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My Picture of Spiritual Maturity: 16 Foundation Bins of Life-Transformation

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

Now that we've talked about 3 other pictures of spiritual maturity in the past few months - Jesus' picture of spiritual maturity, the picture of spiritual maturity found in Romans, and Paul's picture for leaders in the church - today we will be talking about my picture of spiritual mature that I call 16 Foundation Bins of Life-Transformation.

Chip Ingram’s r12 material first appeared in 2011, I think. Nine years before that, God led me to a conference at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, where, for the first time, I saw a “picture” of spiritual maturity that captured many of the ideas God had already put on my heart related to this subject. FBC’s “picture” described the characteristics of the Christians this congregation was seeking to grow.

During the two years after that, I unpacked their picture further in order to incorporate some additional aspects of life transformation that I had been impressed should be part of making Mature Disciples. When Chip Ingram’s r12 teaching came out subsequently, I found it tremendously confirming of what God is trying to say to His Church. And now, hearing what God has said to and shown Lonnie Berger over the past 30 years, I have no doubt as to the picture of spiritual maturity God is wanting us to see.

My picture of spiritual maturity incorporates or addresses 16 areas or aspects of life common to all of us. These 16 areas are drawn from the 17 “galaxies” we saw in our first glimpse from God’s end of His telescope. The difference in number is simply because I have chosen to combine two of the “galaxies” into one, namely those relating to creation and government. The combination is a reasonable one and doesn’t cause any loss of relative importance for either “galaxy.” At the same time, making the combination facilitates the illustration I will develop shortly.

That said, there is nothing inherently significant or unique about the number 16 in this context. This is simply the smallest number of life areas I have been able to identify that is both comprehensive and sufficiently specific to be useful. More would seem to be unnecessarily complicated; fewer would cause a loss of important detail. Nevertheless, after considering my list, you may choose to combine some or add others of your own in order to paint a picture of a Mature Disciple that is useful to you. Again, the key is that you have a workable, useful picture!

Before going into the details of these 16 areas, I want you to begin thinking of them collectively as comprising the foundation of a building. In 1 Corinthians 3:9-17, God tells us that we are His “building” and His “temple.” As each of us lives out our individual, unique lives, it is like each of us building a unique building. And yet, as Believers, all of our lives are built on the same foundation, “which is Jesus Christ.”

For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. 1 Corinthians 3:9-17

Have you ever considered that architects and homebuilders could design and build an infinite number of different houses all having an identical foundation? The size and shape of the foundation could be the same for all of them, but the site location, exterior appearance, and interior layout could be unique for each one, not to mention the myriad ways each is finished and furnished.

In the same way, all of us in God’s Kingdom have the same foundation -- Jesus Christ. God’s plan is for Jesus to shape our lives in all the areas of life common to everyone. When we are seeing and living life the way God does, we all will be “shaped” by His power, His perspective, His precepts, etc. These, in turn, foundationally shape how we view ourselves, marriage, family, finances, work, and all the other aspects of life common to all of us. At the same time, we each will build a life that is different and unique because of:

  • God’s unique design and plan for each of us; and

  • the degree to which we do – or don’t – allow Jesus to live His life through us.

When constructing a building, a builder first prepares the site and pours concrete footers as a base on which to lay the foundation stones. On these foundation stones, he then constructs the subfloor platform or foundation floor on which the walls will be erected.

In the spiritual life (“house”) we are building, we already have identified the footers. We briefly mentioned them back in Chapter 4. They are the Basic Doctrines and Disciplines of the faith, the A-B-Cs, and 1-2-3s which every new Believer needs in order to become established in his faith.

Here’s a picture of a building site at which the footers are about to be poured:

In previous blogs, I stated that virtually all of the resources currently available for “disciplemaking” primarily address these Basic Doctrines and Disciplines. I also noted that these materials typically have three things in common. First, they are usually 12 to 24 chapters/lessons in length. Second, they all cover a predictable series of essential topics such as the credibility of the Bible, the person, and work of Jesus Christ, assurance of salvation, dealing with temptation, forgiveness, prayer, spending time in God’s Word, witnessing, etc. Third, they all end with the Great Commission and the challenge for the newly-discipled person to go and reproduce by leading another person through the same material and experience.

Let me illustrate what I’ve said, and hopefully ensure that we are thinking of the same key fundamentals when I say “Basic Doctrines and Disciplines.” Here are the lesson or chapter titles from three different but excellent resources that can be used in establishing these basic essentials with a new or undiscipled believer.

Just as the footers are essential for erecting a solid building, the Basic Doctrines and Disciplines are essential for making a disciple. But as we have seen in previous blogs, they are not sufficient for making a Mature Disciple. In the same way that foundation stones must be laid upon the footers, so too, in making a Mature Disciple, key foundational life areas common to all of us must become transformed to God’s way of seeing them. This will enable the Disciple to pursue, and enable God to build, the life God has purposed for him or her.

Here’s a way to visualize these 16 foundational life areas.

Before developing the 16 areas with a description and Biblical basis for each one, let me first simply list them and then picture them on the illustration we began above.

  1. Surrendered to Jesus Christ

  2. Biblically Measured

  3. Morally Excellent

  4. Friend(s) Accountable

  5. Gender Established

  6. Uniquely Designed

  7. Rightly-Related with Parents and Past Relationships

  8. Rightly-Related with Spouse

  9. Rightly-Related with Child(ren)

  10. Rightly-Related with The Body of Christ

  11. A ‘Good Name’ Worker

  12. Financially Faithful & Generous

  13. God’s Steward and Citizen

  14. Socially Responsible

  15. Evangelistically Bold

  16. Intentionally Disciplemaking

(Note that number 13, God’s Steward and Citizen, combines two of the “galaxies” in our earlier first glimpse of God’s view, namely, “U & creation” and “U & government.” That is how I reduced 17 “galaxies” to 16 foundation areas.)

This is also a good place to emphasize that it is better to look at this illustration as consisting of 16 open-topped bins, rather than 16 solid blocks. This distinction helps us remember that becoming or making a Mature Disciple is not the end of the journey for us or for the ones we disciple. We and they simply have addressed all these foundational areas of life in sufficient depth to gain that first integrated or holistic glimpse of God’s view.

A good analogy may be from our educational experience. Completing high school was not the end of our education. It was simply the point at which society, and our family, had made their best effort at giving us a foundation of knowledge in a broad array of subjects: literature, language arts, math, sciences, social studies, history, etc. To that, we would gain additional knowledge in one or more of these areas through further schooling, through people who come into our life, through reading and listening we choose, and through other life experiences.

I think of becoming a Mature Disciple as having acquired enough of a basic framework in each bin that our view has been transformed from looking at it from the world’s viewpoint to looking at it from God’s viewpoint. As we continue to grow spiritually from that point in our journey, God will give us opportunities (kairos moments) to add to, enhance, or flesh out the framework we have established in each bin. As we respond to these opportunities (think Transformation Cycle!), we put more and more Godly knowledge, understanding, and wisdom into each bin. This in turn makes a stronger and stronger foundation on which God can build the life He created us to live.

Seeing the foundation in this way, with identified or “labeled” bins, is invaluable for ending one of the problems which we recognized earlier as hindering our spiritual growth. The “bins” give us a place to gather, associate, or connect virtually every Godly insight we hear, read, or think. No matter how God brings insight to our attention -- whether it comes from our personal study or time in the Word, or from our pastor’s Sunday message, or from a radio, TV, CD, DVD, or internet source -- we have one or more bins into which we can place it. This insight may be a reminder of something we’ve forgotten. Or it may be an addition or clarification to how we are seeing and living our lives. Either way, we no longer have to feel like we get random pieces to a picture puzzle without ever seeing, let alone assembling, the complete picture. This can HUGELY help our process of growth and transformation!

In our next blog, we will unpack these 16 facets and explore some Scripture to dig deeper in each one.

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