Peninsula Community Church
Ephesians – Measuring Maturity
January 25, 2015
Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
In spiritual circles there has been an ongoing debate on how to determine if a person has reach spiritual maturity. Personal, I have often asked this question but the answers have been varied and they span the gamut of ideas. I have also been confronted with the question of what does a mature believer in Christ look like? How does a mature believer act? How does a mature believer respond to the issues of life? It is my belief that in this passage, Paul does a good job of detailing what spiritual maturity looks like.
As we read these verses, we discover something very powerful about God’s purpose for our lives. Know this, God is very interested in seeing us grow and mature as believers. He is so focused on our growth that He has positioned people in our lives and He has given us the tools we need to assist us in our growth. You see growth and maturity have always been His goal and purpose for those who are passionate followers of Christ.
As in physical growth, one’s age does not necessarily mean that one is mature and is grown-up. The fact is one can be in their forties or fifties and yet be immature in their thinking and in the way they act. Spiritually, the number of years one attends church or confesses to be a believer does not make one mature in itself. The ability to quote scripture or a particular doctrinal position does not make one mature either. It is the application of God’s Words and the truth of the Gospel that causes one to mature.
So, while we may understand that He wants us to grow and mature, the question or the debate is what does that look like for us? How do we know when one has matured and has grown into a mature believer? When we measure maturity solely by the outward manifestation of one’s actions or how and what they communicate, we can misjudge a person’s spiritual maturity. The reason is that we do not have a true measure of a person’s heart. This is difficult because we can misread or misjudge a person’s heart and believe one to be either more mature or less mature than they really are. So, the real measure of growth, as defined here, is a method of self examination rather than the examination of another’s heart. With that in mind let me give you five self examination tools to determine your level of maturity.
First, are you actively engaged in ministry? The gifts have been given to equip the church for the work of ministry. Please note here that the work of the ministry is not the pastor’s role, singularly, but it should be in the wheelhouse of every believer to do the work of ministry. When Jesus was on earth, and shortly after the Holy Spirit was released on earth, the idea was that each person would be equipped and released for ministry under the leadership of Christ and the leadership of the local church.
A problem arose however within just a few short centuries, after the establishment of the church; the church moved from the church body as a whole being activated for ministry to where the pastor become the one who accomplished every bit of the ministry. This set the stage for people to think that they did not need to respond to ministry but that it was the pastor’s job. That was never God’s intent. We must do the work of ministry together by using our gifts and talents to the glory of God. I am so grateful for all of those in our church who have joined to make life here at PCC happen. Because of you we are where we are today. But we have some work to do. We need to continue to develop our children’s ministry. We need to continue to develop a youth ministry. We need each of you to do your part in giving financially, inviting folks to come to the church, and engaging in the ministries we have available.
Second, are you a uniter or a divider? A measure of maturity is how you seek to build up and bring unity to the body of Christ. How is your walk of unity? Do you attempt to bring healing or are you an agent of disunity and disruption? Do you talk about others behind their back? Do you gossip about others with others? Do you segregate yourself from others and isolate yourself as a matter of lifestyle? Do you seek to fervently push your own agenda but reluctantly get behind the ideas of others?
Let me suggest here that what Paul is referring to is not a unity around our specific nuisances of believe but rather the basic tenants of faith and knowledge that we must all agree on. For example, we can all agree that we serve one Lord and that there is only one way to access Heaven and that is through a personal commitment to Christ who gave Himself as our Savior. Secondly, we can agree that God loves us and has a plan for our life. We can also agree that it is critical for us to get to know God through His word, which He gave as a love letter to read and share.
When we seek after unity this does not mean that anything goes. This does not mean that we compromise Scripture or truth to keep peace. The fact is, unity has little to do with peace and has a lot to do with vision and purpose. The fact is most of what divides us has little to do with Scriptural truth and more about personal bias, desires, and pride. It is for this reason that James succinctly denotes what causes quarrels and fights that lead to division and disunity. What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel (James 4:1-2).
If this defines what disunity looks like, then one who is mature will focus on keeping the unity. When we focus on Jesus, everything else is minor in comparison. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Thirdly, are you spiritually, emotionally, and mentally stable? Paul here says that one who is mature is one who no longer acts like a child, and is tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Too often our lack of maturity causes us to be pulled and pushed and tossed around by every idea and thought that comes along. We sometimes act more like children on the playground than adults who are called by God, but when we are mature in Christ we will make good decisions and will be stable in our way of living.
Listen to what Paul had this to say in 1 Corinthians 13:11. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. What is Pauling saying? Look at the verbs Paul uses here. I spoke, I thought, and I reasoned like a child but now I have grown up.
Fourthly, are you willing to balance truth with love and love with truth? The fourth element of maturity is that we learn to speak the truth in love. We must be reminded of the two-sided coin of spiritual maturity. We speak the truth but we do so in a way that based in love and concern. But we also love others truthfully and righteously so that God’s word and His way is made evident in our lives. Real truth and love is not self seeking but rather is God-focused, Christ-centered, and others oriented. We do not avoid truth. We embrace it. We encourage it.
And finally, are you continuing to mature in Christ? Maturation is a ongoing process. Please note here that maturity is not based on one’s age, it is measured by the process of growth in the individual. You see there are a couple of measures of growth and maturity. Often we think that one is mature by virtue of the fact that they have been a believer in Christ for a long time. The age of an individual does not automatically equate to maturity. A person’s position of authority does not equate to maturity. The fact is we never stop growing and maturing.
We must continue in the apostles teaching and the breaking of bread in order to continue the maturation process. We must be connected in Bible Study and in fellowship with one another. Look at what we have here at PCC. We have Sunday School. We have Sunday worship. We have the home groups. We have the weekly lunch at McDonalds for the men. We have the weekly ladies’s bible study on Thursdays. We have ongoing special events like men’s breakfasts and ladies’ luncheon. Why is this? It is so we can grow personally and corporately as a body. It is also so that we can invest in the lives of others as we invite them to come and be a part of these events.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom