Shallow Faith – Myths About Spiritual Maturity by Tony Cooke

Shallow Faith – Myths About Spiritual Maturity by Tony Cooke

I often hear spiritual leaders express concern about the lack of depth in peoples’ faith.  Shallow Christianity is marked by the five C’s.

  • It is CASUAL, not committed.
  • It is based on CONVENIENCE, not on covenant.
  • It knows COMFORT, but not the cross.
  • It is COMPROMISED, not consecrated.
  • It produces CARNALITY, not Christ-likeness.

Growth and maturity are the normal and expected outgrowth of an initial decision to follow Jesus.

  • Ephesians 4:15 (NLT) – …we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ.
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:3 – …your faith grows exceedingly…
  • 2 Peter 3:18 – …grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • 1 Peter 2:2 (NLT) – …you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation.

If we are not experiencing progress in our spiritual development, we should seek God diligently to discover why and to stimulate our advancement in the faith.  Francois Fenelon said, “There is nothing that is more dangerous to your own salvation, more unworthy of God and more harmful to your own happiness than that you should be content to remain as you are.”

Gelet Burgess remarked, “If in the last few years you haven’t discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse.  You may be dead.”  John Rooney stated, “The quickest way to become an old dog is to stop learning new tricks.” 


So why do some not grow as God desires?  Perhaps it’s because we mistakenly believe that certain things automatically bring spiritual maturity that really don’t.  Let’s look at some of these common myths.

MYTH # 1.  TIME automatically makes us spiritually mature.

Time is certainly helpful when it comes to spiritual growth, and it presents a framework in which growth can occur.  But time alone is no guarantee that growth has taken place or will take place.  Ed Cole said, “The popular notion is that maturity comes with age. Not true. You get old with age. Maturity comes with the acceptance of responsibility in every area of your life.”

This truth is evident in the remark made to the Hebrew Christians (5:12), “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”  That’s quite an indictment!

The remark about coming to a place of needing milk seems to give the impression that the Hebrew Christians had actually regressed instead of progressed.  We need to be certain that we are moving in the right direction in our spiritual walk.  Abraham Lincoln once said, “I walk slowly, but I never walk backwards.”

In the Old Testament, we see a young man named Elihu who sat by respectfully (and quietly) while four older, more seasoned men wrangled unproductively.  He finally said, "I am young in years, and you are very old; Therefore I was afraid, and dared not declare my opinion to you. I said, ‘Age should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.’ But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding. Great men are not always wise, nor do the aged always understand justice.” (Job 32:6-9)

I understand that there is a wonderful “seasoning” that can come through time and experience, but we’ve also seen young people whose souls have been wonderfully touched by God, and we see in them wisdom and character beyond their years.  I believe this is what David had in mind when he said, “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth…” (Psalm 144:2).  Time alone doesn’t make you spiritually mature; it’s what you do with and during that time.

MYTH # 2.  PROXIMITY automatically makes you spiritually mature.

Proximity refers to closeness, and in this context we’re speaking about being close to a godly person or to a group of believers.  Again, this can help, but it doesn’t guarantee maturity. 

  • Judas was close to Jesus. 
  • Ananias and Saphira were a part of the church.
  • Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:13) believed the gospel, was baptized, and even “continued with Philip,” but he certainly didn’t mature the way God desired.
  • Felix (Acts 24:25-26) conversed often with Paul. 

Ecclesiastes 8:10 (NIV) gives a gripping and sobering account of those who were “around” a godly atmosphere, but never changed.  It reads: “I saw the wicked buried — those who used to come and go from the holy place…”

While it’s good to be in close relationship with believers and to be actively involved in a place of worship, we must have more than proximity; we must allow ourselves to be transformed by the Word and by the Spirit of God.  Proximity doesn’t take the place of an obedient life!  We are deceived if we think that just because we have an anointed pastor or a godly friend, or attend a great church that we are automatically spiritually mature.  Those can be very helpful, but they don’t take the place of growing in obedience, in our character, and in our relationship with God.

MYTH # 3.  APPEARANCE automatically makes you spiritually mature.

How many times have appearances been misleading?  How many times did we see something that looked like a good deal, but it fell apart?  How many times have we seen someone who seemed to be very impressive and perhaps even put them on a pedestal, only to later discover some less-than-admirable traits in their life?

Jesus warned against judging by appearances when He said, “Be honest in your judgment and do not decide at a glance (superficially and by appearances); but judge fairly and righteously.” (John 7:24, Amp)

Even the prophet Samuel nearly fell into the “appearance trap.”  When looking at Eliab (David’s brother) as a prospective king, God told him, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

(1 Samuel 16:7).

It’s important to realize that carrying a Bible, wearing fish lapel pins, having a Jesus bumper sticker, and speaking Christian-ese are no indicators of true spiritual maturity.  Outward appearances don’t necessarily constitute inward quality.  In 2 Corinthians 5:12, Paul referred to, “those who boast in appearance and not in heart.”  The NLT renders that phrase, “…those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart.” 


Next month, we’re going to look at four other factors that don’t automatically make us spiritually mature.  In the meantime, let’s continue a true pursuit of what God wants us pursuing in our own lives. 

Remember what Paul said in Philippians 3:12 – I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.

That reminds me a bit of the statement that one person made, “Don’t be yourself.  Be superior to the fellow you were yesterday.”

To read Part Two of this article, click here.