One of the major features of the Christian faith is the teaching that the believer must never stop growing in knowledge, wisdom and character. This development can be summed up in one word – maturity. Therefore the goal of every true believer is to be mature, like Jesus Christ. It would have been difficult if there was no standard available to measure ones progress but the Epistle to the Galatians by the Apostle Paul provided a road map that Christians can use to determine if there is evidence of Christian life, growth and discipleship. The marks of maturity that can be found in this epistle are called the fruit of the Spirit and the true believers must endeavor to see these evidences in their lives.
One of the major features of the Christian faith is the exhortation that the believers must grow in their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that mere confession of belief is simply just the beginning. Membership in the body of Christ – more popularly known as the Church – requires the yearning to be mature. Thus, the believer could not afford to simply forget about his faith because once he has made his intentions known that he wanted to be a part of this family then he or she must begin the long journey ahead. It is a life journey that will help the person be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ’s character.
It has been made clear that end goal is to be like Christ but this change does not happen in a twinkling of an eye. It is a laborious process requiring faithfulness as well as the discipline needed to undergo the discipleship process. This is also achieved through delegated authority. The shepherds of the flock are in reality under the only true Shepherd which is Jesus Christ but they are given the authority and the responsibility to take care of His sheep and lambs until his return to planet earth.
The process of discipleship aims to produce mature Christians who will be pleasing in the eyes of God as well as being ready for service in His kingdom. It would have been very difficult if Jesus left earth without giving specific instructions with regards to the process of maturity. But thankfully there were instructions relayed through the apostles that can be sued to help a Christian become mature in his faith in the Lord. One of the more helpful verses dealing with marks of maturity can be found in Galatians 5: 22-23 where the Apostle Paul listed down the fruit of the Spirit:
Self-control (New International Version).
It is very much helpful when the Apostle Paul referred to the marks of maturity as the fruit of the Holy Spirit. This gives the believer two important ideas about the so-called marks of maturity. First, it is not achieved through human willpower. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. The second most important thing that one must remember regarding Galatians 5:22-23 is the fact that there must be a basic knowledge of the Spirit of God and at the same time there must be collaboration with the Spirit to allow Him to work inside the heart and mind of the Christian.
Moreover, the Scriptures did not disappoint when it comes to providing a contrast so that the believer will have some sort of a guide to help him or her realize if the Holy Spirit is not working in them. So in the same epistle the Apostle Paul pointed out the effect of the absence of the fruit of the Spirit and these are: a) sexual immorality; b) impurity; c) idolatry; d) witchcraft; e) hatred; f) discord; g) fits of rage; h) selfish ambition; i) dissensions; j) factions; k) envy; l) drunkenness; and m) orgies (New International Version). There is no mistaking the absence of the Holy Spirit’s work in the person because the following sinful marks are very much obvious.
In the aforementioned list there are at least three major marks of maturity that require serious study. The first one is love. A person can be happy and kind without having reached maturity in his or her walk in Christ. The unbeliever can even appear deliriously happy and at the same time show signs of being a “good” person yet this is not the true sign of maturity. Therefore one of the important standards that one has reached maturity in Christ Jesus is love. The ability to love one’s neighbor is difficult to do. A person can be nice but deep inside there is an intense struggle with regards to loving his or her neighbor. Loving another person requires the work of the Spirit because it would be impossible through human effort alone.
Love is different from like. Liking someone is different from loving the same person. Love requires tremendous sacrifice because love only becomes operational if the other person has nothing to give and nothing to offer in exchange for expressing unconditional love. This is the reason why it is on top of the list when talking about the marks of maturity. The believer who learns how to love is following in the footsteps of Christ because he is the one who demonstrated what it is like to love someone that is unable to repay the gesture. Jesus did this by dying on the cross for those who are his enemies.
Aside from love, another important mark of maturity is peace. Love is used to show the world what Jesus is like – that he is full of love. The person who has peace on the other hand tells the world what is like if someone has a personal relationship with the Lord. The one who has peace does not only experience tranquility in his life but also the assurance that God is with him and that there is nothing in this world that can harm him without the express consent of the Lord. Peace is important because the believer who possessed this mark of maturity can help a world full of anxious and despairing people.
Finally, the third mark of maturity is self-control. The absence self-control in the life of a person will allow him or her to commit evil deeds that will surely be regretted at the end. With the help of self-control the Christian believer can refrain from doing things that lead to a destructive path. Self-control is the main evidence that the person is not led by lust but led by the Spirit of God. Self-control is something that every believer should desire because it will enable the Christian to accomplish greater things.
There are other marks of maturity that can be found in Scriptures but the book of Galatians offered a clear description with regards to what a believer must expect when it comes to determining if he or she is growing in his walk with the Lord. The marks of maturity that can be found in Galatians are particularly helpful because Apostle Paul framed it by saying that it is the fruit of the Spirit. Therefore, no one can boast that it is through his willpower that he was able to develop love, peace and self-control. It was made very clear that apart from the Spirit of God maturity would be impossible and that no one will be able to become Christ-like – the ultimate standard for Christian maturity.