Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Toward Spiritual Maturity part II

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  And this we will do if God permits. -  Hebrews 6:1-3

While Jesus commands us to become like a child, He does not want us to remain like a child.  We are to grow up spiritually.  As Paul said, when he was a child, he spoke like a child, he thought like a child, he reasoned like a child.  But after he became a man, he gave up the childish ways (1 Corinthians 13:11).

In the same way, we are supposed to mature in the faith.  A child starts in kindergarten learning the basics and each year they are promoted to a higher level.  The child starts out learning addition and subtraction, later multiplication and division, later fractions and decimals, and maybe they will learn trigonometry or algebra.  The child first learns the basics, but learns to build upon them.

In the same way, the writer of Hebrews is encouraging people to move into higher levels of spiritual learning.  The elementary doctrines of Christ are wonderful and we should know them, but we cannot stay there.  We should know repentance, but once we have repented from dead works there is no more reason for us to repent.  The more we learn to depend on God the greater our faith in Him.

The washings that the writer of Hebrews is talking about is not baptism, but probably more like what we find in James 1:27 about keeping oneself unstained from the world.  This is something that we need to be practicing rather than merely learning about.  Rather than merely learning about laying hands on those in need of prayer, we should be practicing that as well.

While we will be resurrected from the dead and spared from eternal judgment, our focus must be on intimacy with Christ rather than having fire insurance.

My mother-in-law is a good example of the importance of spiritual maturity.  She went to a church that taught the Bible, but the church remained teaching the elementary doctrines of Christ.  The people in that church would live like the devil Monday through Saturday then go to church on Sunday to hear a fire and brimstone sermon and would repent.  The cycle would continue every week; live like the devil and then repent on Sunday.

Rather than grow into spiritual maturity, the congregation were kept as children always learning about the elementary doctrines of Christ but never enough to impact their lives outside of the church.  To them, going to church was more like getting a ticket to heaven rather than getting to know Christ more and getting equipped for life between Sundays.

Fortunately my mother-in-law moved and through her patient husband, she learned that God wasn’t waiting to crush her for something wrong that she did, she learned that God actually loved her.  She learned what it means to live for Christ, so now she has no need to constantly repent for dead works.  She has grown from an elementary student in the faith to someone who is teaching and leading a small group.
Spiritual maturity helps us to go from hearers of the Word to becoming doers of the Word.  But we can only do this with the help of God.  Our growth must be in cooperation with God’s power and with His wisdom.

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