Summary: Six marks of a mature Christian
“Marks of Maturity”
April 29, 2012
“Finally, Brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.”
Last week I said that the goal of Christianity is not – salvation; it is not sanctification; but the goal of Christianity is Christlikeness. This morning I want to talk a little bit about that process of going from sinner to saint. I want to talk about that process of going from carnality to Christlikeness.
In my reading recently, I finished a book by A.W. Tozer, called “That Incredible Christian”. I have to tell you that I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tozer. He was a real man of God and he had a heart for God. I learn something from him every time I read one of his books. One of the chapters in the book was entitled “Marks of the Spiritual Man”. He gave a number of marks of the spiritual man – or in other words, “Marks of Maturity”. I want to share some of them with you this morning and elaborate on each one a little bit.
The concept of spirituality varies among different Christian groups. The things that people understand as marks of maturity or spirituality are so different among us. In the first Bible study I went to as a new Christian, the value was in speaking in tongues. If you didn’t speak in tongues you weren’t filled with the Spirit, they taught. The louder and more demonstrative you were the more spiritual you were considered to be.
In another group the emphasis was on sharing the gospel and winning souls. Nothing wrong with that – but not everyone has that gift. Another group valued the guy who could pray long and eloquent prayers. For the Catholic, maturity may be in ritual and in financial support of the church. Some groups have worship on Saturday as a mark of spirituality. We Nazarenes (who have it right ;)) emphasis a second work of grace after salvation – which is ‘entire’ sanctification.
I think, in the Body of Christ, there is room for difference. People are all different. We think differently; we respond differently; we differ in so many ways. So I think Churches, with all their differing doctrines, are okay. I think a lot of those external things aren’t too important. But there is a central core; there is a pillar of beliefs; there is a heart of true spirituality that will always be constant. Because God is unchanging – there are certain things that aren’t going to change. And true spiritually will have these dominant desires. The mature Christian will be marked by his hunger for these things. They are always present in the mature and they powerfully motivate him. These desires control his life. Here they are:
1. First, is the desire to be holy, rather than happy. Tozer says, “The yearning after happiness, found so widely among Christians professing a superior degree of sanctity, is sufficient proof that such sanctity is not indeed present. The truly spiritual man knows that God will give abundance of joy, after we have become able to receive it without injury to our souls, but he does not demand it at once.”
John Wesley said he doubted that some members of a particular early Methodist society were made perfect in love because they came to church to enjoy religion instead of to learn how they could become holy.
Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6
I think God delights in seeing His children living in joy. A fruit, a result of walking in His ways, is joy. Living in the Spirit naturally will produce a life of joy. But the one who lives for joy – will miss it. The one whose quest is for happiness and pleasure will miss out on the real joy. Our first and greatest desire needs to be holy – rather than happy. The pursuit of happiness will not produce holiness –but the pursuit of holiness will ultimately lead to happiness. You may have to deny yourself and your fleshly desires in your desire for holiness – but the sacrifice will be worth it. And that which our hearts craved will be met in God’s timing.
2. A person may be considered spiritual or mature when he wants to see God honored – regardless of personal cost. The spiritual man wants to see the honor of God advanced through his life even if it means he himself must suffer temporary dishonor or loss. I think of John the Baptist. He said,