Relationships: The Measurement And Means Of Maturity

maturity rick warrenOne time I was leading a meeting and saw an interesting vision in my mind’s eye.  I saw a man sitting on the front row stand up and become very stiff with his arms down to his side.  Then God’s hand came down, grabbed him, and turned him sideways then stuck his legs under a man’s tongue sitting close to him.  It was like someone sticking a thermometer under someone else’s tongue to check their temperature.  Then I heard the Spirit saying, “this is how I check people’s maturity level.”

As I was later reflecting on that vision I saw a similar image in which the stiff man became a tool in the Lord’s hand as He put the other man on a lathe.   As it turned He used the tool to shape the person into the image He desired.  Again the Spirit said, “relationships are the tool I use to shape people’s character.”  God is always working to shape us into His image like the potter seen in Jeremiah 18, and He often uses relationships as tools to shape us. Relationships are measurement and means of real maturity.

Paul speaks about maturity as living “by the Spirit” above the impulses of our fleshly nature (Rom 8:13).  As we do this we exhibit the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:16-25). Both aspects (flesh and Spirit) are exhibited primarily in relationships.

Gal 5:13-23…only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14  For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR (close relationships) AS YOURSELF.”  15  But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.  16  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh…19  Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality… enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,  21  envying…22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23  gentleness, self-control…

If God is at work in our lives, and we are responding to Him, it will be revealed in the relational dynamics of those we walk closest with.  Paul says a powerful relational thing regarding salvation, God and work in us, and us working out our salvation so we become His proper testimony in the earth in Philippians 2.  Sandwiched in the mist of these great elements of salvation is the relational admonition “do all things without grumbling or disputing (arguing).”

Php 2:12-15…work out your salvation with fear and trembling;  13  for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.  14  Do all things without grumbling or disputing;  15  so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,(MSG Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night).

It is difficult to “provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God” if we are not walking it out relationally with those close to us.

You always hurt the one you love

Why are our close relationships the measurement and means of maturity?  ThereHurt the one you love was an old song that has been performed by many artist over the years that helps reveal the reason, “You always hurt the one you love.”  The song hits on an important relational element in human beings who bear the corruption of sin.  In our closest relationships our true character comes through.  We tend to be who we really are in the midst of those we walk closest with in every day life and those same people are the ones that test our self-centeredness the most.  In those close relationships our true character comes through because we area not trying to impress them and they tend to push our selfishness buttons in a way that others do not.  It is in those relationship we exhibit who we really are.

Because of this the people who are closest to us are often the ones we hurt, and hurt us the most. We say things and do things to close relationships we wouldn’t dream of saying or doing to others.  Your parents, spouses, and children often see a side of you that more distant relationships do not.  Your spiritual maturity level and love for God are most accurately seen in those relationships.  No matter how much we may say we love God, it will be shown in how we treat those closest to us.  This is why John said what He did, 1Jn 4:19-20  We love, because He first loved us.  20  If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.

“Putting on the “New Man” is first seen in relationships

Paul reveals this process of maturity in the midst of close relationships in the context of  “putting on the new man” that bears the image of Christ in Colossians 3.  The “new man” is put on in the context of walking in God’s design in the midst of close relationships.  Look at all the relational elements Paul connects to “putting on the new man.”

Col 3:10-25  and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him…12  So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;  13  bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  14  Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  15  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.  16  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  17  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.  18  Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  19  Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.  20  Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.  21  Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.  22  Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord

Let God measure and mature you as you embrace the dealings of His Spirit in those close relationships.

 

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Christian “Sexual Atheism”…Report from Christainmingle.com

Christian mingleSometimes the depth and deceptiveness of sin can shock Christians even through God has clearly warned us about it.  A recent case in point is from a joint survey conducted the past two years from the Christian dating website “ChristianMingle.com” along with the Jewish dating website “Jdate.com.” They released a report called “State of dating in America.” The report was based on research in which they interviewed 26,000 singles between the age of 18 and 59. It compared both the 2013 and 2014 dating attitudes and behavior of their members.

From a religious perspective some results seemed positive.  They found that 68% of the respondents believed it would be good to marry someone of the same faith, and approximately 65% believe that attending church and praying together was a key to a successful relationship.

Some of the other results however were shocking! Understand that most of the respondents consider themselves religious (Judeo-Christian ethics) with a regard for the Bible.  They found that 87% said they would have sex before marriage.  Of that 87%, 63% said they would have sex regardless of whether they were in love or even engaged with the person.  That is what our culture calls  “hookups.”   Another shocker was that 86% said they would move in together with their lover before they were married.

In response to the shocking dualism (your spiritual beliefs and behavior have no effect
on each other) expressed in the report some Christian writers have labeled these types of believers as “sexual atheist.”  In other words neither God, nor His word had any relevance to their sex lives.  It is as if He doesn’t exist in these areas, thus you have sexual christian-athiestsatheism.

From Christianity’s inception there is always been a danger of dualism.  One early heresy along these lines challenging the church during the first 300 years was called Gnosticism. Many of the New Testament writers were dealing with the early seeds of this belief. People believed that as long has they had a particular knowledge (Gnosis) they were right with God regardless of how they actually behaved.  Gnostics often lived very immoral lives while at the same time believing that they were fine spiritually because of the “knowledge” they had.  The apostle John hit this false belief head on by saying “no one born of God practices sin (GW they can’t live lives of sin) ” 1 Jn 3:9, 5:18.

When you consider the a fore mentioned report you would have to conclude that the deception of dualism continues to run rampant today.  Paul warned us about this sort of deception yet people still attempt to deceive themselves. 1 Corinthians 6:9… Do not be deceived; neither fornicators: nor idolaters: nor adulterers: nor effeminate; nor homosexuals…Will inherit the kingdom of God. 

The roots of this fruit

The attitudes and behaviors of the report are the fruit of a root. I wonder what churches, leaders, and parents are teaching that facilitates this type of root and fruit?  Paul told Titus to speak things that make for sound doctrine which denies ungodly desires by the grace of God.  Titus 2:11-12 the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all man, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly he desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.

I also wonder what kind of relationships many of these Christians have with brothers or sisters that should be helping encourage them to live in a manner God desires (1 Thessalonians 5:12-14).

The root and fruit from education

Sex edThere is another factor that we cannot deny that has brought about a root that leads to this type of fruit.   There has been a radical shift in the sexual morality of our nation in the past 50 years.  The sexual revolution of the 60s paved the way for the sex-education movement in Public Schools in the 70s  and it has continued to evolve today.  By 1989 23 states had passed mandates for sexuality education in public schools (beginning in High Schools), and an additional 23 states strongly encouraged it.   Now it is a requirement for every state.

It continued to evolve into the lower grades.  In March of 2013 the Chicago Board of Education approved a proposed policy that requires that sexual education begin in kindergarten.  It is the third largest public school district in the nation.

I do not deny that with the breakdown of family in our culture, children (who will be sexually active) need information on the consequences of, and avoidance of risky sexual behavior.  For Christians however there is a much bigger problem.

In institutions like Public Schools and Planned Parenthood, and their joint teaching endeavors, sex is taught to our children from an amoral posture (outside any scope of morality).  God, nor His word figures into any of the instruction given about how to have “safe sex.” In the last few years you add to it the whole anti bullying, pro homosexual and gender alternative lifestyles, again from an amoral perspective (the only thing wrong is to say any type of sexual orientation or behavior is wrong), and it all leads to atheistic sexuality.

Christian students who for 6-8 hours a day are in a context of instruction about sexuality and gender issues in which God and His ways are irrelevant (not even allowed to be mentioned).  Is  it any wonder that the ChristianMingle report revealed the statistics it did?  Do Christian’s really think that an hour a week of Children’s church or youth group can counter this phenomenon.

Things like this should stir up a fresh prayer, yearning, and hunger among Christians, churches, and leaders to live authentic lives with God in a dark world that needs Him.  May we see God raise up more environments, like Christian schools in which all knowledge is taught, not from an amoral posture, but with God at the center of it all.

 

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