Maturity. The word is used in so many different contexts in American society that it’s almost lost any meaning at all. When a film or TV show is for “mature audiences only”, it usually means there will be scenes of intense violence, sexual content, profanity, or all of the above. If a teenage girl says that a boy is “so mature” it may be because she likes his confidence or responsible behavior. And in some circles, the elderly prefer to be called mature citizens.
So what is it?
In physical fitness, maturity is usually a measurement of growth that considers natural ability, personal effort, age and experience. Our ability to run faster, lift more and last longer can increase well into our thirties. And when we’re consistent and diligent to exercise, our experience makes us wiser for more efficient and effective growth. But at a point, regardless of our natural ability, effort or experience, we crest that hill and start a downhill slide to the other side, working even harder just to keep what we’ve got. But just when our minds are maturing (hopefully), our bodies are getting weaker – one of God’s reminders that we are not to hope in this world.
Dictionary.com defines maturity as 1) the state of being ripe: The fruit will be mature soon or 2) fully developed; perfected: mature judgment; to bring a plan to maturity. God’s Word uses both of these definitions to describe the growth in Him.
In John 15, Jesus describes us as God’s fruit that must remain to Him to grow for His use and enjoyment. Maturity is a measure of where we are in the process. Let’s look at a few others passages to see how God measures maturity.
In Luke 8:14, Jesus implies that we’re to grow as fruit for God’s pleasure, not for the pleasure of self or others. If I believe that my maturity is for myself or others, I can quickly become angry or depressed when my older body brings me more pain and less pleasure. If I focus just on my body or others‟ value of my body, I may even quit. But if I focus on Jesus’ purpose to grow me in His image for His pleasure, then I am encouraged to live for Him. (Jeremiah 9:23-24, 29:11-14)
In 1 Corinthians 2:6 and 14:20, Paul says that the mark of maturity is hearing and obeying God’s will. Worldly wisdom trusts in self toward our own goals. God’s wisdom listens to Jesus and serves others for His glory. But we need Jesus’ help to humble ourselves and serve others in the gym, at work, and in other relationships. So, quick repentance and following through on God’s will is a measure of maturity in Christ.
In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul’s uses the term to convey the general character in Christ and our unity of faith in Him. This speaks to me on two levels. I spend a lot of time “maturing” my projects – admin and logistics at work, household chores, lesson plans, books and programs about the Lord Jesus. But I’m not always as intentional to exercise my spiritual maturity. It’s the difference between sitting in my office writing about Him and getting on my knees with Him in order to get out and live in Him for the mutual maturity of His Body, the Church.
In Philippians 3:13-15, Paul reminds us that maturity is an ongoing process. It’s possible to stagnate and slide backward, so God’s Word must be our constant focus. Just prior to these verses, Paul had listed many of his personal achievements that he later considered wasted time. After sensing so many of my own shortcomings, I am encouraged to hear that God does not give up on the immature. How foreign this is to our way.
Many of us have heard words of Isaiah 55:8 ‟For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways‟, saith the Lord.” But do you know the context? God is describing His heart of forgiveness. When others sin against us, our thoughts and ways are to seek revenge or give up on them. Not Jesus. He seeks His people and never gives up.
In Colossians 4:12 Paul encourages us to work for others’ maturity, too. And the writer of Hebrews warns us that this is not automatic or easy (Hebrews 5:14). We could go on and on. In fact, Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is a running commentary on God forming a people for Himself.
Most of us know when literal fruit is mature and for what purpose. If God calls us His fruit how should we hear that? For what are we to be used? Moses knew God face-to-face (Deuteronomy 34:10); David who was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14); Timothy who was more concerned for Jesus’ interests than his own (Philippians 2:20ff).
They were a sweet fragrance to God and a source of strength to others. How about us? How can we grow from where we are toward His picture of maturity?
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