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This mind map is part of a training exercise that I provide for the folks on our Membership Site. These concepts apply to every Christian. If you are a believer, you should read this article, study the mind map, assess yourself, and make whatever changes you need, so you may continue the process of maturing in Christ.
All Christians need help, which is why I don’t prefer the word counselee. I never refer to my “counselees” as counselees. They are my friends, brothers, and sisters in Christ, who come to me for guidance (John 15:15). And what do I do for them? I disciple them by teaching them what the Bible says about being like Christ.
They may come through my door as counselees, but my goal is to send them out as Christlike disciple-makers. That’s my calling. It is yours too. The mind map will help you unpack the process to Christian maturity, while envisioning you on how to sustain a life of ongoing Christian sanctification.
Before you begin, I appeal to you to ask God to help you see where you need to change, grow, and serve others like Jesus. Perhaps it would be better to read this article with your spouse or close friend, asking them to speak into your life according to this content. Will you do that? Will you ask your spouse or close friend?
The Gospel – All discipleship begins with the gospel. Remember, I’m coming from a Christian worldview, speaking to Christians, about how to best glorify God as Christians. There is only one starting point, and that is the gospel. The gospel is the good of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah from the Old Testament, who came to live among the Jewish nation 2000 years ago.
Eventually, Christ died on a cross, according to the divine purposes of God, to pay the debt for sin. He became a ransom for sin. No person can live a sustained life of Christian maturity without coming to terms with the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The only proper way to come to terms with Him is by being regenerated by Him. This necessity is what we call being born from above or being born again. Have you been born again?
Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” – The Savior, John 3:7
Spirit Cooperation – If you are born again, the Holy Spirit has come to you and is living in you, guiding and sustaining you throughout your life. The Spirit will do many things for you, such as illuminate your mind to the Word of God so that you can understand it and grow thereby. (See John 17:17; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 1 Peter 2:2-3)
You can choose to quench or grieve the Holy Spirit by living in sin (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30). Or you have the option to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and if you do, you will grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, so that you can imitate Him by your life (2 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 11:1).
Means of Grace – A means of grace is analogous to a vehicle: a means that takes you from one place to another place. God provides several gracious contexts that you can participate in so you can grow into Christian maturity. Most local churches offer these various means of grace. In the mind map I have listed nine means of grace, which you can find on the lower, left-hand side of the map:
It is important to note that these contexts are not passive contexts. They are contexts in which you engage God and others while being engaged by God and others. It’s not okay to show up on Sunday morning at your local church and expect that you are going to mature in Christ. You will not. It does not work that way.
Christianity is not a passive experience. It is full-on engagement with God and with others. I have never counseled a person in an ongoing way who was actively participating in these contexts of grace. If you are cooperating with the Spirit of God at this level, you have the means you need to change (2 Peter 1:3).
You’ll note that I call these contexts “acts of worship.” They represent nine ways in which you can actively worship God by pursuing Him and others (Matthew 25:40).
Don’t be fooled. To play church is to be stunted in your relationship with Christ and others. Playing church is to invite dysfunction. If you are not actively pursuing God and others through these means of grace, I appeal to you to repent. Let God rule your life. Jump in and cooperate with God. If you do this, you will change, and your relationships will transform.
The tension in our souls is whether or not we will submit to God or exercise our will over the various situations in our lives. Did you know that when you refuse to walk in humility, the most significant deterrent in your life is God Almighty?
James 4:6 is clear: God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Which will it be? Are there areas of pride in your life? Are you still holding on to things that you do not want to release to the Lord?
Many times the relational conflicts you experience with others are not because of others, but because God is the One resisting you. It’s tempting to think your opponent is your spouse or some other human when it is God who is opposing you because of pride.
If you are proud, your main problem is with God, not with someone else. He is the “Resistance” for the prideful person. But if you will humble yourself before God Almighty, something radical will begin to happen: He will give you empowering grace. Only at that point can you change.
Through these means of grace, God begins to affect you at the level of your heart. You start to change. The gospel is now actively alive in you and humility begins to replace your pride. Humility becomes the primary condition of your heart, which allows you to mature—He gives grace to the humble.
You’ve set the stage for God to engage your heart. You are pursuing humility while resisting pride and God is working for you, not opposing you. The conditions are right for you to mature in Christ. As you see on the mind map, there are three elements in the process of Christian maturity:
I Want to Change – This order is significant. You cannot improve until you transform. The first order of business is to change, which is what the Bible calls repentance. Do you want to change? Repent. Simple. That is how it works. There is no other way.
To repent means to change from one way of thinking and behaving to another way of thinking or acting. If you choose to change (repent), you will grow. Does this make sense to you?
Some theologians say the Christian life is a life of repentance and on-going repenting. This truth should be good news for the believer. You can change. The unbeliever cannot do what you can do. You can transform because you have the gospel. You have the power of Christ working in you. Repentance is not a discouraging concept for the believer. It is the door through which you walk to grow in Christ.
Sometimes the word repentance has gotten a bad rap. That should never be. It is the Christian’s primary weapon when it comes to changing.
I Want to Grow – Are you repenting daily to God and others? If so, guess what? You’re going to grow–mature in Christ. You have no other option. The repenting Christian is a changing, growing, maturing Christian. And what do you mature into so you know that you are there?
There is only one option, one goal, one person to become: you become like Christ. If you are daily living out repentance in your life, Jesus Christ will begin to take shape in you. If you continue to walk out repentance, He will not only take form in you, but you will start to act like Him. You will become Christlike.
Though there are many ways of describing what it means to be Christlike from the Scriptures, I like Galatians 5:22-23. The fruit of the Spirit begins to take root in the heart of the repenting Christian. And the more you repent, the more the old ways and habits will be turned aside, and new ways and habits will begin to control your heart.
In time, it will become your characterization. The fruit of the Spirit becomes character qualities of the heart before they become behaviors in our life (Luke 6:45).
Here is the fruit that the Spirit gives to us. Scroll through this list and ask yourself how each particular manifestation is working out in your life. How are you doing? Write out your answers to these questions:
How did you do? Is Christ being formed in you? If so, you’re well on your way to Christian maturity. If not, you may be immature in specific areas and need to go back to the “I want to change” step to figure out what is wrong. Are there some things in your life that need repentance?
Perhaps you may need to enlist the help of others, though it has been my experience that most Christians know what they are doing or not doing. Whatever the problem is, you need to make the appropriate changes so that the formation of Christ (fruit of the Spirit) is in you.
I Want to Serve – You know you are Christlike when the first default of your heart is to serve others (Mark 10:45). There was a unique quality about Jesus: He was not about Himself. He was all about others, particularly His Father and us (Romans 5:8). He could not have made this more evident when He said,
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 22:37-40
These verses were Jesus’ job description while He was on earth. It is the litmus test that reveals a true understanding and application of the gospel (Christ) in a person’s life. This ideal is the absolute height of Christian maturity. If you’re living for God and others more than anything else, you’ve hit the “Jesus zone,” and the grace of God is empowering you for the glory of God and the benefit of others.
If your desire is still more about you rather than God and others, you need to go back to the gospel and see what it is that you do not understand and are unwilling to apply to your life. If you are stuck as to what that is, I appeal to you to get some help.
God has provided you with everything you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). If you are actively pursuing God and others in the various means of grace available for you, as noted on the lower left-hand side of the map, and you are actively living out repentance before God and others, lower right-hand side of the map, there is nothing that should hinder you from being a mature Christian.