We will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming~ Ephesians 4:14 NIV
Life is full of peculiar little conundrums, mysteries, enigmas and paradoxes.
It is possible to be super busy and not accomplish anything of any significance. A person can listen and still not hear a word the other person is saying. It is even possible to live life without experiencing the joy and fullness of being truly alive (John 5:39-40).
A lot of folks grow old without growing-up. It is not uncommon to see children well into their elementary years still pitching fits like toddlers. We all know teenagers with the mindset of elementary-age children and young adults who have never held a paying job or had a meaningful relationship. Sadly, immaturity and childishness is endemic in our culture and it is not limited to the young.
Then there is spiritual immaturity:
Spiritual immaturity is in a class all its own, mostly because it creates all kinds of chaos for the body of Christ. Spiritually immature people are characterized by a lack of love and concern for others (John 13:34-35, Romans 12:10, Hebrews 10:24). They have a hard time distinguishing right from wrong (Malachi 3:18, Philippians 1:9-11) and have a tendency to rely on feelings rather than biblical truth for direction (John 8:32). Some indicators a person is spiritually immature are a long string broken relationships, struggles with pride and lying, excessive complaining without any desire to problem solve and a tendency to church hop.
A lack of spiritual maturity will cause a Christian to become morally stunted, selfish and worldly. Ultimately, immaturity is almost always the root cause of “irreconcilable differences” in Christian marriages. Spiritual immaturity causes Christian friendships to falter and it is the root reason so many churches are ineffective.
Christians are responsible for their own growth (Galatians 6:4-5, 1st Peter 2:2, Hebrews 5:11-13). Spiritual Growth simply cannot happen unless we commit to the following five behaviors:
Forgiving others is a prerequisite for receiving forgiveness from God (Matthew 6:15). It is also the only way to keep the sin of bitterness from taking root in our hearts (Hebrews 12:15). Bitterness is a problem because it stunts our growth. It keeps us so focused on the flaws and shortcomings of others that we just don’t see our own flaws and shortcomings. We cannot fix what we don’t see. Allowing bitterness to take root in our lives steals the mental and spiritual energy we need work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:4)
Choosing to learn-
One thing I know for absolute certain is that it is God’s will for every Christian to understand the Bible and be able to explain it to others (Ephesians 5:17). It just is. It’s what the Bible calls “being rooted” in biblical truth (Colossians 2:6-7). We become rooted biblically over time through a commitment to the spiritual disciplines of Bible study, prayer and regular church attendance. There is simply no reasonable excuse for Christians not reading the Bible, praying and becoming a contributing member of a Bible believing community.
At the root of most spiritual immaturity is a sinful behavior or attitude that we love too much to let go of. Sins like gossip, lust, bitterness, addiction to drugs or alcohol, anger and backbiting are a few of the attitudes and behaviors that will keep a person from growing-up spiritually. Growth comes naturally when we deliberately choose to make a regular practice of self-examination and letting go of the behaviors and attitudes that hold us back from becoming like Jesus and loving others well (Hebrews 12:1, 1st Corinthians 11:28, 2nd Corinthians 13:5, Matthew 3:8, Luke 13:3, Acts 3:19).
When Christians serve in their churches and communities a couple of critical things happen with very little effort: stuff that needs to get done gets done, as a result Jesus looks good. He’s glorified. Serving also broadens our concern for others and it naturally causes us to take our eyes off ourselves. In the process, we begin to see the needs of others more clearly and our desire to be a blessing grows. When this happens, God is pleased and we grow up in our salvation.
Owning our junk-
Because no human being is an island we are all effected to one degree or another by the actions of others. The insensitive, sinful and selfish actions of our parents, friends, total strangers or a spouse can cause emotional and spiritual damage that makes reaching our full potential in life much more challenging. Nonetheless, every individual person is ultimately responsible before God for their own choices (Ezekiel 18:20-25). Blaming a bad childhood, marriage, dating experience, etc. for the choices we make and the sins we commit stunts our spiritual, emotional and intellectual growth. This makes it impossible for God to use us to our full potential. We become spiritually free and mature when we get real with God (and ourselves) about what we’ve done and why we did it.
Spiritual growth is not easy.
It takes a willingness to do some hard work and let go of our own selfish desires and that’s never any fun. Seriously. That said, the choice to grow is worth whatever effort it takes because the choice to grow is how we reach our full potential in Jesus. It’s the path to hearing “well done good and faithful servant” when we see Jesus for the first time (Matthew 25:21) and it gives us everything we need to transform our little corner of the world for Jesus.
All good things.