Have you ever noticed that the most mature fruit comes from the most mature plants.
You don’t get good apples from immature trees!
Maturity over recent years has received a bad press.
The value of immaturity has been popularised at the expense of Maturity.
In todays world Immaturity has been idolised at the expense of Maturity.
Why? Because immaturity delivers more short term pleasure and sensuality than Maturity.
But the long term results of immaturity are both ugly and extremely damaging.
Take the drug culture for example.
Immaturity would suggest that to take one suck of a Marajuana cigarette can’t do any harm - but anyone who has been involved with folk affected by drugs will tell you - the long term effects for a certain percentage of people who try one cigarette - there lies ahead a road of growing addiction - moral degradation and an eventual early death.
At the social beginning, however, the immature choice presents as more attractive than the mature alternative - in fact in such a situation the mature decision can look irrelevant and rather boring.
Jesus was talking to his disciples one day and here is something of what he said:-
LK 8:11 "This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
In this parable Jesus has been talking about the seed of God’s word and he points to three things that rob the believer from maturity
It is not possible to mature fully as a Christian if you are mesmerised by any one of these three.
Interestingly enough each one of them are held up in our society as virtues.
I believe that as the Western world progressed through the twentieth century it became mesmerised by all three.
If we were to go back just one hundred years we would find that our 1902 equivilent was much less worried about life in general - in her or his day, couselling was far less prevelant and, what is more, despite some terrible exceptions was in fact often unneccesary - further most people were content with far less and pleasure often equalled a trip to the annual A & P show - some small hobby or craft and, for many time on the sabbath worshipping God and exploring his world.
If some of our forebears were to enter our current world they may well find us far too obsessed with ourselves - our wallets and our fears.
Indeed they may well find us imature - perhaps as immature as we might regard the Mad Hatters Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland.
Can I read a little to you.
`Have some wine,’ the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.
Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. `I don’t see any wine,’ she remarked.
`There isn’t any,’ said the March Hare.
`Then it wasn’t very civil of you to offer it,’ said Alice angrily.
`It wasn’t very civil of you to sit down without being invited,’ said the March Hare.
`I didn’t know it was your table,’ said Alice; `it’s laid for a great many more than three.’
`Your hair wants cutting,’ said the Hatter. He had been looking at Alice for some time with great curiosity, and this was his first speech.
`You should learn not to make personal remarks,’ Alice said with some severity; `it’s very rude.’
This kind of immaturity exposes the Folly of such behaviour.
But what of maturity?
Where can we find examples of maturity?
In Luke Chapter 8 we read:-
15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
There are mentioned three things which will mature the Christian.
If life’s worries,
and pleasures inhibit maturity then Jesus suggests that: hearing the word of God - retaining it and perservering will produce a good crop.
The production of the crop more depends on the good and noble heart that Jesus refers to than the personal attributes of the person - Such things as intelligence looks and personality take a back seat.
In his book spiritual Maturity J Oswald Sanders talks about William William wilberforce the great British Christian Reformer and Dwight L Moody the famous American preacher.
Of Wilberforce he says - This man who was responsible for the feeing of slaves in the Bristish Empire, was so small and frail a creature that it seemd even a strong wind might knock him down. But once Boswell heard him speak in public in advocacy of his great cause, and afterwards, said, " I saw what seemed to me a shrimp mount the table, but as I listened he grew and grew until the shrimp became a whale."
Dwight L Moody was not formally educated. His letters are full of grammatical errors. His physical appearance was not impressive. His voice was high pitched and his tones nasal. But these handicaps did not prevent God using him to shake two continents. A reporter was sent by his newspaper to cover Moody’s campaigh in Britain, in which aristocracy and worker alike turned to God, and to discover the secret of his power. After considerable observation he reported: "I can see nothing whatever in Moody to account for his marvelous work." When Moody read the report, he chuckled, "Why, that is the very secret of the movement. There is nothing in it that can explain it but the power of God. The work is God’s not mine."
" It is a thrilling discovery to make," writes J.S.Stewart, "That always it is upon human weakness and humiliation, not human strength and confidence, that God chooses to build His Kingdom; and that He can use us not merely in spite of our ordinariness and helplessness and disqualifying infirmities but precisely because of them . . . Notrhing can defeat a church or soul that takes, not its strength but its weakness and offers it to God to be His weapon. It was the way of Francis Xavier and Willeam Carey and Paul the Apostle.
But a noble and good heart in themselves need enhancement to produce maturity.
Jesus goes on to say that we need to hear the word of God and retain it.
PR 30:5 "Every word of God is flawless;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
PR 30:6 Do not add to his words,
or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.
It is good to hear the word of God but that is not enough we need to actually retain it
There are many things in life that will come along and try and rob you of the effectiveness of God’s word in your life.
"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
Retaining God’s word is so important.
A man I heard of once went to Australia and flourished in the world of business - he had the world at his feet but was intensely unhappy.
In the midst of his unhappiness he remembered some scriptures that his bible in schools teacher had taught him.
These scriptures led him to faith in Christ and he left his life of business to pursue a career following God.
Out of gratitude he flew to New Zealand to thank his Bible in Schools teacher the lady who told me this story.
She, at the same times was having doubts about whether she should retire from Bible in Schools. She went to Brighton Beach and asked God to show her if she should continue.
Meanwhile the man from Australia had asked God to lead him to his former Bible in Schools teacher and his quest led him to to the Brighton beach at precisely the same time as his future teacher.
Imagine his delight when he met the woman and was able to thank her personally for encouraging him to retain the word of God in his heart.
The Apostle Paul held Scripture in very high regard. In 2 Timothy chapter 3 and verse 16 he says:-16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
I don’t think we should ever underestimate the value for our maturity of retaining the word of God in our lives.
But that in itself is not enough.
Perserverence is the third quality that Jesus mentions
The story is told of a group of women that met for Bible study. While studying in the book of Malachi, chapter three, they came across verse three which says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." This verse puzzled the women and they wondered how this statement applied to the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out more about the process of refining silver, and to get back to the group at their next Bible study. The following week, the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him while at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest, beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith work, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire, where the flames were the hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot, then she thought again about the verse, that "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver." She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the entire time the silver was being refined. The man answered yes, that not only did he have to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on it the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "But how do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that’s easy - when I see my image in it."
Perserverance is so important because you never quite know what God is doing in the process.
PHP 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
PHP 3:15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
PHP 3:17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
It is good to remeber that if Jesus had not persisted to the cross and beyond that we would not have received the salvation which is so precious to us.
Polycarp of Smyrna was an early Church Bishop who eventually was Martyred for his faith.
His need for perserverance was great as he faced his roman torturers:
His reply to them when they wanted him to renounce his faith was:-
"Eighty six years have I served the Lord Jesus Christ, and He never once wronged me. How can I blasphemne my King who saved me?"
The Roman proconsul threatened, "I have wild beasts ready, and I will throw you to them if you will not change your mind."
"Let them come, for my purpose is unchangeable," replied Polycarp.
Few of us are called to persevere to this degree but all of us are called, by Jesus to persevere to produce a crop.
There can be nothing more satisfying - or beautiful in life than a Christian who has grown to maturity.
That is the call that God has before each of our lives.
Is it a call that you and I will respond to positively?