New Members: Getting to Christian Maturity
In 2005, TIME Magazine ran a story on “kidults“; men and women in their mid to late twenties who still live with their parents, hop from job to job, sexual encounter to sexual encounter, as well as dress and talk and party like they did when they were teens, and are described as “having fun but seemingly going nowhere.” They are not quite kids and not quite adults and all we want to say to them is grow up! How long does it take to become mature anyway?? The 20th and 21st century culture has pushed maturity off into the dusty horizon, and sadly, most Christians have unwittingly followed suit.
Ask a typical Christian how long it will take to become a mature Christian and 99% of the time they will tell you, “It’s a life long process.” We are in fact creating spiritual “kidults” and worse, many of them have clocked their time attending church, as well as praying, and reading their Bible (though they look more like a blind man swinging at a piñata than a student of the word) and still, they remain in diapers, because…well, maturity is a “life long process.”
If this is true why did the author of Hebrews chastise his congregation precisely because of their immaturity (Hebrews 5:11-12), claiming that by now they “ought to be teachers”? Why did he rebuke them for their continual reliance upon the milk of the word and instead urged them to feast on the protein filled meat that builds real spiritual muscle (Hebrews 4:12-14; Hebrews 5:11-13)? Clearly he had expectations for how long maturity was supposed to take, and it wasn’t a life-long journey!
What we fail to understand is the difference between getting to maturity and growing in maturity. We are supposed to get there quickly, as quickly as possible. We are supposed to grow there the rest of our temporal lives (see Steps to Spiritual Maturity, and Comparison of Immature and Mature thinking as helpful links).
It took the disciples three years to get to maturity, and the book of Acts then reveals how they grew in that maturity as they spread the Word of God (remember, Peter was mature but still needed growth, Gal. 2:11-21). When Paul became a Christian (Acts 9:1-19) he left for three years to Arabia (Gal. 1:15-19) presumably to get mature in Christ, because the next time we see him (Acts 9:20f) he is like a blazing meteor preaching and teaching Christ crucified the hope of glory. Paul met Timothy somewhere on his missionary journeys, took him on as a disciple, and within a number of years Timothy was overseeing his own church in Ephesus. They got there in years. Not a decade, not a dozen, not a baker’s dozen, certainly not all our life.
While there are many ways to grow in christian maturity (finding an older, wiser mentor being top of the list), one way to expedite the process is to dwell upon mature teaching, the meat of the word not rice cakes!
The clear pattern in Scripture is (1) Dwell/Think/Learn, (2) Do/Act/Apply.
- Ezra the Scribe “set his heart to study the law of the LORD and then to practice it, and then to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).
- Paul the Apostle admonishes, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
- There can be no supernatural peace unless the faithful saint “dwells on” whatever is pure, lovely, good, excellent, praise worthy, and then “practices” what you have learned, received, heard, and seen and only then will “the God of peace be with you” (Phil. 4:8-9).
- There can be no supernatural pleasure unless we pursue knowledge like a desperate mother searching for her lost child in a crowd satisfied only when we have him in our hands (Eph. 4:11-32; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:10; 2:3).
How can I be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Rom. 12:2)?
1. The Gospel of the Kingdom of God
What is the Gospel? R.C. Sproul
God is the Gospel by John Piper
Hell’s Best Kept Secret & True and False Conversion by Ray Comfort
Christian Hedonism by John Piper (9 messages)
Desiring God by John Piper (free book to go along with the Christian Hedonism series, pdf)
Heaven (the real biblical heaven ON EARTH) by Randy Alcorn (2 Messages)
2. How can I show I have surrendered to the Gospel? Get baptized!
“We are not mainly talking about religious ritual here. We are not mainly talking about church tradition here. We are mainly talking about Jesus Christ and his magnificent work of salvation in dying for our sins and rising for our justification. Talking about baptism means talking about how Jesus taught us to express our faith in Jesus and his great salvation.”
B. What Baptism Portrays by Piper
C. Understanding Baptism by Macarthur
“I would like to take this thinking a step further and also say that I believe that this failure to take baptism seriously in the church, a failure to follow baptism biblically in the church is very likely at the root of some of the immense problems in the church because it betrays people’s unfaithfulness to the simple direct commands of the Lord. And the bottom line question is if you cannot be obedient in the matter of the simple act of baptism which the Lord has specifically commanded every believer to do, is that not indicative of a less than obedient life? Which explains a lot of things about the weakness of the church in our day.
When Jesus said, “Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them,” when He said that He gave a command to the church to baptize, clearly that is the great commission. When the Holy Spirit said, “Repent and be baptized,” Acts 2:38, He gave a command to the individual believer to be baptized. Christ commands the church to baptize, the Holy Spirit commands the individual believer to be baptized. And when all 3,000 who believed on the day of Pentecost were immediately baptized, they set the example for the church. So we are under the commanding words of Christ as a church to baptize. We are under the commanding word of the Holy Spirit as individuals to be baptized. And we follow in the line of the pattern and example established on the day the church was born when every believer was immediately baptized.
D. Looking for more? Baptism Debate with R.C. Sproul and John Macarthur
3. The Holiness of God
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul (6 messages)
The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges (5 messages)
4. Doctrines of Grace
Chosen By God by R.C. Sproul (6 messages)
All Things Work For Good, Romans 8:28-30 by John Piper (7 messages)
What is Reformed Theology? by R.C. Sproul (12 messages)
Justification By Faith Alone by R.C. Sproul (15 messages)
Sanctification by Desiring God Conference (6 messages)
The Book of Romans Series by R.C. Sproul (12 messages)
5. Growing in His Grace by His Strength for His Glory
Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper (6 messages)
Suffering and the Second Coming by John Piper
Why Does God Allow So Much Suffering and Evil? by John Macarthur
7. Want more? All from biblicaltraining.org:
History of the English Bible by Scholar Daniel Wallace (2 hours)
How To Study Your Bible by Dr. Guthrie (12 hour class)
Old Testament Survey by Dr. Doug Stuart (12-15 hour class)
New Testament Survey by Greek linguist Dr. William Mounce (30 hours)
History of Church History 1 (13 hours)
History of Church History 2 (21+ hours)
8. Church Membership
R.C. Sproul’s Defending Your Faith is worth your time and effort. Here are the first 25 parts on YouTube. The rest of the 32 full series can be purchased at ligonier.org.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25