Thursday, June 19, 2014

P3 Still more key scriptures for Biblical spiritual maturity

Jude 20-21 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

Yesterday we explored the key scriptures we find in the Book of Colossians for understanding spiritual maturity.  In today's post we conclude our explorations by noting some further scriptures in the remainder of the New Testament. Like yesterday, the key passages that will be listed are not meant to be an exhaustive list, but more so a "representative" list. 

1. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 "But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come."

One of the themes you will find in studying the subject of spiritual maturity is the closely related theme of spiritual discipline.  One of the myth's associated with spiritual maturity is that it is easy and passive.  Scripture uniformly tells us that spiritual maturity requires discipline, and yet is immensely rewarding.  Often times the Apostle Paul will use the metaphor of physical training to get his readers to see how spiritual maturity operates and functions. Christians need constant usage and exercise of their spiritual muscles in order to deal with life and life victoriously for the Master. 

2. Hebrews 5:13-14 "For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil."

How I can recall the years when all four of our children were growing up as infants and toddlers.  Some of the things they did then were worthy of postings on facebook.  However if they were to do some of those same things now, I would be concerned. Why? Because as older children and adolescent teenagers, we naturally expect them to be exercising some discernment and hopefully making progress in their physical, emotional and mental development.  In the spiritual realm the principles are no different, which is why the writer of Hebrews employs such imagery as that of infants and growing children.

3. Hebrews 6:1-3 "Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do, if God permits."

The book of Hebrews is chocked full of passages that speak on the subject of spiritual maturity.  Too often Christians complain about doctrine, and yet without doctrine, we cannot know what we are to believe and live. Doctrine is the pearl necklace of the great lady - the church. We certainly ought to be grounded enough to know the essential truths of scripture, and then at some point move onto further truths. I find it interesting that the writer inserts the closing phrase "if God permits", reminding us of the boundaries in which spiritual growth occurs - namely God's Sovereign will.

4. Hebrews 12:1-2 "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

In this text we see the author and finisher of faith, the Lord Jesus Christ. The imagery employed here is the athletic imagery, much like what we see in 1 Timothy 4:7-8.  Here we see runners in an Olympic style race running for the glory of the Emperor. When the runners would run, they looked to the box seats where the Emperor sat to draw strength and inspiration.  If they got their eyes off of the Emperor and got to focusing on the cheers of the crowds, they could get lost in the moment and lose stride. Certainly the witnesses are vital, however it is Jesus who is the finish line, the Emperor for Whom we run the Christian race. 

5. Hebrews 13:20-21 "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen."

In-as-much spiritual maturity is an activity on our part, without the preserving grace of the Lord working in us and through us, we will not have the necessary desire to want to grow.  As a friend of mine used to tell me: "God takes our 'have-tos' and turns them into 'I-want-to's". 

6. Jude 20-21 "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life."

Jude 20-21 gives us one of the clearest definitions in the Bible on what it means to pursue after spiritual maturity. Truly "building ourselves up in the most holy faith" captures the heart of what it means to be spiritual mature. 

Closing thoughts
Adrian Rogers gives this illustration from his book: "What Every Christian Ought to Know", page 248, on the subject of spiritual maturity: "A cathedral in England was destroyed by German bombs during World War II. Some students helped to rebuild it. A statue of Jesus in the Cathedral had been damaged. The students pieced it together, but the hands had been destroyed beyond retrieval. Rather than replace the hands, they placed a plaque beneath the statue that read, 'Christ has no hands but ours.' There is a great truth to that. May God help you to find a place of service and let your hands be His hands.As we bring all of this to a conclusion, remember that you are to grow with what you have learned." 

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