Archive for the ‘Spiritual Maturity’ Category

What Does It Mean to Grow Up?

June 21st, 2018

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. (1 Corinthians 13:11)

When I turned sixteen, fifty-one years ago, that meant we could go down and take our drivers test and get a license, which also meant more freedom, less parental controls, and we could stay out later with friends on weekends. We felt all grown up, or at least significantly close to it. Lots of these thoughts were just about more personal freedom, but there were other more mature thoughts.

Turning sixteen also meant several other things – things that pertain to true adulthood and maturity. For example, it meant we could hold real jobs without our parents’ permission, and that meant that we could be expected to do a man’s work for an entire day and receive a man’s pay. My best friend and I drove down that summer and applied for jobs with highway construction, and if you ever drive around the great City of Dallas on LBJ freeway (I-635 officially), you are enjoying some of the results of our hard labor.

But being a man is not only about jobs, driving, and more freedom, or even about more human responsibility. It should also be about more responsibility in our faith. The scripture quoted above, 1 Corinthians 13:11, is from Paul’s classic chapter on the subject of love. What does it mean to grow up, to become mature, to be an adult? Clearly the idea of love has to be associated with the idea of being mature.  An immature person loves himself; a mature person has the capacity to love others. Let me break some key ideas down in this verse.

First, it means responsible independence. The word translated “child” here is nepios in the Greek which is really “infant” or “baby.” A baby is dependent on everyone, and everyone, of course, knows or should know that. The family doesn’t expect their one-year-old child to get up and wash the dishes or clean the house or mow the lawn. It is simply impossible. Babies are dependent on people entirely. But to be an adult means that you begin to take responsibility for things around you, and even for your own attitude and life. A baby might need to be entertained and helped to be happy. But adults take responsibility for their moods, for their attitudes, and for their lives.

Something huge in my life happened at sixteen years of age. I made my first mature commitment to Christ. It was youth camp at my church and along with all the fun and flirting and other stuff that goes on, I was confronted with the double life I was living. I rededicated my life to Christ and though I haven’t been entirely sinless ever since, what happened that summer stuck with me. I realized that I could not depend on the faith of others, but rather I needed to be responsible and committed myself. That is what mature people do.

Second, there is a change in how we speak and interact with others. Paul said, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child.” A child lives in his own work – often in a make-believe world. Adults live in the real world. A child can say all kinds of nonsense and no one thinks less of him. But we expect more from adults. We expect them to speak not only to express their feelings, but also to benefit others. We expect them to listen as well as speak. James 1:19 says,“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Mature people take responsibility for what they say and how they say it to others. They are more understanding and less demanding, more gracious and less judgmental, and they are honest. Which leads to the next point.

Third, there is a change in the way we understand. Here it is helpful to understand something about the Greek words that Paul originally used. This word is phroneo and means to understand and to act on that understanding – both together. Children are not able to understand circumstances or people, and their solutions to problems are not adequate. Sometimes they are even fanciful. Riddles appeal to children because they are based on funny combinations of words, but not on real situations.

Adults, however, seek to see things as they are, to understand circumstances and people and outcomes. However, there must be a centered position of faith that accepts truth and sees everything else through this lens. Mature people regulate their realities based on truths that they hold closely and dearly. This idea of understanding is seen in an iceberg that is 7/8’s underwater. No matter how the wind blows on the surface, the iceberg flows in the direction of the deep water currents.

Fourth, there is a change in the way we reach conclusions in life. Again, the Greek word helps us here. Paul used the word logizomai which is where we get our word “logic” from. It means to reckon, reason, decide, and conclude. One of the hallmarks of a mature person is that they have sorted through the things that they have been taught and have learned what is worth accepting and what should be rejected, and what is still of value, only, perhaps, not as we originally thought.

Adulthood begins the process of taking apart basic beliefs and reassembling them back together and reaching final conclusion about how important they are. This takes years and more than once in the years ahead you will feel confused about things. In those moments do not panic. Trust the Lord to reveal to you His truth and to lead and guide you in the process of learning and growing.

Fifth and finally, there is a change in our expectations. Mature people, especially those who trust in the Lord, are hopeful about the future. David’s words, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6), are claimed. Solomon wrote, “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day” (Prov. 4:18). We all experience setbacks in life. If we are normal someone will break our heart, our dream job will be given to someone else, and we will experience disappointment more than once. But if we are mature, we will learn the art of getting back up and in faith and trust moving forward.

So these are just a few ideas derived from the verse above on what it means to be an adult, and especially what it means to be a mature Christian.

Spiritual Maturity

The Battle for Our Thoughts

November 20th, 2017

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6 ESV)

We have a real problem with our thought life. Here Paul is in complete agreement with what we read from Moses in Genesis 6: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5 ESV).

The original Greek of Romans is clear enough, but it is challenging to translate. The thought in the original Greek that we struggle with to translate is phronema in the noun form, and phroneo in the verb. The shared meaning of these words is our thoughts on their most basic level – the innermost thought on the deepest personal level. The verb appears in verse five, “set their minds on the things of the flesh” or “do mind the things of the flesh” (KJV). The noun is in verse six, “to set the mind on the flesh” or “to be carnally minded” (KJV).

This is one spot in scripture that perhaps the Amplified Bible, that seeks to give every nuance of the original language, does the best job of translation, or paraphrasing the passage:

5 For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit and are controlled by the desires of the Spirit set their minds on and seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit.

6 Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever]. (Rom. 8:5-6 Amplified Bible)

Left to their own, our thoughts run toward evil, which is why we need the Lord to lead us in a new direction. The biblical explanation is that this happens only by the Spirit. We cannot dedicate ourselves into a new type of thinking, nor repent ourselves there, nor discipline ourselves there. All of these things are helpful tools – dedication, repentance, and discipline – when they are placed in the hands of the Spirit. But the power to change our thoughts at their most basic level is not ours.

Paul expressed the frustration that we all feel in the second half of Romans 7, that he did the things he hated to do, due to sin in him, or the flesh in him.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:21-25 ESV)

The celebratory exclamation at the end of this passage proclaims the victory in our hearts that comes through the gospel of Christ, that by the power and presence of His Spirit in our lives we receive a new nature, “The new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). God is ready, able, and willing to change our thoughts. We must take the step to receive His grace in Christ and to surrender to Him. The mind at its most basic level must be surrendered to the Spirit.

How we defeat this process is to hold on to secret sins, for they reveal our thinking at its most basic level. Whether it is a hidden stash of alcohol, a hidden desire to view pornography, a hidden bitterness and unforgiveness, jealousies and hatred, lusts for power, or whatever, the secret sin that we treasure and do not forsake utterly reveals our thinking at its most basic level – the innermost thoughts of our hearts. This is where the battle is fought, and we must let the Spirit search our hearts for every unpure thought or value.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Cor. 10:4-6 ESV)

The mind set on the Spirit, or to be spiritually-minded, as it is used here in Romans 8, does not mean that we think some spiritual thoughts or remember some scriptural promises, while we entertain lusts and prideful diversions – especially secretly. If our secret thoughts are unsurrendered we will not walk in the life and peace of the Spirit.

This calls for us to regularly pull aside and pray and surrender to God. We cannot do this unless God searches our hearts, and He works on His schedule, not ours. “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6), is the command of Scripture. Take time to let God speak to you on His terms, in His timing. Always be ready to listen, and to obey.

Spiritual Maturity, The Deeper Christian Life ,