Life is full of goals. We spend time charting and planning everything from automobile maintenance schedules to college tuition funds. Add that to our health goals after our recent trip to the doctor, along with our future retirement goals, and it seems that we have goals for almost everything in life. What about spiritual goals? Have you set goals regarding spiritual maturity? Have you thought about ways to accurately chart your progress? Have you considered the fact that your pastors have set goals for your spiritual life?
Spiritual Maturity Results in Gospel Ministry
The role and responsibility of pastors is to equip the church membership to do the work of gospel ministry. It’s a categorical error to look at the pastors as the “professionals” who earn a paycheck to do the work of ministry. Would it be a shock for you to know that God views all church members as ministers of the gospel? According to Ephesians 4:12, God has gifted the church with pastor-teachers for the purpose of equipping the church to do the work of ministry.
The ministry of the local church can be divided into two primary areas — discipleship and missions. Although there are specific overlaps, this is the work of the local church. In going and telling the gospel, we baptize and teach believers the Word of God. It is the plan of God for His children to grow-up and pursue spiritual maturity. We must read warnings in Hebrews 5:13-14 and make sure that we avoid such errors. Are you just a “come and watch” church member or do you have your hands and your heart involved in the work of gospel ministry to make disciples for the glory of God?
Spiritual Maturity Prevents Doctrinal Drift
As we grow in grace and in the knowledge of God, we grow doctrinal roots that are not easily moved. We’ve all seen the aftermath of a violent storm or high winds that uprooted trees. That same thing can be true when false doctrine sweeps through a home, a church, or across the Internet. God expects His children to grow into mature believers who are not led astray by false teachers who speak with deceptive tongues delivering damnable heresies. Paul explains one of the purposes of pastoral leadership in Ephesians 4:13-14:
until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
I have watched people be swept away by the winds of Roman Catholicism, prosperity teachings, and other cult groups who present crafty teachings through the television and Internet. Those who are pursuing spiritual maturity avoid these problems because they can spot the false doctrine like a red barn in the middle of an open green field. The spiritually immature believer often doesn’t possess such discernment. Don Whitney writes, “In my own pastoral and personal Christian experience, I can say that I’ve never known a man or woman who came to spiritual maturity except through discipline. Godliness comes through discipline.”  Like a deep root system on a majestic tree, spiritual maturity does the same thing for believers who put in the discipline to know God through His Word.
Spiritual Maturity Results in Biblical Submission
We’re born with the seed of rebellion in our depraved hearts, and then if you’re fortunate to be born in a nation like America where such rugged individualism is celebrated — submission is a backward way of thinking. After becoming a Christian, we learn that submission is the way of the Christian life. We’re called out of darkness and into the marvelous light of Christ. This new life in Christ involves submission to authority. We’re called to submit to authority, and it all begins with a submission to the Lordship of Christ.
Biblical submission involves a willingness to submit to authorities in various roles of life including:
- Submission to the Lordship of Christ (we are the servants of Christ).
- Submission to the Word of God (the Scriptures are authoritative and sufficient).
- Submission to civil leaders and the laws of the land.
- Submission to family roles (wives to husbands and children to parents).
- Submission to those in authority over us in the work world.
- Submission to the church family (the church caring for one another in love).
- Submission to the pastoral leaders placed over you.
We are wired to resist and avoid authority. However, when God changes a person’s heart, that individual learns to lovingly submit to the law of the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2). The individual who possesses a rogue and rebellious attitude toward authority should evaluate themselves closely. To the young believer, pursue spiritual maturity in order that you will become strong in the faith and never forget that a heart that’s willing to submit to authority is not weak. R. C. Sproul has accurately stated, “The very word authority has within it the word author. An author is someone who creates and possesses a particular work. Insofar as God is the foundation of all authority, He exercises that foundation because He is the author and the owner of His creation. He is the foundation upon which all other authority stands or falls.” 
What books are you reading? What sermons are you listening to? Do you have a plan for Scripture reading? How is your church attendance? Are you engaged in intentional discipleship opportunities within your church? When was the last time you talked with your pastor about ways you could grow spiritually? Perhaps it’s time to set some real goals for spiritual maturity in your life. Setting a goal to run a 5k or a marathon is commendable, but to set a goal for spiritual maturity is far better.
- Don Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1991), 17.
- R. C. Sproul, “The Divine Foundation of Authority,” Tabletalk, (March, 2009), 6.