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Six Steps Toward Spiritual Maturity

man of God

Do you want to grow as a man of God?

Maybe you’re a new believer. Your character drastically differs from just a couple years ago, but you know you have a long way to go. Or maybe you’ve been a believer for a long time, but you’ve sensed yourself spiritually stagnating. You’d be hard pressed to point out a way you’ve made evident spiritual progress in the last year.

If either of those profiles fit you, this article, and its two goals, are for you. The first is to give you a new ambition, namely, becoming a man of God. The second is to give you some directions for the journey.

The “man” in “man of God” is deliberate; I’m speaking particularly to men. Much of what I’ll say also applies to women, but the next-to-last section zeroes in on a uniquely male calling.

First, here’s the new ambition. I want you, from now till the day you die, to make it your ambition to become a man of God. And I want that for you because God does. As Paul writes to Timothy, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7–8).

Godliness is “of value in every way.” It is more valuable than physical strength or financial success. It is worth more than the thickest resume or the most coveted property. Godliness will, in the long run, make you happier than the satisfaction of any earthly desire.

So how can you get it? Here are six pieces of counsel.

Mind the Gap

First, mind the gap — that is, the gap between your character and God’s. And “gap” doesn’t even begin to cover it. More like “infinite chasm.” But God commands you to cross it: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2; cf. 1 Peter 1:15–16).

Learn to see and evaluate your character in light of God’s. Hold Scripture before your eyes as a mirror to reveal what’s lacking in you but present in him, and what’s present in you but lacking in him. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). What darkness is present in you? What light is missing? If you want specific benchmarks to measure yourself against, study the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), and the qualifications for elders (1 Timothy 3:1–7Titus 1:5–9).

One good way to become more mindful of this gap is to seek out and study godly men. Who do you know who radiates more of God’s holiness and joy and love than you do? Get to know him. Get close to him. Find out how he has made the progress he has, and do what he does (more on models below). The gap between your character and his can help you see the infinitely greater gap between your character and God’s. But not only that: learning how a more godly man got more godly can power-assist your progress in godliness.

Mine New Motives

Real change comes from the heart. This requires (though is by no means limited to) a new set of motives for you to mine. In order to make any lasting progress in godliness, your chief motive must be to glorify God: “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Train your heart to love God’s glory more than your own, to love praising God more than receiving praise. Make it your ambition to please God in all you do (2 Corinthians 5:9).

In our theme verse, Paul promises that godliness is of value in every way. What is the value-added of godliness? What should motivate you to pursue it? Godliness gives you power greater than any physical prowess, technological reach, or military strength: “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32). Godliness gives you a freedom that runs deeper than any other: freedom from tyranny of self and slavery to sin. As Jesus promises, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32). Godliness gives you contentment, which is greater gain than any stockpile of earthly treasure. “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Timothy 6:6–7).