The Scriptures are very clear about what “Christian maturity” is and it is not. We all know maturity is not years (or lack) of church attendance, ministry, tithes, converts, etc…But, some other things that are clearly spiritual can often be mistaken for “maturity”.
POWER IS NOT MATURITY~
” 21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’23“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; “Depart from me, you who practice Lawlessness.’” ~ Matt.7:21,23
The power to cast out demons, prophesy or even perform miracles IN THE NAME OF JESUS is not the mark of maturity.
“1If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. ~ 1 Cor.13
Elegant teaching, preaching, beautiful singing, profound revelation, sacrifice of all earthly possessions; even to the point of martyrdom is not necessarily maturity!
But both of these passages do hint at true maturity by the standard of the New Covenant!
How often does TRUE agape love fail? NEVER. All of the other stuff can fail but, love will never fail. Love CANNOT fail.
LOVE IS MATURITY~
“10but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. ~ 1 Cor.13
When the perfect comes (same word as mature)… when we stop being childish…then we will see (What Jesus is like) clearly…then we will know him fully! He is describing what does matter. What true maturity is! Knowing God is maturity because knowing God is abiding in love!
Remember when Jesus spoke of those people who used his name in power but he “Did not know them?” Clearly, he knew of their existence but, he didn’t relationally know them and that’s the word used in 1 Cor.8:3 ~
“But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” Knowing God is loving God. Being known by God is loving God.
God is powerful but God IS NOT power. He is wise, knowing and miraculous but God IS NOT any of those things.
God IS LOVE. He is not loving. He is simply love. We are not talking about the world’s version of “love.” No. God has defined love quite clearly in 1 Cor.13 and agape/love is completely selfless.
13But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. ~ 1 Cor.13
If you research the New Testament references to maturity; you will find a very consistent link to the word ~ “Love/agape.”
After the description of the “5-Fold Ministry” which will continue until we all reach maturity; Eph.4 says ~ “13until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man”and includes relationally knowing Jesus (continually loving Jesus) as crucial to maturity.
In the body of Christ it is love that unites us in maturity! ~“And over all these virtues put on love, which is the bond of perfect unity.”~ Col.3:14
Maturity is always linked to love and love is linked to unity! Consider one of the very last things Jesus prayed before giving himself over to the guards in the Garden of Gethsemane ~
22“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;23I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”
God’s glory is the Body of Christ united in true agape love. That’s Christian maturity and I can’t claim to have arrived…but, I have left.
THE KEY TO LOVE~
We love because God first loved us! The key is BEING LOVED BY GOD first and foremost!
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God” ~ 1 John 4:7a
16We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17By this, love is perfected with us!” ~ 1 John 4
The key is not loving first! It’s necessary to BE LOVED and to continually bask in his love; receive God’s love, have our inner man empowered by Holy Spirit to really grasp God’s infinite love and ASK for these things, believing that He gives it to you!
Know God and his love intimately. Relationally talk it out with Him. He lives inside you…that’s almost crazy but, it’s true! These are ways that I experience Almighty God’s love for me. He is a Holy, righteous and just God of awesome power and glory but, He IS LOVE.
He wants nothing more than for us to really experience his love…to be loved by him. Beloved, he created you to BE LOVED by him!