Spiritual Maturity
How you can be FILLED with God’s Spirit!

All human life comes from a tiny egg, called an ovum, produced within the mother. About the size of a pinpoint, an ovum’s average life span is one or two days—unless fertilized by the father’s sperm. The male sperm is the tiniest cell in the human body—about 1/50th the size of the ovum. Once it fertilizes the female egg, the ovum becomes embedded in the side of the womb where, for 40 weeks, that begotten life is nourished and begins to grow.

Growth inside the womb is miraculously fast-paced. Imagine a pinpoint, after just 8 weeks, with arms, legs and head clearly visible. After 16 weeks, the heart is beating rapidly and it is possible to identify whether it is a boy or girl. By 28 weeks, the child is fully developed, though not fully grown or nourished (he only weighs a few pounds). After 36 weeks, the average weight is between 5 and 6 pounds. Then, after 40 weeks, the 8-pounder is ready to move out of his cramped studio apartment! After 40 weeks of proper nourishment and growth, he is ready for life outside the womb.

In the exact same way, spiritually speaking, we are born into God’s Family. Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). He was referring to our spiritual birth. And spiritual life, like physical, begins in the smallest possible way.

Godly Seed

1 Peter 1:23 reveals how spiritual life begins: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” Our spiritual birth begins, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, eternal seed. It begins with God’s seed—His Holy Spirit—typed by a father’s sperm. Romans 8:16 says that when God’s Spirit (the sperm) combines with our human spirit (the ovum), we become children of God—begotten children of God.

That is the actual beginning of eternal life! Of course, there is still a long way to go before the actual birth. Mr. Armstrong explains in Mystery of the Ages, “As yet we are not born divine beings. We are not yet composed of spirit, but of physical matter. The divine life has merely been begotten. This divine character starts so very small it is doubtful if much of it is in evidence ….”

From that point, however, the spiritual embryo must grow. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Spiritual growth must be steady and rapid because we only have so much time to prepare for the birth.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:16 to make the most of that time. Then, in verses 17-18, he tells us how to reach spiritual maturity: “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”

Our spiritual life begins in the smallest possible way—by God imparting His seed—His own nature—into our minds. It ends in being born as divine spirit beings into God’s Family. To reach this spiritual maturity, we must become filled with God’s Holy Spirit.

The Spirit of Power

Prior to receiving God’s Spirit, God expects us to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). Repentance means change. We have to repent of breaking God’s law and commit to changing the whole course of our lives—to begin living God’s way. Then we are baptized in water, which is a symbol of our willingness to bury the old man (study Romans 6).

After baptism, God promises the gift of the Holy Spirit—His own seed—because it is that power by which we make the change permanent! This process is known as conversion.

In Acts 1:8, Jesus told His disciples that after He departed, they would “receive power”—the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 also refers to the power of God’s Spirit. We need the power of God to make life-altering changes permanent.

In John 5:30, Jesus said, “I can of mine own self do nothing.” Yet, look at what that man—Jesus Christ—was able to accomplish. It’s because He relied on and used the power of God. Notice how He used that power in Acts 10:38: “…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy [Spirit] and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” Christ used God’s power to do good works. He used it to live a sinless life. He used it to overcome the devil.

Now that is power! He was flesh and blood just as we are—yet He lived a perfect life. That’s because He was full of God’s Spirit throughout His life on Earth. John 3:34 says God gave Him the Spirit without measure. His supply was full (see Philippians 1:19).

With us, however, God begins the process of conversion by giving only a small portion of His Holy Spirit after baptism and the laying on of hands.

Parable of the Pounds

In Ephesians 1:14, Paul calls the small amount of Holy Spirit we receive the “earnest of our inheritance.” It’s like a down payment. God puts down a small amount after baptism and promises a future position of rule in His kingdom if we reach full spiritual maturity.

The parable of the pounds in Luke 19 explains this thoroughly. In that passage, the nobleman represents Jesus Christ, and the servants represent God’s people. The pounds represent the Spirit of God. Christ gave each servant one pound—a small portion of God’s Spirit—and told them to use it until He returned (verse 13).

Upon His return, He called the first servant before Him to see how he used his pound. He had gained ten pounds. Christ rewarded him with rule over ten cities. The second servant was given rule over five cities because his pound had multiplied by five.

The third servant did not use what Christ gave him. His pound did not multiply. There was no growth. So Christ took it away from him and gave to the one who had gained ten!

The point of this parable is that when God gives His Spirit to us after baptism, as small as it might be, He expects it to grow and multiply in our lives. In other words, use it or lose it!

Concerning the small amount of Spirit we receive after baptism, Mr. Armstrong wrote in the February 1983 Good News, “We do not receive enough of this divine power all at once to last forever.” That means, receiving the seed of God’s Spirit does not guarantee salvation. That seed must grow by the addition of more Spirit.

The Life of Christ

After God places His seed in us, it is Jesus Christ who must then add spiritual substance to our lives. He accomplishes this by living in us through the Spirit.

The popular teaching of this world is that Christians are saved by the death of Christ. Actually, Romans 5 says we are justified by Christ’s blood—which has to do with our guilty past, not the future. God forgives us of our past sins and we are reconciled to Him through the death of our Savior, but we are saved by Christ’s life! (verse 10). Just the opposite of what most people believe.

Paul explains how this occurs in Romans 8. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (verse 9). The Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ are one and the same. God uses that power to fertilize our minds. He is our Father. He is the one who gives us life.

After God plants His seed, however, it is Christ who then begins to work with God’s children directly. Jesus said in John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” As the Father, it is God who begins the process of spiritual life. He draws us to Christ, who then makes sure we receive a continuous supply of the Holy Spirit.

Back to Romans 8, verse 10: “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” That’s what it means to be full of God’s Spirit. It means submitting to the rule and authority of our Husband, Jesus Christ, so that He might live His life in us (Galatians 4:19).

Continuing in verse 11 of Romans 8: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” The Spirit God imparts into our minds after baptism is the power by which He will raise us to eternal life in the resurrection. Without the Holy Spirit dwelling in our minds, we would never gain eternal life. The Holy Spirit actually imparts the power to commence with eternal life!

What a wonderful gift God has given us. He’s given us a small down payment of our future inheritance and wants to see how we will use it.

An Obedient Attitude

Paul continues in Romans 8:14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” God says we are His own children if His Spirit leads us—if we are growing spiritually. God does not promise the gift of eternal life to those who just receive the Holy Spirit after baptism. We must be led by it throughout our lives.

We have already noted what happened to the servant in Luke 19 who did not use the Spirit of God. God took the Spirit from Him and gave it to the one who grew the most. That unprofitable servant had an attitude like the “citizens” of that parable—those who never received God’s Spirit. Those who said, “We will not have this man [Christ] to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). Those who used the Spirit, however, humbly submitted to the loving authority of Jesus Christ.

God’s Spirit cannot lead us unless we submit to God’s rule in our lives. The reason God expects us to have an obedient and submissive attitude prior to baptism is because the Holy Spirit is an obedient and submissive spirit! It would be useless, given in vain, without us first having the right attitude.

Notice Romans 8:7: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Our natural minds will not be subjected to God’s rule. They are hostile to God—which is what “enmity” means.

A mind that is led by the Spirit, however, submits to the rule and authority of God. And if we stay in that attitude, God will add more of His Spirit to our lives. “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy [Spirit], whom God hath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:32).

As powerful as God’s Spirit is, it will not forcefully push us. Jesus Christ cannot force His way into our lives. We have to submit to that awesome power. We have to follow God’s Spirit.

A repentant attitude is what God expects from the start, even prior to baptism. In addition, there are certain tools we must use for God to add spiritual substance to our lives.

Spiritual Tools

First, we must ask God for spiritual substance in prayer. Then, if we combine that with regular Bible study, God will add more of His Spirit to our lives. As we study and pray, God’s Spirit gives us spiritual comprehension—the ability to understand spiritual things.

Jesus said in John 16:13, “Howbeit when it, the Spirit of truth, is come, it will guide you into all truth: for it shall not speak of itself; but whatsoever it shall hear, that shall it speak: and it will show you things to come.” (The King James is inaccurate here. It should refer to the Holy Spirit as “it,” since it is God’s power, not a separate being of itself.) God’s Spirit, Jesus said, guides us into all truth.

The Apostle Paul explains further: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). The carnal mind cannot understand the things of God without the Holy Spirit. That’s why there is so much religious confusion in the world today. But with God’s Spirit, we can understand all things—even the deep things of God. That, of course, presupposes the fact that we are properly using the spiritual tools God places at our disposal.

In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us to put on the whole armor of God so that we might stand against the devil’s attacks. In verse 17, he says, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Our spiritual sword is the Word of God—the Holy Bible. You cannot separate the two—the sword of the Spirit and the Word of God—because the Bible is where spiritual things are revealed in writing.

Continuing in verse 18: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” Here again, the two are inseparable—praying always and in the Spirit. Jesus said in Luke 11:13, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

Prayerfully asking God to guide your spiritual studies through the power of His Spirit is how you fill your mind with His divine nature. It’s how you grow spiritually to prepare for the birth.

What happens if we fail to use the spiritual tools God has made available? God warns in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, “Quench not the Spirit.” If we stop using the power God gives us, like the unprofitable servant in Luke 19, in time we will lose what we had to begin with. As Mr. Armstrong said, we do not receive enough of that power all at once to last forever. “This power comes into you from God daily,” he wrote. “It circulates from God into you and then on out from you in love, in faith, in joy, in patience—even in performing miracles. You might be imbued with this power yesterday and depleted of it today!” (Good News, February 1983). Grasp the significance of that statement. Without a continuous flow of that power, our supply will dwindle fast. Just like a light bulb cannot emanate light without the flow of electricity, our “light” cannot shine without the flow of God’s Spirit (Matthew 5:16).

How then can we know that God’s Spirit is flowing in our lives? How can we know that we are growing spiritually?

Judge by Fruits

Jesus said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). The fruits of the Spirit are found in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” These are the fruits God produces. They are His nature—His character. Like any physical father, when He passes on His seed to His children, they begin to develop their Father’s nature.

The first and most important result of God’s Spirit dwelling in the mind of a true Christian is love. This is not referring to human love. Paul was referring to the love of God “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5). The carnal mind does not have this kind of love—just look at the hateful, selfish, rebellious world we live in. God’s love is totally unselfish, submissive to authority, obedient to God’s law. It’s the most powerful force in the universe—a power almost no one uses!

Paul defines this love further in Romans 13:10: “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Isn’t it dumfounding that popular religion teaches that God’s love does away with His law? That is not what the Spirit of truth teaches! God’s love fulfills the law.

Paul leaves no doubt about which law he was referring to: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (verses 8-9). God’s love, as defined in the Bible, is obedience to His law. God imparts that love into our minds through the Holy Spirit. That’s the power by which we overcome our carnal nature. That’s how we worship God in spirit (John 4:24).

If we love God and submit to the rule of Christ in our lives—if led by the Spirit—then we will not continue in sin. We will use the power of God to overcome sin. That doesn’t mean we will lead perfect lives while following God’s Spirit. That spiritual embryo must grow toward perfection—something we will attain when finally born into God’s Family.

But right now, God is concerned about the direction of our lives. Are we moving forward, being led by the Spirit, overcoming sin and replacing carnality with the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Or are we continuing in the way we lived prior to conversion?

God’s Spirit should be producing fruit in our lives.

The rest of the spiritual fruits listed in Galatians 5 are all additional expressions of godly love. There are two, however, that we might consider further.

A life led by the Spirit is one that exercises temperance, or self-control. Herein lies a great key to real spiritual power. Most people will not allow God’s Spirit to lead them because they are not willing to control their carnal desires. They are not willing to bury the old man (Romans 6:4). To grow spiritually, we must exercise self-control. Yet even this must be done of the Spirit. God is the one, if we are praying earnestly and studying diligently, who supplies the power we need to subdue the works of the flesh. Even Christ couldn’t do anything of Himself, but with God and His Spirit all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). With God, we can overcome our sinful nature. But we must go to God and seek help.

Another fruit we should consider is faith. To receive the faith of Christ, we need God’s power. Faith, it says in Hebrews 11:1, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Since spiritual things are not discerned by the five senses, it takes believing faith to worship and obey God in spirit. It takes faith to believe God will follow through with His promises—even when all visible evidence suggests otherwise.

These are the fruits that result from being led by God’s Spirit. True Christians, those who have the Spirit of God dwelling in their minds, will be producing the fruits of Galatians 5:22-23.

The Gift of Eternal Life

When we understand where this all leads, it makes perfect sense. Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Since all have sinned (Rom. 3:23), we have all earned eternal death. But through the blood of Christ—and by leading a repentant life, which means change—we can receive the gift of eternal life. Nothing we do could earn us eternal life. That comes as a gift from God by His Spirit.

That conversion process begins, however, in the smallest possible way—with only a tiny amount of God’s Spirit dwelling in your mind. That Spirit is also given as a free gift (Luke 11:13), but only if we seek after it in a right attitude. Even then, after receiving the Spirit, God wants to see how we will use it before He gives the gift of eternal life.

Have you ever searched long and hard for a gift a friend could really use? Imagine how you would feel if you found out later that your friend had taken that gift and stored it in the attic. That’s how God felt when His servant in Luke 19 put his gift in a napkin and buried it. God ended up taking it back! That is His prerogative.

Yet there are so many people in this world who consider themselves religious and who virtually demand from God what they want. They want all the benefits that God promises, but they do not want to do what the Bible says they must do to receive them.

God promises us an eternal position in His universe-ruling kingdom. That is our inheritance. To prepare for that, God has given us a small piece of the inheritance now—a down payment. Let’s use that earnest to add more of His Spirit to our lives as begotten children so we might be ready for our awesome birth as fully formed Spirit beings into God’s eternal Family!