HOW MATURE ARE WE IN CHRIST?
HOW MATURE ARE WE IN CHRIST?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
11 FEBRUARY 1996
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Although we usually don't expect children to be mature much beyond their age, we expect adults to be completely mature.
But what is maturity?
Is it just being fully developed in body and mind - physically?
Does “maturity” also imply something else?
Yes it does!
It also implies that a person has reached perfection of mind.
So, sadly, we must conclude that none of us are fully perfected in our minds.
Spiritually speaking, maturity is when we become perfected in Christ Jesus our Lord, and in the will of our Father who is in heaven.
However, like most of us today, the Corinthians thought the way they were was being fully mature.
But listen to what Paul tells them in 1 Corinthians 3:1-9:
1. And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ.
So much for true maturity!
Paul doesn't even consider them to be young adults, but only as babes in Christ.
What happened to their belief?
They probably still believed, but they never perfected their belief in their lives.
A girl baby knows how to suckle upon the breast of her mother, but she cannot nurse a baby of her own, because she is too young.
And so it is with our spiritual maturity.
If we cannot reproduce our faith in others we are not mature.
If we can't even nurse them along so that they want to nurse upon the word of God, we are as the babes ourselves.
It is in this light, that Paul continues:
2. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,
3. for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
4. For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men?
5. What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.
6. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.
7. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.
8. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
9. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.
We should all be His workers.
We should not constantly expect others to feed and care for us.
It is time for the Church to present a life in Christ that others will want to feed upon, in the same way an infant desires to feed.
It is time for the Church to present the perfect peace and love of our of the Lord that will free the world from its present corruption in such a way that people would want to be the peacemaking children of God.
And as we continue to nurture them, they should become more and more mature, until they, too, can feed others.
This is how we really prosper as a church.
Listen to what God tells the Israelites about maturing and being mature in Deuteronomy 30:5-10:
5. "And the Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.
6. "Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.
To circumcise the heart is to remove the hardness, and when the hardness is removed, love begins to sprout.
We cannot grow, as a seed cannot grow, until the hard outer covering is softened or removed.
God wanted the Israelites, then, and us today, to begin the maturing process.
7. "And the Lord your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you.
Just as a gardener removes the weeds from around the good plants, that they may grow and mature, so does our loving God remove those who hinder our maturing process.
But if the plants in the garden don't grow, the gardener will stop caring for them and protecting them.
And so it is with our relationship with God.
However, if we do grow or mature, even if it's only marginally, the Lord will indeed care for us.
8. "And you shall again obey the Lord, and observe all His commandments which I command you today.
9. "Then the Lord your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the Lord will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers;
10. if you obey the Lord your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.
This is what we must do, also.
This is maturing in the Lord our God.
And while we are talking about commandments and the intent of the heart and soul, let's look at what Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:21-37:
21. "You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’
22. "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' [which is an Aramaic word meaning empty-head or good for nothing] shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
I pray that none of us have ever been angry enough to want to kill someone, but we probably have been angry enough to call someone names similar to these.
What Jesus is telling us is that even such words show our immaturity, and if only a part of our nature is like this, it shows that we are not fully fit for the kingdom of heaven.
23. "If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,
24. leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
We receive an offering for the Lord as part of every service.
The way we give that offering is more important than what we give.
How mature are we when presenting our offerings before the Lord?
Each of us need to consider who we are in Christ.
25. "Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, in order that your opponent may not deliver you to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.
26. "Truly I say to you, you shall not come out of there, until you have paid up the last cent.
This is talking about people, but the Judge is not in our local courts; He's the Lord Himself, and the only way we get out of there is to go to heaven; if we don't, we're imprisoned in hell.
27. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery';
28. but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
And yes, many women have the same problem, and are equally immature and just as guilty.
29. "And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
30. "And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.
How much easier to commit our heart and soul to the Lord, and allow Him to direct our lives.
31. "And it was said, 'Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of dismissal';
32. but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Do you see the difference between the commandments and the intent of the heart and soul?
Maturity is looking beyond the present situations to the ultimate results.
33. "Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.'
34. "But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,
35. or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
36. "Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
37. "But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; and anything beyond these is of evil.
This honest behavior is a sign of being mature.
Trying to make ourselves seem as though we are more important than we are, or promising something we cannot deliver, or dodging the question are all signs of immaturity.
We all need to constantly look at our own lives, and really look at our relationship with the Lord.
This isn't some sort of game.
We are playing for keeps.
And to say "Amen" is to say that the desire of our heart is to mature in the Lord.
What are we going to say?
Your Comments are welcome
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