Arrested Spiritual Development

By August 14, 2016Church

During the #iLoveMyChurch series, we are working our way through our mission as a church. That mission is to glorify God, grow in Jesus, and to go into the world.

One basic reason Mountainview exists is to help you become spiritually mature — to grow in Jesus.

Let’s be honest: It would be nice if the process of becoming more mature was simply a matter of aging. The older you get, the more mature you become. But you’ve probably lived long enough to know that gray hairs and spiritual maturity are not the same thing.

Here is a simply test to see if you are mature or not:

  • If you’re wondering if you’re mature, then you’re probably not mature.
  • If your wife often tells you to grow up, then you’re probably not mature.
  • If this is how you greet co-workers, then you’re probably not mature …

Immature_Noogie

You’ve probably heard of the idea of “arrested development” (not the show). Kids who freeze their emotional and intellectual development at certain levels are said to be victims of arrested development. Often it’s because of a traumatic incident or experience.

Physically, their bodies continue to grow but emotionally they remain adolescents. People with arrested development might have the body of a 25 year-old and the emotional intelligence of 6th grader.

Unfortunately, too many Christians suffer from arrested spiritual development. They may have hit their peak shortly after their baptism and that was 5, 10, or 15 years ago!

As a pastor, you often hear me say “We don’t want anything from you, we want something for you.” One of things we want for every believer is to experience God in the fullest way possible.

I believe the gospel – that Jesus died for my sins, offering me the hope of a new life – is the very heart of Christianity. The gospel is about transformation. It tells you that you  don’t have to be the person you have always been.

This was the same goal that motivated the Apostle Paul. Paul was a writer, theologian, and church entrepreneur. You could also call him a mentor. You get the sense that Paul is a spiritual coach, trying to help his readers become more like Jesus.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in his writings to Colossian church. As far we know, he had never visited the town of Colossae. The church itself was made up of non-Jewish believers (Gentiles) who didn’t have a background in the Law and Prophets. It’s also fair to say the church was facing a few problems.

To this church, Paul writes these words: “28 Jesus is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” — Colossians 1:28-29

What was his goal? To present everyone fully mature in Christ. (And your goal was to lose a few pounds this year!) For Paul, discipleship was simply the process of becoming more like Jesus.

Here’s the important thing: Paul understood that maturity doesn’t just happen. It’s strenuous. It takes effort. It requires powerful work.

Think of it this way: you wouldn’t ask your toddler to perform open heart surgery on you. Ideally, they’d first master their alphabet. Then learn addition and subtraction. Move on to biology in high school. Finish 4 years of medical school and a residency.

And even then you wouldn’t want to be their first patient!

The bottom line? Maturity not only takes time, it takes effort. Notice the language Paul uses to describe what he was doing: proclaiming, admonishing, teaching. He wasn’t satisfied with them being somewhat mature; he wanted to present them fully mature.

But this is important: don’t mistake activity for progress.

Some of the most religiously active people I know are also some of the most spiritually immature. How can that be? It’s because spiritual maturity is not about “what you are doing” but about “who you are becoming.”

If your goal is to become more like Jesus, a logical question to ask would be how? How can I become more like Jesus?

Let’s return to Colossians … “6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord” — Colossians 2:6

If somebody says to me, ‘Come on in, Ken, but stay out, Hensley,’ it’s a bit of a problem – because I can’t separate them. It’s not like top half of me is Ken and the bottom half is Hensley. If you won’t have Hensley, you can’t get Ken.

Some people say, “Jesus, forgive my sins, answer my prayers; do this for me, do that for me — but don’t be the master of my life.”

That’s like saying, “Jesus, the part of you that is Savior can come in; but that Lord part can stay out.”

For each of us, the path to spiritual maturity begins with Lordship – receiving Jesus not only as Savior, but also as Lord. In simple terms, this means giving Jesus the right to shape our values and guide our decisions.

What’s next? “continue to live your lives in him” — Colossians 2:6

Spiritual maturity is something you must continue to work at. It’s not like “Well, I ate a salad once and I’m good.” Spiritual maturity is not accomplished once a week – it’s continuing to live our lives in Jesus.

This is one big reason why we encourage you to join a LifeGroup. Being in a group provides a continual, regular, and consistent way to grow.

What characterizes a continual pursuit of Jesus? “7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” — Colossians 2:7

What does a spiritually mature person look like? They are a rooted person, who is being built up and strengthened, whose life is overflowing with thankfulness.

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity captures the process of becoming spiritually mature very well.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

My prayer for you is that you won’t settle for being a decent little cottage when God wants to reshape you into a palace in which he himself will live.