Tonight we started a series looking at Christian maturity, or how to ‘grow up’ so that we can all attain ‘to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph 4:13 TNIV), growing to ‘become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.’ (Eph 4:14 TNIV) Maturity requires taking a long view, for growth is both complex and endless, but we need to be constantly growing and maturing if we are to be conformed into the image of Christ, which is God’s will and purpose for us all. (Rom 8:29 TNIV)
Ephesians 5:1-20 TNIV offers us some practical advice on what spiritual growth and maturity look like.
1. Walk in the way of love
Paul urges us to follow God’s examples or be imitators of God and this means walking in love as Christ did. The first step to maturity is knowing God as He reveals Himself to us – not as we imagine Him to be, not as we want Him to be, but as He is. We have to have ‘eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is.’ (Casting Crowns, ‘Somewhere In the Middle’) Love is at the very heart of who God is and is therefore absolutely fundamental to our growing up. We can’t be mature if we don’t love. 1 Cor 13:1-8 TNIV shows us what love is like: not the mushy, sentimentalised, erotic version of love which is often presented to us from the world, but love in action, and love which is a response to the love we ourselves receive from God (see 1 John 4:19 TNIV). As we observe the sacrificial way Jesus lived on earth and see how He came not to be served but to serve, as we consider how He was not self-seeking but only lived to do the Father’s will, as we reflect on His willingness to lay aside majesty in order to embrace human likeness, we begin to see how to love and as we spend time with Him, coming alongside Him, taking on His yoke and learning from Him (Matt 11:29 TNIV), we find our lives are shaped into a life of love. We ‘walk’ in the way of love, just as we looked at ‘walking in the light’ when we were studying 1 John 1, meaning that this becomes our everyday standard of living.
2. As we grow, our behaviour changes
Eph 5:3-7 TNIV outlines some of the behaviour which needs to go if we are to grow in maturity. The work God does by His Spirit in our lives is internal or spiritual, but this is manifested in visible, practical ways: mainly in what we say and what we do. Our thoughts, speech and actions have to reflect God’s work in our lives. Often, this is not a comfortable process, for God disciplines those He loves (Heb 12:5-11 TNIV) and probes us to highlight areas that need to change. If we feel like we’re in the furnace of discipline right now, remember that God does this because He cares about our maturity and we need to change!
3. Find out what pleases the Lord
As we grow and mature, we want to find out what pleases God (Eph 5:10 TNIV) and this shapes how we live. There are many things we are clearly told please God. Four things we looked at were:
As we develop these characteristics and seek to develop our relationship with God (for this is all about relationship more than rules!), we will grow. Maturity will always predominantly feature love, for God is love and therefore if we are His children, we will be growing in love and walking in love. Our speech and actions will be changed to reflect His speech and actions. We become imitators of God, reflecting a family likeness. Love, servanthood, obedience, faith and thankfulness will be the signs that point us to how well we are growing, for these are the things we see in our great example, Jesus. (see Phil 2:1-11 TNIV)