When I was parenting teenagers I felt a tension. My children had training and discipline so I was confident that they could act independently. At the same time, all teens deal with impulse issues. A part of the brain that connects choice and consequence is not fully developed until around the age of 21. So, when you hand him the keys to the car, you may be confident in his ability to operate the automobile’s controls, but you’re much less confident about his good judgment. Dr. Henry Cloud writes, “It is one thing to drive safely when you look in the rearview mirror and see a policeman. That is external feedback. It is another thing to drive safely when you’re out on the road by yourself. That is maturity.” (Integrity, Collins, 2006) Now, my children are fully adult and mature. What joy I have when I spend time with them, seeing the beauty that comes from that maturity, the ability to say ‘yes’ to the best and to reject temptation to things that would take a toll.
Here at year’s end, let’s think for a few moments about maturity.
Many Christians who ought to be consistently making decisions that lead to a Christ-honoring life in reality are still spiritual teens, in the grip of their emotions and impulses. Their appetites rage out of control. They appear to be unable to step up to the inconvenient, the unpleasant, or the difficult choices today that would lead them to a better life tomorrow. One of the directions to disciples is “Grow up! Stop being childish.”
Paul tells us to “…be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ. (and then) …we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, …Live no longer as the ungodly do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their closed minds are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They don’t care anymore about right and wrong, and they have given themselves over to immoral ways. Their lives are filled with all kinds of impurity and greed. But that isn’t what you were taught when you learned about Christ. Since you have heard all about him and have learned the truth that is in Jesus, throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception. Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes.” (Ephesians 4:13-23, NLT)
Do you see the keys to maturity that are revealed in that passage?
Look at Christ. Study His life and measure yourself by Him! We won’t grow up if we are content to use lesser standards.
Know the truth, accept the truth, and relentlessly insist on living in the truth – even when it’s not pleasant.
Understand that there is right and there is wrong! Then choose. Note the strong action phrase, “throw off your old evil nature.” If we want to grow up, we cannot just be passive, waiting for someone to do the hard work for us. We must take the old ways off like old dirty clothes and toss them aside in the trash!
Then the same passage says this – “…put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24, NIV) The Word is not telling us to ‘put on’ as in pretending to be someone we are not, as an actor ‘puts on’ a costume or makeup to change his appearance. Rather we are to take Christ and put the life He gives us in place in our life! We are called to take the steps necessary to change our behavior so that we are truly holy.
As this year closes, I want to encourage you to ‘grow up!’ If you’re making excuses for eating too much, having a mouth that is out of control, not serving, not giving, or living a life centered around ‘fleshly’ appetites – Stop! The truth is that because Christ is Lord and the Spirit resides in those who love Him, we can declare “I am ‘in charge’ of Me!” Meditate on the Truth of the Word. It’s a hopeful and uncompromising call to maturity in Christ.
“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:9-17, NIV)
Who does God want you to be? That’s vision.
What does God say about life? That’s truth.
How does the Christ-life look on you? That’s choice.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to practice the disciplines of grace that create openings into your soul where you are changed from the inside out. “So come on, let’s leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God; … let’s get on with it.” (Hebrews 6:1, 3 The Message)