Maturity in Christ

You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food…

So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.

Hebrews 5:12; 6:1-3 (New Living Translation)

At some point in the Christian life, one must move past the basic teachings of the faith in order to mature. The writer of Hebrews tells us that there are meatier lessons for us to learn if we could only move past the foundations of the faith. So much of the church in America is still stuck on the basics and this has stagnated its spiritual maturity.

So why haven’t we moved on to the deeper things of God?

I think it is because we’ve lost trust in God’s revelation, His word. Instead, we have made our reason and experience our primary authority. Our rational understanding can only take us so far. We can only “make sense” of so much, then we reach our limit. The only way to go deeper is to trust that what God has revealed in His word is wiser than human wisdom. Trusting God’s revelation takes us further into the mind of Christ than simply trusting our own understanding.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral is one way to think about the four main sources of truth we use as we process our faith. Scripture is the first and primary authority for faith and practice. Picture a pyramid with scripture at the very top point. Experience, Reason, and Tradition are the other three (the three points at the bottom of the pyramid). These three are used by God to help us bring greater understanding, but they never supersede God’s revelation in scripture. God’s wisdom is different and better than human wisdom.

When people get stuck on the basics of the faith, they start arguing about silly theological minutia. Because they haven’t moved on to maturity in their relationship with the Lord, they participate in a kind of imitation of maturity, a counterfeit maturity, by arguing about things that don’t matter. Paul warned Timothy about this. He said, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23). Paul warned Titus of the same thing only with stronger language.

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.

Titus 3:9-10

It’s one thing to raise questions because you are curious and want to learn. This kind of person has a posture of teachability. But there is another kind of posture that is obstinate. This person raises questions not because they want to learn but because they want to raise doubts, look smart, and feel important. If too much of this is in a church community, the church is never allowed to move beyond the basics and into the deeper things of God. Like the writer of Hebrews says, by this time, a person with this much theological knowledge should be a teacher and, instead, their lack of spiritual maturity still has them drinking milk.

Spiritual maturity isn’t about the acquisition of knowledge but about intimacy with the Lord the application of revelation. It’s less about how much one has “figured out” and more about how much one has surrendered their mind, will, and emotions to the Lord. It’s less about theology and more about trust. And trust will take you much further than your reason and understanding. Reason can only take us so far, then we must trust God’s revelation of Himself to us. And the embrace of revelation comes from intimate time with the Lord, time in prayer, time reading God’s word, time listening to the promptings of the Spirit, and obedience to God’s direction.

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