The Long Journey to Maturity
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
“Now I know my ABCs. Next time won’t you sing with me?”
Letters of the alphabet are the elementary building blocks of language. The learner must comprehend the sounds of letters before combining letters to make works, before combining words to make sentences, and so on.
Once the student has mastered a language, it would be foolish and useless to continue to rehearse the very basic ABCs.
Like language learning, there are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity, but how will we know when we have arrived? We must move past merely knowing the basic teachings about Christ’s life, death and resurrection and beyond simply acknowledging our need for faith and repentance.
To be sure, no one but our sinless high priest Jesus will ever be fully spiritually mature in this lifetime, but there are some indicators to help us know we are headed in the right direction.
As rain-soaked land is expected to produce a bountiful crop, the mature Christian should produce what Paul describes to the Galatians as the fruits of the spirit, i.e. God-honoring, selfless character traits. As land that produces thorns instead of crops is worthless, James declares that faith that does not produce actions is dead, useless.
Marks of spiritual maturity include character growing in likeness to God and actions that demonstrate our love for God and care for his people. In reality, we can never truly arrive; this is a never-ending process.
In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson describes discipleship — the process by which we mature spiritually — as a lifelong journey:
For recognizing and resisting the stream of the world’s ways there are two biblical designations for people of faith that seem useful: disciple and pilgrim. Disciple says we are people who spend our lives apprenticed to our master, Jesus Christ. Pilgrim tells us that we are people who spend our lives going someplace, going to God, and whose path for getting there is the way, Jesus Christ.
Indeed, the journey of spiritual maturity is a one-way trip. We are warned of the dangers of falling away after tasting the goodness of God. Our calling is to diligently work until the end of our lives, moving forward ever onwards towards maturity.
As the writer of the anonymous hymn succinctly stated, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”
Originally published at theparkforum.org.