Spiritual Maturity…”Think Like this”

“Therefore those who are mature will think thus. And, if you think differently in something, God will also make that known to you.”

(Philippians 3:15)

From a pastor’s perspective, this verse is one that I would love to see painted over every doorpost, placed by every bathroom mirror, and embossed on decorations throughout the homes of my people. This is not the first time that Paul has given such a piece of instruction, but here he is short and succinct. He has spoken of living for Christ and not for self and he has spoken of how (as a believer) he makes nothing of his own work. And then, in the wake of these very powerful Christian teachings, he makes this statement… “Those who are mature will think this way.”

Wham. Right there, we see Paul take the majority of the western church today to the mat. Paul is essentially saying, Do you think that you are mature — then how do you live your life? Are you proud of your own accomplishments? If so, you are not a mature believer. Do you seek to draw attention to yourself? If so, you are immature in your faith. Do you wish to do things your way instead of the way God teaches in the Bible? If so, you are immature in your faith. Are you not studying the Word with the intention of applying the Word to guide your every action? Yep, you guessed it, that is a sign of your immaturity. Do you consider your own needs more important than the needs of others? Yes, you too fall into the category of the immature. Are you willing to sacrifice…not just give of your excess, but really sacrifice…for the wellbeing of the church? If not, you are being childish in your faith…and notice that I said, “childish” and not “childlike.” There is a huge difference. If as a church, you only focus on the “milk” of the Word (that which is easy to swallow and digest), then yes, you too are not mature as a church body.

As a pastor, I often engage with people who are in conflict. And truth be told, after some sermons, that conflict has been directed towards me! My grandfather, who was also a minister, used to say, “if you don’t step on some toes, you are not preaching.” Jesus said that if we belong to him, the world will hate us (John 15:18-21). And yes, Jesus also reminded us that there will be unbelievers (people of the world) who will be a part of the visible institution of the church (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). The point being, don’t be surprised when persecution comes from within the church, there are unbelievers mixed amongst the immature…and sometimes the two can be difficult to tell apart.

Yet, in times of conflict, after we have prayed, I typically begin by showing them what the Bible says concerning a given struggle that is being had and what the Bible says about resolving and working towards reconciliation. How often people respond by saying, “I know the Bible says that, but…” And I say, “sorry, there are no ‘buts’ about it.” Paul would say that when people will not submit to the plain teaching of scripture, they are immature. So, where are you this day? Are you making excuses for your spiritual immaturity? Don’t. Instead, apply the word to your life and grow mature. Are you struggling to grow mature but the abuse and discouragement of growing up alongside of the weeds is weighing upon you? Then remember Peter’s words, “God knows how to rescue the godly from trials while keeping the unrighteous under punishment…” (2 Peter 2:9). Be encouraged, you are being refined in the Lord’s hands. Are you a leader in a church surrounded by the spiritually immature? Take the council of the author of Hebrews:

“For everyone who partakes of milk is unpracticed in the word of righteousness since he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have been trained in the practice of discernment, distinguishing good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not again building a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.” (Hebrews 5:13 — 6:1).

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