The true measure of spiritual maturity is godly behavior.
Depending on your background, you responded to that statement in one of two ways: nodding agreement or immediate panic.
As a recovering “good girl”, I panic. It has taken me years to shake off the behavior-modification view of Christianity, and I am still prone to go back there from time-to-time.
Christianity is not about perfecting my behavior. Christianity, at it’s core, is a belief that the God-Man, Jesus, did for me what I could never do for myself–earn a right relationship with God the Father.
If we truly believe that we are all sinners and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), and that there is nothing we can do to be good enough to earn a right relationship with Him– (which is why Jesus had to sacrifice His life for ours. Only a perfect man could pay the price for our imperfect lives in order to make us right with God)– then why do we think that once we’ve placed our trust in Jesus and submit our lives to God, we must start earning His love?
“I know God loves me, but He’s not fully satisfied with me. God won’t truly be happy with me until I get ‘this’ area of my life, or ‘this’ sin, under control.”
How many of us actually think that? I know I did– still do at times.
The truth is that our best behavior couldn’t earn God’s original forgiveness and it can’t earn God’s love.
You may be familiar with Hebrews 11. Fifteen people are mentioned by name who were declared righteous because of their faith. If you take a deeper look into those fifteen people’s lives they all made huge, dirty, sinful mistakes. They continued to sin throughout their entire lives, but their righteousness was not earned by their actions, it was earned by their faith.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God…” (Hebrews 11:6)
It’s not difficult to please God without faith. It’s impossible. You could have the most sinless life on the universe, but without faith– God will not be pleased.
In Genesis 15, it says,
“And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith.”
Abram’s faith in God is why God counted him as righteous. Not his behavior-modification. We actually know almost nothing about Abram’s life before this point. But does it matter? No.
Because God’s not pleased by simple behavior-modification, He’s pleased by total and complete faith in Him.
Faith in His Son’s sacrifice for our sins. Faith in His Word– that the scripture which He went into painstakingly detail to preserve for all generations–is true, without error. Faith in His promises that we are still await to be fulfilled. Faith in His work in your life. Faith that He is Sovereign over your life. Faith that He has a better plan for your life, than you could create on your own. Faith that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him.
He wants your undying, unwavering faith.
And that faith is what leads us to obedience. It was faith that caused the men and women in Hebrews 11 to obey God– their faith resulted in obedience. Scripture tells us numerous times that “to love God is to obey Him.”
So, instead of saying, “The measure of spiritual growth is godly behavior”,
What if the real measure of spiritual maturity was greater faith in Him?
Will behavior-modification stem from that? Of course. The difference is that my obedience to God, the decision to repent, turn from sin and follow Him, is rooted in greater faith in Him– not a place of sole behavior-modification.
If the Christian life is measured by behavior-modification, we will all be “white washed tombs” (Matt. 23:27). We will all look clean and pristine on the outside, but disgustingly filthy, dead and rotting on the inside.
If the Christian life is measured by faith in God, dependency on Him, a desire to know and love Him more, then obedience will follow. We will all look like broken people who were made whole by Unconditional Love, who are free to obey a God who transformed their hearts, and who are able to extend God’s love and grace to others.