My oldest daughter learned how to walk when she was about nine months old. I told that is a bit early. I remember that before she learned to walk she would roll herself across the floor to reach some toy or other interesting thing. That didn’t last too long since she learned to walk. She would toddle from furniture to furniture and never looked back. Soon after that she was learning to drive. Then she was married and now has two children of her own. This seems to be every parents experience and it brings with it the joy of seeing your children grow and mature yet the nostalgia for the earlier years. (We conveniently forget all the late, sleepless nights, sicknesses and rebelliousness). So I’m not telling you anything new. What would be strange and unexpected is if my daughter never grew up! It isn’t normal for a person to stay an infant their entire lives. There is an expectation that we will grow up.
So why don’t we apply this same expectation to the Christian life? Why do we seem to tolerate childish, immature Christians? I’m not saying “Child-Like” – which is good, but child-ish. There is an assumption that as we walk out the Christian life, our thoughts, our actions, our responses to life and circumstances will over time demonstrate a deeper understanding of God’s truth and reflect His character. As we mature, we should look more and more like Jesus. It is not natural for a Christian to remain the same year after year after year not showing any signs of growth, depth or maturity.
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians explains the purpose of the ministries of apostle, pastor, teacher, prophet and evangelist:
…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:12-16 ESV)
What does Paul say? The goal is to look like Christ, to no longer be children, to fulfill our part of the work of the Church, to build each other up. As we mature, we enter into the fullness of all Christ has prepared for us and we take our rightful place in the Kingdom.
So what does maturity look like? I think there are a few markers.
As Paul states above, the first marker is a steadiness in life. We aren’t running after the latest Christian fad, popular preacher or latest revelation, but we remain steady and faithful to the message of the cross and empty tomb. Hebrews tells us that a mature Christian is constantly trained in discerning good from evil (Heb 5:14). In our study of the Bible, we allow the Scriptures to teach us and speak to us, instead of trying to read into them we want the Bible to say. We handle accurately the word of God, instead of using it as a weapon. In our prayer life, we transition to a reverent listening and waiting instead of bringing a shopping list of what we want – or think we need. In our relationships, we exhibit more of the same attitude Christ had, in thinking of others more than He thought of Himself. We become less demanding of our “rights” and instead do more laying down of our lives.
I guess the bottom line is that a mature Christian’s life is characterized by the Fruit of the Spirit because we learn how to be led by the Spirit. We’ve all taken our first steps on our spiritual journey, toddling around our Father’s knees. Now let’s learn how to run and run hard after Him.