Friday, November 2, 2012

P2 - Traits of a Strong Christian: Prioritizes Spiritual Maturity

James 1:1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

Yesterday we began exploring the traits of a strong Christian, noting that a Personal testimony is how one is able to maintain the personalized aspect of one's walk with Jesus Christ.  If we think of God's Word, prayer and God's people as cornerstones for how one grows stronger in Jesus Christ, keep in mind one's personal testimony will keep such a pursuit ever fresh.  Out of a personal testimony comes the second trait of a strong Christian: Prioritizing Spiritual maturity.  

What is spiritual maturity?
Spiritual maturity is not only concerned with how much I know as it is in applying what I know.  Its not merely about good moral living or right attitudes as it is in using my life and attitudes to point others to Jesus Christ rather than myself.  Spiritual maturity is not merely about strength and giftedness as it is excercising great strength and giftedness in the right measure and situation.  You can have a Christian who knows much, is eager to live morally right and have incredible talent, and yet still not be mature in their faith. 

Three passages come to mind when defining spiritual maturity:
a. Micah 6:8 - "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"   The word for "require" in the original language speaks of the Lord's sought-after desires for my life.  Thus spiritual maturity is measured by how well I line up the sought-after desires of my heart with God's sought-after desires outlined in His word.  Thus spiritual maturity is defined as simply desiring God.

b. Colossians 1:4 "since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints."  Not only is spiritual maturity defined by a desire for God, but secondly a delight in the things of God.  Do I love Jesus Christ and His people? My love for Christ is visibly seen in my attitude towards His Word.  My love for His people is also another indicator of whether or not I delight in the things of God - His Word and His people.

c. Hebrews 5:14  "But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil."

Spiritual maturity is when you and I desire God, delight in the things of God and discern good and evil.  How well we excercise ourselves in these three areas measures how spiritually mature we are. 

With spiritual maturity defined, lets see it illustrated in the life of James:

James desired God
The testimony of both scripture and history tells us that James prioritized spiritual maturity.  Both scripture and history testifies that James was regarded as a Christian who desired God.  For example in Galatians 2:9 Paul states: "and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised."  James is considered, along with Peter and John, to be a "Pillar" of the church. 

John, the beloved disciple who leaned on Jesus at the last supper, the disciple of love, is certainly somebody to look at when considering what it means to desire God.  Then who can forget Peter, who was so eager to follow Jesus that he was willing to die for Him.  Church history tells us that Peter willingly was martyred for His faith, counting it as a privileged, choosing to be crucified upside down for His Lord.  That's desire for God!

So too with James we read in the annals of church history that he was known as "James the Just".  So desirous for God was James that we are told his knees had callouses due to the long periods he spent in prayer.  Is it no wonder that he could be termed a pillar of the church along with Peter and John - since He desired God.

James delighted in the things of God
The golden verse (main verse) of James' little letter or Epistle is James 2:17 - "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself."  For James, true biblical faith is a working faith.  Delight in the things of God should be expected if one's heart is desiring God.  James' epistle is full of exhortations to delight in trials (James 1:3-4); God's word (James 2:8); God's wisdom (James 3:17); God's people (James 4:11) and prayer (James 5:16).  These are examples of the things of God.  Not all of them will appear positive (especially trials)!  However their value is measured in Whom they lead us to - God in Christ!  

Christians don't delight in the things of God merely for the sake of the things themselves as much as where the things lead us.   If I take a plane to see the Grand Canyon, am I excited about the plane ride only for the sake of the ride or the destination?  This is why my attitude toward the things of God is factored into how I measure spiritual maturity.  James no doubts exhibited this in his life.

James discerned good from evil
In the Jerusalem counsel of Acts 15 we see James presiding over the Jerusalem council in regards to how the predominately Jewish church was going to preach the Gospel to a pre-dominately Gentile world.  His wording at that meeting demonstrates the incredible ability to excercise proper discernment.  As I noted earlier - you can have a man who is incredibly gifted, knowledgable and powerful, and yet still not possess true spiritual maturity.

James had all three qualities, and he proved his level of maturity in knowing how to excerise all three in the proper measure and timing.  If too many restrictions had been issued at the council of Jerusalem - the church's mission would had been hampered.  Too little restrictions would had compromised the consciences and biblical foundations of the church itself.  If anything, James' desire for God and delight in the things of God cultivated in him an keen ability to discern.

May you and I grow in our Christian faith.  May we be those who prioritize spiritual maturity: Desiring God, Delighting in the things of God and Discerning good from evil. 

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