Posts Tagged ‘Maturity

06
Apr
17

The Goal

When trials and tests of our faith come, they produce perseverance. They help us grow and learn to trust God to get us through difficult circumstances and situations. Instead of giving up on our faith, we press on through the trials with God’s help. That’s how our faith matures. This is one of the goals of being a follower of Jesus. Here’s what James says:

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:4 (NIV)

As we learn to trust God in the difficult times of our lives, the more mature our faith becomes. We are no longer spiritual babies who are prone to wander away from Jesus. Instead, we have a mature faith that not only stands firm through the tests and trials, but also helps others in their trials and tests. Don’t give up when the tests come. Don’t throw in the towel when the trials happen. Press on and persevere with God’s help knowing that you’re getting stronger and your faith is maturing.
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18
Feb
16

Unity Among Generations

1 John 2:11-14 (NIV)

I am writing to you, dear children,
    because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
13 I am writing to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
    because you have overcome the evil one.

14 I write to you, dear children,
    because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
    because you are strong,
    and the word of God lives in you,
    and you have overcome the evil one.

​John lists three groups to whom he is writing when it comes to the reasons he wrote this first letter.  He addresses his “dear children,” “fathers” and “young men.”  The first group, “dear children,” is how John refers to the entire church to whom h he was writing.  Then he addresses the older people in the church and then the younger people in the church.  The Greek words are masculine in gender, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they were only referring to men.  ​The form he uses could have been used for both men and women according to one commentary (The IVP Bible Background Commentary).  In any case, John is not writing to them because of their ages.  Rather, he addresses these groups on the basis of spiritual maturity.
All believers have been forgiven by calling on Jesus’ name (Acts 22:16).  The older people in the congregation knew Jesus from the beginning meaning that that they had been walking with the Lord for quite some time.  The younger people, even though less spiritually seasoned, still had the Word of God living in them and had overcome the evil one.
What does all of this mean?  I believe that it means that we all, no matter our ages or maturity levels, have to be united in the church.  We have all been forgiven by the same grace through the same cross.  We need spiritually mature people to pass on the faith to the younger people.  We need younger people to use their vigor and strength to continue the work of the older generations.  There is a place for everyone, regardless of age or maturity, in the Kingdom of God.  We may be tempted to dismiss the older folks because they’re perceived as “out of touch.”  We may be tempted to dismiss the younger folks because they’re “not mature enough.”  We have to learn to work together to build the Kingdom of God.  By His grace, we can do just that.  How do we do that?  By keeping our eyes on Jesus.  He can make us one in purpose.  When we focus on what Jesus wants instead of what we want, the differences between the generations can melt away.
PRAYER: Father, I pray today that we can be one in the church.  That we will not allow our differences to divide us.  I ask that we would be united in our purpose and our mission to share Your love and grace with the world.  This is not possible apart from Your Son, Jesus.  I ask these things in His name, amen.
05
May
15

Depending On God

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.  (Psalm 62:5-8, NIV)
I am involved in a war for independence.  My 3 1/2 year old thinks he’s 23 1/2.  He thinks he doesn’t need me for anything.   He thinks he knows best.  He thinks he knows what he’s doing.  As his father, I know that he is not ready for independence just yet.
The other day he opened up the front door and went outside to ride his tricycle without my knowledge.  I walked into the front room and the door was open.  He was halfway down the sidewalk.  He didn’t ask my permission.  He was still in his pajamas.  He didn’t understand why I was so upset.
I am involved in a war for independence.  I am a 36 year old who thinks I am a mature Christian.  I sometimes think that I don’t need God for anything.  I sometimes think I know best.  I sometimes think I know what I am doing.  As my Heavenly Father, God knows that I’ll never be ready for independence.
I am learning to depend on God for things like rest, refuge, shelter, salvation, honor and hope.  I can’t do it on my own.  Every so often I test the waters, but discover all too soon that I am not ready for the deep end of the pool.  I find that I’m barely able to keep from drowning in the kiddie pool of life!  What about you?  Are you waging a war for independence?  How are you learning to depend on God?  With what do you need to trust Him right now?  May He gently and lovingly show you that He is in control and that you really can depend on Him.
29
Oct
13

The Hard Work Of Spiritual Growth

The Apostle Paul wrote about the need for self-discipline toward the end of 1 Corinthians 9:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

 ​ – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 (NIV)​
We are a nation that is obsessed with sports.  Sports Illustrated magazine called this country “NFL Nation” a few years back.  Billions of dollars are spent on our sports teams.  From tickets to merchandise to television programming to advertising.  That doesn’t even include the outrageous salaries for some of our athletes!  I am a HUGE Green Bay Packers’ fan and I am a big fan of Aaron Rodgers.  He signed a contract in the off season for over $100 million!  Why?  Because he throws an oblong shaped ball better than pretty much anyone in the NFL (although some might argue that Peyton Manning is the best.  I disagree.  Peyton is nearing 40 and Rodgers is not yet 30 – more upside.  But here I am arguing with you about something so trivial!  Thus proving my point about our nation’s obsession with sports!).
How does a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers keep his job?  He has to train hard!  He has to work out all year long.  He has to study the film of opposing teams.  He has to practice for hours on end.  If he were to sit around lazily and not train, he would not win the prize!
Of course, the glory of a Super Bowl ring only lasts so long.  Fans get impatient and start wondering when the next championship will come (of course, Cubs fans are wondering if the next championship will come!).
For Christians, we are called to go into strict spiritual training.  Not for temporary glory, but for an eternal crown!  1 Peter 5:4 (NIV) says:

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

So what can you do to train yourself to win an eternal crown?  We have to practice self-control and self-discipline.  We need to spend time in God’s Word and in fellowship with other Christians.  We need to fast and pray and meditate on Scripture.  We cannot sit around lazily waiting to grow and mature in our faith.  Spiritual maturity requires hard work and dedication.  In the end, it will all be worth it.

1 Corinthians 9

New International Version (NIV)

Paul’s Rights as an Apostle

9 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? 2 Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don’t we have the right to food and drink? 5 Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? 6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?

7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? 8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?

But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. 16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

Paul’s Use of His Freedom

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

The Need for Self-Discipline

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

16
Oct
13

Pick Up A Spoon

There are three instances in the New Testament where the author refers to his audience as babies who are in need of spiritual milk.  One of those instances is here in 1 Corinthians 3.

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? – 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (NIV)

The other instances are found in Hebrews 5:12-13 and 1 Peter 2:2.  In today’s passage, we see that Paul is frustrated with the Corinthian Christians because they were not maturing in their faith.  Obviously, when a baby is born, he or she needs milk.  Their digestive systems cannot handle steak!  As they grow and mature, they can begin to handle foods that are more difficult to digest.  First, there is cereal and Goldfish crackers.  Then there is the introduction of more solid foods.  A baby nurses for a while and then is fed with a spoon by his or her parents.  Then, one day, they are expected to pick up a spoon and feed themselves.
Spiritually, we are to be growing and maturing so that we are able to handle more difficult aspects of faith and doctrine.  We begin to handle tougher passages of Scripture as the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and helps us grow.  We pick up a spoon and start to feed ourselves on a diet of Scripture reading and Bible study.  There are too many Christians who have been going to church for 20 years or more and they still don’t know how to pick up a fork and spoon!
Paul’s complaint against the Corinthians was that they were “worldly” because there was “jealousy and quarreling” in the church (1 Corinthians 3:3, NIV).  There was no difference between the behavior of these Christians and those who were outside of Christ.  Jesus didn’t die so that we could be merely human!  He died to transform our lives and make us more like Him!  How do we become more like Jesus?  We grow and mature in our faith by a steady diet of His Word.
Sitting under the teaching of a pastor or preacher for 25-35 minutes a week is not enough.  Read your Bible!  Get a devotional book like My Utmost for His Highest or Streams In The Desert or Everyday Blessings by Max Lucado.  Subscribe to a blog such as Max Lucado’s Daily Devotional or Rick Warren’s Daily Hope.  Get in a good Bible study at your church.  Learn more from God’s Word by doing a reading plan at www.bible.com.  God’s Word is a smorgasbord of delicacies from which we can feed ourselves.  It’s hard work, but as we grow and mature in our faith we will discover that it is very much worth the effort.

1 Corinthians 3

New International Version (NIV)

The Church and Its Leaders

3 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age,you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”;20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

23
Sep
13

Moving On To Maturity

As we come to Hebrews 6, I want to back up to the last part of Hebrews 5 for just a moment:

11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. – Hebrews 5:11-14 (NIV)

This serves as the prelude to what the author of Hebrews is going to say in chapter 6.  The author is upset with his fellow Christians for their lack of maturity in Christ.  They had believed for some time and yet were not maturing in their faith.  They were in elementary school and should have been college graduates and teaching other believers!  He compares the Truths of God’s Word to solid food.  Babies cannot handle solid food, but mature adults can.  These Christians were nursing when they should have been at the point of being able to sit down to steak!
Christian maturity is not easy.  It is hard work.  It takes time and effort.  It takes more than sitting in a pew for 75 minutes a week.  It is about personal study and growth.  Picking up the spoon and feeding yourself from God’s Word.  Getting involved in a group where God’s Word is taught and studied.  We need to take responsibility for our own spiritual growth.  God does not want us to remain like little babies in our faith, but to grow big and strong.
Are you growing and maturing in faith?  Or are you still dependent on others to feed you?  Have you set goals for your spiritual walk with Christ?  Or are you stuck in a rut spiritually?  A goal you could set would be to read your Bible for 10 minutes a day for a month.  Go to www.bible.com and sign up for a free YouVersion account.  They have reading plans that you can follow that will guide you through Scripture.  God’s Word is solid food that we need to digest daily.  Another goal you could set would be to find a study group and make it a priority to get involved.  Iron sharpens iron, my friends.  We need to be sharpening each other when it comes to our study of God’s Word.  Make your spiritual health and growth a priority so that you will mature and grow in faith and in your walk with Jesus.

Hebrews 6

New International Version (NIV)

Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

The Certainty of God’s Promise

13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie,we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

10
May
13

Maturing In Christ

Here as we wrap up Colossians 1, we see that Paul describes his labor on behalf of the church.  He talks about the mission that Christ had given to him – to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ fully.  He speaks of a mystery and that mystery was how God had taken the Gentiles – those outside of the family of faith – and made them part of His family.  How was this possible?  Through the sacrifice of Jesus.  He gave up His life, once for all, so that everyone could have a relationship with God.
What is the goal of all of this?  Maturity in Christ.  To grow in our faith.  To become better disciples each and every day.  If you are not growing in your faith, then there is something wrong.  If your child stopped growing at 2 years of age, you would assume that something was wrong, correct?  If you have stopped maturing as a Christian, there is something wrong!  We are to keep growing in our relationship with Christ until we reach full maturity.  Have you reached it yet?  Me neither.  I’m still struggling and growing and striving for maturity.  I have a long way to go and so do you.  I believe that the number one inhibitor of growth is a lack of nourishment.  If you’re not growing in your faith, ask yourself how are you feeding yourself?  Do you have a steady diet of the good food of God’s Word?  Or are you filling yourself with the junk food of pop culture?  I’m not saying to go live in a monastery and read the Bible all day.  I’m not saying to bury your head in the sand and pretend like the world around you doesn’t exist.  I’m saying that we need to keep a good balance.  There are good and wholesome parts of pop culture to be sure.  But there are some very dangerous things out there, too.  If we are not careful, we can become addicted to junk food and things that are bad for us.  We need to cut out the junk food and learn to devour the good food of God’s Word.  Then we will be more spiritually healthy and we’ll be growing to maturity in Christ.
Colossians 1:24-29 (NIV)

24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.




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