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STEPS TO CHRISTIAN MATURITY
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Based on I Peter 2:1-10
There is one calling that every Christian has without exception, and that is the calling to maturity. We are born into the household of God as babes in Christ, but we are not to remain infants. We are to grow up into the fullness of the stature of Christ. The speed with which we achieve this goal is not determined by our age, but by our understanding of and obedience to the Word of God. We make a
mistake if we think we must grow slow and waste half of our life before we get down to business. Some years back it was announced that St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was moving down Fleet Street at the rate of one inch every hundred years, and someone remarked that the church ought to be moving faster than that. They were right, for the church was not made to be creeping along at a snail’s pace.
Jesus did not build His church to be nursery of His kingdom. He did not give His Word to be used as a pacifier. He built His church to be the army of God, and He gave His Word to be the Sword of the Spirit that through the church He might penetrate the very gates of hell with the good news of salvation. Jesus wants people of maturity, and we dishonor His cause by thinking it is good to move in slow motion. A pastor in Chicago related a story of how a man in Wednesday night prayer meeting prayed each time, “Lord, take away the cobwebs.” Every week he would say the same prayer, and finally one of the men who followed him in prayer prayed, “Lord, never mind the cobwebs, kill the spider.” That is what God wants. He wants people to get to the heart of the matter and not beat around the bush. The world desperately needs Christians who will get out of the toy department and get into the accounting department, and start counting the cost of wasting their lives on the superficial. Life is serious, and it is big business. It calls for all the maturity our feeble minds can manage. Peter indicates that there are three essential steps to Christian maturity that all of us must take.
I. A SPECIAL DESIRE FOR THE WORD OF GOD.
Diets play a major role in our society, but it has always been important in the Christian life. Your diet determines your destiny, and also the shape of your character and life. Without food your body will starve and become physically weak. Without truth your
mind will starve and become mentally weak. Without God’s Word your soul will starve and become spiritually weak. God has given His children a manna to sustain them as they pass through this worldly wilderness of spiritual waste land. No Christian can be mature if he does not nourish his soul with the milk and meat of God’s Word. A healthy Christian will have an appetite for it. His soul will get hunger pains if he does not feed on it.
Notice that Peter calls the Word pure spiritual milk. There is milk in other books also, but it is not always pure, for men have many ideas that they want the Scripture to support, and so they twist the Word to fit their system of thinking. We are to have mouths of our mind that drink in the milk of God’s pure message if we are to grow in maturity. God’s Word is to be the basis on which we evaluate all the words of men. Peter says if you have tasted that the Lord is good you will desire more. If I say ground crempter and mashed guilite it does not stimulate any desire in you. But if I say prime rib and mashed potatoes it does stimulate desire. It is because we have all tasted these things and know they are good, and so we desire to have more. So it is with spiritual things. Only when a person gets a taste of the goodness of God will they desire to feed on His Word. The psalmist says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Quite often you will see women in the supermarket offering samples of different kinds of food. The philosophy behind this is that once people get a taste of a product and find that it is good, they will want more. This is good philosophy, and it works. It is nothing new, however, for Peter says this philosophy is a key to Christian maturity. Our tastes change over time. When I was young I never cared for salad, but now I consider it a favorite part of the meal. Books that once held no interest are now my favorites. Parts of the Bible that I once thought were boring are now among the most interesting. It is a sign of maturity when we long to taste more of the
goodness of God and His Word.
The mature Christian also wants to make the Gospel attractive so that others will be willing to taste the goodness of God and in turn desire more until they come to know Jesus as Savior. What would you think if the woman giving samples in the supermarket was all dirty and greasy? What if her electric frying pan was rusty and there were cobwebs on the cord she was using to fry chucks of sausage? Would you be surprised if no one bought the product? Certainly not, for even if her product was excellent, the unattractive presentation would keep people from tasting it even if it was the best on the market. If a Christian lives a slipshod shabby life before the world he ought not to be amazed that people do not respond to the Gospel and taste to see that the Lord is good. The mature Christian is an attractive Christian, and he cannot be attractive if he feeds the old man and starves the new man he is in Christ.
That is why Peter in verse 1 says lay aside the characteristics of the old life, for you have a new life to feed. We must clean out the vultures from the cage of our soul if we expect the dove of the Holy Spirit to dwell there. Even the Roman philosopher Seneca knew the necessity of purity before thinking of God. He wrote, “The mind that is impure is not capable of God and Divine things.” If we are full of the poison of hypocrisy, envy and evil speaking we will not be able to grow, and that is the whole purpose of desiring the milk of the Word.
The Bible is not just a reference book. It is to be our daily menu if we want to be mature. It will put muscles on our faith, marrow in our hope and blood in our heart of love. Without it faith becomes flabby, hope empty, and our love grows weak. Peter says we are living stones, and all that is living must grow or it dies. The Christians Peter was writing to were babes in Christ, and Peter says that the only a baby can win this battle is by starving the old man
and feeding the new baby. One of the two natures must die, and the one you starve will be the one to do so. So he says they are to lay aside all that feeds the old nature and nourish the baby on the pure milk of the Word. It is a thrill for parents to see their child grow to the point where they can feed themselves, and it is a thrill to God to see His children grow to the point where they can feed themselves on His Word and clothe themselves with the garments of maturity. The second step we must have is
II. A SPECIAL DELIGHT IN THE SON OF GOD.
In spite of all we have said about the importance of the Bible, Christianity is not just a religion of a book, but of a Person. The value of the book is that it leads us to Christ. The test of whether or not the milk of the Word is being digested and helping us to grow is the place we give to Jesus in our life. This is the greatest sign to our maturity. How do we know we are growing? If Christ is precious, then you know you are a growing believer. Peter just states it is fact that to those who believe He is precious. This is a present fact. He is precious because He is rare. If you have one stamp or coin of its kind it is worth a fortune, and of how much more value is the one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus?
The biggest step to maturity is when a believer really comes to see that Jesus is the center, the circumference, and the capstone of his faith. The danger in the Christian life is not so much unbelief as it is belief in the secondary. We can make idols out of secondary ideas and allow them to divide our loyalty to Christ. We dishonor Christ when we push Him off to the side and make any pet doctrine the primary object of our thought and concern. We must never forget that the redemption Jesus accomplished, and the Lordship of Christ is the foundation of all we believe. Christians become immature when anything or anyone becomes more precious to them than Jesus. Many professing Christians quit going to church for all
kinds of reasons. This is because they put some other issue ahead of Jesus.
It is tragic when Christianity becomes just a religion, for all religions, including the Christian religion, do not have the power to save. The only salvation in the world is found in the person of Jesus Christ, and when He ceases to be the most precious possession we have Christianity becomes a dead religion. Charles Spurgeon use to say that you can talk on all kinds of subjects and the Christian can ignore it, but when you speak of Jesus Christ the Christian has to be full of interest and wide awake. That is why he found a path from every text that led to the person of Christ. He preached on this text often, and even when he was sick, for he said, “If I can say nothing else I have said it all when I say that Jesus Christ is precious. He is the gem of exquisite beauty and the jewel of incomparable brilliance.
Precious Lord beyond expression, Are the beauties all divine, Glory, honor, praise and blessing, Be henceforth forever thine."
Jesus is intrinsically precious. Other values are relative, but He is absolute in all places and times. Gold and diamonds are only precious in society, but for a man dying of thirst in the desert they are worthless. A glass of water is of more value at that point then a bag full of diamonds. They have no intrinsic value, that is they are not valuable in themselves, but Jesus is of the greatest value at all times even if one is dying in the desert, for He alone can give eternal life. When we die and get to heaven we will not need doctrine or any of the outward things of Christianity. But we will never be without our need of Jesus. He is the source of our eternal life. It is through Him that we have life.
The complete story of salvation comes in two volumes. We are only half Christian and immature until we get both volumes. We are born into the kingdom of God by faith in Jesus, but then we must become mature citizens of that kingdom by obedience to Jesus. Those who do not come to Jesus stumble over the cornerstone and get crushed, but those who come to Jesus become the New Israel, and Christ becomes the cornerstone of their new kingdom. Israel fell because of her disobedience and rejection of the cornerstone, but to us who believe He is precious, and we want to obey Him in order to experience His sanctification as well as His salvation.
An experience in the life of Watchman Nee illustrates the point. He bought a book one day in two volumes, and when he got home he discovered he had only one. He went back to the bookstore to pick it up and he said to the clerk, “This has already been paid for. It belongs to me, but I forgot to take it with me.” So it is in the Christian life-we often take the salvation in Christ and leave behind the power to live a mature Christian life. It is already ours, for it is paid for. All we have to do is go back and pick it up and ask Jesus to indwell us so that His beauty might be seen in us. When we have a special desire for the Word of God , and a special delight in the Son of God, then we will be ready for the third step which is-
III. A SPECIAL DUTY IN THE SERVICE OF GOD.
Several years ago when there was a fear of war a group of Christians in Benson, Arizona disappeared underground. This part of the church failed to see its duty by trying to hide from the world. It gave the world the impression that it is only here to preserve itself. God has called us and chosen us and commissioned us to be witnesses in the world. We are not here to defend the kingdom, but to extend it. The Jews failed because they shut up the light of revelation and did not let it shine out upon the world. God forbid that we also fail by hiding our light under a bushel. If Jesus is
really precious how can we help but wanting others to know Him.
The mature Christian senses that his most important duty in life is to make Jesus known. This is the greatest service anyone can render to both God and man. It is an immature Christian that wants to get all wrapped up in himself and never get out in the world to witness and intercede on behalf of the world. God does not want us always in church, but out in the world showing forth His praises. The church is not a building, but it is living stones. It is not stuck on the corner, but it breaks into pieces and is scattered through the whole of society. Someone said, “We have too many saints in stained glass windows and not enough in shoe leather.”
The mature Christian senses that it is his duty to serve God by witnessing. It is not enough to come to church to worship. He must let his light shine all through the week. Someone wrote, Some wish to live within the sound Of church or chapel bell. I want to run a rescue shop Within a yard of hell.
General Booth of the Salvation Army was a man with this spirit. One time on the cover of his magazine he had a picture of himself in a boat with men all around the boat drowning. His arm is stretched out taking the hand of one of those perishing in the water. His grandson looked at it and said, “Mama, is grandpa trying to help that man, or is he just shaking his hand?” The question is are we really trying to help the drowning who are sinking without Christ, or are just playing religion and shaking their hands? If we are becoming mature we will recognize that it is our special duty in the service of God to bear witness to the preciousness of Jesus.
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