18 March 2018

CULTIVATING A LIFE OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY



Eph 4:13-16

In 1973, a horse named Secretariat became a legend in his time. Not only did Secretariat win the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, but he did it with an unprecedented performance. At the Belmont Stakes, he not only won the race by 31 lengths, but he set new records along the way as he went faster with each phase of the run. For one-and-one-half miles, that famous thoroughbred ran faster every second. Secretariat was accelerating at such an incredible pace that his trainer noted if the race had been extended another lap, his heart would have literally exploded.

It is always tempting to settle in to status quo performance, but the greatest joy is found in straining ahead to not just finish, but to finish well. The Apostle Paul charged this to Timothy and for Timothy to remind the church this truth that each and every one of us should follow on a daily basis. Paul said “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 2 Tim 4:7-8. Spiritual maturity is something that every single one of us should be pursuing daily… not so that we feel good about ourselves, but so that we know Christ more and this gospel confession we share as a body for the glory of Christ. 

Paul Tripp summed it up with this statement “Every member of Christ should grow up and use a towel, not wear a bib. They should not be immature consumers but eager servants.” The Lord Jesus wants people to grow up for the sake of those around you. God rescued fallen sinners and He is transforming and changing us into His likeness. Why? “So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” Eph 3:10 I came across this statement by a young and vibrant Christian young lady Jaquelle Crowe said… “My generation needs more older Christians who are generous with their knowledge/experience and willing to invest in us for kingdom purposes.” The more mature and seasoned Christians have a responsibility and obligation to the next generation, but not just them but to the babies’ in Christ (no age limit). Paul said this “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” Rom 15:1-2

1 Thess 5:14 says “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” We have a responsibility as believers to build up and encourage our fellow believers if they are struggling with certain things. We are not to look to our own interests but to that of Christ. This can only happen when we are growing spiritually ourselves in the love and grace given to us through the Spirit of the gospel confession. James said “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22. Jesus said in the Book of Revelation "And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book." Rev 22:7. If we are not growing there is a danger and concern for the body of the church. It’s called spiritual apathy! It’s someone with a coldness, or indifference; even can affect the most sincere Christian at one time or another.
Apathy or disinterest can sometimes replace the passion one once felt for the things of God.
  
Hebrews 5:11-14 warns us of spiritual apathy “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
  
The writer of Hebrews in this passage was addressing those of apostasy! Apostasy is the rejection of Christianity by someone who formerly claimed to be a Christian. Apostasy is a theological category describing those who have voluntarily and consciously abandoned their faith in the God of the Bible. Jesus said this would happen! “But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father. “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” John 6:64-68 

What are some signs of spiritual apathy?

Decline in attendance……finding other things to do to fill your Sunday, excuse makers to why they chose not to go.

Lacks of concern for souls……don’t care if people go to Hell without hearing the gospel.

Lack of participation in congregational singing…..Growing Christians love to sing praises to our God and King, spiritual apathy comes distracted and bored, their singing reflects their hearts.

Indifference to the needs of others…… Growing Christians are caring Christians.

No pastoral encouragement……. growing Christians will give thanks for spiritual shepherds who serve them.

Declining concern for missions……. When a person fails to see young men and women as their future and fails to invest in their development.

Here is the warning and the danger for the silent killer of apathy! See! Spiritual apathy may be able to hide under the radar of the church family (you and me at times), but it’s not hidden from the sovereign God of the universe. We know this by what is written in the Book of Revelation “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Rev 3:17. Paul is calling out to the church for unity and maturity. Because a mature church that is growing under the authority and submission to the Word is a church that is strong, healthy and vibrant to the community and the world. We need to understand that spiritual maturity is not just about head knowledge, but demonstrated through serving one another with what you know according to the Scriptures. Knowledge and maturity are two sides to a coin; they work in unison for the means of serving and growing.

Paul mentions four biblical traits
of a spiritual mature person.

Maturity involves Christlikeness (v13)

The ultimate picture and goal of maturity is to be like who? Jesus" “Christ fullness” is an expression of completion or perfection. Each and every one of us here have not reached until we stand before Christ and His glory that awaits us where we will be perfect and sinless for all eternity through the gospel confession. The goal for us is to be like Christ so that we one day taste and rest in this fullness of Christ.

Do you long for the day that you don’t sin against God and one another?

Do you long for the day when you see Christ in His fullness and glory?

As children of God we should desire and long for maturity individually and corporately. Nothing is better than to sink your teeth into a beautiful medium rare striploin steak from COSTCO when you older. As a baby you smell this foreign delicious meat but have no way to savor its taste until you are more mature to truly enjoy such a fine piece of steak. The same is true when it comes to the Word of God….you cannot truly savor this truth until your grow up in it. Peter wrote “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” 1 Peter 2:2. As a baby desires and screams for food to satisfy their tummy’s we are to desire long for the word so that we spiritually grow to Christ-likeness. This is where we get our strength and nourishment.

Maturity involves Doctrinal Stability (v13-14)
 We are to continually grow in our “knowledge” of truth. Paul mentions growth in “unity of truth” This requires both intellect and heart. See Paul warns us that we are to no longer to be “little children”. Why? Children are gullible and easily deceive. This is exactly what false teacher’s do…they creep in and “toss them around to and fro”.

They prey on the gullible and say things like……
All religions are the same.
All people end up in Heaven if you are a good person.
The bible is just one book of many other religious books.
Believe in the idea of the resurrection, but not in that it literally happened.
Many so-called ministries on the TV and around the globe are out to deceive and destroy true biblical Christianity.

The top Christian best sellers have their faces on the cover, with beautiful smiles trying to convince that you need to have a life like them. Paul uses strong language here! ”human cunning” & “deceitful schemes”

What does this mean? Believers can be deceived by "human cunning." This is the power of human persuasion; a smooth talker can wield influence over others. (Motivational speakers, a slick cars salesman) False teachers who stand behind pulpits have the ability to manipulate your emotions by playing on your emotions. This is dangerous because Jesus had something to say about this! “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matt 18:6. Believers can be deceived by "craftiness in deceitful schemes." These are evil plans that may appear good but actually promote something false. They lie and are twisters of the truth twisting God’s word to bring doubt, disbelief and to benefit oneself, 

Tim Challies said “The Charlatan is only interested in the Christian faith to the extent that it can fill his wallet. He uses his leadership position to benefit from others’ wealth.”


Peter warned us about this kind of charlatans “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.” 2 Peter 2:1-3
  
Tim Challies went on to say in the same article “Satan’s greatest ambassadors are not pimps, politicians, or power-brokers, but pastors. His priests do not peddle a different religion, but a deadly perversion of the true one. His troops do not make a full-out frontal assault, but work as agents, sneaking into the opposing army. Satan’s tactics are studied, clever, predictable, and effective. Therefore, we must always remain vigilant. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits”

Paul said in the Book of Acts “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” Acts 20”28-31. This is why Paul emphasizes that children must be taught from the point of coming into this world until the day they cleave to their spouse. 

A parent would never say “Hey son, I know you’re only eleven, but could you drive your sister down to the Fresh Mart for some milk?” He not old enough and needs to be taught the responsible way to drive when he is older. He is only 11 years old and has to be taught and so do believers. Every one of us enter the Christian life as babies, but over time we begin to mature more and more as we learn from the Scriptures.

Maturity Involves truth joined with Love (v15-v16)

We as a church must hold Scripture high. 1 Tim 3:15 we read “but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” John Stott says the word in the Greek for (v15) is “truthing in love” 

“Truthing” is not an English word but the idea is very clear. Spiritual maturity involves a truth- telling, truth- maintaining and truth- doing love. This is what the church should be as we walk out this building! Equipped to the do the work of ministry for the glory of the gospel confession. It’s important that when we engage in admonition or exhortation or confrontation with a brother or sister or even a lost soul for that matters. That it’s done with truth in an extraordinary compassionate and tender loving spirit. Paul says to the church of Colossian “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” Col 4:6. "In grace or concerning grace" let grace be the subject matter of your speech and conversation.

Maturity involves contribution (v16)

We all play an important part to the body of Christ. Every member is a “building block” according to Ephesians 2:21, built on the foundation of Christ who is the “Cornerstone”. Every member is a “limb” in Christ’s body according to (v16). We need one another; every member is contributing and using what they have by this measure of ministry grace. Here is the reality and blessing that come from spiritual maturity! As we grow into Christ (key word “grow into”) and as we use our gifts in love, the body becomes healthy.

How can I contribute and build up my church family in love to grow? Be faithful to attend and participate regularly throughout the week and Sunday. Commit yourself to love the Lord and your brothers and sisters in Christ here! Pray for your church and your pastor and leaders that they lead you well into His glorious presence. Help shoulder the load of responsibility as a faithful child of God for your church. Apply the teaching and ministry to your life and live for the glory of Christ.

Hebrew writer confirms this truth “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Heb 10:19-25

This is the blessing that flow from faithful study, stewardship and love for one another. This is what flows when we walk in unity and walk worthy of your calling. This is what makes the church look beautiful and why the church is the manifold wisdom of God in Heavenly places. We need to be concerned about the health of the body of Christ by what Paul says here in this portion of his letter. Paul’s teaching serves as a “spiritual checkup” so examine your life in light of God’s Word and make the proper adjustment according to the Spirit’s leading and directing. A spiritual mature church will…….READ the Word, STUDY the Word, PRAY the Word, SING the Word, and LIVE the Word in and through their lives.

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