Estes Echo

Growing Up

The maturity of children from babes to adults is a fascinating development. They’re born into this world totally ego-centric. For all babies know, the whole world revolves around them. All they care about are themselves. Babies weep when they’re hungry, whine when they’re uncomfortable, wail when they’re irritable. But to the glory of God they grow out of this in time with the proper training. Eventually they’ll mature out of the desire to always be first. Their little egos will need to be stroked less often as they learn to accept their value from God instead of from other people.

As much as I love babies and children, I’m surely glad they mature and don’t remain trapped in immaturity throughout their lives. It is God’s plan for people to mature. Although it’s God’s plan, the choice is ours to do so. The scriptures command to us, “Press on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1). We are commanded to grow up: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). It happens often, however, that believers stop maturing or even go backwards in their development.

It has been my observation that much of the spiritual immaturity in the church today comes from attitudes. The Apostle Paul teaches us to, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). He writes on to teach us about the humility and self-denial of Christ. Is that the type of attitude you have? Or do you think only about yourself? Do you desire attention? Do you lust to have your ego stroked by others? Do you threaten to quit when things don’t go your way? If so, then this is not the attitude of Christ.

It seems to me that when many people speak of spiritual maturity, they’re not thinking about having the attitude of Jesus. Spiritual immaturity is seen in people who, like young children, always desire attention and recognition. Spiritual immaturity is seen in the person who, like a baby, always wants to be fed, but never does any feeding for others. Spiritual immaturity is illustrated by the kid who threatens to take his ball home and quit if the game isn’t going the way he likes.

Tenure as a Christian should not be confused with spiritual maturity. The number of years a person has been a Christian doesn’t guarantee maturity at all. There are plenty of people who’ve been Christians for decades who still need to grow up. Do not confuse Bible knowledge with spiritual maturity. Although we are to mature in our understanding of God’s word (1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:12-14), one may know the scriptures exceptionally well, yet think and behave like a child. Church attendance should not be confused with spiritual maturity. We’ve all known “three times a week brethren” who have displayed the attitude of babies. But thinking less about self and more about others is a definite sign of spiritual maturity.

Self-centeredness is at the heart of spiritual immaturity and a violation of scripture. Paul warned Timothy that, “Men will be lovers of self” (2 Timothy 3:2). He warned the Philippians of, “Those who seek after their own interests” (2:21). Being self-centered often results in problems for marriage, families, and church. “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage wars in your members?” (James 4:1-2). Jesus, after observing the behavior of several religious people, condemned those who are always seeking a place of honor and recognition and told his disciples not to be this way (Luke 14:7-11).

As Christians we’re told, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interest of others” (Philippians 2:4). Why? Because love “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Learning to think of others and not just of yourself is a major sign of spiritual maturity. This is a sign that we have grown up in our faith. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Jesus, Luke 9:23).

–Caleb Cunningham
–Submitted from the Salem Story, bulletin of the Salem Church of Christ in Salem, Alabama