One 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? There 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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