Some Bible Study topics are simply interesting or informational, such as ones on some of the details of life during Biblical times. Others, however, have the potential to be truly transformational. A Bible study on the importance of Christian maturity, and how to achieve it, is one of those with transformational potential. When you are speaking to a group of newer Christians, or of people who are coming back to their faith or back to church after an extended absence, teaching on the importance of Christian maturity and to become a mature Christian has the possibility to change their lives and teach them information that they’ve never heard or thought about before. Check out the Bible study below to see a great example of a Bible study inspired by a Bible study session at the Plant City Presbyterian Church on Christian Maturity you can lead at your next Bible study!
First off, what is spiritual maturity? Is spiritual maturity knowing a lot about the Bible? Is it sitting on a rock for long periods of time meditating or fasting for days? Is it having wisdom or spiritual gifts from God? Nope. Lots of folks who know the Bible cold are spiritual babies, and fasting or meditating doesn’t make you spiritually mature (otherwise JC wouldn’t have rebuked those fasters and prayers in the Sermon on the Mount). And wisdom or spiritual gifts don’t make it either; plenty of wise non-Christians out there, and the Bible says there are going to be all sorts of people who spoke in tongues and drove out demons sitting in hell. (not to say that spiritually mature folks don’t pray, fast, have spiritual gifts or know the Bible) So what is it? At it’s root, spiritual maturity is following Jesus Christ, being as he is.
Willow Creek, a massive Mega Church outside of Chicago, recently did a review of its programs to see how effective they were at producing spiritual growth. What it found shocked the leaders of the church as well as the entire community of Christians and pastors in the US: church programs do very little to produce mature Christians. They’re great at snagging seekers and folks who are very new in their faith, but what really works to produce mature believes is what I’m about to share with you: the spiritual habits of prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship and service. If you want to grow in your faith, if you want your faith to “work” for you, then there is no substitute for what I’m about to share with you. Because I only have half an hour, we’re going to go fairly quickly, so I hope you pay attention since it’s such important material.
Maturity happens the same way it has for 2000 years; prayer, QT with the Bible, service and learning from other Christians. If I can teach you to do these 4 things, and do them well, then you cannot fail to grow.
Make it part of your QT and do it every day.
It’s OK to be real with God. If I’m mad at him, I just tell him that (I usually say, I’m sure you’ve got some master plan, and I trust that, but right now I just feel mad).
Tell him anything; it’s not like he’s going to be surprised.
A laundry list isn’t a real prayer. How would your parents like it if you called them and just listed all the things you needed from them?
Don’t forget that one of the primary purposes of prayer is to receive guidance from God. (scriptures: Rom 8:14, John 10:4). If you’re not asking God for guidance in your prayers, it’s like you’re talking to your parents 100 miles an hour and never asking their advice, or hearing their thoughts. Take time to listen when you pray or you’re only having half of the benefit you could have from it.
Our Father, who art in heaven: God is our Father, he loves you and wants your best.
Hallowed be Thy Name: Adoration, thank God for who he is, what he’s done, etc
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven: Ask for God’s purposes and kingdom to be expanded, submit yourself to becoming like Jesus.
Give us this day our daily bread: Ask for help for yourself and for your loved ones. It’s ok to ask for anything, especially if it’s likely in God’s will (salvation for a friend, wisdom, peace, joy, help understanding something, whatever a child would usually ask a parent)
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors: If you want your debts forgiven and to know peace, you must forgive others. Receive peace from the Father in the forgiveness of your sins as you free yourself from spiritual turmoil in forgiving those who have sinned against you.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: This is spiritual warfare; the Bible more likely says from the evil one, not from evil.
If you want your prayers to be effective, I suggest you stop sinning, make God your #1 desire, and be nice to your wife.
I don’t have time.
Use the Bible on tape, or download it free online to listen to in the car.
I don’t understand what I read.
Study with a friend. Get a Bible with notes. Read a commentary.
I don’t see the benefit.
You don’t lose any weight from exercising once either, do you? If you want the benefit of increased peace and joy in your life (etc), you’d best make this a priority and stick with it.
How to read the Bible:
Part of your quiet time should be to reflect on what you’ve read. When I was young and growing in my faith, this would account for at least a quarter of my time spent reading. (Now I get this time all in a bunch preparing the sermon.) Ask God what it means, think about what it means for you, and think about how this changes your understanding of the faith or relates to other passages.
Some practical tips on how to understand the Bible:
1. A text without a context is a pretext. Always read 5 verses up and 5 verses back to get an understanding of what you’re reading… see if it says what you think.
2. Let me tell you a secret: you don’t need to know Greek to read the Bible (almost) like you did. Read in more than one translation side by side (can ask, how many Bibles do you have at home? Are they all the same type?)
3. While we’re on the subject of Bibles, get a Study Bible. Use a commentary or Study Bible when you hit something that doesn’t make sense.
4. Ask 3 questions of whatever you’re reading: What is happening, ie, what’s going on here, the who what when how where stuff; What does this mean, ie, what is the deeper story or lesson we should get; What does this mean to me, ie, how can I apply these lessons or truths that I’ve just learned to my life.
5. If you come up with a funky interpretation that only you get, it’s wrong. There is a right and wrong in interpreting what the Bible says. If you get that God is really a giant light bulb because he said “Let there be light” and there was light, I’m sorry, you’re wrong. This is distinct from the HS’s personal word to you through the text, which can have almost limitless meaning.
It’s important to approach the Bible with a few assumptions if you’re going to get the most out of your reflection time.
First, the Bible is true in all that it teaches, even if I don’t understand it all. Some contradictions in the Bible are there on purpose. This is how ancient wisdom teachers taught. They knew that lectures like this one didn’t really produce wisdom (I know it too), so they gave verbal or written puzzles, the solutions to which make you wiser. Let’s go over a few: Prov, Luke 9:50, 11:50.
Second, the things that happened in the Bible, while often extraordinary, all happened to people just like me. Cultures change, but people don’t. This helps with the application. If Peter walked on water, then so can I, so to speak. Or if Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, was lead astray by too many women, maybe I should quit looking at porn.
Third, expect the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you’re reading, and to speak personal words to you as you read. In other words, pray for and expect God’s help in reading the Bible. It’s really no more complicated than any other kind of reading, we (preachers) just make it seem that way. 5 Qs and you’re good. And expect God to use what you’re reading everyday to inform your life and your circumstances. I can’t tell you the number of times I was going through something rough in my life and got the encouragement I needed to do the right thing from my devotional, or got the advice I needed, or comfort.
Ever try to learn a language on your own? Or to start a hobby? How did that work out for you? I’ve tried learning, French, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish on my own, and never got past the 10th tape on any of them. That’s about how far we tend to get with things when we’re on our own. But I’m fluent in German, and stuck with that for more than a decade. The difference was I had friends who spoke it. I had a community to help me stay focused and to get sharper. Life just isn’t meant to be lived alone. Life is better with friends.
Hebrews 10:24-25 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…
To reach your full state of Christian maturity, you’re going to need to spend time with other Christians, even if all that happens is you’re so mature you’re teaching instead of learning. Being around other Christians offers you the chance to learn as well as to teach, and both help you to grow. It offers you the chance to be encouraged and comforted when you need to be (if the relationships aren’t ready, who’s going to be there when you need them?). It also allows you to help others. This of course helps you grow spiritually.
Accountability. Keeps you on track. Sometimes there are things I could do but don’t just because I know I’d have to explain them at church ;).
So what kind of fellowship should you be involved in if you want to reach spiritual maturity? The Bible talks about several different kinds, but I want to focus on two.
(both large and small group), spiritual growth (encouragement, accountability, questions answered, )
Different kinds of fellowship: large and small group; prayer and Bible study; hang out and spiritual formation; one on one too. Mentoring.
Your money and time are both God’s. He has made you a steward who will have to give a report when you die. Positive side is we’re in his protection and will.
Tithing is part of growing up as a Christian. Giving makes you more generous and less materialistic. Tithing is Jesus-endorsed, Abraham used spiritual principle, not OT throwback.
Talents: Everyone has a gift given by God for the building up of the church (Pet 2:7??). You are the ministers, it’s my job to equip. Here’s how you tell your talent: You have a passion for it, you enjoy it, you’re good at it. If you’re not serving, you’re probably not growing, and the true mark of maturity is fruit, which comes from service. Sermon of 9/7/08. 1, things that you find important: things from your experiences and things God has told you or put in your heart. 2, things that you enjoy: proclivity and personality, 3, things that you’re good at.
Commitment cards: I am serious about my spiritual growth; I will read my Bible every day, even if it’s only 10 minutes; I will pray every day, even if it’s only to say please help me find time to pray, Lord; I will attend church, both small and large group, at least 3 out of 4 weeks a month; I will
Do these things, and nothing can keep you from growing and becoming mature. Fail to do them, and very little can help you become mature in your faith, short of personal disaster or crisis.