Who comes to mind when you think of someone who is spiritually mature?
Welcome to “Inside The Cup Podcast” with Mike and Holly Walsh
Season 1: “How to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself”
Episode 8: “What is Spiritual Maturity?”
If we’re talking about “spiritually maturity,” it’s a matter of the “spirit.” The spirit is the same thing as the heart, or the will. So, if we’re talking about somebody who is spiritually mature, they would be mature in terms of their heart, or their will.
Mike and Holly discuss some misconceptions around the idea of who would be a spiritually mature person, and then define spiritual maturity as, “the degree I have my will submitted to God’s will.” Practically, this comes down to choosing what God wants, and thinking about what God wants us to think about.
Mike and Holly discuss how spiritual maturity is the preliminary step towards inner character transformation, and that this essential step cannot by skipped. If we do skip it, we will remain stuck in our spiritual journey, unable to progress further.
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What is Spiritual Maturity? | Episode 8, (06/30/22)
Season 1: How to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
Holly: Welcome back to Inside The Cup Podcast. This week we will finish our discussion on the heart by talking about spiritual maturity. So, what is spiritual maturity Mike?
Mike: You hear the phrase “spiritual maturity,” what comes to mind? I mean, who would you think of if you’re thinking of somebody you know in your life that you would say is spiritually mature?
Holly: I usually think of gray-haired, older, been a Christian forever.
Mike: Yeah, someone who’s been, maybe a Christian for a really long time, or somebody who’s been really involved in the church, like an elder at your church.
Holly: Or a deacon, or somebody that serves, or leads groups.
Mike: Or maybe somebody who knows their Bible really well, or somebody that can pray really well.
Holly: Yeah, that would be probably your first thought of somebody that’s spiritually mature.
Mike: So, if we’re talking about spiritually mature, it’s a matter of “spirit.” And we’ve been talking about this quite a bit in the last few weeks with…with the heart. So, the heart is actually the same thing as spirit, which is the same thing as will. So, if we’re talking somebody who is spiritually mature, they would be mature in terms of their heart, in terms of their will.
Holly: And as we discussed, the will is our ability to make a choice or a decision. And that very practically comes down to what ideas we choose to think about, or not think about.
Mike: Yeah, so that’s the human will. And if we think about the original design, God designed the human will, the human spirit, to be in a state of reliance upon him. The human spirit, or human will, is meant to be relying on God’s will, God’s Spirit.
Holly: But then there was a fall. Humans turned their will and spirit away from God into a state of self-will.
Mike: Willing what we want, choosing what we want, as opposed to having our will surrendered or submitted to God, doing what he wants.
Holly: Dallas Willard talked about this in terms of kingdom, that we all have our own kingdom or queendom, or our domain, where we have authority or say over things.
Mike: That’s a helpful way to look at this, that we…Each one of us has a sphere of influence, things that are under our say or our authority. We’re in control of that part. That’s our kingdom or queendom, is the things that, you know, we say something and it gets done. That’s part of our kingdom or queendom, we have authority there.
Holly: Like our kids, and I tell them to brush their teeth, I am the queen right there!
Mike: That is within your queendom, is they need to brush their teeth.
Holly: Right now!
Mike: And so that’s an easy way to think about it, but now what we’re doing when we talk about spiritual maturity, a person who is spiritually mature means that they have surrendered or turned their will back to God, back to this original state that we were meant to be in. So, if you’re a spiritually mature person it means you’ve surrendered your will to God, you’ve surrendered your spirit to God.
Holly: Yeah, I mean you always hear you should surrender your will, but why is that even necessary?
Mike: Yeah, why is that such a thing, right? I mean it’s…it’s a big deal in Christianity is to have your will surrendered to God’s will, so why? Why is that such a big issue? You mentioned after the fall we’re in this state of self-will, the fallen will. Where our will is turned back on our own interests now. We do what we want, we pursue our own desires, and we do it in our own natural human capabilities. So, we basically live our life, on our own, pursuing our interests without God. That’s the state that, I mean, that’s what it means in the fallen state of humanity. And the Bible refers to that as being in the “flesh.” When we’re relying on our own abilities, living apart from God, that’s living life in terms of the flesh. And Paul says, in Romans 8, living your life like that leads to death. Where conversely, living your life in terms of the Spirit, God’s Spirit, leads to life and peace.
Holly: So, we are to take our kingdom, our will, or what we want, and what we have say or authority over, and submit that then to God and his Kingdom.
Mike: Why that’s necessary, is because the spirit, or the will, is a profound thing. That’s a part of us that is like God. God is Spirit, and God has given a human spirit to us, a part of us that’s like him. And that’s a big deal. God respects that, and he doesn’t override our will. He doesn’t override our spirit.
Holly: So, if we choose self-will, and to live life my way, getting what I want, when I want it, God will let us do that.
Mike: So, that’s the problem now. I mean, you ask “why is it necessary to submit our will to God?” If the goal is to change, to become a good or a loving person, to clean the inside of the cup, to undergo character transformation. We’ve hinted at this earlier, we can’t do that on our own. So, we actually need God’s help, we need God’s grace, in order to transform or change like that into a good person. But now, if our will remains turned away from God, towards self-will, what we want, the Holy Spirit doesn’t have the space to come in and guide us and direct us along the path towards that good life in transformation.
Holly: Because God doesn’t do that. He doesn’t override our will, so if it’s not surrendered, we won’t change.
Mike: He woos us. God woos us, and there’s a moment where we do see that, and we do surrender our will. So, what happens there now, is the moment we surrender our will to God, which we can’t actually even do in our own strength either, that’s a matter of grace. For us to actually submit our will to God, we need God’s grace in order to do that. But it starts with us making that resolute decision, “I decide to submit my will to God.” Now, the Holy Spirit can come in and bring a new strength and power and direction to our surrendered human will, to guide us in this path of transformation for the good.
Holly: And it’s a continuing process. It’s not all of a sudden, we’re just completely surrendered.
Mike: Yeah, you almost don’t even know what you’re getting yourself into at that moment, when you do agree that “OK I’m submitting my will to God.” And that will be something that grows and deepens over a lifetime. When you initially make that decision it’s one thing, 20 years later into your walk of discipleship, the reality of your will being surrendered to God will be much more profound then when you started out. This is spiritual maturity, to put it clearly: the degree I have my will surrendered to God’s will, is the degree to which I am a spiritually mature person.
Holly: So, I might have thought originally, someone that’s spiritually mature thinking, you know, it’s the gray-haired person, that’s been a Christian forever. Or it’s the elder, or deacon, or the leader that’s involved in your church. That’s the spiritually mature person. But those people can still be spiritually immature.
Mike: Despite being in those positions of leadership, yeah. I mean, so the way that we’re describing spiritual maturity here is, the degree you have your will submitted to God. Now, that would obviously be the ideal, is that people in high up places, or places of leadership and influence, would have their will submitted to God. But it’s possible that you could be in those positions of leadership, and others would look to you like you’re a spiritually mature person, and still actually be spiritually immature.
Holly: That step cannot be skipped, of surrendering your will to God.
Mike: It can’t be skipped. It’s the preliminary step in character transformation, or character growth. And now the real problem with that is, that individual, if their will, or their spirit, is not submitted to God, if that step has been skipped. Your spiritual growth will be stunted at that step. You won’t be able to move on to further steps in spiritual growth and maturity if this issue of spiritual maturity has not been addressed.
Holly: So, it’s good to know what the will is. It’s our ability to choose and choose what we think about.
Mike: Well, you know, you joked about that before. That’s why we’re “nerding out” so much for, you know, several weeks on the will. This is absolutely essential to get this, because you can’t move on to the next steps in growth, in the spiritual life, skipping this step of submitting your will to God.
Holly: Yeah, and sometimes I think that can be so frustrating, of like, “Why am I not becoming a more spiritually mature person?”
Mike: “Why am I not growing? why am I not progressing?” There may be a good chance that it has to do with this issue we’re talking about right here.
Holly: We were being light-hearted about the person that is spiritually mature is the person that is serving in the church, or a leader, or the person that has gray hair and has been a Christian forever. But another way of thinking of someone that spiritually mature, is someone that has the fruit of the Spirit. Someone that can remain self-controlled when being attacked or criticized.
Mike: Yeah, they’re displaying that character, they’re displaying the fruit of the Spirit. And that individual is spiritual mature. If that person is full of the fruit of the Spirit, remember the Spirit is the Holy Spirit. And the way that you get that, is by surrendering your will. So, that person who is displaying the fruit of the Spirit, and able to stay composed when they’re being attacked, got to that point in their journey by submitting their will at some point. There’s not the possibility of skipping submitting your will, and being full of the fruit of the Spirit.
Holly: You have to submit your will to have inner character transformation. OK, well let’s jump into it. So, how do you surrender your will to God?
Mike: And what does that mean practically? Let’s try to keep this really practical, because we’re taking this, you know, pretty weighty theological concept, but it’s…it’s so essential, we’ve got to understand what this means. So, if the will means, our ability to choose, or make a decision. Then if my will is submitted to God, I am choosing what God wants. And if we whittle that down even finer, the will means, what I’m choosing to think about. So, that means I’m choosing to think about what God wants me to think about. That is my will being submitted to God in concrete terms. You can choose to think about what you want.
Holly: Thinking about everything that has to do with me.
Mike: Yeah, a bigger, better, house, car, life, whatever. You name it. Chasing a, kind of..the the desires of the flesh. Your thoughts can go in that direction, for all these things that you want, all these things that you would choose, if it was just all about you, basically. Or there’s an alternative now, to choosing to think about what God would have us think about.
Holly: That’s kind of the library you get to choose from, of your thoughts.
Mike: When you go to make a decision, in the moment of decision, you have to work with the ideas that are already in your mind. And you have to work with the feelings, or the desires, that are already in your mind. So, a big part of this, if we’re going to be in control of our decisions like this, is to do some idea work ahead of time. Storing up new, good thoughts and ideas in our mind, so when we’re stuck in the moment of decision-making, we’ve got those ideas available to us to choose from.
Holly: And that makes total sense. So, if someone has wronged you, or upset you by something, you have what your thoughts are, that are already in your mind, to work with.
Mike: Yeah, that’s what you’ve got in the heat of the moment. And you can’t just choose right there. So, that’s a good example. You’re in an upsetting situation, the emotions are up, or whatever, and you might say “I want to choose different thoughts.” That’s not the time to do it. At that time that you’re making a decision, whatever ideas are in your mind already, are the ideas you have to choose from.
Holly: A practical part of surrendering our will to God is how you’re spending your time. If you’re spending your time memorizing scripture, in the Word, practicing spiritual disciplines, versus, passively in front of a TV, or your screen, or on a video game, or in front of pornography. Those are the thoughts in comparison that you have to work with.
Mike: Yeah, those are the ideas that are available to you when it comes time to make a decision, so you…That’s a great point. I mean, why do you do these spiritual disciplines, like scripture memorization? It’s not because God just has this thing about, you know, Christians reading the Bible, so that’s why we need to read the Bible. The reason why it would be a good thing for you to memorize Scripture, or to read your Bible regularly, is that’s the written Word of God. Those are the best ideas on the most important issues in life that we have available to us. So, we take something like an intentional spiritual discipline, sitting down memorizing a passage of scripture. You take that Word of God, that is a living substance, into your mind. Using your will, using your surrendered will now, you’re choosing to sit down, set your mind and concentrate on these thoughts. You’re bringing this into your being, into your body. And now you bump into that difficult interaction with somebody that’s upsetting you, and you have those ideas available to you now in your mind to choose from.
Holly: That’s what Jesus did. I mean if Jesus thought it was a good idea. I mean, I think when Jesus was being tempted by Satan, he recited Scripture.
Mike: That came out of him naturally.
Holly: That just naturally came out of him. These were the ideas that were in Jesus’s mind.
Mike: If Jesus spent his whole week playing video games, those would be the ideas available to him once Satan came to tempt him. But it shows you when Satan was tempting him, and Scripture came out, he had spent intentional time taking that into his mind, with his surrendered will to the Father.
Holly: We’re not perfect at this. This is a continuing process. You can notice things that used to be kind of hard to surrender, a year, or ten years ago, that is no longer hard to surrender. It just comes natural. Or…
Mike: That’s a good thing to bring up. This is a continuum, and we’re all on different parts of the journey. So, this isn’t something like, you know, acting like you’re spiritually more advanced or anything. The idea here is to understand the concept. That we have a will, that our will has been turned away from God, and God’s Holy Spirit cannot help guide our will into the path of the good life, unless we return our will back to its original design, in reliance on him. It’s essential that we understand this concept and put it into practice in our life. So, me, I need to spend my days, and my time, learning how to submit what I would choose to think about for my own self-interest or self-will, in favor of what God wants me to think about. And that will change me. That’ll be the same journey for you, and for everybody else, and we’re all at different parts on this journey. But you take the next step forward from where you are. We have to start here, talking about the will, surrendering our will, and changing our thoughts or our ideas, or we can’t move on to the next step which will be, coming to terms with our desires, and we’ll talk about that more next week.
Music: Vlad Gluschenko — Travelling
License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en