“Are You A Mature Christian Or An Immature Christian”

March 24, 2013
Guest Editorial – Mike Patterson

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.
In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God,
instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,
who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.” – Hebrews 5:7-6:8

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the phrase “mature Christian”? Does a mature Christian know the Hebrew and Greek languages? Is the mature Christian the “older,” married brother or sister in the church that has been around the longest? Maybe it is the one speaking, teaching, or preaching up front since they are entrusted with telling us how to live. We judge maturity by different standards when it comes to looking at our brothers and sisters. When our former fellowship of churches crashed one of the plights from the people was that many sermons lacked a “depth” in the Bible. Indirectly saying that was one of the reasons or causes of the crash. Many of those churches started emphasizing psychology, family building, and even books written by evangelical “Christians” outside our fellowship (ie. Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life”). These in and of themselves are not bad but is that what the Bible calls maturity? The writer of Hebrews told the church about a deep biblical concept on “Melchizedek” and immediately after he says it is hard to explain these things to them because they are slow to learn! Was it that they needed to get deep in their Bibles that made it slow for them to learn? The writer says they hadn’t become teachers of the first principles and fruitful at that thus lacking maturity. Biblically maturity is producing the fruit of disciples through teaching the first principles and thus God opens our hearts to understand deeper doctrines of the Bible.

Anthony and Elizabeth Eckels
Anthony and Elizabeth Eckels, leaders of the Arts, Media, Sports Network and creative minds behind incredible FUNdraising events such as the Zumba Fitness Class and the Walk-a-thon!

Maturity by definition means to be “fully developed”. In one sense then we are constantly maturing physically as we grow. If a person stops growing physically something is wrong and death will ensue. If we are not maturing as disciples, then we are immature and in fact dying spiritually. A child can’t stay on “mother’s milk” forever or he will be malnourished and not grow. The biggest indicator of a spiritually immature Christian from the passage above is they are slow to learn. The writer wanted to discuss deeper spiritual truths that would enrich their faith but their lack of spiritual maturity made it impossible for them to learn or grasp them. They eventually fall away and may never return to God as the Spirit warns us above.

Before we get into what defines being a mature Christian biblically it is important to look at what biblical maturity is not. The Pharisees had knowledge of the Law better than anyone at the time. They could recite passages, prayers, tithed, and came to every synagogue meeting! Growing up in Judaism they would have a pretty impressive “spiritual resume” if you will. Jesus did not consider them mature in their faith though. In fact he said to them, “wisdom is proved right by her deeds”(Matthew 11:19). It didn’t matter how long they had been around, how much they did, or how much they knew; Jesus consider these guys immature and far from God! If maturity is proved by our actions what does a true mature Christian look like? When we carefully read the passage above five qualities of a mature Christian come to light:

1. Endure Suffering
Jesus had to be made perfect. Yes that is right, our Lord and Savior who never sinned had to learn obedience from what he suffered and be made perfect. How is this possible if Jesus never sinned? Like you and I, Jesus took on humankind and was maturing as he grew up physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Jesus was “despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” (Isaiah 53:3). Coal placed under great pressure forms a diamond. Through the challenges, trials, sufferings, and ultimately death Jesus underwent our Lord was being made into a diamond who would bring salvation to all men. God uses suffering to bring you to maturity and make you fruitful. Do you go to God with loud cries and petitions like Jesus did in order to mature or do you give way to sin and become immature? “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4). Whatever you are going through right now God in his mercy is giving you a chance to mature in Christ.

Stephanie Pierre Makes Jesus Her Lord And Savior
The campus sisters celebrate early in the morning with Stephanie Pierre as she decides to make Jesus her Lord!

2. Knowing Right from Wrong
In Hebrews 5:14 a mature disciple can distinguish good from evil. Jesus was very black and white. He said you will build your life on the rock or the sand; there is light and darkness, Heaven and Hell. Sadly, our culture loves to talk, think, and act in areas of gray. There is no longer right or wrong, it is whatever you think or feel or somewhere in the gray area. Even in the church we can like going into gray areas of faith even in the name of “maturity”. For example, someone may think they can handle as a single being with the opposite sex alone since they are “mature” and there isn’t a verse that says “thou shalt not be in a apartment alone with the opposite sex.” This person is far from mature! Even young Christians compromise sometimes putting themselves in dangerous spiritual circumstances because they can’t distinguish good from evil. Just as a child may run into the street not looking for cars because they don’t have the ability to determine what is safe and what is not so it is with many young Christians in our fellowship. Maturity considers our choices and distinguishes right from wrong.

3. Become Teachers of the First Principles
The mature Christian has the “elementary truths” or as the KJV says “first principles” of Christianity in their heart and is able to teach them to others. They don’t have to go back again and lay a foundation on the fundamentals of the faith but are actively teaching them to non-Christians and fellow disciples. Every disciple is to become a teacher. We are blessed to be in a movement of churches that has a study series based off these elementary truths in the Bible that we use world-wide to make disciples. Do you know the first principles? If not, you are not mature. That is ok, because as a church we have our First Principles Class beginning April 10th! Everyone has to start somewhere, so do not be discouraged if you are immature spiritually. This is a great opportunity to become quick to learn the first principles of Christianity!

4. Produce a Crop of Disciples
Hebrews 6:7-8 now makes sense in light of knowing the first principles. As we teach them to others we are planting and watering the gospel into non-Christians (1 Corinthians 3:6). The mature disciple is a teacher who baptizes disciples (aka produces a crop of disciples). If you aren’t mature you produce thorns and thistles (anxiety, worries of life, sin, etc.) and eventually this disciple falls away and in the end is burned in eternity. Many of us do not take seriously that to be mature means to bear the fruit of disciples (John 15). God in his infinite wisdom has given us the blessing of the first principles and being teachers to help keep us faithful! When I do a bible study with someone my faith is built seeing their life change and it helps keep me faithful. Only a disciple who is making disciples is a mature Christian, anything else is immature and in danger of being burned.

Clayton Stallworth Stirring The Waters Of Baptism
The campus ministry watched with great joy as they saw Clayton Stallworth stir the waters of baptism!

5. Understands Deeper Truths of the Scriptures
Remember the writer of Hebrews started off saying he had much more to say to them about Melchizedek but they were immature so they wouldn’t even understand it. When a disciple has endured suffering, become a teacher, and is bearing fruit the Bible comes alive in a way it never has before. Psalm 119:18 becomes a reality; “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” Knowledge is part of maturity only when the prior steps are part of your life. If you just go after knowledge without being fruitful you get puffed up and pride causes you to become immature like the Pharisees (1 Corinthians 8:1). Remember, wisdom is proved right by her deeds. How deep are you into the Bible? Do you love the Old and New Testament? When a preacher is preaching do you understand what they are teaching? Excitingly, for those of us who already know the first principles, we are beginning a Second Principles Class to discover even deeper truths in God’s word that mature our faith. A deep love for God’s word and even the hidden nuggets of the Bible come into the heart of the mature Christian.

As a young disciple I dreamed of becoming a leader in God’s church and wanted to know the Bible so well. I even decided to go to Bible College and received my bachelors in Biblical Studies. Sadly, although not intentionally my knowledge puffed me up and I thought of myself as very “mature”. I knew theology but I had ceased to know Jesus. Hidden sin dominated my life so I did not choose to distinguish between good and evil falling away from God in my heart. Even though like the Pharisees I was at church, I was preaching, and I knew the Bible very well but biblical maturity was absent. I even knew intellectually what maturity was biblically but it wasn’t seen in my life. God brought men into my life who helped me to repent and I now see that true maturity is loving the lost by teaching them the first principles, and being fruitful, thus the knowledge of the scriptures rises in the heart (1 Peter 1:19-21) as we see Christ all throughout God’s word. Today, I am seeing so many wonderful nuggets in God’s word more than I ever had in all my years of Bible college combined. My prayer is that this article helps you determine where you are at and then where God needs you to go. Glory be to God!

Campus Minister,
Mike Patterson

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