Last year in July we took a Monday night to study some of what the bible teaches about maturity. This study goes with tonight’s study, and fills in some details we won’t get to, so I thought I’d repost it here in case any of you wanted to press on in your personal pursuit of these things. (This is all assuming, of course, you don’t remember this study from last year. I didn’t.)
PART 1: What Maturity Is.
Observations from Ephesians 4:13.
- Maturity is defined by Jesus. (The way Jesus was, and now is, fully human is fully mature humanity)
- This maturity is achieved collectively, with a perfect expression of unity. (“we all”)
- Maturity looks like perfect unity where we all are directed by and dependant on the risen Jesus.
PART 2: What it looks like in the meantime…
The maturity we pursue now is really a continual pressing forward towards this perfect maturity, which will only be reached in the next age. So what does it look like in our lives today?
1. Maturity promotes loving truth and is not moved by deceitful human philosophies. (Ephesians 4:14)
If we’re growing towards maturity, together we’ll be less and less influenced by philosophies and ideas that aren’t true. In addition, (see 4:15, “speaking the truth in love”) maturity means we’ve learned to use our mouths to lovingly say things which promote truth. In other words, we verbally encourage people to think and act in ways that actually match reality. This will always promote a true unity which helps people grow and work in a coordinated, healthy manner, and will always be pointed up towards Jesus. We’ll move towards a situation where he’ll be the head, which means this maturity will be unified around obedience to Jesus, and dependence on him. Practically, this means that we are led and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
2. Maturity has to do with having God’s wisdom revealed to you and in knowing how to transcend sinful fighting, divisions and envy. (See 1 Corinthians 1:17-18, 1:21-25, 2:6, 2:13, 3:1-3)
Maturity, evidently, always pursues unity, and it always moves in the direction of obedience to and dependence on the risen Jesus. Christian maturity is supernatural, and is growing in a direction that makes no sense to those who don’t actually know or follow Jesus.
3. Maturity involves understanding the work of the Holy Spirit. (See 1 Corinthians 14:20)
How do you come to understand the way the Holy Spirit works? You actively involve yourself in the things we saw in Ephesians 4—you use your life to be part of God’s people in such a way that you contribute your part to the work of building up the whole family of God, and you let. Notice also that we are encouraged to be immature in terms of our doing evil.
4. Maturity includes having experience and ability to correctly distinguish between Good and Evil. (see Hebrews 5:12-14)
Also maturity can handle real spiritual truth because it has worked to develop skill in understanding God’s word…and these two things are related. We can’t claim to understand deep things about the bible, if we don’t have the ability to correctly distinguish between good and evil. We have to use our experiences to let God teach us how he evaluates things (is this thing/path/decision “good” or “evil”?). This helps us develop “skill” in understanding and applying God’s word, for ourselves, and for others. (As these verses say, “You should have been teachers by now!”)
5. Maturity understands it has still not arrived, and so it presses towards the goal. (See Philippians 3:12-15)
Thus, maturity in this life is not a destination; it is more of a state of motion and a direction, always moving towards deeper maturity. In verse 12, Paul says that he “hasn’t yet been perfected” and uses a related word to our word for “mature” in verse 15. And actually, right now, we have a similar idea everyone’s talking about—the idea of evolving, that we’ve changed by progressing to a certain way of thinking or being, and then we arrive at the desired state. But Paul says that truly mature people think this way (Philippians 3:12-14) “I just want to know Jesus, and I haven’t arrived yet, so I’ll spend my life pressing on to know him more and more every day.” That is the truly “evolving” mind.
6. The goal of Christian teaching is a mature humanity. It’s worth expending labor for. (See Colossians 1:28-29)
Some Challenges from these texts:
- Do these things describe us, or not? Christians—have we settled for immaturity in our lives?
- Are we attempting to pursue our own self realization? This has no place for the Christian, who understands that true humanity is found together with others, unified under Christ’s headship. In a culture that worships self-realization, we must let God’s truth direct our minds in another direction. This is the direction of Christ and the new humanity he’s creating. (See Ephesians 2:14-22)
- We should see that there are many ideas and philosophies which are diametrically opposed to this way of seeing the world, and to God’s purposes (as described in Ephesians 1:9-10). We can string all these points together—these forces opposing true maturity spread teachings which blur the distinction between good and evil for the purpose of breaking down people’s ability to unify under Christ the head and be energized by the Holy spirit to live lives which build up the God’s new humanity.
- If you don’t know Jesus, you may decide–do you want to be part of this new humanity?The bible asks us to be real about what’s going on around us in the world—we should admit that things are messed up, and that in many ways humanity has gone horribly wrong. We should then look at ourselves and admit that we are part of the problem—we’ve contributed our share to the evil, and we’re personally liable to God for our share. The Christian message is that the solution to the problem has come—it’s Jesus Christ. He came, lived a perfect life, and died in our place to pay the debt we owed for the evil we contributed. He rose again and began the work of gathering people to himself. Anyone can now join the family of people who follow Jesus to learn from the Holy Spirit how to be part of his Church—his body. If you want to begin this life of learning these things, you can start today.