Posts Tagged With: maturity

Six Traits of a Healthy Christian and a Healthy Church

Humility:  The desire of the believer to build someone else up rather than themselves.  That ‘someone’ is Christ.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:1-2).

Unity:  This unity is not based upon mere fellowship, but is based upon truth.  If we lean toward fellowship, we will compromise the truth in order to keep the peace.  If we lean toward truth, then if fellowship is ultimately based upon making sure falsehood does not infiltrate the church worse than any cancer than attacks a human body.  We are not a social club, but a Kingdom outpost of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Never forget that!

3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:3-6).

Ministry:  God grants followers of His Son spiritual gifts, in varying proportions, in order to accomplish His work and will in the world.  And He gives spiritual leaders (v. 11) in order to be equipped so they may equip others for the work of the ministry (v. 12).  The leaders of the church are, in a way, God’s gifts to the church—for they work to teach and equip others to do what God has ordained them to do (Ephesians 2:10). The church is built up and strengthened.  

7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:7-12).

Maturity:  In the midst of the attainment of unity in the faith, the more we come to know Christ, then more we mature to be like Christ.  Jesus is our anchor, keep us strong.  Jesus is the One who provides discernment, so we are aware of the schemes of self and Satan.  No church or Christian is healthy that does not grow—and when a Christian does not wish to grow?  Well, 2 Corinthians 13:5 comes into play. 

13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Ephesians 4:13-14).

Fidelity:  Faithfulness to the truth of God’s revelation is a non-negotiable.  This connects strongly to the maturity aspect, because in the truth we grow up into Christ who is the head of the church.  This hearkens back to John 8:31-36 where both the truth sets free and the Son sets free.  The Son is the point of the entirety of God’s revelation, and thus is inherently connected to His Word!  He is the head—we are but the body.  But by God’s grace, we are members of that body with work to do!  What a blessing to be a part of the truth!  Truth that matters!  For eternity!

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped (Ephesians 4:15-16a).

Charity:  Here, we bring out the King James English in speaking of love.  We are built up in the truth, in the knowledge of the Son of God, and in love.  Notice this is also how we are to speak:  speak the truth in love.  Speak all truth and no love, you have Pharisaism.  Speak all love and no truth, you have liberalism.  The most loving thing you can do is to be truthful, recognizing that all have souls and a story—not just labels. 

when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16b). 

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Maturing in Christ: Grow in the Knowledge of our Lord Jesus

Grace and knowledge are very much intertwined. John MacArthur rightly says, “Because of His grace, God forgives the sins of His children. They in turn feed on Scripture and commune with Christ, thereby increasing their knowledge of him.”[1]

But knowledge, you may say? We cannot understand God’s grace without having a knowledge of what He has revealed in His Word. In fact, we can go deeper and say that we understand God’s grace when we understand his Law. Why do this? Aren’t we as Christians, as that old hymn says:

Free from the law, O happy condition,

Jesus hath bled, and there is remission;

Cursed by the law, and bruised by the fall,

Grace hath redeemed us once and for all.[2]

Again, keep in mind the context: false teachers were coming along. They were questioning whether the Lord would return—and thus afflicting the minds and hearts of the followers. He tells them, “You should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.” He reminds them of how through His Word, he created all things and that judgment will come to the ungodly—once with water as in the days of Noah, but them one day through fire. They overlooked that fact, and thus we must not overlook the fact that God will preserve His people, bringing all the elect to salvation and will come as a thief in the night.

Why do I bring this up? Because if we are to grow in knowledge, and Peter is continually alluding to ‘facts,’ where does this knowledge and these ‘facts’ come from that we are supposed to grow in? Scripture! The false teachers came to twist the Scripture to mean what they wish it to say, and thus we need to know what God has said in His Scripture and to rightly divide this Word so we aren’t taken away by falsehood!

What is the law? The law is the moral law given to man by God, as summed up in the Ten Commandments, but fleshed out in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). While the ceremonial, civil, and dietary laws were fulfilled in Christ and no longer apply, the moral law does apply to all! It sets up the boundaries that God reveals to us.

So where does this knowledge come in, in regards to the Law? For one, the Law cannot save. That was never its intention. God’s revealing of His law was such that it showed how fallen we are. We do not have the spiritual equipment to keep God’s law. Our righteousness is, as Isaiah tells us, filthy rags.

So, Romans 3:20 tells us that “through the law comes knowledge of sin.” What’s the purpose of law? The purpose is to expose our inability to keep God’s law (the epitome of sin). The law exposes our sinful hearts! So there’s a disconnect between a perfectly righteous God who demands righteousness from people who wish to be right and have forgiveness and eternal life. But none of us are perfectly righteous and sin free. Yet, he commands us to “be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). He also commands us to “be holy, as he is holy” (1 Peter 1:17).

One cursory view of God’s Word makes it clear that perfection and holiness are impossible for even five seconds. And we also see numerous times in Scripture when God shows up—people feared for their lives, lest they be consumed. The holiness, glory, and majesty of God can be a terrifying thing to behold!

So if we cannot even stand in his presence, if we cannot be righteous or holy, if we have no hope in this manner—what can we do? We trust in the one whose righteousness on which we can rely—Jesus Christ!

[1]John MacArthur, 2 Peter and Jude: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press), .

[2]Philip P. Bliss, Free from the Law, O Happy Condition. Public Domain.

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Maturity in Christ: Grow in His Grace

(This is Part II of our Visioneering Series here at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial, CO.  You may listen to this as well as Part I on Magnifying Christ at .) 

Have you ever had anyone ever tell you to grow up? That’s not a pleasant thing to hear at any point in our lives. As children, we may have exasperated our parents to where they say something like this to us. We may play a prank on a friend, and they are exasperated with our actions—and they say, “Come on, man! Grow up!”

While we may not be crazy about other people saying this to us, do you believe that this is something God would ever say to his people? If so, we know this—there would be nothing malicious about it. Knowing the character of God, we know that He is holy, perfect in all His ways. So has there ever been times when God spoke to His people and told them to “grow up”?

In 2 Peter 3:18, the apostle Peter closes this second letter this way: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” God has called His people to grow. And those who are truly God’s people, who have been saved by our Lord Jesus Christ, will want to grow in Christ. They will want to know Him as he is magnified in their lives, and the maturity comes when Christ becomes more magnified and more predominant in their lives.

In our mission statement that our church adopted 18 months ago, we see again:

Arapahoe Road Baptist Church exists to worship God; evangelize our family, city, state, nation and world; disciple God’s people, minister to the physical and spiritual needs of others; and fellowship with one another.

God calls us to “go and make disciples” in the Great Commission. A disciple is that of a student, a learner who sits at the feet of the Master. Much like an apprentice who not only learns by hearing but also learns by watching and doing. A disciple identifies with the Triune God, and also spends time teaching everything that they have learned from Jesus. It is a perpetual growth. The writer of Hebrews communicates this clearly when he says:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need mile, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore, let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity (Hebrews 5:11-6:1a).

So, taking 2 Peter 3:18, let’s breakdown what it means to grow forward, being disciples of Christ who disciple others. And discipleship is the key. I love what Steve Lutz shared in a deacon’s meeting a few weeks ago on this subject when he said that discipleship “is taking someone from one stage of spiritual maturity to another.” We all expect this to happen in life, but it’s happening less and less.

Immaturity looks as one content in remaining a ‘child’ in the faith. And what do children look like? Self-absorbed (“That’s mine!” “I want to be first!”), against authority (“Johnny, make your bed, please!” “I don’t want to!”), and irresponsible for their own actions. In fact, we can go back to the Garden of Eden. They saw the fruit was pleasing to their eyes, they wanted to be like God knowing good from evil, and then when caught, they played the blame game.

As we as parents have the responsibility to help our children stay safe and function in society, so has God birthed the church and all her members to grow up into maturity. While the world appeals to the 15-35 demographic and ignores that which is mature, God is calling for grown-ups!

Grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to ‘grow in the grace… of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’? I would imagine that the majority of people who think about grace merely think of this in terms of when someone comes to Christ—only on the plain of justification! Not so! Everyday we must grow in the grace of Christ.

Notice the context of why Peter wrote this. The first word of verse 18 is the word “But….” In verses 14-17, Peter seeks to encourage the saints. False teachers are prominent. Peter calls them “ignorant and unstable” because they come in and twist the Scriptures. This is nothing new—the Apostle Paul dealt with false teachers constantly in his ministry.

What motivates false teachers? For one, power! They love making rules for people to follow that will show everyone how devout they are. Which breeds fear in the followers! Jehovah’s Witnesses have a quota for their followers of how many doors they knock on. Mormons have rules ranging from abstaining from caffeine to being baptized for the dead. The good works that they do from the outside look so wonderful—but inside is destructive because they are counting on their own righteousness to bring eternal life.

Another is greed. In 2 Peter 2:2: “And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.” In all of these area, it’s their fallen, selfish nature that is fueling their earthly walk—whether they do good deeds or evil deeds.

But we are not simply to grow to fight back the outward falsehoods. We grow in grace to fight the flesh. We fight against the sin that still lurks in our hearts. Karl Menninger in his book Whatever Became of Sin? wrote back in 1973:

The very word ‘sin,’ which seems to have disappeared was once a proud word. It was once a strong word, an ominous and serious word. . . . But the word went away. It has almost disappeared—the word, along with the notion. Why? Doesn’t anyone sin anymore? Doesn’t anyone believe in sin?[1]

D.A. Carson noted that when one attempts to do evangelism in universities, students generally do not have any idea of sin. “They know how to sin well enough, but they have no idea of what constitutes sin.”[2] But the Apostle Paul says that our sin is great! But that God’s grace is greater. Grace by its very definition is not earned! So we are to grow in God’s grace. How? Look with me at Matthew 11:25-30:

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[a] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

God’s gracious will was to give knowledge and understanding because of his “gracious will.” The only way we can know the Son is because the Father chooses to reveal the Son to us. We can’t earn it, we can’t climb there, we can’t obtain it by our effort. We don’t have that equipment. But to those whom the Father reveals the Son, he says, “Come.” Are you laboring in this life? Are you laboring for the love of Christ through your own obedience—but failing? He will give you rest. At the beginning and all during your Christian walk, “rest” is this: trusting in the work of Christ for your salvation and growth rather than yourself.

Whereas false teachers and atheists actually have something in common with many Christians. Again, the false teachers are there through power, greed, and sensual desires to use other people to feed their own desires. It’s all about self. Then you have the Christian church member who struggled with whether they are good enough for God to love them. So they work: they get on every committee, they show up at every church service, and are busy, busy, busy for the Lord. Is this bad? It depends on your motive. Are you doing this because you are resting in Christ’s work, and doing it out of love? Or are you doing this because you are working for your own rest, so Christ will love you for all you do?

Or what about the Christian who operates on fear? They know what Christ has done for them, and they know others need to hear—but they are afraid. Why? They look at themselves and their skills, their energy, their own resources and say, “I can’t do it!” So again, instead of resting in Christ’s work and His energy and resources, they look at their own. In all three of these cases, each person is relying on themselves and not on Christ. The gospel needs to grip their hearts not just in becoming a Christian—but as a believer.

Eugene O’Neill insightfully wrote, “Man is broken and needs mending. The grace of God is the glue.” Growing in God’s grace is growing continually in the reliance of His work in us, of Christ being formed in us. But the grace of God is missed, even in those who call themselves Christian.

You have one who attends church everytime the door is open. He wants to be at every event, be on every team, and wants to absorb everything preached, taught, and conversed. On the outside everything looks good. But what about on the inside? On the inside is a desire to try to earn God’s love and to show God that we love him. Rather than relying on God’s grace as a motive, we are putting in our works and drawing from our own energies and resources.

[1]Karl Menninger, Whatever Happened to Sin? (New York: Hawthorne Books, 1973), 14-15. Quoted in Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2007), 17.

[2]Peter Barnes, “What? Me? A Sinner?” The Banner of Truth, April 2004, 21. Quoted in Bridges, 18.

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