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Chapter 30 - Signs of Maturity
It can be difficult for the immature Christian to even know he is immature. Without developing discernment, much can be hidden in the Christian life. Worldly churches can seem pleasant and inviting. Those who have grown some in faith may try more rigid or serious churches and 'tough out' the lack of friendliness or love. Since there is no denomination that establishes churches filled with only mature Christians (and if there were, they probably would not accept us), we are almost forced to seek out advanced Christianity through a relational network we build ourselves.
As we become acquainted with other Christians we can make assessments as to which of four categories they might fall into.
1. Those open to being helped by us.
2. Those open and able to teach us.
3. Those open only to superficial relationship.
4. Those engaged with system requirements and closed to relationships.
While we might be seeking those in category 2 for instruction and from whom we can learn, our experiences with the other categories can also be instructional. We might expect a pastor to be in category 2 only to discover that he is actually in category 4. We might think a person in category 1 to whom we could minister only to discover that they are in category 3.
Those in category 2 from whom we can learn the most are generally not inclined towards the formal classroom instruction we have come to think of as where learning takes place. Rather they convey their closeness with the Lord through example. There are some things that we should be able to discern that would help us identify those who might helps us towards our own maturity.
1. Concern for others over concern for self
2. Patient endurance
Each of the attributes of Christian maturity are attributes of Christ and should be increasingly found in us as we grow and mature. As we grow, sadly, we will find fewer and fewer Christians more mature than us. In this Jesus is also an example for us. He was a servant to all and only had his relationship with the Father to sustain him.
Our Christian growth starts with taking from the example of more mature Christians and progresses as we become more like Jesus with more giving to those who are just beginning to seek growth. What we would seek in our relationship with others are the attributes of Christ. Our own maturity should be increasing such that we are able to be an example to others.
It is through our personal relationships with others that this process of becoming like Jesus is accomplished. The path of relational Christianity is the path that Jesus followed. It is not easy or comfortable. It is frequently filled with the loneliness of those rejecting us, distracted with selfish interests, and even outright hostility. However, this often drives us to a closer relationship with Jesus and the experience of deeper love.
Paul describes some of the power of deeper love.
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. - 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
The word 'constraineth' is sunechō meaning 'pressed or held together' often translated 'compelled'. It is through our deepening relationship with Christ that we find his love surrounding us and convincing us to let go of the selfishness that is the primary barrier to our sharing the love of Christ with other Christians.
As we enter the deeper world of Christian love we experience that of God which is only known through relationships. We can get a glimpse of how this is experienced with the reaction of the two on the road to Emmaus.
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? - Luke 24:32
It is through our relationships that hearts are 'knit together' in love. This results in the full assurance of understanding.
That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; - Colossians 2:2
The depth, fullness, and riches of the Christian life are to be found in our relationship with other Christians as our hearts are 'knitted together' in love. As one experiences the deeper Christian life of relational Christianity, it is confirmation of the riches to be found in a closer walk with our Lord and his love given and received with other Christians.
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