The Bible is clear that maturing spiritually is not optional - it's essential! It requires a conscious decision - spiritual maturity doesn't develop by accident. Sadly, some Christians never press on to maturity. So let's talk about it.
Today, we will examine the need to press on to maturity, some reasons people choose NOT to, and opportunities that are readily available to anyone who takes their need for spiritual maturity seriously.
I. The Need to Press on to Maturity (Hebrews 5:12 – 6:8)
We learn from this section of Hebrews that maturity only comes through practice! This process includes training. We also learn that while a foundation is essential, that foundation alone is not enough. Hebrews 6:4-6 also tells us that failure to mature results in apostasy (falling away from the truth). The spiritually immature are lulled into spiritual apathy, leaving them vulnerable and undermining their usefulness.
The Hebrews writer uses an agricultural analogy to give us a clear picture of the outcome if we decide to pursue maturity - and also the outcome if we don't.
For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; -Hebrews 6:7
God was extremely intentional about providing tools for developing spiritual maturity. We will discuss more of that later. For now, notice first that we were designed to be useful to God. That means we must build awareness and focus on our purpose, and devote time and energy toward accomplishing that purpose. Secondly, doing so results in a blessing from God. This is in direct contrast to the following statement:
...But if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned. -Hebrews 6:8
There is no middle ground here. This drives home the concept that, much like standing still on a downward escalator, a person can't avoid being pulled down without intentionally striving in an upward direction. We each need to press on to maturity!
II. Addressing Reasons Why People Don’t Press On to Maturity
Different people make different excuses. Some are tempted to make excuses based on their situation.
I'm too busy - life is full and this isn't high enough of a priority. Hebrews 10:19-25 tells us that Christ made the ultimate sacrifice to allow us to draw near! We can sacrifice some activities to make time to grow closer to Him.
I don't need to grow on my own time - the teachers "fill my cup" on Sunday. While no one would say this out loud, it comes out in the way a person lives. Each one of us personally needed Christ's cleansing. Each of us also needs to personally draw near to God. We face temptations, and each of us is individually responsible for holding fast to the confession of the hope found in Christ, being ready to stand firm all the more when life's storms hit.
There are no opportunities to grow where I am. The truth is, anywhere there are Christians, there are opportunities to grow. We must be willing to serve the needs around us!
Others try to make excuses based on personal history.
I am not worthy of growth / I have failed too much to grow / I'm too far gone. This personal perception of one's worth is not an accurate reflection of our value to God. And it does not change the fact that each person NEEDS to press on to spiritual maturity. The truth is, the cross was necessary for us to even have the means to grow in spiritual maturity. And Christ demonstrated that we ARE worth it!
I am embarrassed that I have not grown more / My track record makes me think I'm not capable of growth. Paul addresses this temptation directly with his statements in Philippians 3:12-16. He reminds his readers that we all have regrets. We all have made mistakes. But we must look to the future rather than living in the past! No matter our personal history, God’s word is the standard we must decide to live by. If you haven't been living by it thus far, start today!
The more arrogant excuses are based on personality. Granted, not everyone is an "avid academic," but that doesn't negate personal responsibility to press on toward maturity. Likewise, some assume that the only way they can learn is from the "school of hard knocks," insisting they have to learn the hard way to gain any wisdom. But intentionally avoiding lessons about life from God's word is not simply planning to fail. It also implies the assumption that your personality has some bearing on your salvation. In reality, we are not saved on the basis of personality. We are saved on the basis of Christ's sacrifice.
Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled [clean] from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; -Hebrews 10:22-23
Our assurance is not based on personality. No matter our personality, we all must hold fast to the confession of our hope!
...And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging [one another;] and all the more as you see the day drawing near. -Hebrews 10:24-25
People of every personality need encouragement. Likewise, people of every personality can learn to offer encouragement!
III. Opportunities to Mature:
Food for thought - we make appointments for anything that is a high enough priority. If we are determined that it's going to happen, we schedule time for it and follow through on it. What does that mean for pressing on to spiritual maturity?
Dedicate specific time in your daily routine for personal Bible study. You can't develop in spiritual maturity without it.
Determine to be there for both Sunday services. Why both?
You get to hear a variety of speakers and perspectives.
The lessons are different - that's more time in God's word and more investment in your spiritual growth!
You meet different visitors; not everyone is able to attend both, and you can cheer them on in their journey regardless of which service they can attend.
You have more time together for building relationships with your spiritual family.
Last, but not least, you confirm your priorities in your own mind (and to those around you), that drawing near to God comes first and foremost in your life.
Take notes! Some preachers will put together note-taking outlines that guide the listeners through the lessons and provide a reference for later in their personal study time. If that is not available where you worship, make an effort to become a skilled note-taker on your own. It makes a world of difference!
Attend Bible classes on Sunday morning and Wednesday night. Have questions about the Bible or struggle with a concept? It might just be under discussion in the Bible classes! These provide a fantastic environment for in-depth study because they are interactive, which allows people to ask questions and explore the text together. Age-specific classes help the learning approach to be suited to the development of different age groups.
Check out other opportunities to study and spend social time with your church family.
Look for ways to volunteer. Volunteer to help VBS activities. Try shadowing a Bible class teacher and learn how to present lessons in children's Bible classes! Get involved in evangelistic studies! If you're not prepared to teach an evangelistic study, silent partners are always needed to help people look up verses and write down questions to address after the study. Even a brand-new Christian can help with this!
Are you someone who works better in the background? Sign up to clean the church building or mow the lawns to help make a good impression when people walk in the door. Or, be a greeter! Everyone loves to see a smiling face and receive a warm welcome when they visit. Maybe you could offer to drive an elderly person to and from services, or schedule time to visit them during the week to encourage them.
Further your education. The following links will fill you in on these incredible resources:
Polishing the Pulpit - it's not just for preachers!
So many amazing opportunities!!! Don't get discouraged or overwhelmed. Even taking advantage of ONE of these suggestions and adding it to your current routine is a step in the right direction. As you notice it getting easier and easier to keep that new step incorporated into your schedule, look at adding another one. Before long, you'll notice that unimportant, distracting activities begin to move to the back burner in order to make time for what really matters.
If you're concerned this shift in priorities will also take away from family responsibilities, don't worry - the best kind of family time is centered on drawing near to God together. Make it a family endeavor, and your interactions together as a family will also be blessed in ways you never imagined possible.
Conclusion: Decide to take the extra steps YOU need to press on to maturity this year. Don't wait, and don't put the decision off on someone else. Some things to consider:
Which of the opportunities mentioned has helped you grow the most in the past?
Which of the opportunities mentioned have you NOT taken advantage of yet?
Which of the opportunities mentioned are you going to start utilizing?
Let us know in the comments below!