What is a mature follower of Jesus?

What does it actually mean to grow in Christ? What are the signs that we’re spiritually maturing? The Bible gives us examples and instructions that demonstrate what a maturing follower of Christ looks like and how intimacy with Jesus should shape our thoughts and actions. In an effort to help our members grow in maturity, we’ve laid out seven common characteristics of a mature disciple that help us better aim toward Christlikeness.

A mature disciple is grounded in a deep understanding of the gospel.

A mature disciple is firmly rooted in their identity as a child of God, solely on the basis of God’s sovereign grace and not owing to any merit of their own (1 Thess. 1:4-5; Deut. 7:7-8). A deep understanding of the gospel means that a disciple knows that they are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-9), and that true saving faith is never without works (Eph. 2:10). Works are a fruit of, and not a means of salvation. A deep understanding of the gospel of grace is fuel for radical discipleship and mission; when we remember who we were when God saved us, it changes the way we approach those who are blinded by unbelief (1 Tim. 1:12-17).

A mature disciple is communing regularly with Jesus in prayer and time in the Word.

A mature disciple is one who understands their need for communion with God and that apart from him, they can do nothing (John 15:1-11). A mature disciple expresses their dependence on God through consistent prayer, following Jesus’ example of breaking away to commune with his Father (Luke 6:12). A mature disciple understands their need for the word to guide them, as the prophetic word illuminates the dark places of our hearts (2 Pet. 1:16-21; Matthew 4:4). They are dependent on the power of the word of God and submit themselves to its work in them (1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:15-17).

A mature disciple is a student and practitioner of the Word and sound doctrine.

A mature disciple rightly handles the Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). They keep a close watch on their own lives, along with the teaching of God’s Word and have an ability to detect and protect from false teaching (1 Tim. 4:6-16); the powers of discernment in their lives have been trained by constant practice (Heb. 5:13-14). A mature disciple seeks to apply Scripture to their life and also to the lives of others. They have a growing understanding of how all the Bible fits together and points to Jesus, and of their own part in God’s plan of reconciliation (Luke 24:27, 44-49). 

A mature disciple is connected in community, fighting sin and enduring suffering together.

A mature disciple lives their life in authentic, transparent community where they are known by and know others. They walk in the light, confessing their sins to one another and enjoying the fellowship of those who have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7-9). As they receive the Word in affliction, they become an example to other believers (1 Thess. 1:6-7) and they comfort others with the comfort they receive (2 Cor. 1:3-7). A mature disciple is committed to practicing the one anothers of Scripture, exhorting and encouraging fellow believers (Heb. 3:13). 

A mature disciple is identifying and employing their gifts for the building up of the body.

A mature disciple is an active participant using their gifts to help the church grow, rather than functioning as a consumer. Knowing that the church is a body, they seek the building up and the unity of the body as they do the work of ministry (Eph. 4:7-8, 11-16). They are good stewards of God’s varied grace, using their gifts to serve one another in the strength that God supplies and for His glory (1 Pet. 4:10-11). 

A mature disciple is an ambassador for Christ through incarnational evangelism.

A mature disciple embraces the call of an ambassador (2 Cor. 5:17-21), actively sharing their faith in the community (1 Thess. 1:8). A disciple is by nature a disciple-maker, following Christ as he makes them “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). A mature disciple recognizes that God has assigned them a mission field in the spaces where they work, play, and live, and they are meant to enter those spaces intentionally to represent Jesus and his Gospel. Just as Jesus put on flesh to enter our world (John 1:14), we “incarnate” the gospel to the world around us through the witness of both our words and our lives. In obedience to the great commission (Matt. 28:19-20) and in the power of the Spirit (Acts 1:8), a mature disciple eagerly goes to make disciples of neighbors and nations.

A mature disciple is living for what lasts with an eternal perspective.

A mature disciple understands that time is short and lives with a sense of urgency, waiting for and hastening the day of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:8-13). They have turned from idols and now live for what lasts; an eternal perspective shapes their decisions and pursuits (1 Thess. 1:9-10). As “children of light, children of the day” (1 Thess. 5:5-6), a mature disciple doesn’t detach or isolate from the realities of life in the present, but walks wisely, “making the best use of the time” (Eph. 5:8-21). A mature disciple leverages their time, talents, and treasures for kingdom purposes and kingdom advancement, seeking to be found faithful as a steward (1 Cor. 4:1-2; Luke 12:35-48). An eternal perspective is the mature disciple’s frame of reference for all of life. They are steadfast and abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in him their labor is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).

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