“I never did drink much. I stayed married to my wife. And I gave all my money away to people in need.”
Those were the words of a 95-year-old man to his Christian granddaughter after she shared the gospel with him one last time in hopes of leading him to salvation. He died shortly after, expecting his good works to be enough.
It’s easy for non-Christians and Christians alike to get caught up in external acts and think it somehow equates to holiness. While Jesus did say, “You will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:16), He was not speaking of outward actions alone, but those pouring forth from the spiritually mature heart—the fruit of the spirit, which include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
While Christians can sometimes pride themselves in checking “holiness” boxes, Jesus made it clear that external works are not indicators of right living. In fact, He often rebuked the Pharisees for believing so.
First Corinthians 13:2 says, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (NIV).
Certainly, we should desire to live a life that is pleasing before the Lord, but the greatest sign of spiritual maturity isn’t tithing, “being nice,” attending church or reciting scriptures. The greatest sign of spiritual maturity is LOVE.
Of the fruit of love, Gloria Copeland says, “Love is the single most important key to growing up in God. If we don’t grow up in love, we don’t grow up at all.”
Love is the greatest manifestation of spirituality there is! It heads the list of all the fruit of the spirit.
In fact, love holds the other fruit together and causes them to all function together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:14, NIV). That’s why Ephesians 4:15 (AMPC) calls us to “grow up in every way and in all things into Him.” We do this by perfecting the following areas of the greatest sign of spiritual maturity.
1. Love Is Evident in the Way You Talk
“Earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces (the higher gifts and the choicest graces). And yet I will show you a still more excellent way [one that is better by far and the highest of them all—love].” –1 Corinthians 12:31 (AMPC)
Some people think love is so basic, it’s something only spiritual beginners must study. They might consider things like the gifts of the Spirit—prophecy, healings and miracles, for example—as more relevant to the mature believer. But the Corinthian church proved the gifts are not marks of spiritual maturity at all. They abounded in spiritual gifts, yet Paul referred to them as “mere infants…in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1, AMPC).
Thank God, we don’t have to be like that! We don’t have to be stuck in spiritual infancy. We can measure our progress by looking at the way we love one another. One way to assess your spiritual maturity is to evaluate the way you talk.
- Are you patient and kind when you talk to your spouse, children or employees?
- Are you boastful or proud about your accomplishments or abilities either out loud or to yourself?
- Do you speak rudely or curtly to anyone? (Be real. Thinking someone “deserves” it does not justify it in God’s eyes.)
- Do you bring up the past failings of others during a conflict?
(Find out 9 Ways to Tell if God’s Love Is Shining Through You HERE.)
Some people just naturally have a sharp tongue and an abrupt personality. They’re often harsh with others and hurt their feelings. “I can’t help it,” they’ll say. “That’s how I am. I don’t sugarcoat things. I tell it like it is. If people get offended, that’s their problem.”
That kind of thinking isn’t acceptable. God expects us, as His children, to walk in love. He expects us to be kind because He is kind. If this requires a personality change—that’s OK. God is up to the job. His Spirit within you can get it done. That is how you will bring forth the fruit of the spirit in your life and enjoy the marvelous rewards of doing so.
Your spiritual maturity is found in the way you talk. If your talk isn’t loving, get with the Lord and ask Him to help you in this area. The fruit is there—it just needs cultivating and harvesting!
Watch Kenneth Copeland teach you the importance of perfecting your love walk.
2. Love Is Evident in the Way You Think
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” –1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)
Everything with God comes down to the heart. You can speak so sweetly and politely to others and still have a wrong heart or spirit about you.
That’s why the fruit of love is evident not just in the way you speak, but in the way you think. Consider the beliefs covered in 1 Corinthians 13:
- Love does not envy. It is not resentful of what others have.
- Love does not dishonor others—even in your heart.
- Love always trusts (ever ready to believe the best in others).
- Love always hopes. (Hope is our belief in Christ and what He has done.)
- Love always perseveres—it doesn’t quit—this action begins in your believing!
- Love rejoices with the truth (anything that justifies sin is not love).
This may seem like a tall order. And no one is perfect. But mature believers aspire to these things, don’t make excuses for the lack of them, and never cease working on them. To grow in spiritual maturity, every time you are facing a situation (no matter how big or small), line up your thinking and believing with the Bible’s description of love.
Then, hold yourself accountable! Repent when needed and ask the Lord to help you grow in the fruit of His love.
3. Love Is Evident in the Way You Act
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” –1 John 4:8 NIV)
Whoever does not show love to others does not know God. Straight from 1 John 4, there’s no way around it. The Bible is clear that love comes from being in fellowship with God. It is the fruit of the spirit living and dwelling within you. But fruit must be cultivated—it doesn’t just appear on its own. It takes effort! And effort comes from desire.
Making changes is a continual part of walking in love for us all. Due to the influence of the world and the devil, we all have unloving habits and attitudes to overcome.
As you renew your mind to the ways of love by spending time in the Word, you start noticing where you’re out of line in your love walk, and you’re able to change.
What actions prove love is living in us? Consider the following evidence of love through action.
How love doesn’t act:
Love doesn’t judge.
Love doesn’t think of itself more highly than it ought to.
Love doesn’t criticize (this includes social media).
Love doesn’t gossip.
Love doesn’t get angry easily.
Love doesn’t tear others down.
Love doesn’t act like it is better than others.
Love doesn’t grumble and complain.
Love isn’t cynical and negative.
Love is humble and kind.
Love shows compassion to others.
Love is generous.
Love is positive and optimistic—hopeful.
Love is thankful.
Love is patient with difficult people and in trying times.
Love desires to help others.
Love FORGIVES everyone for every offense.
Of this kind of love, Gloria Copeland says, “Divine love is not self-seeking. It is self-giving.”
Walking in love means we lay down our own rights and look out for the other person’s rights instead. When we’re tired or under pressure, we lay down the right to let people know about it by snapping at them and telling them what a hard day we’ve had. We set aside our own feelings and behave kindly and gently to those around us.
In whatever ways you’ve missed the mark in the area of love, put the past behind you and make a new choice. Declare 1 Corinthians 13 every day. Tape it on your mirror or your refrigerator and keep a 3-by-5 card in your Bible. That way you’ll see it a lot! As you do, love will begin to be a habit. It will take over your life and you’ll want to reach higher every day!
Watch Kenneth and Gloria Copeland share how you can’t fail when you walk in love.
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