Long ago I witnessed a news story of an adult man who would behave as a baby. I know what some of you are thinking, “That is every adult man, they’re all babies.” No! This is different. He would actually dress in a diaper, sit in a play pin and hire a nurse to take care of him. Most of you would agree that is unusual. An adult shouldn’t act like a baby. As we grow and mature we learn the art of language, we no longer need diapers and we eventually can take care of ourselves.
As Christians, there is also a process of maturation. We should be growing into maturity, but sometimes we get stuck. Maybe we’re not sure what maturity looks like or how to get there. I have long believed that love is the mark of maturity. I am fully convinced that as we grow in love for the Lord the natural result is to grow in a love for people. Love for our fellow believers, love for those who need Jesus, love for those who love us as well as those who hate us.
In Ephesians 4 the apostle Paul speaks of the five fold ministry, pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets and evangelists and then he says something I find remarkable.
Ephesians 4:12-14 (NLT) Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
The responsibility of the ministers is to equip the people of God, YOU, to do the work of the Lord and build up His church. We often have this mindset that the pastor builds the church and we just attend. Sorry, wrong. He, of course, should do his part, but the church is not a one man shop. We are all part of the body and share the responsibility to build the Kingdom together. In fact, it is important that we do! Verse thirteen tells us that as we continue to work we increase in unity, faith and knowledge of Jesus. In doing so we are going through the maturation process.
It is as we step out and act out our faith in serving the Lord that we move from immaturity into a steadfast people. Stepping out in faith actually acts as a cementing process. Using our gifts to love people is an essential aspect of growing in maturity. We can’t just wait until we feel like loving to begin demonstrating love to people. In fact, as we act out the love of Jesus, it will grow greater inside of us.
Ephesians 4:15-16 (NLT) Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
There will be moments when our love is challenged. This is where the true test of our maturity comes in. How do we handle it when someone wrongs us, betrays us or just plain hurts us?
Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
These are real emotions we feel at times. In times of hurt, we are tempted to lash out in harsh words or even return to evil behavior. The scripture instructs us to overcome our emotions and instead treat each other with kindness even forgiveness. This is certainly not an easy process, but when we remember all the times we have offended God and the depths of His forgiveness it begins to contextualize the way we should forgive others. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Offer to others the same grace and mercy you received and in doing so we show, through our love, that we truly belong to Christ. That we are maturing to become more and more like Him.
John 13:35 (ESV) By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
When we truly love each other we send a message to the world about who Jesus is. Sadly, the opposite is also true. When Christians are fighting, backbiting, hurting each other and operating in bitterness we also send a message to the world about who Christ is. A false message. For us who bear the name of Christ, all we do represents Jesus.
Today I encourage you to ask yourself, how are you representing Jesus? Perhaps you have identified a few ways where you are falsely representing Him to the world. Take it to the Lord in prayer and allow Him to begin the process of transformation
Ephesians 4:21-24 (NLT) Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
Simply put, the mark of maturity is to be like Jesus and properly represent His love to the world.