What’s Your Spiritual Age?
We all know that maturity and longevity are not necessarily connected. You probably know someone who is in their 40’s who has the emotional maturity of an adolescent. You probably know someone in their teen years who is “going on 30” with regard to their discernment and stability. Just as people grow chronologically and physically, God intends for us to grow. Like plant life, if we stop growing we stagnate and soon wither.
How does God intend for us to grow, spiritually? At first glance we might be tempted to think that spiritual growth is simply getting more educated or knowledgeable about God and spiritual truths. If that is the case we simply need to read and absorb biblical content. But a cursory glance at the gospels shows that Jesus’ biggest conflicts were with those who had the most factual awareness of the Scriptures. Scribes and Pharisees spent their lives studying, discussing, teaching and enforcing the OT biblical facts. Jesus was not impressed.
When asked by these teachers, Jesus reduced the Old Testament down to 2 commands…
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Mark 12:28-34 (NIV)
None of us love God or our neighbors perfectly. If we are growing in spiritual maturity and wholeness, we should be on a trajectory of greater love for God and our neighbor. We will increasingly align our choices with God’s guidance from the Scripture, instead of fighting it. We will increasingly look out for the others around us, seeking ways to serve them, rather than constantly looking out for “number 1”. If we are growing we will be aware of our inner motives, not just outward appearances. We will reflect on “why”, not just “what” we do. The Apostle Paul’s famous love poem highlights the futility of a life lived without the right motive…
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV)
God’s intention for us is spelled out very clearly. We are to be “conformed to the image” of Jesus. That leaves plenty of room for improvement. Love or its absence is the measure of maturity. We grow our love for God as we do any relationship—through regular communication. He speaks through Scripture, spiritual songs, sermons, classes, study groups, books and interactions with others. He places us in life situations where truth is to be put into action. We sometimes get it right and sometimes fail. By inviting others to provide feedback we can overcome blind spots and weaknesses to continue the growth process.
At CrossRoads we want to guide followers of Jesus to establish a chain of influence the Scripture calls discipleship. As we gain in understanding and our capacity to practice Christlikeness we want to bring others along, serve those around us, and set aside things that hinder us.
The Apostle Paul was by no means perfect, but I believe he lived a life of few regrets as He described His thinking in a letter to the Philippians…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14 NIV)
How would you describe your “spiritual age” and trajectory? Are you more effectively reflecting Christlikeness now than you were a year ago? Do you have any hints regarding what would facilitate those changes? Do you invite others to help you grow? Are you looking for opportunities to help others grow? This weekend we will be highlighting the CCC Grow ministries during announcements.
Looking forward to seeing you this weekend!