I don’t know if it started when I was in youth group or whether I picked up some bad theology in college, but somewhere along the way I totally missed what it meant to be mature as a believer. I think it began as I was growing up and coming along side of men 10 to 20 years older than me. Men I thought were perfect. And men that never told me they weren’t. I would see men walking with God and it made me wonder when I would finally arrive in the journey. I guess I thought one day I would sneak off into some spiritual phone booth and come out as “Super-Christian” to save the world. Ten years later, I am sitting at my kitchen table still looking like dorky Clark Kent and wondering what was I thinking. Let me just throw out my past misconceptions and the present truths that God has been teaching me about maturity.
Lies I Believed about Maturity:
1. Sinless- This is a doctrine (Perfectionism, or in Wesleyan language “the second blessing”) that has been preached in some circles and also a way of life that we strive for as believers. The problem is that it’s NOT in the Bible. There is no concept of being perfect in this life. Yes, we are supposed to “strive. . . for the holiness” (Heb. 12:14), and to “put to death” (Col. 3:5) sins that are reigning in our mortal bodies. And it is true that we will be victorious, just not in this life.
2. Have No More Questions- We see teachers at our churches and listen to men preaching on podcasts and begin to marvel at their cleverness and quick responses. I often longed for the day when I was in college that I might have all the answers that people are looking for. It is true that we should desire to grow in knowledge of spiritual truth (Eph. 1:17-18/1 Titus 1:1) and also pray for this daily. But at the same time we must heed the words of Paul: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” I had questions, I have questions now, and when I am laying on my death bed I will still be in awe of the mysterious aspects of my faith.
3. Independent- This is a great lie we believed about growing up into adults. We thought that one day I would move out, get a job, and never need anyone again. The sad part is that this lie has infiltrated our spiritual lies. We tell ourselves “I am on a spiritual journey and it is just me and Jesus.” It seems like in my life the opposite is true. The older I get the more I need the body of believers around me. The more I need their prayers, their exhortation, and their encouragement if I will ever become like Jesus.
Truths I See about Maturity:
1. Clarity of Sin- True maturity is not being sinless but seeing clearly the depths of your sin. It is having the spiritual eyes of your life strengthened so that you don’t strive to root out the large sins in your life, but you search into the cracks and small corners of your heart to expel even the most unnoticable thoughts and desires that can consume your walk with Christ.
2. Hatred of Sin- Not only should believers see their sin, but they should also hate their sin with a passion. When God brings sin in our lives we should seek to put it death. We should take up the battle plan of Paul daily, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). Growing in maturity is not just being able to name your enemies but having the strength and passion to take them out.
2. Humility- Those who are growing in their maturity in Christ do not believe that they have arrived in their spiritual journey. They don’t see themselves as better than those around them, but “count others more significant” than themselves (Phil. 2:3). They don’t compare their sins to others around them, but see that in light of a holy God they are the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). So in humility they take on forms of servants and never look down on those around them. They find nothing to boast in but the cross of Christ. (Gal. 6:14)
3. Needy- After seeing their sin greatly and being humbled in light of God’s holiness, the mature believer sees his need of Christ. Whether he has been saved for 5 years or 60 years, the mature believer wakes up daily knowing his sin is only forgiven in Christ alone. That his righteousness only comes from Christ alone. And that if left alone, he would only be left to despair. As Jerry Bridges wrote, “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”