Many churches evaluate spiritual maturity solely on the basis of how well you can identify Bible characters, interpret Bible passages, quote Bible verses, and explain biblical theology. The ability to debate doctrine is considered by some as the ultimate proof of spirituality. However, while knowledge of the Bible is foundational to spiritual maturity, it isn’t the total measurement of it.

The truth is this: Spiritual maturity is demonstrated more by behavior than by beliefs. The Christian life isn’t just a matter of creeds and convictions; it includes conduct and character. Beliefs must be backed up with behavior. Our deeds must be consistent with our creeds.

The New Testament repeatedly teaches that our actions and attitudes reveal our maturity more than our affirmations. James 2:18 puts it bluntly: “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (italics added). James also said, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior” (James 3:13 NASB). If your faith hasn’t changed your lifestyle, your faith isn’t worth much.

Paul believed in connecting belief and behavior. In every one of his letters, he drives home the importance of practicing what we believe. Ephesians 5:8 (LB) says, “Though once your heart was full of darkness, now it is full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it!” (italics added).

Jesus said it most succinctly of all: “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matt. 7:16). It is fruit, not knowledge, that demonstrates a person’s maturity. If we don’t put into practice what we know, we foolishly “build a house on sand” (see Matt. 7:24–27). — Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church: Growth without Compromising Your Message and Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007).

This article excerpted from The Discipleship Course.

The Discipleship Course is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.