Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

10 Telltale Marks of a Growing Christian

  • Jennifer Slattery JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com
10 Telltale Marks of a Growing Christian

If Christian maturity is living without sin, being able to recite numerous verses, or regularly participating in certain spiritual disciplines, I’ve got a long way to go. In fact, on a normal day, when my patience runs thin or I react in frustration, it can feel as if I’ve slipped in the opposite direction. Such thinking only leaves me feeling defeated and discouraged and ready to drown my many failures in a large tub of ice cream. 

When I take a step back, however, and view my faith history from a wider, more far-reaching lens, my growth becomes evident, although perhaps not in ways some of us might expect. Here’s why: my spiritual maturity isn’t about head knowledge or ritual performance, but instead learning to better reflect my Savior. 

Here are 10 telltale signs you’re growing in Christ.

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1. You engage in fewer social media arguments.

1. You engage in fewer social media arguments.

We humans seem to have an almost innate need to be right, and many of us can get riled up over almost any issue. We may even claim our “healthy debates” stem from a desire to educate, “out of love,” of course. But if we’re honest with ourselves, more often than not, our response has more to do with pride than any genuine love for another. 

Scripture puts it this way: “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1)

Granted, there are times when God calls us to speak truth, but He’ll never ask us to do so without cloaking our words in a heavy dose of love, and love takes time to engage personally, face-to face. It asks questions, listens, seeks to understand, and recognizes the issues many of us fight over are merely smokescreens hiding a wounded heart.

It’s hard to engage at this level through social media.

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2. You love to serve.

2. You love to serve.

John, one of Jesus’ disciples, put it this way, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” The love he’s talking about here isn’t the self-obsessed kind nor the “I’ll help you out if you do the same for me” variety we often see in today’s culture. When we’re living and growing in Christ, we begin to love as He did, and His love drove Him straight to the cross.

In other words, the mature Christian is the one who is increasingly ready to lay down his or her life for another. For some, this might lead to literal death, like all who share the gospel in places hostile to Christianity. For most of us, though, God will ask us to embrace countless “little deaths” like gladly accepting inconvenience to help a neighbor or living on budget to give more generously.

Because without action, our words are nothing more than empty noise, so “let us not love with words or speech but with action and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

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3. You prioritize heart-change over behavior modification.

3. You prioritize heart-change over behavior modification.

Surface-level obedience—focusing on our outward behaviors—often feels more comfortable than deep heart change because the latter requires taking an honest look at ourselves. When Jesus encountered the religious elite of His day, a group known for impeccable behavior, He called them whitewashed tombs and equated them to nasty, grime-filled cups with shiny exteriors.

These statements shocked the Pharisees and likely everyone else within earshot. If Jesus rebuked those men known for their “righteous” behavior, what hope was there for anyone? None, if our hearts remain in the same condition as theirs, which was far from God. It wasn’t that He was opposed to their actions but rather wanted them to stem from their heart.

When you follow Jesus’ encounters throughout the New Testament, you’ll notice He consistently reprimanded outward and superficial shows of righteousness while offering grace to the repentant. Here’s why: we can do nothing on our own. Without total reliance on God, we’d all be filthy rags, but with hearts turned toward Him, our growth is guaranteed, deep, and lasting. 

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4. You turn to Jesus, instead of away from Him, during times of doubt.

4. You turn to Jesus, instead of away from Him, during times of doubt.

Doubt is normal and can lead us to a deeper understanding of and greater intimacy with God. Decades ago, when wrestling with some questions regarding my faith, I feared God might grow angry with me or that my search for answers would lead me toward darkness. 

And yet, consider Jesus’ response to Thomas the apostle, when he expressed doubt regarding Christ’s resurrection. He didn’t condemn Thomas or ridicule him. Instead, Jesus provided Thomas with what he’d asked for—proof, inviting him to touch Christ’s wounds. God may not give us tangible evidence to expel our doubt, but He will give us all the answers we need to surrender our lives—and eternity—to Him. More than that, with every question, as we search His Word and lean into Him, He’ll draw us closer to Himself.

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5. Your respect for Scripture has increased.

5. Your respect for Scripture has increased.

When we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit, our guide and power source, indwells us and stirs us to live for God. One of His primary roles is to guide us into all truth, and the Bible is God’s truth revealed. The more we come to know Jesus and how to please Him, the more we want to know Him, and the more we come to trust His revelation.

As a young adult, I had a very shallow, deceived view of Scripture. I believed it contained truth, but I wasn’t certain it was truth—that every word within it was breathed by God. As I grew in my faith and intimacy with Christ, however, I developed a hunger to learn. I wasn’t content to have ideas regarding to Scripture. I wanted to investigate the Bible for myself. What began as a niggling of doubt resulted in unshakable faith in the credibility and authority of God’s Word.

My story is not unique. As God’s children draw closer to Him and consistently yield to the Holy Spirit, He transforms our thinking, replacing lies with truth. This is true even for those who’ve never doubted the authority of Scripture. The more they read it, the more God reveals Himself to them, and their love and respect for the Bible grows.

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6. You can disagree with your pastor and still support him.

6. You can disagree with your pastor and still support him.

I once thought everyone had to read every part of Scripture as I did. Because, well, my interpretation was correct, and if someone viewed it differently, they absolutely had to be in error... regardless of how thoroughly they claimed to have studied a passage or doctrinal stance.

But then I began taking hermeneutics and other Bible classes and realized many highly intelligent scholars who deeply loved Jesus and held the utmost respect for His Word disagreed with me, and often, one another, and presented logical and Scripturally based reasons for doing so. Regardless of whether I agree with their stance, I came to respect their investigation and intellectual integrity.

I also learned to approach Scripture with a great deal of humility, recognizing that though God’s Word is inspired, human interpretation, mine included, is not. And for nonessential matters, I believe God would want us to offer one another the same grace Paul offered the ancient Christians in Philippi: “And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” (v. 3:15b)

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7. You can respect and engage with those with different worldviews.

7. You can respect and engage with those with different worldviews.

Most often, when we begin drawing lines, we do so out of fear and personal discomfort. And I get it. The Holy Spirit within us recoils at sin, but He also fiercely loves those enslaved by it. If there’s ever any doubt, simply read about all the people Jesus encountered—the adulterer, the prostitute, the thief, the man controlled by demons. People the religious leaders of His day would have nothing to do with, but individuals Jesus sought out. 

When others became uncomfortable with all the riffraff He welcomed near, He said, in essence, “I came for these precious men and women. For all of them, just as I came for you. They’re the reasons I left my throne in heaven.” (Luke 19:10)

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8. You have less to prove.

8. You have less to prove.

Our attempts at self-elevation only reveal how truly insignificant we feel. The one secure in themselves has nothing to prove or any need to define themselves by temporary titles or achievements. We’ll only find unshakable confidence in Christ.

The closer we are to Jesus, and the more we allow His love to soak into our deepest, most wounded places, the more we learn to base our identity in Him and what He’s done for us. That’s something no job loss, relational breakdown, or momentary failure can undo. 

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9. You've become more generous.

9. You've become more generous.

As we grow closer to Christ and see Him work in our lives and the lives of others, we come to realize how incredibly giving He is. Everything we have is a gift from Him. Without Him, we wouldn’t exist. He’s sovereign, faithful, loving, and attentive, and our source for everything beautiful and true. Moreover, His heart is for us always. Though Scripture doesn’t promise material blessings, it promises God will always give us what we need most. 

As we relinquish our hold on our worldly wealth—those things that temporarily pacify but can never bring true joy and freedom—He replaces them with things of infinite value. When we yield to Him and share whatever blessings He’s provided, not only do we demonstrate and deepen our trust in Him, but we begin to experience His love flowing through us to another. That brings more joy than hoarding ever could!

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10. You're able to own up to your mistakes and sins.

10. You're able to own up to your mistakes and sins.

We come to Jesus and remain in Him by grace and grace alone. Most of us acknowledge this when it comes to our salvation but then spend the rest of our Christian walk living as if our standing with God depended on ourselves. It’s like we’ve somehow forgotten the entire message of the gospel—we’re rotten to our core and in desperate need of a Savior. The more we grow in Christ, the more we come to realize that it is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit alone that empowers us for godly living. 

In other words, we need Him today as much as we did when we first turned to Him. When we mess up, that simply proves what we already know to be true—we’re helpless and hopeless without God! The solution, then, is to acknowledge our need and lean deeper into Him. 

Jennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog found at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, (http://whollyloved.com) she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband. 

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