All kids want to grow up. They dream of what they will become; firemen, doctors, nurses, astronauts. When they are teens the main desire to be an adult is the perceived freedom for which they long. They do not understand the responsibility that comes with that freedom as they can only see the ability to make their own decisions. Regardless of the motivation, it is natural to desire to grow up, to be more than what we are right now. So should it not be just as natural to want to grow up spiritually? Should we not long to be more than what we are right at this present moment? Do any of us really feel like we have arrived?
It is sheer laziness that keeps us in this place where we lack the maturity to be everything that we have been designed to be. I am not saying that we can become mature by our own emotional and intellectual efforts but it does take an effort of the will, to submit ourselves to the transformation the Spirit is doing in us. It takes an effort of the will to say no to temptation and choose Jesus every single time. It takes an effort of the will to open ourselves to the Spirit and to act on the words of Jesus. It takes an effort of the will to choose love over self. It takes our will to submit but Jesus' power to transform.
What does spiritual maturity look like? In the last blog I spoke about what it isn't:
Then 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 men in their deceitful scheming. (Ephesians 4:14)
But today let us consider what it is:
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head,that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)
Maturity involves truth and love, not opinion and emotions. Truth is found in the Word of God and is written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We know it even if we choose to change it to suit our own selfish desires. If we base our perception of truth on anything else then it is not God's truth and we cannot hope to become spiritually mature. We may have the appearance of spirituality but spirituality on its own is not spiritual truth. There is only one truth and it is found in Jesus. No excuses.
Love is not an emotion as we have changed it into. Love is a decision based on the truth of God. Love chooses good over evil. Love chooses right over wrong. Love chooses others over self. Love does what is best for others even when it is not best for us. Love is constant and is not dependent on any circumstances of life because love is dependent on God's truth, which never changes. Love is what compels us to live for the glory of Jesus and not for our own. Love does not hate, cannot hate, will not hate.
If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:20-21)
This is what maturity looks like.
It also loots like this:
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:16)
Maturity in the Body of Christ understands its place in the Body. Maturity does not stand outside of the Body criticizing and throwing rocks. Maturity does not separate itself and decide to go it alone. Maturity understands that we are all growing into the head, who is Jesus, and we are one part of a fantastic thing called the Church. Maturity knows that we need grace as much as the next person. Maturity understands the huge need for forgiveness and that we offend others as much as they offend us. But maturity says that none of that matters because we are all growing together in maturity for the glory of Jesus.
So perhaps the greatest part of maturity is maturing in our understanding of love. Not our weak, frail, fickle concept of some vague abstract notion of love but of God's very real, concrete character of love. You see, we have no hope of maturity if we do not at least understand the structure of which we are part. We must come to the realization that we are joined and held together by every supporting ligament. We must have that revelation that we are growing and building ourselves up in love. We must have our eyes wide open to the fact that we have a part to play in this Body. That is where real maturity comes in and where it takes us and it requires mature love.
This is what maturity looks like and it should be our desire to get there.