Characteristics of Maturity
Third, personal honesty. Another major characteristic of maturity, which is vital for a healthy relationship with God, others and one's self is being honest with one's self, God, and others. God's Word says: "We will lovingly follow the truth at all times—speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly—and so become more in every way like Christ who is the Head of his body, the church."2 And again, "Surely you [God] desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place."3
Being personally honest is challenging because it means not only being honest in all of our dealings with others, but also being honest with ourselves. This includes being honest with our true feelings/emotions (many of which have been long since buried and denied—a very unhealthy way to live). It also means being honest with our motives. This may be the most challenging area of personal honesty because most of us have hidden agendas be they conscious or subconscious. Hidden agendas cause people to become disgustingly manipulative.
Being honest is being real, transparent, and authentic. It's a tough call but the only healthy and mature way to live. It means being known for who we truly are—warts and all—by at least one or two trusted friends. It allows us to see and acknowledge both our strengths and weaknesses which, in turn, helps us to develop and use our strengths and work on overcoming our weaknesses.
Fourth, spiritual maturity. This will be seen, not in how well we know our Bible, how many church services we attend, or how many religious activities we are involved in, but in having a healthy relationship with God. In fact, over-busyness in religious activities may be a cover-up of some level of immaturity.
Think of Mary and Martha, friends of Jesus, when Jesus came to visit in their home. I can imagine how excited Martha was as she busily labored in the kitchen over a hot oven to prepare a wonderful meal for their special guest. However, she complained to Jesus about Mary who wasn't helping with the preparations, but just sitting and visiting with Jesus. Sounds a reasonable complaint to me. I probably would have been ticked off with Mary too. However, Jesus saw it differently.
Here's the scene: "But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him [Jesus] and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.' And Jesus answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.'"4
In our language, Martha was probably a bit of a workaholic keeping busy to avoid facing some painful issue in her life. On the other hand, relating to Jesus was more important to Mary than busily preparing a meal for him. What Martha and Mary were both doing was important, but what was more important was the motive and reason behind what they were doing. It's good to do work for God but more important is the motive behind what we are doing and relating to him first. Loving and relating to God is a vital part of spiritual maturity. Service is to follow from a heart of love, not as a way of avoiding an unresolved personal issue.
I assured this lady that while
I disagreed with her lifestyle,
I did love and accept her.
Last, but certainly not least, is love, unconditional, love. To genuinely love God, others and myself is the highest and noblest fruit of maturity, and as long as I have room to grow in love, I will have the need to grow in maturity.
To love unconditionally doesn't mean that we love or even like what others do. It means that we accept them as fellow strugglers and fellow sinners because, in God's sight, we have all sinned and fallen short of His standard of perfect holiness5 It means that we don't try and fix people or give them unsolicited or unwanted advice. It means we are there for them, to listen to them, and accept them for who they are even while we may disagree with their manner of life.
In one of my live-in week retreats some time ago there was a lady whom I will call Josephine who was furious at me because I had called a certain behavior that she was involved in a sin and an abomination in the eyes of God. She angrily blurted out to me in front of the entire group, "You are nothing but a pharisaical religious _ _ _ _ _ _ _!" I admit that I was somewhat taken back but I answered calmly, "Yes, sometimes I am." This of course defused the situation.
After this I assured this lady that while I disagreed with her lifestyle, I did love and accept her. At the end of the week, having lived in with a group of Christians—none of whom judged or rejected her—she came to me and said, "Maybe you are right after all," and then she actually hugged me. Amazing. This was possibly the first time in her life that Christians hadn't judged, criticized, and/or rejected her.
If fellow sinners are going to come to Jesus, while we disagree with their actions and behavior, we need to show them unconditional love and acceptance. A tough call to be sure, but unconditional love is the highest fruit of Christian maturity. "Tell me whom you love," Houssaye asked, "and I will tell you who you are."
Let us remember, too, that growing in maturity is God's will for all of us. As the Apostle Paul wrote, "Him [Jesus] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me."6
1. 1 John 4:20, (NIV).
2. Ephesians 4:15-16, (TLB).
3. Psalm 51:6, (NIV).
4. Luke 10:40-42, (NKJV).
5. See Romans 3:23.
6. Colossians 1:28-29, (ESV).
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