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Spiritual Maturity

 

Most of us see ourselves as mature.

What is the definition of maturity? One of Webster's definitions says that maturity is "a being perfect, complete or ready". Does that describe you spiritually?

What is our level of spiritual maturity? Are we spiritually perfect, complete and ready? What will our spiritual maturity be at Christ's return? Will it be any different than it is now? How dangerous or wrong is it to be spiritually immature?

 

Today weíll talk about spiritual maturity.

 

The mark of the maturing Christian is that we continue to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Many who picture themselves as Christian put up a good front but have little or no substance according to the criteria found in the Bible. They would like others to see them as good Christian people, maybe they even look at themselves as good Christian people, but behind the front is a person sadly lacking Christian substance.

The word "perfect" as used in the King James Version means "mature" and comes from the Greek word "Teleios" (telí-i-os G5046). A good example of this can be found in comparing the KJV with the NAS version of 1 Cor 2:6.

The KJV reads: Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are perfect...

while the NAS reads: Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature....

Now let's read the entire statement starting again at verse 6:

1 Cor 2:6-16 (NAS) Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden <wisdom>,which God predestined before the ages [i.e. before creation of time] to our glory; {8} <the wisdom> which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;

[and rulers today would not water down God's rules for Christian living, break God's laws, question God's existence, and persecute Christians for their values]

{9} but just as it is written, "THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND <which> HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM."

[No one can even imagine the reward for those who God will choose to be in His Kingdom]

{10} For to us God revealed <them> through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. {11} For who among men knows the <thoughts> of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him?

[In other words, man can not rule wisely with only his own spirit to guide him.]

Even so the <thoughts> of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.

[Man needs God's Spirit to see things from God's perspective.]

{12} Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, {13} which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual <thoughts> with spiritual <words>. {14} But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised [or discerned]. {15} But he who is spiritual appraises [or discerns] all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man.

Those who have God's Spirit, are able to rationally see and understand what others can't. While at the same time, others can't understand what gives Godís people that insight.

{16} For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE SHOULD INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ. [So He can instruct us.]

Paul is saying that the wisdom he speaks is understood by mature or perfect Christians but not by others. He points out here very specifically that the rulers of this world do not have the same wisdom as those in the Church; partly because worldly rulers, without God's Holy Spirit, can not understand that man can even become members of Godís family (Sons of God). They thereby make decisions reflecting only viewpoints from their perspectives and their perspectives are often gravely limited.

In Philippians 3, Paul reiterates this concept that we must see things not in the past but as it pertains to our potential in the Kingdom of God:

Phi 3:13-16 (ESV) Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, (14) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (15) Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. (16) Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

What is your potential in the Kingdom of God? How are you any better or different than those outside the church?

In Colossians, Paul assigns to his ministering servants the responsibility of giving the Church the vision of the Kingdom and the teachings of Christ:

Col 1:23-29 NASB [You will be presented to the Father] if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast,

Let me break off here to read Psalm 18:20. Keep your place in Col 1:23.

(Psa 18:20 NASB) The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.

Continuing Paulís statement in Col 1:23

and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a servant. {24} Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions. {25} Of <this church> I was made a servant according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the <preaching of> the word of God, {26} <that is>,the mystery which has been hidden from the <past> ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, {27} to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. {28} And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete [or mature] in Christ. {29} And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

It is Paul's intention to teach everyone sufficiently that they will mature to a level acceptable to Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul encourages us all to continue to build on the examples of Christ; to never slack off.

1 Cor 3:10-17 (JNT) 10 Using the grace God gave me, I laid a foundation, like a skilled master-builder; and another man is building on it. But let each one be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Yeshua the Messiah. [Paul is here cautioning Servants who follow him to build upon the foundation begun by Christ and Paul with solid and simple truth.] 12 Some will use gold, silver or precious stones in building on this foundation; while others will use wood, grass or straw.[notice three are strong and fire-resistant and three are weak and burnable] 13 But each oneís work will be shown for what it is; the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire ó the fire will test the quality of each oneís work. [Are your servants building with wood or hay or straw? These are all burned when the fires from trials come along - and they will come along.] 14 If the work someone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward; [It is the responsibility of Godís servants to promote works which will resist the fiery trials which are coming. It is the responsibility of the whole church to be mature enough to be able to grow from the teachings of these teachers.] 15 if it is burned up, he will have to bear the loss: he will still escape with his life, but it will be like escaping through a fire. 16 Donít you know that you people are Godís temple and that Godís Spirit lives in you? 17 So if anyone destroys Godís temple, God will destroy him. For Godís temple is holy, and you yourselves are that temple.

In actuality, we are all being tested by fire. If we find that our faith is being eroded each time trials or troubles come along, perhaps we, like weak Servants, are not building with gold or silver or precious stones. Perhaps we are building with destructible materials because we are not mature enough to use the food that our pastors and teachers and Bible Studies give us. Instead we succumb to our greedy desires and worldly evil practices.

Why does God give us pastors and teachers? What is their purpose? What are Church leaderís responsibilities to us and to God? Is it not, as Paul said, to be able to present to Christ every man who is complete or mature in Christian living?

Eph 4:11-16 (NASB) And He gave some <as> apostles, and some <as> prophets, and some <as> evangelists, and some <as> pastors and teachers, {12} for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ [the church]; {13} until we all attain to the unity of the faith [i.e. we all believe the same thing], and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. {14} As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; {15} but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all <aspects> into Him, who is the head, <even> Christ, {16} from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Letís read that again.

How many of us are still spiritual babes? And as spiritual babes are influenced by every doctrine we hear coming from the TV, friends, relatives, pamphlets, books, our own watered down rationale or whatever. Remember 1 John 2:4?

(1 John 2:4-6 NASB) The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; {5} but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: {6} the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

Do we allow ourselves to be influenced by the winds of doctrine coming from ministers or teachers who are liars - who do not heed Godís commandments and judgments?

Do we sway with everything we read or what we hear on TV by television preachers? If they (the television preachers or authors) do not even keep the commandments of God, how much of His Holy Spirit can they have? If they are deceived, they can deceive us. Do we swallow everything they say? What spirit might they have?

(Col 2:8 NKJV) Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

(Heb 5:14 NASB) But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Can we discern good and evil? If not, we have not grown enough; we are not mature Christians. After discernment, do we follow what is good and reject what is evil?

Hebrews 6 lists seven doctrines of the Church of God. Notice that the first verse and first doctrine admonishes us to press on to maturity.

(Heb 6:1-2 NASB) Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Messiah, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, {2} of instruction about washings, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

Why does verse 2 refer to washings or baptisms plural? Let's turn to Mat 3 to see where John the baptizer or immerser describes three types of baptisms:

(Mat 3:11 NASB) "As for me, I baptize you with water for (1) repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove [i.e. carry] His sandals; He will baptize you with (2) the Holy Spirit and (3) fire. [We just talked about how fire is used to test our works.]

How close are we to spiritual maturity? It was a lack of maturity that plagued the church in Sardis. Would we be classified like a member of that church?

(Rev 3:1-6 NASB) "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. {2} 'Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. [They were not mature Christians] {3} 'Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep <it>,and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you. {4} 'But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy. {5} 'He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life [so it must have been written there at one time, but notice that the name can be erased], and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels. {6} 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

But, as verse 5 points out, even the church of Sardis was admonished to overcome...and a reward was promised for them if they did: Christ would represent them before the heavenly court of the heavenly angels and God the Father if theyíd overcome. Isnít this incentive enough to overcome the sins that ensnare us day after day, month after month, year after year?

God makes the same offer to the church in Laodicea:

(Rev 3:14-20 NASB) "And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: {15} 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would [prefer] that you were cold or hot. {16} 'So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. {17} 'Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," ["I've got the truth and belong to the right church so what else matters?" Know any church members who say that?] and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, {18} I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and <that> the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. {19} 'Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent. {20} 'Behold , I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.

Here again, God encourages people to do things His way and be saved at their death - or to continue on as they are and be lost.

Perhaps the correct degree of maturity can best be described by:

(1Cor 14:20 ESV) Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature [be grown up].

 

To assist you in measuring your maturity, let me give 12 marks of Spiritual Maturity:

1. We must base our lives and decisions on our personal relationship with God, Christ, and His Word.

2. We must listen to, seriously consider, and prove the suggestions and admonishment of our church leaders.

3. We must not adopt a self-righteous attitude toward others with a Talmud of "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots".

4. We should assist the Church with acts of love and concern toward everyone. Love includes patience and understanding. We must constantly apply the Golden Rule.

5. We should not become spiritually dependent. We should make an attempt to solve our own problems before seeking guidance from our church leaders, but at the same time not avoid seeking council when we need it.

6. We should strive to implant the intent of God's law from the heart. Judaism describes it as the "eating of God's Word".

7. We should learn to discern between good and evil and conduct ourselves accordingly. We must not allow ourselves to be swayed by the evil and deceptive influences of the society around us. If our surroundings contradict or violate our Christian values, remove yourself from those surroundings.

8. We should not blame every problem on Satan. Most problems come from ourselves.

9. We should respect all authority. We should not sever human relationships just because there is a conflict with our leaders or those in civil authority.

10. We should remember that church leaders can not get us into the Kingdom. We are dependent upon God's mercy for that. Many seemingly good people will be turned away at the gate. Be sure you're not one of them.

11. We need to make good decisions by exercising wisdom and balance. A multitude of counselors will help (Prov 11:14, 12:15).

12. We should press for the good while not evaluating life solely on present conditions. Many standards, both modern day and ancient, are not God's standards. This is increasingly true as these last days wind down.

 

Brethren, let's walk the walk of Christian maturity.

 

 

Sermon given by Wayne Bedwell

5 March 2011

 

Copyright 2011, Wayne Bedwell

 

 

 

 

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