02 Jun Spiritual Maturity
1 Corinthians 13:11 states, “when I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man (an adult), I gave up childish ways.”
I think everyone knows of at least one adult who may resemble a child in their behavior. Just because that person can perform adult things (sexual intimacy, hold a job, raise children, etc.) does not mean that they are mature in nature.
Anyone can listen to a storyteller and say to themselves, “what a beautiful story,” but did they learn anything from it? Jesus knew this about mankind. To weed out those just looking for a good story, vs those looking to truly seek knowledge from Jesus; He told parables. Most people heard the story and disregarded the actual meaning behind it for one reason or another, shortly after hearing it. However, a few people were genuinely interested in what Jesus was trying to tell them; they would seek out more information about what the story meant and apply it to their life. The full explanation of this can be found in your Bible in Luke 8:5-15.
How many times have you read something in the Bible and said that same thing, “what a beautiful story”, but never bothered to investigate WHY it is in the Bible? In 2 Timothy 3:16, God tells us that His book is not just a book but is given by divine inspiration (God-breathed), and is profitable for instruction, for conviction of sin, for correction of errors and restoration to obedience, for training in righteousness (learning to live in conformity to God’s will – both publicly and privately, to behave honorably with personal integrity and moral courage.)
Let’s look at the infamous story of The Prodigal Son. In the beginning of the story, the younger son tells his father, I WANT…
…I want my freedom. I want my inheritance. I want to do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it, and no one can tell me otherwise. After he had left his childhood home with his inheritance, he discovers that life was not as grand as he had imagined (after the money was gone). Suddenly, nobody wanted to know him. He had no money to feed himself, clothe himself, or put a roof over his head. He had no other choice but to work for a local farmer, feeding the pigs; did I mention the man was Jewish? The farmer did not pay very well, certainly not enough to give the man the minimal essentials that he needed. He soon found himself not only feeding the pigs but living amongst them and eating the same food that he was feeding them!
It didn’t take long for the man to ask himself, “What am I doing? I had everything I needed with my father. It wasn’t always everything I wanted but I had: a warm home to live in, a comfortable bed, three hot meals a day, and surrounded by people who loved me.” After reevaluating his current situation, he told himself, “I will go back to my father and humble myself to him. I will ask him to take me back, not as his son but as his servant.”
When he wasn’t far off from his father’s home, his father seen him coming and announced, loudly, “MY SON HAS COME HOME!” He told his servants, “go and get him a robe and a ring” (to signify royalty), “slaughter the fattest lamb that we have, we are going to celebrate because my son has come home!”
Now, we can read that story (Luke 15:11-32) and say to ourselves, “what a great story.” Or, as Jesus had said about having “ears to hear”, we can identify with that story as we compare it with our own life.
The following is a few examples of what spiritual maturity looks like…the individual would have a lot of:
· Self-control: ask God to show you His will, rather than grant you your will
· Disciplined speech: don’t just say whatever comes to mind. It is harder to hold your tongue when someone upsets you but by using tact will prove you are truly a follower of Christ
· Do not live by your feelings: Everyone has a bad day occasionally. It is important to choose your attitude (all day – every day), regardless of what happens throughout your day. To be consistent with our (good) attitude is equally important. To reiterate the previous point – we all have moments in our life that upset us but to remain upset for the entire day or longer is essentially allowing our feelings to control us instead of us controlling our feelings.
· Generosity: Do you need to be convinced to financially bless someone else or do you willingly try to help those who may need some assistance. Maybe it’s something as simple as buying a cup of coffee for the homeless person sitting on the curb outside your local gas station. If you can afford it, offer ten percent of your paycheck to a not-for-profit organization (it does not have to be a church); many places need donations to help those less fortunate.
· Humility: how often do you admit when you are wrong? Occasionally? Frequently? Regardless of whatever you may answer, compare your answer to how you think Jesus would have answered.
· Quick to forgive: Is it difficult for you to forgive others for their behavior towards you, whether it affects you directly or indirectly? For many of us, that answer would be…it depends on what the other person did or said to offend or hurt us. However, if we are to be a carbon copy of Jesus, we are forced to consider the source (again). Of course, it is not always as simple as apologizing for something silly that offended someone else. If someone said something hurtful to you with the intent to upset you, do you just forget about it and forgive them? Hmmm… WWJD? Did he just forget about the sin of others? Did he hold their sin over their head as retribution for a later date? “Hey Peter, you remember when you denied me to the crowd on the day I was being illegally persecuted – after I warned you that it would happen? Well, I am calling in my favor for forgiving you for that…
o … that doesn’t sound like Jesus, does it?
· Difficult to offend: This seems self-explanatory, doesn’t it? Someone says something rude to you and you brush it off; tapping yourself on the back later for not letting that person get under your skin. However, what if someone gets into your personal space, up close and personal, and then very boldly tells you that Jesus was a myth! There is no such thing as a god or a devil – it’s just us and when we die, that’s it. They continue, although you try to excuse yourself politely and then follow you (or worse) – insist that you are being rude for walking away! Do you become offended by this other person’s insistence on pushing their beliefs on you? Or should you ignore them, allow them to speak their mind, etc. This is an extremely important topic – how you react to something like this can make you seem like you are a religious nut OR you can mimic Jesus’ response when the Jewish leaders tried to trick him into giving an answer that would make him seem like a fraud.
· In everything that we do – how we talk to others, how we react to offensive people, how we carry ourselves, etc. Regardless of what the situation may be, it is important to keep in mind: WWJD – it’s not just a popular statement. If you take it serious, and you should – the end result will be: your neighbors will take notice of your actions – (whether you realize it or not) you have the opportunity to show people what Jesus IS like.
Keep this in mind… Jesus came to the Earth to show people who God is. Now, it is our job (any true Christian) to show people who Jesus is!
When I was listening to a sermon by Joyce Meyer, she told this story. I liked it so much, I felt it was appropriate to share with you.
A couple went into an antique shop one day and found a beautiful teacup sitting high up on a shelf. They took it off the shelf so they could get a better look at it and said, “We should buy this gorgeous teacup.”
Suddenly, the teacup started to speak, saying, “I wasn’t always like this. There was a time that I was just a cold, hard, colorless lump of clay. One day, my master picked me up and said to himself, ‘I could do something wonderful with this.’ Then he started to pat me, roll me, and change my shape.”
“Stop, (I said), that hurts! What are you doing? I don’t like change! But the master said to me, ‘Not yet.’”
“He then put me on a wheel and made it spin faster and faster until I got so dizzy that I screamed out, get me off of this thing – I am getting dizzy and sick.”
“‘Not yet’, he said. Then he started to shape me into the form of a cup, adding a handle too small for adult fingers. Before I knew what was happening, he shut off the wheel and I slowly came to a stop. ‘Oh, thank god’, I said. But then he picked me up and put me into an oven. Oh, it was so hot! ‘No, wait, stop’, I cried out, ‘I’ll do better, I will be good for you, just stop – please!’
“But the master just smiled and said, ‘Not yet.”
“After what seemed like years, the master came back and took me out of the oven. ‘Oh, thank god,’ I said, but then he just set me on a shelf again to cool off and walked away without saying a word. He was gone for so long I thought he forgot about me, until one day he came back and set me down on his worktable.”
“Oh, I was so happy to be with my master again, that is until he brought over his paint and a brush. ‘Wait,’ I said, ‘What are you doing? Stop, don’t do that! I don’t like that smell. I can’t breathe. Please, you have to stop doing that!’ But the master again just smiled at me and said, ‘Not yet.’”
“When he was finally done painting, I said, ‘Oh, thank god,’ but what came next was even worse! Would you believe that he picked me up and put me back in that oven? I swear it was even hotter the second time! I screamed, ‘oh please, not again! I’ll be good, pleeease don’t put me in there.’ But the master did not reply to my plea and just looked down upon me and smiled. As the door closed, I got out one last plea, ‘Nooo, let me out’”
“’Not yet,’ he said as he gave me a warm smile. Once again, it seemed like eternity before he came back for me; all I could think about was the heat. Finally, he looked through the glass window and it gave me reason to rejoice once again. However, to my surprise, it was back to the shelf once again. ‘Patience, my child, I will be back soon.’ Well, at least that gave me a little bit of hope. But when I thought it was time for my master to come back, I yelled loudly, ‘get me down!’
‘Not yet,’ he said. After some time, my master did indeed come back for me, I was so happy to be with my master once again. He brought me over to a mirror and allowed me to see how he had transformed me.”
Before he started, I was a lump of clay without color or shape. I had no hope and felt that nobody loved me but to my surprise – my master never stopped loving me. What I seen in that mirror was anything but a cold, formless lump of clay. I was a beautiful, colorful teacup, so full of life and hope. In fact, when he put me high upon that shelf, many people noticed me and commented upon my beauty.
How many times in your life have you felt like that teacup? Some people go many years feeling exactly like this. Surprisingly, this feeling is not exempt to only those who may be depressed. The hard truth is, there are many people who trust and love Jesus as their Lord and Savior who may also feel like this at times. Just because a person believes in God and worships Him does not make them exempt to being depressed.
Many people do not realize this, but not every bad thing that happens to us in life is necessarily bad. Yes, when we are walking through the fire of life, IT SUCKS! It is painful and makes us feel miserable. However, how many of us take a good hard look at ourselves after we have gone through that period of life? If not immediately, at some time later, we are able to look back and remember who we were. Maybe we can help someone else who is going through the same situation that we already went through.
When I was young, I went through an extremely difficult situation; I was physically abused for many years by a parent. I was given the opportunity to move in with my other parent, whom I had no relationship with, but it was a new chance for a better life. My life of fire had finally come to an end, or at least I thought so. For the next twenty years, I had fallen into that fire many times and later put back on the shelf to cool off. My point is, there will always be someone who will upset you – it is how you react in what makes it important. You only have a limited time in this world, will you choose to be a mirror image of Jesus or yourself? Who do you see when you look in the mirror?
For if anyone only listens to the word without obeying it is like a man who looks very carefully at his natural face in a mirror and after he has walked away, immediately forgets what he looked like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.