We’re continuing our look at some underrated traits that are no less necessary in the body of Christ than some of these other fruits. Last week we looked at encouragement. This week we’ll think about maturity.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. Hebrews 5:12
What does spiritual maturity look like?
Hebrews 5:14 tells us the mature are those have “trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” They have taken the time and put in the effort. And implicit in distinguishing good from evil is choosing good consistently.
In 1 Timothy 3:6, among the qualifications for pastor, Paul says that the candidate “must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” So, in contrast, humility is a mark of the mature. So is resisting temptation.
Perhaps the most straightforward lists are in Titus 2. Paul describes how older men and women should conduct themselves within the body of Christ. There is an underlying assumption that the physically mature are also spiritually mature. You can read the lists for yourself but I want to highlight a couple of broad characteristics.
The mature are reverent. They hold God and His Word in high esteem and show the respect due.
The mature are even-tempered. They aren’t given to angry outbursts. They think before they speak.
The mature mentor. They lead by example. They welcome the opportunity to help others grow and benefit from their wisdom and experience. (They aren’t bossy, know-it-alls, or demand that things be dome their way. Remember humility is a key characteristic of the mature.)
How do we become mature?
The short answer – the hard way. The slightly longer answer is that maturity happens as we commit ourselves to learn what it means to be Christlike. More practically, we let Christ stretch our faith. That means going through challenging circumstances. There is no shortcut or instant formula for maturity. Granted some mature more quickly than others. I think this may be because some are more surrendered to the Holy Spirit working in us. Some are more willing to renounce the things the Spirit asks us to change. Some are more willing to walk through the doors the Spirit opens.
Peter gives us an outline of the process. “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Peter 1:5-7). I won’t take the time to walk through each of those virtues, but I will point out the instruction to “make every effort.” It must be a high priority, worthy of our sustained efforts.
Why does the church need mature believers?
For the answer to that, let’s go back to the verse at the top of the post. 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, Hebrews 5:12. The church’s ability to function, to carry out its mission is hampered by immaturity. How can we disciple others if we haven’t moved past the very basics of our faith? How can we live by biblical principles if we don’t know what those are? We will be governed more by our emotions than by the Holy Spirit. We will be influenced more by the culture around us than the example of Christ. Paul and James both warn of the dangers of not detecting false doctrine because we are immature and easily swayed. Once false doctrine takes over, the church is in real spiritual danger as the letters in Revelation attest.
Maturity is necessary for the church to carry out the Commission. We have to make sure we are doing all we can to reach it, as well as not fighting God when He works in our lives to bring it about.
Next week in the Underappreciated Virtues series: Equity