The Marks Of Spiritual Maturity Pt. 2
Maturity, Discipleship, Life
We say lots of things when we are angry . . . most of them hurtful and inappropriate. A frequent comment in these times might be the phrase, “You’re acting childish” or “Grow up!” These are statements that attack a basic human desire: to be mature. There is a built in expectation in life that when you reach a certain age, you begin to act in a more appropriate fashion. We call this maturity. Those who continue to act like a child when they are an adult are an embarrassment; to themselves and to others.
This is also true for Christians. When you have been a believer for a period of time it is expected that you will advance from the early days of faith. It is expected that there will be a new depth and vitality. When it is lacking our message is diminished. We have been looking at the qualities that make up a mature believer.
Last Week we looked at the first part of Colossians chapter two. I suggested that in these words you see Paul’s desire for the people of the church. In short, we seeing Paul describing Christian Maturity. Last week we began with these qualities,
- faithful in difficult times (2a)
- loving in our relationships(2b)
- growing in knowledge and understanding (2c)
- discerning in confusing times (4)
This morning we continue our list.
DISCIPLINED IN OUR DISCIPLESHIP (2:5)
Paul writes, “For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.” In this passage we see the affection the apostle has for the Colossians. He wants them to know that even though he is not with them in person, his heart is bound up with them. He tells them he is proud of them. He is delighted to see “how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.”
These are military terms, They picture a disciplined military unit. We can picture a parade ground with soldiers marching in formation. The message is clear: this group has become a disciplined group of soldiers. In the battle, the group is organized, everyone does their job, and they remain solid in the face of opposition. This is a result of careful, rigorous and constant training. Paul sees the Colossians like this. They have arrived at a measure of maturity because of their attention to godly discipline and training.
Sometimes it is helpful to understand a concept by stating things in opposites. The opposite to being orderly and firm in our faith would be to be haphazard, undependable, impulsive and flabby. Which terms best describe your Christian walk: disciplined or haphazard; firm or flabby?
The best illustration I can think of is exercise. (I tried to find one less personally convicting but failed.) If you want to be in your best physical condition; if you want to be firm and not flabby, you must be disciplined in your life. It means regular exercise, eating right, practicing good habits. I have found that if I do exercises to strengthen my back I feel much better and enjoy life more fully. However, when I start feeling better I have a tendency to slack off of the exercising. Guess what happens. I begin to hurt again. If you want a trim waistline you can do hundreds of sit-ups a day and watch your diet carefully. You will see results. However, if you go back to sitting around and eating poorly the flab will return.
Do you see that this is similar to our spiritual walk? We may be very intense for a period of time and feel the wonderful sense of the Lord’s presence. Then we coast. Our spiritual life begins to dry up. Some people conclude that it wasn’t real to begin with. Others go back to work. The mature believer, avoids the periods of coasting and drifting by being disciplined in their Christian life.
But what do we mean when we talk about having a disciplined faith? Here are some things a disciplined believer will do:
Read the Book The best place to begin is to read the Bible. The Bible is God talking to us. We all know that It is rude to ignore someone who is talking. It is equally rude (and foolish) to ignore God’s communication to us. I know, Who has time for Bible reading? We all do! Here’s some tips,
- Read the Bible instead of the magazines at Doctor’s offices
- Keep a Bible in your car and read when you are in a traffic jam or waiting for someone
- Get up fifteen minutes earlier to read
- Read smaller sections more times during the day
- Get involved with a Bible Study group and study with others
The key of course is not just to read . . .but to meditate on the Word. Ponder it in your heart and mind. Ask, “What is it God wants me to learn?” Jot down the things you learn.
Talk to the Author We need to visit more with God. We are so formal in our praying. We have a list we want to get through and that becomes the focus of our prayers. What I am suggesting is that we learn to focus on talking WITH God. Share your ideas, your thoughts, your frustrations, your dream. On occasion, talk to Him (respectfully, of course) as your best friend. And of course, give Him time to respond.
Make time for Quiet Our lives are so active we seldom get the chance to stop in the quiet and listen to the whisper of God’s Spirit. We need time to “be still and know that He is God.”
Serve Look for opportunities where you can give of yourself to others. It may be at a shelter or in the church. Or it may be in the every day tasks of life. Look for ways you can practice being a servant: clean up the dinner table, take out the garbage, pick up trash in the street, hold a door for someone else. Jesus humbled himself and took the form of a servant. We should follow His example.
Other disciplines to try: fasting, giving, keep a spiritual journal. Whatever you do . . . do something. Eliminate haphazard faith.
CONSISTENT IN OUR DAILY LIVING (2:6,7)
I think verse 6 is one of the most challenging verses in the Bible. I remember the wonderful work that the old Amplified Bible does with this text, “As you have therefore received the Christ, [even] Jesus the Lord, — [so] regulate your lives and conduct yourself – in union and conformity to Him.”
Notice the sequence. First, Paul assumes that we have a relationship with Christ. Paul says, “Just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, . .. “Things must be done in a certain order. You cannot live a victorious and mature Christian life until you have first come to Christ as the only one who can cleanse you from sin and infuse you with life.
But, once you have received Christ as Savior, you must follow Him as Lord. It’s a “package deal”. Paul says we received Christ as LORD and now we should show Him to be Lord in our living. This means that we live by His example and follow His commands. It means we change. The true test of the genuineness of a person’s confession of faith is the life they live.
I’m not saying we are to be perfect. That’s the standard and the goal but it is not something that we will ultimately achieve until we get to Heaven. But, we must be working toward that goal. We should not say we follow Christ with our mouth, yet deny Him in our living. It’s not enough to know a lot about Christ . . . we must apply what we know to how we live!
“Brother,” St. Francis said one day to one of the young monks at the Monastery, “let us go down to the town and preach!” The novice, delighted at being singled out to be the companion of Francis, quickly obeyed. They passed through the principal streets; turned down many of the byways and alleys; made their way out to some of the suburbs; and at length returned, by a winding route, to the monastery gate. As they approached it, the younger man reminded Francis of his original intention.
“You have forgotten, Father,” he said, “that we went down to the town to preach!”
“My son,” Francis replied, “we have preached. We were preaching while we were walking. We have been seen by man; our behavior has been closely watched; it was thus that we preached our morning sermon. It is of no use, my son, to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere as we walk.” [The Speakers Bible, vol. 8 p. 92)
GRATEFUL IN OUR HEART (2:7)
Paul says there are two results from being “rooted and built up”. The first is that you will be “strengthened in the faith”. When we begin to walk with Jesus in our daily living we become increasingly sure of the truths we committed our life to. As we become acquainted with Him and “test Him” in our daily living, we become personally aware of His great faithfulness. This strengthens our faith.
The second result of this consistent walk with Christ is an overwhelming sense of gratitude. As you mature in the faith something surprising happens. You become even more grateful than you were at first. Two things happen. First, you see how awesome and great God is. You begin to understand His holiness, His power, His Purity. You understand that He needs nothing to be complete. Second, you realize how deeply sin has infected our lives. When we come to Christ we have little idea how pervasive sin is in our hearts and lives. As we grow we see the stain of sin everywhere. When you put these two together you realize what an undeserved grace we have received. You can’t help but ask, “Why me, Lord?”
The mature Christian does not become rigid, arrogant or snooty. The mature believer is becoming softer, more humble and much more grateful.
One day Tauler, the fourteenth-century preacher, met a beggar. “God give you a good day, my friend,” he said. The beggar answered, “I thank God I never had a bad one.” Then Tauler said, “God give you a happy life, my friend.”
“I thank God,” said the beggar, “I am never unhappy.” Tauler in amazement said, “What do you mean?”
“Well,” said the beggar, “when it is fine, I thank God; when it rains, I thank God; when I have plenty, I thank God’ when I am hungry, I thank God; and since God’s will is my will, and whatever pleases him pleases me, why should I say I am unhappy when I am not?” Tauler looker at the man in astonishment. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am a child of the king,” said the beggar. “Where then is your kingdom?” asked Tauler. And the beggar answered quietly, “In my heart.”
That beggar was a mature believer. He understood what it meant to follow Christ. He understood the privilege that was his by being a child of the King. He understood that even though he was a beggar, he had reason to be exceedingly grateful.
How do you measure up? Does this list sound like you?
- faithfulness in difficult times (2a)
- love in our relationships(2b)
- growth in knowledge and understanding (2c)
- discernment in confusing times (4)
- disciplined in discipleship (5)
- consistent in daily living (6)
- overflowing with gratitude (7)
This list is not concerned with how much you know . . .but how well you follow. It’s about character not your I.Q. We’re not asking what others are looking for . . . we are talking about what God is looking for. Against this standard, how do you measure up?
It’s likely that God has pointed out something you need to address and change. He’s “convicted you” of some area where you are still being childish. And now that He has convicted you, what are you going to do about it?
It’s possible that you are not growing spiritually because you have not been born spiritually. So, please hear me carefully. Jesus says we must be “born again”. What that means is that we need a new start. We need a clean slate. But in order to obtain that we need help. Lots of help. The stain in our life is so deep that we cannot get it out on our own.
This is the message of the gospel: Jesus came to do what we could not do for ourselves. He died for the sin that we committed. And now He offers us a new beginning. He also offers us a chance to start over with His assistance and guidance. In fact, He promises that if we will turn to Him, He will make sure we qualify for Heaven in the end.
How do we get this great gift? We say “Yes”. The Bible tells us “if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.” Too complicated? Let’s make it real simple:
- We must recognize that we have “blown it” and need forgiveness
- We must believe and acknowledge that Jesus died in our place, for our sin and affirm that His resurrection proves that He was who He said He was
- We must ask the Lord to apply He sacrifice to our account and to be King and ruler in our life.
The words you use aren’t all that important. It can be as simple as this:
Lord Jesus, I have spent my life running from you, rebelling against you, and ignoring you. I have sinned. I know I deserve nothing. But I receive the gift of new life that you offer me. Come, cleanse me, make me new and then help me to follow you as the Ruler of my life . . . all the way home.
If you have never made that initial step then I encourage you to do so today. You must be born before you can mature. But once you have been born . . . . I pray you will not remain a child forever.