CHRISTIAN MATURITY IN THE 21ST CENTURY
A publication by KOG MEDIA TEAM
A growing awareness suggests that 21st century Christianity differs in some important ways from the pre-21st century Christians who preceded them in terms of Christian Maturity. Generational differences challenge ministry leaders in ways that are similar to cultural differences, in that, attempting to help individuals grow in faith who may have significantly different life experiences, beliefs, values, and habits than our own. The call to follow Jesus and to grow together to spiritual maturity is timeless, but disciples also live in particular cultural and historical circumstances that in some ways foster and in other ways inhibit their growth.
Spiritual maturity is something that should be a priority for every Christian. It’s important in our lives how we serve God, interact with other people, and take care of our families. Today’s biblical teaching on spiritual maturity will also provide criteria for identifying the discipleship needs of Christian maturity in the 21st century and guidance regarding how to help them navigate the spiritual challenges they face.
What is spiritual maturity? The New Testament uses the word “mature” to describe a spiritual state that should be attained by most disciples of Jesus after a reasonable period of growth (1 Cor. 2:14–3:4, 14:20; Eph. 4:1–5:2; Phil. 3:1-16; Col. 1:28; Heb. 5:11–6:2).
Mature discipleship begins with a full conversion, a new birth, resulting in a state of spiritual infancy. These spiritual newborns are eager for the “spiritual milk” of God’s word (1 Pet. 1:22–2:3), a metaphor that signifies the basic teachings or “first principles” (Heb. 5:12) of the faith. But spiritual infants and children must grow into spiritual adults, otherwise, they will be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their
craftiness in deceitful wiles” (Eph. 4:14). And they will be unable to discern even basic “spiritual” things such as knowing that they should treat each other lovingly and seek unity rather than divide into prideful factions (1 Cor. 2:14–3:4, NRSV). Spiritual infancy is a wonderful miracle resulting from new birth in the Spirit, but part of the wonder of this new life is that it connects the believer to God who will provide growth to maturity. Whether we are speaking of natural or spiritual infants, “failure to thrive” is a serious diagnosis that should prompt concerted action.
Characteristics of a matured Christian
- First, mature disciples have a secure knowledge of the basic teachings of the faith. Having already seen this emphasis in Heb. 5:11–6:2 and Ephesians 4, but the same teaching appears in every passage that uses the metaphor of human development to describe spiritual growth This indicate that such Christian has achieved this trait of maturity and that he or she 1) is able to teach others the basic truths of the faith (Heb. 5:12; Eph. 4:15), 2) is not easily shaken by false teachings (Eph. 4:14), and 3) is starting to show an interest in deeper theology (Heb. 5:12-14).
- Second, mature disciples display spiritual discernment. That is, they are learning by experience how to apply the basic teachings of the faith to everyday situations. i.e., they understand the Gospel well enough to avoid complacency (Phil. 3:2-11, 15), 2) They recognize and accept what Christian love requires in everyday situations (1 Cor. 3:1-4).
- Third, mature believers are in the process of putting off sinful patterns of behaviour and putting on godly patterns of behaviour. The believers in Corinth were sinning against each other in their factionalism and in their indifference toward the sexual sin in their midst. The reason Paul could be so confident that they were still spiritual “infants” is that they neither recognized their sins nor were they trying to eliminate them. Instead, they boasted (1 Cor. 3:1-4, 21; 5:1-2).
- Fourth, mature believers serve interdependently in the body of Christ. Paul introduces his exposition of spiritual maturity in Ephesians chapter 4 by stressing the importance of maintaining unity in the church (Eph. 4:1-10).
- Finally, mature believers display a Christ-centred spirituality that accepts both suffering and consolation as they seek to know Christ more deeply (Phil. 3:2-16) and serve the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:7-15) recognized their sins nor were they trying to eliminate them. Instead, they boasted (1 Cor. 3:1-4, 21; 5:1-2).
Christian Maturity and the 21st Century Christians
Either as part of explaining the Gospel call or soon after, we must convince the 21st Century Christians that spiritual maturity is both attainable and desirable. We should seek to establish a culture in our churches and youth ministries that assume, as did Paul and the author of the book of Hebrews, that all followers of Jesus should become spiritually mature after a reasonable period of growth. We must make clear to all concerned that helping each disciple grow to maturity is one of the purposes of our ministries, just as Paul did (Eph. 4:11-16; Col. 1:28). To go on toward maturity, there is a need to help in learning the basics of the faith and in discerning how those basic truths should shape their daily lives. Since only “engaged” Christians seem to have a sound and secure grasp of the faith or of Christian morality. Christian Maturity and the 21st Century Christians
Achieving Spiritual maturity
- First, we must build a life of prayer and worship. Intimacy is what God is looking for and this is how the Holy Spirit will fill us. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11).
- We also must be reading our Bibles and applying it to our everyday lives.
- We need to also congregate with a spirit-filled church family.
Growing spiritually requires growing in prayer, worship, and knowledge of the Bible. Most importantly, to mature spiritually means to grow in faith and repentance.
Though spiritual maturity is a process. The grace of the Lord Jesus allows us to grow in our faith and the more we do, the more we will look like Jesus