Summary: This message focuses on Paul’s statement that we are to "no longer be children" and what that implies for the believer.
I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid; there’s a million toys at Toys R Us that I can play with! From bikes to trains to video games it’s the biggest toy store there is! I don’t wanna grow up, ‘cause baby if I did, I wouldn’t be a Toys R Us kid.
I’m not exactly sure how I still remember that little advertising jingle from my childhood. Perhaps because I heard it over and over and over again. When I was a youngster, Toys R Us was the quintessential toy store, and their ads ran on TV almost incessantly. Or maybe I remember it so clearly because, for me, Toys R Us was some sort of an unattained desire; Toys R Us was for me like the Promised Land was for Moses—so close I could taste it. Just never quite got there. For, you see, while it was the most popular toy store, it was also the most expensive. Thus most of my playthings came from K-Mart or the dollar store (which, incidentally, had equally good stuff; but at the time, there was something unspeakably alluring about the ambience of that giant giraffe who ever beckoned me to come view his wares). But whatever the reason may be, that little song for that mega store is permanently etched in my brain cells. I’ll probably be humming it when I’m 90.
But as I was contemplating the actual lyrics of the ad, I came to realize they’re not entirely true. All this stuff about not wanting to grow up—that’s not really how most kids think. Go back with me for just a moment, back in time to when you were yourself a little boy or girl. What was the worst thing you could be called? A kid, of course! Most children can’t wait to get older, because grown-ups—in their perspective—have it so much better. I vividly recall at 9 or 10 years of age playing on my swing set with my nephew (who is four years younger than me) and discussing what it’d be like to get married, what I wanted to study in college, what my house was going to look like, et cetera. And after all, no one can tell a grown-up when to go to bed. No one can make a grown-up eat his vegetables. Grown-ups get to drive, they get to go where they want when they want, they can say whatever they choose—from a kid’s vantage point, adults seem to have it made in the shade. Of course, as an adult, I can look back and see what a grievous error it was to believe such a thing. Indeed, there are certain benefits to being a man—but being a kid was nice too. Still, many if not most children have it in their minds that adulthood is where it’s at—and eagerly anticipate growing up.
And, in the natural realm, we all do grow up. We age, and as we do so (under normal circumstances) we get bigger. Our bodies change and develop. We gain skills and abilities. We increase in knowledge. In short, we mature. Well, hopefully we do. Because truthfully, maturity—a word that conveys a sense of well-roundedness or completeness—doesn’t always accompany the physical aging process. Everyone advances in years, but it takes some folks longer to advance in their level of maturation.
This is so because the body’s developmental stages have been ordered and set into motion by God himself. They are innate, meaning that we don’t have to do anything to trigger them or bring them about. They’re going to occur without our assistance, and sometimes whether we like it or not. Such changes are quite difficult to speed up or slow down, and generally fall in line at relatively predictable times.
However, maturity outside of the physical alterations that occur—learning to live, act, and think responsibly in a way appropriate to one’s age and station in life—is something that must be consciously developed and sustained. It’s not something inherent. It’s something that each individual must endeavor to practice. This is why we, at times, see very mature 13-year-olds and (conversely) immature 40-year-olds. Maturity is more about personal resolve than it is about biological or natural tendencies.
And when I ponder Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, I notice that much of what he says to the believers there is concerned with their personal resolve—with their intentional efforts to maintain upright and holy lives. In the beginning of this morning’s passage, he exhorts them to “lead a life worthy of the calling with which [they] have been called”; in the chapters preceding this one, the apostle has expounded upon what it means to live in a manner that is considered godly—in a manner that exemplifies a Christ-like character. And he continues to offer such explanations here. To me, this suggests that Paul was entirely concerned with followers of Christ not just talking a good talk; he demanded they walk a good walk as well.