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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.
In today's post we want to begin understanding the places to go in the scriptures when trying to understand the concept of Christian spiritual maturity. The key passages that will be listed today are not meant to be an exhaustive list, but more so a "representative" list. The Biblical vision for spiritual growth in relationship with God is too often neglected. Below we will simply list the passages below with minimal commentary so as to encourage readers to look at them, study through them and draw their own conclusions. After all, a mark of spiritual maturity is being able to dig out and apply the truth of God's Word to your own life so as to be a blessing to others.
1.Deuteronomy 7:21-23You shall not dread them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. 22 The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them quickly, for the wild beasts would grow too numerous for you. 23 But the Lord your God will deliver them before you, and will throw them into great confusion until they are destroyed."
So why is it that when a person is converted to Christ in saving faith that the Lord does not rid them of sin, rid them of difficulty and grant them a life of ease? Because we need to experience what it is like to have victory in Jesus, depend upon the Lord and strive for Him against the left-over remnants of sin. This passage in the Old Testament reminds us of the progressive nature of spiritual growth - our sanctification. The Handbook of Bible Application, page 409, notes about this passage: "Moses told the Israelites that God would destroy Israel's enemies, but not all at once. God had the power to destroy those nations instantly, but He chose to do it in stages. In the same way and in the same power, God could miraculously and instantaneously change your life. Usually, however, He chooses to help you gradually, teaching you one lesson at a time." Such a concept is not just an Old Testament or just a New Testament idea, but is found throughout the scriptures in both testaments. Maturity in spiritual matters occurs with the Lord, in the Lord and He in us.
2. 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 "Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified."
This passage on spiritual maturity also reminds us that in-as-much as spiritual maturity is a progressive work of the Holy Spirit in and through us, it also is an active work on our part in cooperation with Him. The call to spiritual maturity is likened here to a spiritual athletic competition.
3. Ephesians 4:11-13 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
Biblical spiritual maturity cannot be conceived of apart from fellowship and interaction with God's people. The Lord has given pastors and the local church family for the sake of growing saints unto spiritual maturity and for the sake of reaching the world to make more disciples. All sermons, programs and efforts of any local church ought to use these two criteria when understanding how they are to be glorify Jesus Christ in service to God's people and people in the community. More tomorrow.....