Recently, I have encountered people who have made bad choices and had to suffer some bad consequences. It goes with the territory of my job as a pastor, to help such people. As I have sought to help them understand how that happened, their common response has once again alerted me to how easy it is to miss the truth that sets men free, not only in their understanding, but in their journey of living out the truth. Their common response has been something like this, "After all these years of walking with Christ, how could I do such a thing?" May I interpret? "I should be stronger in Christ by now" or “I should be more mature by now.”
The mistake these dear people are making is that they think Christian maturity is going to be found in what they have done and for how long they have done it. They have memorized verses, sat under a lot of sermons, read their Bible and all of the latest books on the grace of God. They have been in discussion groups, discipleship classes, conferences, and the list goes on and on in terms of what "they have done" to gain maturity.
PLEASE HEAR ME ON THIS!
Christian maturity is NOT an issue of how long we have been a Christian or how much we have done on our part to attain maturity. Christian maturity is instantaneous at the moment of faith! Let those words reverberate in your mind as I share this illustration with you.
A coffee maker is a wonderful thing. It makes soothing, wonderfully tasting and comforting coffee to get us started in the morning. But in order for it to accomplish its work, it must be plugged in to the power source it was designed for. Unplug that coffee maker, and all you have left in your kitchen is a decoration. That coffee maker, without its designed power source, is dead in the water.
That is exactly how it is for us. God designed us to need a LIFE-source that is outside of ourselves. He designed us for Himself. With our eyes fixed on Him "Who is not only the Author, but the Perfecter of our faith" (Heb. 12), we will be functioning in maturity because we will be experiencing His fulness in our lives. When we take our eyes off of Him and fix our eyes on a counterfeit life source, we will be dead in the water! Our spouse cannot give us life. Our kids cannot give us life. Our job or bank account cannot give us life. Our Bible knowledge cannot give us life, but if we look to those things instead of Christ, we will have the potential to function very contrary to who we really are.
When we look to counterfeit life sources, this does not mean that we lost our salvation. THAT CANNOT HAPPEN! What it does mean is that in that moment in choice(s), that we are wandering from Him, we will not be experiencing Him Who is our LIFE (Col. 3). We will be like the Prodigal Son, experiencing life in the far country, instead of living with and from our Prodigal Father. We will be left "feeling" empty and on our own, and then we will attempt to fill our lives with other than Him, and as stated earlier, we will be dead in the water.
The biblical support for this understanding is Galatians chapter 5. There Paul warned believers, who had been set free in Christ, that if they add to Christ (look elsewhere for life, strength, righteousness, etc.), they will render Christ ineffective in their lives. In other words, they will not be experiencing Him Who is their life, because they are looking to other than Him as a source of life. Paul goes on to define this as “falling from grace” –
Again, this does not mean they lost their salvation, nor does it mean they lost their standing before God as children of God. The Greek word ekpipto literally means to “lose your grasp.” When we look somewhere other than Jesus and the grace He has brought to our lives, we will lose our grasp of Him, and not be experiencing Him. Paul is very clearly not talking about our position in Jesus, but our practice of life in Jesus. To look to other than Jesus, is to fail in our practice of Him, lose our grasp of Him, and then we will make those very wrong choices to find life in other than Him.
It is my conviction that this is why new believers live such radical new lives. In their "immature faith", all they know is Jesus, and their eyes are fixed on the glory that He is in them, to live through them. We were all there once. We found Jesus and were instantly addicted to Him and only Him.
Then, we got “churched” – We started adding to Him Who is our everything, other good things that we mistakenly believed would be life sources for us. We gained "knowledge" and knowledge can be such a dangerous thing. We need knowledge, or we will be in serious trouble. Hosea 4 says "without knowledge My people are destroyed." But I Cor 8 adds that knowledge can make us prideful. Pride remember, is nothing more than the expression of the lie that we all struggle with, that original lie from the garden, that we shall be as God, that we can tackle life on our own and live independent of God.
The truth is that the "maturity" we gain from all those years of "attaining knowledge" can actually divert us from Him, Who alone is LIFE. WE must be careful to not allow ALL that we come to know, keep us from knowing (ginosko = experiencing) Him.
I have found it fascinating, that many in the church explain away the radical new life of a young believer. "Just give them a little time and they will be like the rest of us!" NO! The reality that is empowering their radical lives is that all they know is Jesus. They have not had the time to cloud their life with other than Jesus, and it shows in their lives. They are filled with joy and peace because they know Him as their everything!
We who have been believers for a long time, need to return to the state of the new believer, where all we know is Jesus, so that in experiencing Him in the moment of faith, we would manifest His life in our life. That my friends is Christian maturity. Christian maturity is experiencing and expressing Jesus in our lives in our walk of faith. Christian maturity is not a matter of what you know, but WHO you know and live from.
Remember what Paul told the Corinthians. Be careful, to not lose the simplicity of Jesus.
He IS the Christian life! He IS our maturity, experienced as we trust Him.