Saturday, June 7, 2014

Spiritual Maturity in Jesus Christ - Colossians 1:1-12

Colossians 1:3-4 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints;

The importance of spiritual maturity
Adrian Rogers in his book: "What every Christian ought to know", writes these words on pages 245-246 - "We need love that comes with Christian growth and maturity. There need be no division between truth and love. Some have made that division. Truth without love may be a form of brutality. Love without truth may be empty sentimentality. May God deliver us from the immature pronouncements of those who have loveless truth and the immature emotionalism of those who have truthless love. With truth and no love one may swell up. With love and no truth one may blow up. But truth and love cause the Christian to grow up."

Dr. Rogers' quote is an excellent summary of everything we not only try to accomplish daily in this blog, but strike right at the heart of today's post. The question is: what is spiritual maturity in Jesus Christ? All spiritual maturity is shaped by the two chief concerns underlined in Colossians 1:3-4 above: faith in Jesus Christ and loving his people.  In Colossians 1:1-12 we see Paul demonstrating the crucial link between a Christian's spiritual maturity and fulfillment in Jesus Christ. 

What are the outcomes of those who press daily to be spiritually mature? 

What are the outcomes of those who press daily to be spiritually mature? Hebrews 5:13-14 gives us the answer: "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." Now why was the writer of Hebrews making this statement? Because he was dealing with some readers who, having came from a Jewish background, were being tempted to either go back from whence they came or to somehow mix their new found faith in Christ with something else. They were, in the words of the writer in Hebrews 5:12, "dull of hearing". The original language pictures this phrase as referring to someone who is "slow or slothful" in their application. The immature Christian will be the type who hesitates in obedience and is incapable of being able to digest much spiritual truth.

In Colossians Paul has to deal with a group that threatened to undo the Colossian's faith in Christ. Thankfully the Colossians were doing well in their spiritual maturity, however Paul in effect is urging them to strive all the more to find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.   

Connecting Christian spiritual maturity to fulfillment in Jesus Christ
So how does one's spiritual maturity connect to finding fulfillment in Jesus Christ?  Colossians 1:1-12 spells this connection out for us:

1. Spiritual maturity can only grow in the presence of fulfillment in Christ's Word. Colossians 1:1-7

Notice how many times Paul refers to the Colossians growing spiritual maturity in conjunction to their hearing the word of God:

-they heard of the hope laid up in heaven for them "in the word of truth, the gospel" (Colossians 1:5)

-their Christian maturity was bearing fruit in Christ's fullness that they heard of and understood from the scriptures. (Colossians 1:6)

-they learned the cornerstones of their maturity of treasuring Christ and loving his people from Epaphrus, who faithfully ministered the Word to them. (Colossians 1:7)

Only when I am exposed to the fullness of God's written word will I grow in my appreciation of the fullness of Christ.  As I treasure Jesus Christ, the natural outcome should be a greater love for His people - thus the two elements of Christian spiritual maturity.

2. Spiritual maturity goes forward in the power of prayer that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:3, 9
As these Colossians were growing in grace from finding their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, Paul prayed that they would do all the more.  Prayer indicates that I need God's grace to walk out what He calls me to do by His grace.  The desire to treasure Jesus Christ and love His people cannot be done without a growing prayer life.  If the Word of God is the engine of spiritual maturity, and fullness of Christ is the fuel, then the Christian's prayer life is the transmission.  The transmission in a car is what delivers power from the motor to the wheels.  If I don't have a prayer life - I don't have power.  Evangelist Leonard Ravenhill notes the following about prayer: "The light bulb for us Christians is prayer and God has the power. But it is faith that makes the connection." Fulfillment in Jesus Christ cannot be increased apart from prayer. 

3. Spiritual maturity grows fruitfully because of seeking to be even more fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:9-12
Colossians 1:9 reads -  "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." The knowledge of God's will is attained through growing familiarity with the scriptures and obedience to Christ. (Deuteronomy 29:29; John 14:15,21,23).  What does spiritual maturity that is bearing fruit in Christ's fullness look like?  Paul's prayer for the Colossians reveals the fruit we should desire in our seeking further fulfillment in Jesus Christ:

-Desiring to know and do the will of God Colossians 1:9

-Desiring to walk in a way that pleases God Colossians 1:10a

-Desiring my life to demonstrate to others a desire to know God Colossians 1:10b

-Desiring to live in His strength, not my own Colossians 1:11a

-Desiring to have a continuous enjoyment of Jesus Christ Colossians 1:11b

-Desiring to be thankful to God in all things Colossians 1:12

Closing thoughts Spiritual maturity is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  By treasuring and loving Him, I'll end up treasuring and loving His people.  Spiritual maturity that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ leads me to be more effective in my Christian life.