Are you still stuck in diapers in the spiritual nursery? Or are you zooming through spiritual childhood and reaching adulthood in your Christian life? Listen to this lesson to learn that the new believers in Thessalonica were grabbing hold of the Word of God and making great strides in their spiritual lives within an amazingly short time. Measure yourself on your mastery of three valuable virtues that Paul uses to show the stages of spiritual growth. Revisit the spiritual skills that should become second nature in your life when you reach maturity.

Imitating Christ - Part 1
1 Thessalonians 1:3-7
1 Thessalonians Lesson #007
February 18, 2014

In the previous lesson we focused on verse 3 of chapter one. In this lesson I am going to wrap up what I've been teaching about prayer and move on into a new topic as a background to this introduction dealing with the basic spiritual skills of the Christian life. That will enable us to fulfill the statement that Paul makes in verse 6 where he says, "You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit." The word "imitators" is translated from the Greek word MIMETES from which we get our English word mimic.

When Paul mentions imitating him, which he mentions a few times, he always uses that in the context of being as far as he is following Christ in terms of his priorities in the spiritual life and the virtues of the spiritual life that are being developed in Him by God the Holy Spirit. So that as a mature believer, by looking at the apostle Paul, he is talking about the fact that they could see Christ being formed in him. That should be true of all of us as we grow to maturity—that as people see us they see the character of Christ. They see those virtues of faith, hope and love. They see the character of Christ formed in us through the fruit of the Holy Spirit—Galatians 5:21, 22.

Paul shows how and why we should pray. He says, "We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention {of you} in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father."

In the last couple of lessons we have looked at how Paul prays, at examples of Paul and of the Lord Jesus Christ in terms of each of these elements. Confession did not apply to the Lord Jesus Christ but it did to Paul. There are a couple of things to note about petition for self. This is basically gain from, looking at how Paul prayed for others is that those are the things we should be praying for ourselves—praying that the eyes of our understanding might be opened, that we might be growing to spiritual maturity, praying for strength in our spiritual life, strength to face the adversities that are ours. Also that we might be able to execute what we believe to be God's plan.

We learn something there. God doesn't necessarily answer our prayers immediately or according to our timetable.    

Paul very much believed that it was God's plan for him to go to Rome but he was hindered in many ways. He continued to pray that he would finally get to Rome. Paul had intended to go to Rome several times but he was hindered. It is interesting that the word that Paul uses for that hindrance in Romans chapter one is the same word that he had used in describing the hindrance of God the Holy Spirit at the beginning of his second missionary journey when he sought to go into the Roman province of Asia. He was blocked, and the Holy Spirit prevented him from going into Bithynia and Pontus, and was through various circumstances blocking his travel so that he was going in the direction the Holy Spirit intended. Eventually Paul did get to Asia. He got to Ephesus and taught there for two to two and a half years. From there he sent out evangelists and missionaries who took the gospel all over the western part of what is now part of Turkey. So Romans 1:10 is an example of one of Paul's petitions: "always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you."

Paul wrote the epistle to the Romans from Ephesus during that two-year stay when he was in Ephesus and as of yet he did not have the opportunity to get to Rome. It took some time and, in fact, there is going to be a third missionary journey. And finally he goes Jerusalem where he is arrested and spent two years under arrest at Caesarea. Then he goes on a ship and was shipwrecked, and eventually he got to Rome. But it took him at least another three years, maybe four, from the time that he wrote this in Ephesus.

There are many things that we pray for. It is easy to see what we pray for ourselves in terms of petition. There are things we want. We pray for positive circumstances. We pray often for the avoidance of affliction. Affliction, suffering and adversity become a major part of what Paul is teaching in Thessalonians. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 NASB "You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation [or, adversity] …" The Greek word there is THLIPSIS which relates to open opposition that they faced in Thessalonica. In fact, he uses the word again as a verb in 3:4, "For indeed when we were with you, we {kept} telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know." So there is this constant dealing with adversity in the background.

As Christians we live in the devil's world and as a result things often do not go the way we hope, and we have to get our mental attitude around that—our time on this earth is not for our personal pleasure, our personal comfort, or our success in the way the world looks at it, but in terms of our opportunity to serve the Lord. Because every believer is a missionary to the world; every believer is an ambassador to Christ; each and every one of us as a believer has a mission, and part of that mission is to imitate Christ, to be an example by our life and by our lips, by what we do and what we say about the grace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our first mission is to grow to spiritual maturity. Some people think when they hear about spiritual maturity and they look at the apostle Paul or some other biblical figures they seem disconnected because they don't seem to be able to get to that level of spiritual maturity. In fact, I heard a lady once comment. She was a woman who had been listening to sound biblical teaching for much of her life. At this time she was probably in her late sixties and had been living under some really solid Bible teaching for thirty or forty years. She made the comment that she thought that getting to spiritual maturity was impossible. I commented: "Well Paul expected the Corinthians to be at spiritual maturity in a couple of years. If you think it is impossible it is because you are probably living in carnality most of the time and you've barely got to home plate to get ahead. What you are doing is swinging strikes and you probably ought to think about it." That didn't endear me to her!

But that is the problem. A lot of people think that just by going to Bible class, just by taking notes, just by learning a pastor's vocabulary and verbiage, and being able to state some of those things, that somehow they are on the way to spiritual growth. But spiritual growth has to do with internalizing or assimilating the truth, making it a part of our life where it changes us from the inside out. Too many people just play too many games with God on the way and they never see that kind of change.

Well here is this group of believers in Thessalonica and by this time they haven't been believers for very long at all—less than a year by the time Timothy and Silas catch up with Paul and tell him what has been going on—and notice how Paul expresses their spiritual growth in verse 3.

1 Thessalonians 1:3 NASB "constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father." Faith, hope and love here are connected. We have this group of three virtues mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:13. What Paul is mentioning in this verse three is summarizing their advance in the spiritual life under these three key terms, the virtues that are developed in our spiritual growth. Let me suggest that this has only been a period of six or eight months, but they have understood the issues and are going forward, and they are pursuing spiritual maturity. They are blasting out of spiritual infancy and spiritual adolescence to spiritual maturity and it has only been a short time. It is because they have applied themselves to the Word. They are not playing games with it, they understand that they are in a cultural conflict with the world system around them and so they are setting themselves apart in terms of their obedience to the Word.

One thing we need to clarify is the sense of these genitival phrases. They key that they are genitives in the English is that we see the preposition "of". So the words faith, hope, and love in this passage in the Greek are all genitives. A genitive can have a number of different meanings. Sometimes it can have something of an adjectival meaning, sometimes the sense of source or origin, but grammars list about 20-25 different shades of meaning that are present in a genitive. So I have expanded the translation a little bit to give us the sense of what Paul is talking about here. These are generally genitives of source. He is remembering their work that is generated from their faith. It is their trust in God. This is what we call the faith-rest drill.

There is work generated by your faith. Faith has to do with two kinds of faith when we are in the Scriptures. The first is saving faith. Faith basically means to trust or to believe something is true, to accept it as true, to receive it as part of yourself. This is where there is imagery in the Gospels where Jesus talks about eating His flesh, drinking His blood. That has to do with taking something in. When we eat something it becomes a part of our nature, it is assimilated within us, we have accepted it, we have received it. We trust Christ as our savior, but after we trust Christ as savior we move on to faith in relation to the Christian life. This is a day-to-day activity where we are choosing to trust in the promises and provisions of God, trust in His Word, and we mix our faith with the promises of God's Word. That is what we mean by the faith-rest drill—actively trusting God. Faith is something we choose to do. We choose to believe, and then we trust in God's provision. We do our part and rest in God's provision to do the remainder.

Often faith involves application. It is not just a matter of 'I believe that is true' in a disjunctive, academic sort of sense, but 'I believe it is true and it is going to entail certain changes in the way I think and the way I live'. That is what Paul is talking about here. The work, i.e. their ministry toward one another, their ministry in terms of expressing the gospel, and evangelizing in Thessalonica as well as in the local church. This is generally by their faith because they are trusting in the Word. What they are learning about the Word is impacting the way they live. 

So the first thing that is expressed has to do with the impact of their faith in God and in the Scriptures, and how that changes their life.

The second has to do with their love—their labor motivated by their love for God. In the text is just says 'labor of love', but love towards whom? Ultimately it is love toward God that motivates our love toward one another. It is a labor of love because it involves getting involved in events, getting involved in people's lives, helping people, serving one another, getting involved in putting into practice the statements of God's Word. Love for God doesn't happen instantly; it is something that is developed over time. A new born baby doesn't have a great love for the parents, but as the baby is fed, the child is fed, it grows and the relationship is developed a child's love develops. But that is very different from the kind of love that an adult has. So we see a kind of love in the infant believer, but as that believer grows that love matures and as the believer reaches a certain stage that love for God is the rich love of the mature child of God, and that love becomes a motivational factor in his further advance in the Christian life, especially in relation to his love for one another.

Then the third category that Paul mentions here is their patience of hope. That can be translated perseverance of love because the concept there is HUPOMONES, which has to do with endurance. Endurance has to do with our expectation of the future. We understand where we are going. This is what James is talking about in James chapter one: "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith [adversity] produces endurance [HUPOMONES]." Endurance is related to hope because we understand the end game; we know where God is taking us; we know what God is producing in us, and we understand that by facing and handling those challenges in life on the basis of God's Word that God is developing maturity in us and is bringing us to a position where we can then fully glorify Him as a mature believer. Perseverance is produced by our confident expectation, "our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father."

These three virtues of the Christian life are also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:13 NASB "But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."

1 Corinthians 13 is often referred to as the love chapter because the first seven verses talk about the ongoing virtue and value of love and the characteristics of love. Then the qualities of love as an enduring, everlasting virtue are contrasted with some temporary spiritual gifts. It begins with three spiritual gifts that are mentions: knowledge, prophecy and tongues. Knowledge and prophecy are viewed as partial, tongues is not said to be partial. Different verbs, different characteristics are stated that apply to tongues. Verse 8 says that love never fails. That is the opening of this paragraph and at the end we are told that the greatest of these (faith, hope and love) is love. So this passage is really all about love but it is a contrast of love, which is permanent, with that which is not permanent. And there are really two groups of temporary things. The first has to do with temporary spiritual gifts—revelatory gifts: prophecy and knowledge—and sign gifts represented by tongues.

We are told that these partial gifts, prophecy and knowledge, will be replaced by something that is called the completed (usually translated "the perfect"), and it refers to the completion of the canon of Scripture, the completion of divine revelation. What is partial, or revelatory gifts, or what is going to complete the partial must be of the same kind, so we are not talking about something else. So the perfect that completes the partial must be revelatory, and so there are arguments that talk about the Scripture. For example in James chapter one, that the Scripture is complete. It is also called "the perfect" there. But the point here is that knowledge and prophecy are temporary, tongues also will cease, and prophecy and knowledge will cease when the completed comes. That is not the future with Christ because faith is something that is limited to this life; hope is limited to this life; only love continues into the eternal state.

We walk now, as we see in 2 Corinthians 5:7, we walk by faith and not by sight. In heaven we will be walking by sight. Faith continues beyond the cessation of prophecy and knowledge. Hope also continues beyond the cessation of prophecy and knowledge. So throughout most of the church age faith, hope and love endure. That is the point that Paul is making here.

So the first thing we see in chapter thirteen is the contrast between the permanent and that which is impermanent. The first division focuses on faith, hope and love are permanent in time, in this life; whereas prophecy and knowledge will cease at some stage, and we believe that occurred late in the first century when the canon of Scripture was completed.

But then Paul ends, "But now." That is, after knowledge and prophecy have been abolished. What continues? Faith, hope and love continue in the church age. But the greatest of these is love. These are the three valuable virtues for development in the Christian life.

So let's talk about these. I want to tie them back to the principles I have taught in the past related to the ten spiritual skills. Faith summarizes the basic development in the spiritual life, hope is adolescence, and love has to do with reaching spiritual maturity.

The first of these is faith. 2 Corinthians 5:7 NASB "for we walk by faith, not by sight"

The first thing to note is that walking is a term frequently used to describe the Christian way of life and how proceed. Walk emphasizes a moment by moment, step by step advance forward, and so it is an appropriate metaphor for Christian growth and Christian advance. How do we walk? There are various ways this is described in Scripture. We walk by means of the Spirit, we walk in the light—all of these are describing the same thing from different facets and different vantage points. Here we are talking about the foundational virtue, which is faith: trusting in the Word of God; walking by means of faith. It is not by means of sight. In other words, the focus of our faith is in the Word of God. Ultimately all systems of knowledge operate on faith, whether it is rationalism, empiricism or mysticism. In those systems of knowledge faith is focused on human ability. Faith in rationalism is a faith in human intellectual ability to know truth on its own apart from God. Empiricism is that we are going to know on the basis of what we see, hear, taste, touch and experience. Mysticism is based on faith in our feelings, faith in our intuitions. But Christianity says that we walk by faith, and what means is faith in the faith in the Word of God, trusting in what God says is true, and that God's Word is more true than the conclusions we arrive at on the basis of reason alone or experience alone or our inner feelings.

We walk by means of faith. That is, trust in God's Word. Faith here may also in a sense refer to that body of beliefs or the body of doctrine that we hold true as Christians—Christian doctrine. We walk by means of what we believe, not by sight.  

We have three levels of growth: spiritual infancy, spiritual adolescence and spiritual adulthood. John talks about the spiritual babes, spiritual young men, and spiritual men, using three different terms in 1 John. Spiritual childhood is represented by the term TEKNON. Those are spiritual children.

It is also summarized in the basic mode of operation here, which is faith. Faith sort of summarizes these five skills. The reason I call them skills is because skill is something you learn, something you acquire. It is not something that just happens over night. Some people more easily adapt these things than others but everybody has to learn the basic how-to's of anything. You may have a talent for dancing but you have to go through those rigorous years of training where you work on learning each movement and breaking them down into each individual component. We have to develop these drills in our life in order to go forward as believers.

The first drill is confession, because confession is our means of recovery when we sin. If we stay out of fellowship we are just going to be walking according to the flesh, as Paul says in Galatians 5:16ff. And the flesh wars against the spirit. We are not going to get anywhere when we are walking like a spiritually dead person. We have to recover, so whenever we sin we need to immediately, as soon as we realize it, admit or acknowledge it to God. But that doesn't get us anywhere; it only gets us a recovery so that we can go somewhere. Confession just gets us back in fellowship; it doesn't move us forward. A lot of people have misunderstood this and they think that as long as they keep confessing their sins that somehow the Holy Spirit is just going to take over and make them spiritual, and they won't have to make those hard decisions of saying no to their sin nature. That is a dream world; that is quasi-mysticism, and is an extremely distorted and destructive way of thinking about the ministry of God the Holy Spirit. Confession just gets us back to a place where we can go forward, it doesn't move us anywhere. 

What moves us is the filling by means of the Holy Spirit and walking. Some people emphasize the filling aspect, and that is good. But that is passive. The command in Ephesians 5:18 is, "be filled." That is imply, we need to allow ourselves to receive what the Holy Spirit fills us with, which is His Word. It is a passive verb; it is a passive concept. The active voice verb that tells us what the action plan is, is in Galatians 5:16, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." That is the command: to walk in dependence upon God the Holy Spirit. That is the positive action side of being filled by means of the Holy Spirit. And these two things go together. When we confess our sins we are back in fellowship so that then we can resume that forward momentum of walking in dependence upon God the Holy Spirit and being receptive to the Word of God. When we are out of fellowship we walk according to the sin nature we are not producing anything of eternal value.

Another term that is used to describe this is abiding in Christ. All these refer to the same basic idea. We stay in fellowship; we abide in Christ; we walk by means of the Spirit; we walk in the light; and we walk in His Word. Now how do we do that? What are the mechanics for walking by the Holy Spirit? In terms of basic dynamics in the Christian life this is what we see in the next three spiritual skills. The foundation for them is in the first one, the faith-rest drill. We are trusting in God's Word; we are resting in Him; we are doing what He says to do because we believe it to be true. It is also related to these other skills: grace orientation and doctrinal orientation.

The faith-rest drill

God has given us various promises and principles in His Word and we are implementing them. God's Word says, "Pray without ceasing." So we have to pray. We make prayer a priority in my life, so we change our schedule so that we have a set prayer time every day. We also need to know God's Word. The psalmist said that if I hide God's Word in my heart I won't sin against Him. So I learn and memorize the Word of God. I have to set aside a time every single day when I am going to read the Bible, I'm going to pray, and I organize my life around that schedule. Because if I am not doing that then I'm going to dry up and blow away as a Christian, my spiritual life will atrophy and I will be useless and miserable.

So the faith-rest drill focuses on learning God's Word because that is what we believe. It's not just saying, 'Oh, I am just going to trust God.' Well how? In what sense specifically? What promise are we going to claim? Read through the Bible. Underline promises. Think about it. The gift of evangelist and the gift of pastor-teacher are not gifts of learning; they are gifts of communication of what one has learned. Everybody has to learn what they communicate first.

Grace orientation

Grace orientation means we have to understand that just as we were saved by grace through faith we also live the Christian life on the basis of grace. That is so important. It involves humility. 1 Peter 5:6 NASB "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time." Humility is the key to being able to learn anything. If the Word of God says that you are doing something wrong and you don't have humility then you are just going to get mad and close your Bible and leave church. Humility is necessary to learn and to grow and to respond to the reproof and correction of God's Word. That is all part of grace orientation. If you don't understand grace you will never be able to love anybody because love is based upon grace. Grace means that the way we treat people is not based upon who they are or what they do, it is based upon some higher system of absolutes and values. So grace is related to love. If you don't understand grace you can't love.  

Doctrinal orientation

2 Peter 3:18 NASB "but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." That is how we are to grow. Grace orientation means that we orient our thinking to the grace of God and we deal with others and with ourselves on the basis of God's grace. Doctrinal orientation means that we are changing the structure of our thinking and our life to fit the structure of God's Word and what God says in His Word, and how God teaches us. So that we are orienting our life to the teaching of God's Word. We are orienting our life and our attitudes to the grace of God. And all of that is built upon the fact that we are trusting in God's Word day-by-day, moment-by-moment.

So faith really underscores all of these dynamics. We exercise faith when we say, "I believe 1 John 1:9, that if I confess my sin God is faithful and just to forgive my sin and cleanse me from all unrighteousness." I am exercising faith moment by moment as I walk by means of the Holy Spirit. Faith under girds all of this. Faith is a great word to summarize spiritual childhood as we are learning to master faith.

Growth is sporadic. Just look at a child. They develop in some areas faster than in other areas, and Christians are no different. Nobody follows a same set pattern; everybody grows in fits and starts and it depends upon where you are. If somebody comes into this congregation now they are going to learn different doctrines and different aspects of the Christian life than if they had come nine or ten years ago. If they had come nine or ten years ago they would have developed in one area without developing in another areas. It changes. It is not set concrete, it is dynamic; it is different.

The next area is the area where we advance into spiritual adolescence, and the key word there is hope. Faith is spiritual infancy; hope characterizes spiritual adolescence. As you watch a young person grow up, moving from childhood to adulthood one of the keys for describing maturity is the ability to postpone gratification. A child wants to have what it wants now. But as you move through adolescence you learn that you are not going to satisfy or gratify all of your desires and wishes right now, and that some thing have to be postponed and some things you have to work for and it will take a lot of time before you get there. There is a process involved, so all of a sudden you begin to think in terms of a long-term plan.

When you are a child you have no concept of time. Twenty to forty years down the road doesn't mean anything to you. As you grow to adolescence time begins to take on a new sense for us and we realize that we are working for the long term, for something where the benefits will not really be ours for five, ten or fifteen years down the road. The same is true in the Christian life. Hope is a key word for spiritual adolescence because we learn to think in terms of where God is taking us, the long-term plan that God has for us, so that we have a confident expectation of what God is doing.

A key passage for this is Romans 5:3-5 NASB "And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

An infant doesn't have a good time when they are going through adversity. They cry and whine because we don't like unhappiness and unpleasantness, and when there is adversity we get all self-absorbed and want to have a little tantrum just like a baby. But as we grow we begin to understand that difficulties and adversities is a part of God's plan, and that God is going to take us through those tribulations and adversities in order to teach us that we can rely upon God, that we can trust Him—the faith-rest drill—God is going to pull through for us and the principles of God's Word actually work. So we come to glory in tribulations because we know something. We have come to learn something—doctrinal orientation.

Tribulation brings about proven character. This is the development of spiritual adolescence and the character qualities of Christ in terms of the fruit of the Spirit. And character produces hope. Hope is that long-term focus on what God is going.

There are tribulations that we go through. We go through pressure and adversity and we have to stick with it – HUPOMONE. When we stick with it we learn to trust God, trust God, not trust God, rebound [1 John 1:9], trust God, not trust God, rebound, confess our sins, get back in fellowship, recover the fumble, move forward, persevere, persevere, keep going, moving forward. This develops character. This is proof or evidence in the Scripture—DOKIMAZO is the term that is used and it indicates proven or tested character. Then that leads to the development of hope, our confident expectation where we can begin to live today in light of eternity.

This takes us into the next development of spiritual adolescence referred to as "young men" by John in 1 John 2:13. This is hope that is a focus on the future—living today in light of eternity. It is our personal sense of eternal destiny. We know that God is training us for a future role to rule and reign with Jesus Christ. And so we can handle the difficulties, the traumas, the adversities and disappointments today because we know that of we pass the test, of we grow as believers, and the Holy Spirit produces maturity in us then we are going to be ready for that future role in the eternal kingdom.

So hope just represents getting through that spiritual adolescence where we quit living for today and we start living in light of eternity. Then as we are developing hope all through this time we are learning more and more about God. We learn more about His grace, who He is, about His character. And we do that we fall more and more in love. We develop love, a true enduring deep love for God.

This develops the adult stage of our spiritual life. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 NASB " … 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'" Everything that we have. The idea in Deuteronomy 6:5 is with everything that we have got. 

1 John 2:5 NASB "but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected [matured]." So the love for God isn't just something static. It begins in spiritual infancy and it matures, but it comes to that mature level of deep love when we have seen God come through for us in multiple trials and tests, and this characterizes a mature Christian life. But it is that love for God that becomes the motivation for our spiritual life to love one another.

Jesus said, John 13:34, 35 NASB "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

God's love for us teaches us about His grace. That in turn produces love for God. That then motivates love for one another. This is the evidence that we are truly disciples or learners, if we have love for one another.

So we have love for God in Romans 5:5. This develops. We are to love one another, Galatians 5:14. We call that impersonal love for all mankind or unconditional love. And the reason we use the word impersonal is not because it is somehow cold or detached, because that is completely contradictory to the concept of love. But personal means that you have a personal knowledge or acquaintance with the person you are loving; impersonal means that you don't have a personal knowledge of that person. It could be the checkout clerk at the store, the customer service rep on the telephone, etc. We don't know who these people are but we are to deal with them in love. Then third, occupation with Christ. Our focus is on Christ, Hebrews 2:2. 

These are three different aspects of love. Love for God motivates our love for one another. Love for God increases our understanding of God's plan, our focus upon Christ or occupation with Christ. These three all work together in tandem, and the result of all of that is that our joy and our happiness in the midst of adversity and difficulty is enhanced and increases. The level of our joy (fruit of the Spirit) represents something about our spiritual maturity.