Levels: Measuring Spiritual Progress

Levels: Measuring Spiritual Progress

[This is a Work in Progress!]
Why can’t I be perfect? After all, the Bible tells me I’m supposed to be perfect! (Matthew 5:48). Please don’t dismiss this question by thinking we can’t ever be that way because of our struggle with sin. Perhaps there’s more than meets the eye regarding our becoming like Jesus. You are now reading a work in progress… a lifelong effort, if you will. I would like to write a book, and this is the groundwork for its pages.

Popular role-playing games first brought to my attention the concept of levels, which brought an objective standard to progressing through the ranks of a particular character class in order to accomplish the overall mission of the game. Through attaining a numerical amount of experience points earned throughout the game by slaying monsters, dodging traps, using pre-defined character skills or by behaving consistent with their moral standard.

Much like in the US military, there are skills, knowledge, behavioral goals and experience that all play into achieving the next level, or rank. One who is a Corporal (E-4) in the US Army has attained more skills and knowledge, has acted consistent with the standards placed to achieve that rank, and has a longer period of time invested in their trade than a Private First Class (E-3).

In the realm of martial arts, belts measure progress toward the goal of self-mastery. When a person enters a martial art, they don’t begin as a Black Belt. No, they begin as a White Belt and work their way through a set standard of colored belts which serve as a means to visually determine where an individual is in their progress toward becoming a Black Belt, or master in their martial art. Even though there are varying degrees of mastery—and therefore deadliness—to attain a Black Belt in any martial art is a profound achievement, is worthy of honor, and is considered mastery.

Our current evangelical church culture shuns this concept of spirituality, forsaking it to being too Eastern, mystical, or even heretical. Mantras such as “Nobody’s perfect,” “Not perfect; just forgiven,” “We’re all just sinners saved by grace,” “We’ll never ‘arrive’ in this life,” or “Hey, I’m a sinner just like you” may be coming to mind right now as you read this. But make no mistake, the idea that God had the actual maturity or perfection of people in mind is really NOT heretical, but is His desire, when He said through the apostle Paul:

“And He (The Lord Jesus) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain… mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children…” (Ephesians 4:11-14a ESV).

What is the goal for a Christian in this life? Is there a way to measure progress toward that goal? These questions are fundamental to this essay and their answers have a long-range impact on how we live our lives while in our mortal bodies on earth during our lifetimes.

The end goal—the bottom line—for a Christian in this life is to please the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:x). How we accomplish that is by the quality of our journey on the path to our end goal. We are to do “everything for the glory of God” (I Cor 10:31). Our work, our family, our mundane activities and even our very thoughts are the means to our end. ALL of life, everything we do, affects our end goal. If that end goal is an expectation we have, then we ought to be able to know where we are on the journey.

The reason God gifted His children is to bring the Church to maturity (Eph 4:11-14).

Our church has a mission; a task; an objective; a goal to reach. The elders of our church have decided to make this the mission for their local church:

“Grace Church exists to glorify God by bringing people to Jesus and membership in His family, developing them to Christlike maturity, equipping them for their ministry to Grace Church and their mission in Ramona and the world.”

Excellent and clear stated goal! I applaud its brevity, clarity and its measurability. However, the measurability of the second item (developing them to Christlike maturity) is what is in question here in this essay. What are our church’s measures for a person who desires to be like Christ? Interestingly enough, I am the one the elders have tasked and hired to define this, which increases my sense of urgency and necessity to have these questions answered. Even though this research spreads across a great distance and variety of religious thought, martial arts, and various political, social and military structures, it is the Bible that wins the place of prominence in developing and answering these questions.

More to come…

  • Neil Schultz

    This is great, Sheila! Excellent help for me as I develop this, especially the last part about honesty. A few brief thoughts.

    How about transparency? Being able to see one's own life for what it is (struggles, victories, goals, dreams, lessons learned) and to be able to communicate that life to others.

    We love because it's mirroring God and His actions. We love in order to be like Him. To be like Him pleases Him. That's my intent on stating the end-goal in life is to please Him. Perhaps I need to rework that bit.

  • admin

    Peter talked about the stature of a perfect man. I believe the virtues will manifest the mature Christian.


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