My good friend and fellow NOBTS-bound comrade (along with her husband Josh Raley) Tiffany Raley was chosen by our 2012 graduating to speak on what it means for one to be spiritually mature. Tiffany is a wonderful woman of God who shows the gospel with her life and marriage and also articulates the gospel with gentleness, compassion, and boldness. As of Friday the 11th, she is a graduate of SEBC with a major in Bible/Theology and a minor in Counseling Ministries. She graduated cum laude and will be attending New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to further her counseling ministry. May you be blessed in reading her thoughts.
Spiritual maturity, as I wish to define it, is the ongoing process of surrender and obedience brought about by God’s grace in the life of believers that results in their being conformed to the image of Christ for the purpose of glorifying God in all things. This is a very loaded definition so I want to take a minute and break this definition down into five parts and expand on what I mean. The first part I wish to expand on is what I mean by saying that spiritual maturity is an ongoing process. This means a few things. First it means that it is a process to which there is no end. During this lifetime, we will never be as spiritually mature as we can be, so there is always room for improvement and a great need for God’s grace in our lives. Second, as in every process involving humans living in community with one another, things will often get messy. Those around you, and even you at times, will require much extra patience and grace from fellow believers as we are all prone to stubbornness.
The second part of the definition I want to elaborate on is what I mean by surrender and obedience. Perhaps it would be most helpful to begin with what I do not mean. By surrender and obedience I do not mean a list of do’s and don’ts one must do or some kind of check list which we may use to determine whether or not we are spiritually mature. By surrender and obedience I mean a daily dying to one’s self, and committing one’s self to God. This will involve habits of spiritual disciplines such as reading scripture and time spent in intentional prayer and repentance before the Father.
The third part of the definition I wish to unpack is the fact that spiritual maturity is brought about by God’s grace. Though we as believers must play a very active role in facilitating our spiritual maturity, scripture is clear in that ultimately God alone is responsible for our spiritual improvement. Though we work, we are able to do so only because of his great grace.
The fourth part of the definition I want to flesh out is the believer being conformed to the image of Christ. This is a common concept I’m sure you are all well aware of, but it must be noted that this is the key of spiritual maturity. One’s spiritual maturity may ultimately be gauged by asking the simple question, “How much do I resemble Christ?” As the church, our very purpose is to reflect well the image of Christ to the world. Without growing in our spiritual maturity, this will be impossible.
Finally, I want to explain why spiritual maturity is for the purpose of glorifying God in all things. This is the case because it is God’s motivation in maturing us and the only thing worthy of motivating us to action. The moment that one’s pursuit of spiritual maturity ceases to be motivated by the desire to see God glorified is the moment that the pursuit ceases to be for spiritual maturity at all, and it becomes a self motivated exercise for one’s own selfish ambitions.
Though it is safe to say that I have not completed this process, and though I may not be as far along as some of you, as I have reflected on my time spent here at Southeastern Bible College, it is evident that God has, by his grace, brought great change and spiritual growth in my life. As I think about the changes that have taken place, I have noticed one common theme. Spiritual growth in my life has consistently been brought about by either a relationship with other believers or an opportunity given to me in the form of some task or responsibility. One specific opportunity that contributed to my spiritual growth and maturity is my role as a Resident Assistant here at Southeastern. I can guarantee that student life did not choose me to fill this leadership position because of my impressive spiritual maturity. Through dealing with confrontation, having an obligation and opportunity to pray for the dorm residents, and learning to put others before myself, I had the unique opportunity to serve in a leadership position as I was encouraged, corrected, and influenced by a Godly woman. Being under the supervision of such a person is just one example of how a relationship allowed me to begin to develop some of the characteristics required in spiritual formation.
As the writer to the Hebrews wrote, “Let us spur one another on to love and good deeds.” Fellow students, I encourage you, not only to continue the process of spiritual formation as you have undergone at Southeastern, but also be the catalyst for spiritual maturity in others lives as many faculty, staff, and leaders have been for us.