A Good Place to Start

Photo by Ian D. Keating

Have we missed what spiritual maturity looks like? That was the question I asked last week. I have been processing that question for months now, and as I shared last week, I feel as though we have missed it. Sadly, the culture in our churches have relegated spiritual maturity to knowledge. If spiritual maturity is not measured by how much we know about God, then how should spiritual maturity be measured? Last week, my simple answer was this: Jesus. If we want to have a picture of what spiritual maturity looks like, we should look no further than Jesus himself. He lived a life free from sin and in complete communion with the Father. The question then is how do we imitate Jesus and become more like him?

Let’s Start By Loving God

‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.’
— Matthew 22:36-38

After you read the subtitle of this section and then the Scripture passage below it, you might be saying, “Oh okay. I know that. What else?” My impression is that Jesus got the same reaction. Jesus was not telling the crowd around him anything differently than what they had heard before. The Jews would have been familiar with the command to love God. The first four Ten Commandments speak about loving and honoring God (Exodus 20:1-11; Deuteronomy 5:1-15). In Matthew 22, Jesus almost quotes verbatim Deuteronomy 6:5 which states, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” So, if Jesus was simply restating what everyone already knew, what was he actually saying?

I think Jesus was reminding the people around him that it’s pretty simple. Do you want to follow the Law or live your life the way God intended? Then love God. Sadly, the people had forgotten what God desired. While God wants all of us to live our lives in a particular way, we do so not just to follow the rules but because in following God’s ways we demonstrate our love and devotion to him. 

How Are We Supposed to Love God?

How are we supposed to love God again? Jesus says we should love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Simply put, we must love God with all of ourselves. Our love for God should equate to a full surrender to him and his ways. 

Let me suggest that we love God when we do two things: Flee from sin and pursue him. The reality is that God and sin do not and cannot mix. Therefore if we are going to love God we must flee from sin and pursue him. I love my wife. My love for my wife is more than mere words or thought. My love is displayed in my actions. Part of the way I display my love for my wife is by not doing things she does not like. My love for my wife leads me to do simple things like not leave the toilet seat up to significant actions like not cheating on her. Our love for God is very much like my love for my wife. Because we love God, we choose to live our lives in a particular way. 

The Bible often talks about sin. In many of Paul’s letters he has lists of sins and behaviors that should not characterize Christians (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5; Romans 13:13; Colossians 3:5-10). While the sins on these lists should be avoided, we also have those sins that we know we personally struggle with. Each of us need to put things in our lives to help us avoid sin. We also need to live in a state of repentance. As those who have been redeemed by God, our posture before God should always be one of repentance before God. When we do commit sin, our first reaction should be repent to God and those we’ve sinned against. 

Loving God, however, is not just about sin; it’s also about pursuing God. What in your life draws you closer to God. There are probably countless activities that help you cultivate a love for God. Throughout church history, people have carried out the spiritual disciplines in their pursuit of God (for a brief definition of the spiritual disciplines check out this post). Things like Bible reading, prayer, fasting, church attendance, service, and other activities have helped people grow in their love for God. Let’s go back to my wife briefly. Because I love my wife, I desire to spend time with her and get to know her more. So, I’ll do things to spend more time with her. For instance, we will go on dates, have dinner with one another, and talk. I do all of these things not begrudgingly but because I love her. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes we miss dates or sometimes we have trouble communicating regularly and clearly. But my heart is still to pursue her. What do you have in your life that is allowing you to pursue God? Are you reading Scripture, praying, attending Sunday morning worship gatherings? Hear me out! Let’s not do these things as a legalistic way to earn God’s love. Let’s practice these disciplines because they are tools to help us pursue God. 

Do you want to be a spiritually mature person? Start by loving God. Love God by fleeing from sin and pursuing God.

Check out our first post on Spiritual Maturity: