“You are just a big baby…why don’t you just grow up!” Most of us have heard or used those words with friends or others as we were growing up. They were meant to get our attention so something would change in the way we were acting. In my experience many of those times the charges were accurate. I needed them. I was acting in a way that was destroying the enjoyment and relational comradery of the people I was with. These same issues are true in our lives today.
- 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. (2) I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, (3) for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
The writer of Hebrews did the same thing.
- Hebrews 5:12-6:1 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (13) For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. (14) But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (6:1) Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity.
My wife and I have been privileged to have 4 children and 6 grandchildren (2 on the way). We have loved every stage of our children and grandchildren’s lives. We have also walked with many other people raising children and grandchildren. One thing is true both naturally and spiritually. Babyhood is delightful, but perpetual babyhood is deplorable. This is why we are all called to “press on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1, Phil 3;12-16).
Babyhood is delightful, but perpetual babyhood is deplorable. This is true both naturally and spiritually.
What does it mean to be growing towards maturity? A simple definition is living more of our lives responding to God and less to any other motivation (self-centeredness, flesh, culture, or the enemy). Paul said it in the above verse “you are still fleshly…for since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly” (2 Cor 3:3). Consistently yielding to the motivation of self-serving flesh is the sure sign of immaturity.
Self-centered immaturity is the cause of much harm in any relationship, especially among the people of God. This is why Jesus consistently mentioned that we must deny self-centeredness in the calls to follow Him (Mt 10:37-39, 16:24-25, Mk 8:34-35, 10:21, Lk 9:23-25, 17:33, 14:27-34, Jn 12:24-26).
Three areas that reveal immaturity
- Your inner desires: In the natural realm as you grow up you notice that your childhood toys no longer interest you. I think spiritual maturity works in a similar way. When you are growing in Christ, the world’s pleasures that are often wrapped up in things lose their appeal. At the same time, your hunger for God increases. You want to be with Him (prayer etc) and you become more motivated and sustained with making Him known. You want more of Him moving in and through your life. That desire gradually begins to overshadow all others (like Jesus said the Kingdom would do in the parable of the mustard seed Mt 13:31-32).
- Your understanding: When you were young your understanding of the world was very limited. As you grew up you began to see the world from a broader, more mature perspective. It works the same way spiritually. As you grow you begin to see life from God’s perspective. You evaluate opportunities as well as temptations from a bigger perspective. It becomes more difficult to be pulled into things that have no real eternal value. Serving God becomes the most important thing in this life and everything else takes a back seat.
- Self-centeredness: One of the most obvious traits of infancy and childhood is selfishness. Babies want their way and they want it now! Mature Christians are more submissive to the Lord. They become more concerned with His world than their own. They are willing to sacrifice and wait for Him. More and more of their life source is found in Him and His world rather than their own. Instead of God existing to bless their world a mature perspective takes over and they begin to see that they exist to serve His world.
If we are going to “press on” and grow to maturity we have to be willing to put away “childish things.” Let’s not mistake me-centered or self-help spirituality for genuine spiritual maturity lest we end up worshipping a god we make instead of the God of the Bible. Relationships are both the measurement and means of maturity. Click To Tweet
People growing in maturity will progressively exhibit fruit in these 3 Biblical areas. They are indelible characteristics of one growing in maturity. You will notice that possessing them will enable us to walk well with others, while not possessing them will work to destroy most relationships. Relationships are usually both the measurement and means of maturity. Just possessing Bible knowledge isn’t maturity. It is when that knowledge coupled in a relationship with God causes actual fruit to be produced in these areas.
Relationships are both the measurement and means of maturity.
- The ethics of God’s love (attitudes and actions of 1 Corinthains 13:1-13). “Patience, kindness, not jealous, no bragging, non-arrogance, does not seek its own, not easily provoked, doesn’t take into account wrongs committed against them, does not rejoice in unrighteousness but the truth bears all things (patience), endures all things, and hopes in all things.”
- The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). “Joy, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control.”
- The mind/attitude of Christ (Philippians 2:1-11). “Doesn’t have selfish ambition,willing to unite and walk in unity with others, humble in mind seeing others as more important than self, doesn’t look out for its own interest but the interest of others,has a humble attitude, and is a servant.”
To press on to maturity we must follow what Paul continues to say in Philippians 2:23-13 Work out salvation with fear and trembling (it takes effort) as we embrace God’s work in us.
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