May 21st, 2012 at 6:00 am
For many Christians, faith is reduced to an insurance policy against the fires of hell or a ticket that gets stamped for a trip to heaven. After professing their faith, they may obtain some knowledge of the Bible and God, but radical spiritual transformation is left for the pros. Their goal is to simply to make it into heaven and no more. Does your goal stop just inside of heaven?
Jesus had a far different goal for His disciples. Our Lord said, “The gates of hell will not prevail against you.” Often this verse is interpreted, “the forces of evil will not win the war against you.” However, Jesus was not describing a defense against Satan, but a full frontal attack on the forces of evil in our world. Thomas wrote, “Jesus chased out ignorance, defeated the demonic, and released the ill and oppressed.” Everywhere Jesus walked hell broke apart at his feet. His goal should be our goal. Thomas explains further,
When our goals reach beyond making it into heaven to a life of ministry and impact here on earth, maturity does matter. I can be immature and reach heaven. I’m not sure, however, that I can remain immature and see hell break apart at my feet. If I am steeped in habitual sin, if I remain a spiritual adolescent, I cannot threaten hell, not while kissing its feet or lusting after its trinkets.
Paul described some of the believers at the city of Corinth as spiritual babies.
Brothers and sisters, in the past I could not talk to you as I talk to spiritual people. I had to talk to you as I would to people without the Spirit—babies in Christ. The teaching I gave you was like milk, not solid food, because you were not able to take solid food. And even now you are not ready. You are still not spiritual, because there is jealousy and quarreling among you, and this shows that you are not spiritual. You are acting like people of the world. (1 Corinthians 3:1-3, NCV)
Why was Paul so concerned about their lack of spiritual growth? When we are spiritual babes, we cannot impact the lives of those around us. The church composed solely of immature believers is spiritually anemic to impact the community around it. Thomas writes,
This goal, to love God so much that we overflow with love for others and consequently see hell break apart at our feet, encourages us to press on to be the type of person God can use consistently and powerfully. It spurs us on toward active ministry surrounded by times of intimate prayer—for we dare not enter this ministry without the sure presence of God. The goal is also clearly defined by a central question: “Are people around us being changed?”
So, back to the question, “Why is spiritual maturity important?” We don’t grow for our own sakes, that is a form of spiritual narcissism. We grow for the sake of others. We grow so that the lives of those around us are being transformed by the power of God in our lives. We grow for our children, our grandchildren, for family members, neighbors, coworkers and friends. We grow spiritually so that we can see the Kingdom of God come, not in the eternal future, but in the now.
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