship is a process, and just because someone has yet to mature beyond a certain stage, it doesn’t mean that they do not know Jesus.  I also learned where I was in this process, and that even though I may mostly be in one stage, I can still have moments where I may say or do things from a previous stage or even the next stage.  I am still a flawed person in the process of growing, changing, and becoming, and just because I grow, it doesn’t mean I won’t have a bad day, or selfish moments, or a bad attitude at times.

We were cautioned to not fall into the trap of comparing levels of spiritual maturity, and also cautioned to not mistake Bible knowledge, years of church attendance, age, education, etc., for spiritual maturity.  This is a guide to help me discern where people may be in their process based on a relationship with them, in order to help them continue growing.  It’s a tool for growth, not a weapon for judgment.

Stage One:  The Spiritually Dead

Stage Two:  The Spiritual Infant

Stage Three:  The Spiritual Child

Stage Four:  The Spiritual Young Adult

1 John 1:12-13 gives an example of the stages of spiritual maturity.  The terms John uses do not necessarily correspond with the physical age of a believer.

I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name.  I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.  I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.

Children know that Jesus forgave their sins.  Young men have victory over the Devil’s temptations.  Fathers have known Jesus for a long time.

The key characteristic of a spiritual young adult is a God-and-others-centered outlook.  This stage covers a wide span of growth.  Spiritual young adults begin to realize that God shaped them for a purpose, which makes their priorities change, so they begin looking for a place to serve.  They are able to overlook the faults of others as they themselves become more secure in Christ.  They are action-oriented and zealous.

1.  They serve others with joy.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality. – Romans 12:10-13

2.  They are humble and others-centered instead of self-centered.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  – Philippians 2:3-4

3.  They sacrifice for others.

This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. – I John 3:16-18

Spiritual young adults may say things like:

  • “I love my group, but there are others who need a group like this.”
  • “Look how many are at church today – it’s awesome!  I had to walk two blocks from the closest parking spot.”
  • “Randy and Rachel missed group and I called to see if they are okay.  Their kids have the flu, so maybe our group can make meals for them.  I’ll start.”
  • “In my devotions, I came across something I have a question about.”

All phrases are focused on meeting the needs of others, personally growing, and serving, as opposed to focusing on the individual’s own needs and preferences.  As I learn to take my eyes off of myself and seek ways to help others, I will want to do that more and more.  I can cooperate with Christ in changing me by looking for more opportunities to help others, which will lead to an even greater desire to continue serving.

Stage Five:  The Spiritual Parent

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