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 overwhelmed with busyness and not accomplish anything of any significance. We can listen intently and 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 ever actually growing-up.
It is not uncommon in our culture to see children well into their elementary years still throwing temper tantrums like toddlers. Teenagers with the mindset of elementary-age children and young adults who have never held a paying job. Immaturity and childishness is not limited to the young. Our society is filled with grown men and women who bully, blame others and struggle to manage their most basic impulses.
A form of immaturity in a class all its own is spiritual immaturity.
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 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 the root cause of “irreconcilable differences” in Christian marriages. It also causes Christian friendships to falter and churches to be ineffective. Christians are responsible for their own growth (Galatians 6:4-5, 1st Peter 2:2, Hebrews 5:11-13). Spiritual Growth cannot happen unless we commit to:
Forgiving others is a prerequisite for receiving forgiveness from (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 stunts our growth by keeping us so focused on the flaws and shortcomings of others that we just don’t see our own flaws and shortcomings. Allowing bitterness to take root in our lives will steal 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, Colossians 2:6-7). This is called “being rooted” in biblical truth. Christians become rooted biblically 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 us from growing-up spiritually. Growth comes naturally when we make a regular practice of self-examination and repentance (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 objectives get met. Stuff that needs to get done gets done, human needs are met and Jesus looks good as a result. Serving is critically important because it broadens our concern for others and 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 glorified and we grow up.
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. 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 gives us all the spiritual power we need to change our corner of the world for Jesus.