What does it Mean to be a Mature Christian?
What are you willing to do to become one? If you have spent any significant time in the Christian faith, you will have observed that all of us are not on the same playing field of faith and maturity. We Christians have all had different experiences in life, different reactions to those experiences, and different ways of understanding and applying our faith to those situations. These experiences and the decisions we make concerning them all converge to shape us into who we are today and who we will be tomorrow. Coupled with this is the work of the Holy Spirit, guiding and molding us, seeking to penetrate the barriers of our stubborn pride and will. The Holy Spirit does not, although He certainly is able to, overwrite us. He works within us as a gentle change agent, a voice of meekness (as strength under control), desiring us to respond to our life's circumstances with character and maturity.
Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. Psalm 119:89-90
Growing in faith encompasses more than just asking Christ into our lives and hearts, and goes far beyond baptism or our church membership. It means being a disciple. Discipleship goes further than our conversion, our acceptance of Christ as Savior, our election, or any initiation we could conceive of into the Christian life. Why is that? Because our initiation is extended by Christ, and is only the beginning. The first step we take, receiving Him by faith through His Grace, is the entrance into the faith and Christian life. Accepting our election in Christ is not the only act of being a Christian! Yet, so many live their lives as if this were so. It would be like joining a ritzy, fancy, exclusive club, but never venturing into that club. Therefore, we would never use the exercise equipment, never swim in the pool, never play on the golf course, never rest in the steam room or partake of the networking, fellowship, and the fun. We would never go to the parties or the dining, and would miss the connections because we never attended. Thus, we would get virtually nothing out of it, except the satisfaction that we had joined. The only prestige we would have is the membership card on our dresser. It is the same with becoming a Christian. We might join the ultimate "club," but never use it or let it help develop our connections and depth with God and others. Yes, we may be saved, but if all the opportunities have been set aside, forgotten, and missed, oh, how sad that would be. Perhaps, you think all you have to do is be baptized as a public initiation, profession, or dedication, and then sit yourself in a pew of compliance and comfort, thinking, I did my part; the rest is up to others. Acceptance of what Christ has done is to be the door through which we walk in faith, as is our public profession or testimony of our faith. It does not stop there. It starts there! Why talk more on this? If we do not "get" this, we will never develop our net to be used for fishing because we will not have the materials to do so.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18
One of the clearest evidences of being a mature Christian is the realization that the municipal center of the Christian life is Jesus Christ as our LORD. He seeks to bring us closer to Himself by His love, joy, and peace so that we may share His love with those around us. This is the key that conveys God's purpose for His people and those around them. Spiritual maturity involves an increased awareness and knowledge for the need to be in Christ, and not to be living just to oneself. When we have an increased need that goes beyond our self, and beyond our self-confidence so our confidence is in our Lord and the Holy Spirit; then our self-confidence becomes rooted in and dependent on Christ working through us. We become Christ driven, not self-driven. As a result, our determination becomes more surrendered to God's will as He becomes the driving force for our lives and existence. This means as we grow in Christ, we are surrendering more of our will, desires, and plans unto our Lord Jesus Christ.
As Christians, we see that we have purpose, direction, and our lives and ministries are filled with Christ's power. We will realize that we need mentorship and support from other mature believers. What does this look like? We will have a life that comes from the impact of the Spirit and the disciplines of the faith. As we learn, we grow; and as we grow, we engage in prayer, study, exercising our gifts, worship, love, and fellowship that draws us closer to God and others and that facilitates further spiritual formation. We will have a firm, forward, and moving commitment and trust in Christ's work.
The Importance Of Our Motivation and Inspiration
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53: 12
I live in the Los Angeles area, the home of a basketball team called the "Lakers," even though there is no lake. Anyway, they are one of the top teams in the league, with several championship wins, and usually have two or three exceptional star players. During the end of the regular season in 2004, the Lakers were losing. They had to win two very important games with teams I had never heard of (what can I say, I am just not much of a sports guy when it comes to "foreign" terms), or they would not be in the finals. Then, for the key game, one of their star players, Kobe Bryant, just did not show up. The team was down and unmotivated. Their coach, Phil Jackson, took the rest of the twelve players into the locker room and told them that each one of them had the capability to win. Together, they could win without that star player, or any star player. Then he told them, you have become lazy, relying on Kobe and Shaq and not stepping up yourselves. Then he said, "you all must step up and perform." They went out, and won.
Do you "step up?" What motivates you in the Christian life? What is your source of inspiration outside of the Scriptures? Do you just rely on others, or do you and can you "step up" in your faith, reaching out to others to win the game that Christ has put you in? The key to stepping up is motivation. Coach Jackson is a skilled motivator, which is why he has a lot of championship rings. We do not need the ring when we know who we are in Christ and when He is our motivation!
He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20
Most of us will look to our creeds and confessions for motivation, and for good reason. But, I want to extend further into our personal responsibility. That is, how can we take our faith so seriously that it becomes more personal and real, and all our thoughts, ideas, directions, goals, and inspirations go in the direction of serving our Lord? How do we take our faith to a deeper level, "step up" so it is ours and personal, and not just because this is what our families are and do, and not just because we are part of a good church, school, or work? How do we "step up" so that our faith is solely because of what Christ has done for us and nothing else?
The key is in allowing the work of the Holy Spirit in us. However, we have a responsibility to respond, to grow, and to build on what we are given. It takes trust, faith, and the surrender of our will, our dreams, and our ideas over to the LORDSHIP of Christ. We must acknowledge that He is Lord of us because of His love for us, and that His ways are better than ours. Christ is our King; so, let us live our lives in response to what He has done for us!
© 1992, 2005, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org