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Spiritual Maturity

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By acanthurus - Posted on 04 March 2003

by Jason Lile
Maturity is a term that can be relative depending on your point of view. We can all remember back to the times when we were children. I can recall that when I was a child, the world seemed to revolve around me. From the time I woke in the morning to the time I went to bed, my thoughts were mostly about what I wanted. I had no one else to care for...Maturity is a term that can be relative depending on your point of view. We can all remember back to the times when we were children. I can recall that when I was a child, the world seemed to revolve around me. From the time I woke in the morning to the time I went to bed, my thoughts were mostly about what I wanted. I had no one else to care for...As we grow to be adults, we take on many responsibilities. We are no longer able to think only of self. We have to mature in our ability to consider the needs of our spouse, children, family and friends. As we continue to age and our responsibilities continue to change, we have to also be able to continue to grow in our maturity. Especially among our own families, we continue to sacrifice more for the ones around us and become less selfish. We give up our own personal needs and desires to devote our time to the needs of the family. As we became Christians, we started down a very similar path. As babes in Christ, we have no one else to care for… It is the responsibility of the older Christians around us to nurture us and help us to grow. This is done by example and most importantly by teaching the word of God. Similar to our physical growth and development, we take on more responsibility as we mature as Christians. It becomes our task to look out not only for ourselves, but also for others in their spiritual growth. The path to maturity is one that never ends in physical life, or in life as a Christian.
As I said earlier, maturity can be a relative term. What exactly does maturity entail in our Christian walk? What exactly are our responsibilities as we continue to mature and grow?

Eph 4:1-32
1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love,
3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

11 And He gave some {as} apostles, and some {as} prophets, and some {as} evangelists, and some {as} pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.
14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;
15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all {aspects} into Him, who is the head, {even} Christ,
16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
17 This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,
18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;
19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
20 But you did not learn Christ in this way,
21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,
22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,
24 and put on the new self, which in {the likeness of} God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one {of you,} with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.
26 Be angry, and {yet} do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.
28 Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have {something} to share with him who has need.
29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such {a word} as is good for edification according to the need {of the moment,} that it may give grace to those who hear.
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

What kind of language is Paul using in this text? We see words and phrases like "prisoner of the Lord", "patience", "diligent". Paul speaks throughout this text about how we are supposed to live as Christians. He tells us about our work and responsibilities.... and our lives as Christians are supposed to be about just that... work. You can see this clearly from Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Our "work of service" is the "building up of the body of Christ" vs. 12. Who is responsible for this work? Verses 15-16 talks about how "every joint" and "each individual part" causes the growth of the body. We all have a part to play. In verses 21-25 Paul gives us instructions on how to keep our focus on this work. We are to "lay aside the old self" and be "renewed in the spirit of our minds".

Luke 8:4-18
4 And when a great multitude were coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable:
5 "The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road; and it was trampled under foot, and the birds of the air ate it up.
6 "And other {seed} fell on rocky {soil,} and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.
7 "And other {seed} fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it, and choked it out.
8 "And other {seed} fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great." As He said these things, He would call out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
9 And His disciples {began} questioning Him as to what this parable might be.
10 And He said, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest {it is} in parables, in order that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.
11 "Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.
12 "And those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they may not believe and be saved.
13 "And those on the rocky {soil are} those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no {firm} root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.
14 "And the {seed} which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of {this} life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
15 "And the {seed} in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.
16 "Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, in order that those who come in may see the light.
17 "For nothing is hidden that shall not become evident, nor {anything} secret that shall not be known and come to light.
18 "Therefore take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him shall {more} be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him."

In vs. 15 Christ says that the ones who hold fast the word will "bear fruit with perseverance". Verse 16, which we are all familiar with, tells us what we should do with our knowledge of the word. We are not to hide what we have, but "put it on a lampstand" that "those who come in may see the light". Finally in vs. 18 Jesus tells us how responsibility will be given to "whoever has"... even more shall be given. What a great blessing to be trusted with such a great work!
Should we take this task lightly? Should we expect the work to be easy? Let’s again go to the apostle Paul...

Rom 5:1-4
1 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;

The first century Christians rejoiced in their trials! Why? Their troubles and tribulations tested them and made them stronger. It brought about perseverance and perseverance leads to “proven character”... A mature Christian!!
Eph 6:10-20
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.
11 Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual {forces} of wickedness in the heavenly {places.}
13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil {one.}
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
19 and {pray} on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,
20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in {proclaiming} it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

What’s Paul speaking about here? Going to battle! We’re never promised that being a Christian while we’re alive on this earth is going to be easy in a physical sense. Quite the opposite! We are called to put on the armor of God and go to battle for His cause. What exactly is this battle? From where do the persecutions come? Paul tells us in verses 19, 20. He prayed for strength to boldly teach the gospel as he “ought to speak”. He was a prisoner for preaching the word of God! Are we prepared to be so dedicated?

2 Tim 3:12-4:5
12 And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
13 But evil men and impostors will proceed {from bad} to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned {them}
15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

We are warned that those who live Godly will be persecuted... some more than others in severity for sure. What does it mean to “live Godly”? Verses 16-17 say that the Scripture is for “training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work”. We are trained in righteousness by the Scriptures that we may work!

CHAPTER 4

1 I solemnly charge {you} in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:
2 preach the word; be ready in season {and} out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but {wanting} to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires;
4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.
5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

This is written specifically to Timothy of course... does it not also apply to anyone has the knowledge and ability to preach the word? We are to “be ready” to teach and correct and to “endure hardship” in doing so.

1 Pet 2:19-24
19 For this {finds} favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.
20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer {for it} you patiently endure it, this {finds} favor with God.
21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,
22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;
23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting {Himself} to Him who judges righteously;
24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

Here is our encouragement from God to live our lives as mature Christians. We FIND FAVOR WITH GOD WHEN WE SUFFER UNJUSTLY!! We also are said to BE CALLED FOR THIS PURPOSE! Christ suffered for us, are we not to be willing to suffer as well for Him and his cause? Jesus did not complain while He suffered. He did not lash out towards His oppressors or become bitter or calloused. He also did not quit. How lucky for us! Jesus entrusted His life to "Him who judges righteously" and we should be so bold to do the same with our lives. Let's close by reading verse 24 again...

Christ suffered and died on the cross so that "we might die to sin and LIVE to righteousness". We were healed or saved by his willingness to suffer for us. We can show our appreciation for that gift by willing to do the same for Him. Are you ready to LIVE for Christ today?

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