As a Pastor for almost 4 decades now, working with people in the church, I have a unique perspective on what I’ve observed to be an epidemic among Christians. I call it endemic immaturity. This condition has been brought about by several factors. One is the simple fact that most adults come to the church quite immature to begin with, as many families they grew up in were so broken and dysfunctional, they have not adequately developed mature character. The second and primary reason is the destructive re-definition of spiritual maturity. A majority of Christians and Christian leaders define spiritual maturity as knowing a lot about the Bible. As being highly educated and knowledgeable about Bible facts, history, and Bible doctrine. This is absolutely not the definition of spiritual maturity. These two factors have created churches and marriages full of infantile behavior and individuals who are incapable of being grown-up, godly, functional adults.
Endemic immaturity is the single greatest challenge in Christianity today.
Now, let me share with you from the Bible, the definition of spiritual maturity and explain why immaturity is so endemic in the Church.
Hebrews 5:12-14 NLT
You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. And a person living on milk isn’t very far along in the Christian life and doesn’t know much about doing what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right!
Do you see this? Do you get this? This is incredibly profound and instructive. A mature person is someone who has trained themself to recognize the difference between right and wrong, then they DO what is right! They truly understand and obey God’s teachings on righteousness.
Christians, we must embrace God’s definition of genuine spiritual maturity. It is not enough to know the answers on your Bible knowledge test. It is not enough to spout platitudes, to quote scripture ad nauseam as if by magic repetition of information, you are somehow mature! No, we must be people who live and do the truth. We must be people who, against the grain of our sinful flesh, repeatedly choose to do the right thing even when we don’t feel like it. We must be people who have trained ourselves, our senses, our emotions, our minds, our thoughts, our speech, and our actions to not only recognize what is right and what is wrong, but people who choose to consistently do what is right.
Modern Christianity has decoupled Biblical knowledge from action, thereby creating millions of spiritually immature babies filling our churches. We have people showing up to church carrying their Bible and notebook, at times taking copious notes, but have no idea how to love their wife and children at home, or love and respect their husband at home. These Christians know their Bible stories, can quote approved doctrines, but at work are a terrible witness for Jesus Christ because their lives are simply un-winsome, selfish, unkind, and hypocritical. We have Christian ladies who have no idea how to control their tongue, who gossip and slander other people. We have Christian men who simply cannot be counted on because they love pleasure, and shun commitment, duty and responsibility. Selfishness and immature behavior are pervasive in many Christian marriages.
God’s kingdom work, our marriages, and raising a family cannot be done by immature, infantile Christians. We must all grow up! We must intentionalize our spiritual maturity, and work at it every day of our lives.
As I look back on my early years of marriage, I must humbly and honestly admit, my own immaturity caused most of my problems. I did not know how to love, sacrificially. I could quote 1 Cor. 13:1-8 but I could not live it. I was extremely selfish and had no idea how to consistently exercise self-control, even though I read my Bible every single day. I was immature, and that immaturity was hurting me, my family, and my marriage. Intentionally developing my spiritual maturity changed everything in my life, marriage, and family and my impact on those around me. It will do the same for you. However, do not underestimate the hard work it will require of you. You must be willing to do hard things, or you will forever stay little babies in your faith. Christianity was meant to be a rigorous faith. Tragically, most Christian churches today preach a shallow, anemic, watered down version of Biblical Christianity.
Never forget one of God’s primary purposes for you is that you become mature and complete, lacking in nothing. This is the primary purpose of trials in our lives, that test our faith and endurance. We must cooperate with God in these faith and character-building exercises that God wisely designs and allows. They help you become a spiritually mature Christian. Don’t run from your trials, or become bitter or resentful. Ultimately they make you a much greater person, strengthen your faith, and draw you closer to God.
For those of you yearning for the challenge of a mature, rigorous, Biblical Christian faith, listen to this series. Growing Up: The Quest For Spiritual Maturity.
Helping you become a Strong Disciple,
Because of Jesus,
Pastor Mark Darling