Tag: Spiritual Maturity

The Pursuit of Mutual Encouragement: A Mark of Spiritual Maturity

I hadn’t noticed it until recently, but Paul says something unexpected in the first chapter of Romans. The apostle first introduces himself to the church (1:1), then underscores his theological and spiritual credentials (1:2-7), and expresses his genuine love for the believers in Rome (1:8). Paul longs to see these brothers and sisters, and he reports that he has prayed toward that end (1:9-10).

Paul had good reasons why he wanted to see the Christians in Rome; he desired to strengthen them through the impartation of a spiritual gift (1:11) and the preaching of the gospel (1:15). That makes sense. What I find remarkable is what Paul says immediately following verse 11.

For I long to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to strengthen you–that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine (Romans 1:11-12; emphasis added). Continue reading “The Pursuit of Mutual Encouragement: A Mark of Spiritual Maturity”

Seminary, Obedience, and Spiritual Maturity

I recently came across a portion of a John Piper sermon that I thought would be helpful for seminary students (like myself) to ponder. The excerpt is taken from a sermon entitled, “By This Time You Ought to be Teachers” based on Hebrews 5:11-14. According to this text, spiritual maturity does not take place by the sheer gathering of theological information. In fact, a proper understanding of spiritual truth will be hindered by a lack of diligent application of the truth we already know. We will not be able to comprehend the deep, rich, and more solid meat of God’s Word unless we make good use of the milk of God’s Word. Piper writes,

Now this is amazing.  Don’t miss it.  It could save you years of wasted living.  What verse 14 is saying is that if you want to become mature and understand the more solid teachings of the Word, then the rich, nutritional precious milk of God’s gospel promises must transform your moral senses—your spiritual mind—so that you can discern between good and evil.  Or let me put it another way.  Getting ready to feast on all God’s Word is not first an intellectual challenge; it is first a moral challenge…

The startling truth is that, if you stumble over Melchizedek, it may be because you watch questionable TV programs.  If you stumble over the doctrine of election, it may be because you still use some shady business practices.  If you stumble over the God-centered word of Christ in the cross, it may be because you love money and spend too much and give too little.  The pathway to spiritual maturity and solid biblical food is not first becoming an intelligent person, but becoming an obedient person.  What you do with alcohol and sex and money and leisure and food and computer have more to do with you capacity for solid food than where you got to school and what books you read…

This is remarkable—and frightening.  If we are not diligent in cultivating godly character and obedient hearts, we can forget about making any real progress in our spiritual lives, regardless of how much Owen, Grudem, Erickson, Edwards, Calvin, Carson, Scougal, Bridges, Ryle, Wells, Packer (and Piper!) we read.  In the words of Christ, “Blessed are those who hear the word and obey it” (Luke 11:28).  It could not be more clear.  Maybe what some of us need to do is put down the puritan paperback for a moment and call the cable company to cancel our subscription, or call a friend to seek forgiveness, or confess to our employer that we lied to him last week.  More study, if not coupled with obedience, will only lead to spiritual lethargy and regression, not progress.  May God be merciful to us as we seek to study and obey his Word.

Beware of False Maturity: A Stinging Quote from Jonathan Edwards

religiousaffections036.jpgI have been reading Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections for two years now.  It has taken this long because (1) I think a book like this requires slow, patient, thoughtful reading; and (2) I am only able to read it occasionally because I have a stack of other reading to complete for school. It is no exaggeration to say that I am confronted, challenged, rebuked,  laid low, encouraged and strengthened by this book  at every turn of the page.  Edwards’ insight into the human heart and the secret working of the Holy Spirit is both frightening and refining as he shows us, from Scripture, common sense, and experience, what a true work of God’s grace looks like and how genuine Christians can cultivate and promote true affections for Christ.  I find myself stocking quote after quote in my notes and in my journals as I am constantly reminded of the enduring helpfulness of well-written and Scripture-saturated books.

One quote that I have found particularly convicting and instructive regards what I would call “false maturity.”  It is easy for us to think we have attained “great heights in religion” (Edwards’ phrase) when we really have not, and to think of ourselves more highly than we should (Romans 12:3).  Edwards reminds us that we must understand  great attainments in spiritual growth can only occur by first achieving lesser attainments.

And here, by the way, I would observe, that it may be laid down as a general rule, that if persons pretend that they come to high attainments in religion, but have never yet arrived to the lesser attainments, it is a sign of a vain pretense.  If persons pretend that they have got beyond mere morality, to live in a spiritual and divine life, but really have not come to be so much as moral persons: or pretend to be greatly affected with the wickedness of their hearts, and are not affected with the palpable violations of God’s commands in their practice, which is a lesser attainment: or if they pretend to be brought to be even willing to be damned for the glory of God, but have no forwardness to suffer a little in their estates and names and worldly convenience, for the sake of their duty: or if they pretend that they are not afraid to venture their souls upon Christ, and commit their all to God, trusting to His bare word, and the faithfulness of His promises, for their eternal welfare, but at the same time have not confidence enough in God to dare trust Him with a little of their estates, bestowed to pious and charitable uses; I say, when it is thus with persons, their pretenses are manifestly vain.  He that is in a journey, and imagines he has got far beyond such a place in his road, and never yet came to it, must be mistaken; and he is not yet arrived to the top of the hill that never yet got half way thither (296-297)

If we think we are more mature than we truly are, we will unwittingly neglect the “lesser” areas of our lives, having been deceived that we have progressed beyond these to the more profound and important areas of Christianity, and our hypocrisy will be apparent to all.  There is perhaps nothing more deadly to spiritual growth than thinking we no longer need to grow.  May God have mercy on us to open our eyes so we can see where we are really at.