“Are We Mature?”
August 02, 2015
By John Partridge
Scripture: 2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13 Ephesians 4:1-16 John 6:24-35
How many of you wish that you could join Peter Pan and the Lost Boys and live in a place where you never have to grow up? How many of you sing along whenever you hear the Toys-R-Us jingle singing “I don’t want to grow up…”? Just this week I reminded someone in the office that although life requires that we grow old, there is no law that requires us to grow up. Many of us have discovered that growing up is a trap. When we were kids we desperately wanted to grow up so that we could be “free” of all the rules and restrictions of our parents, and everyday attendance at school. But we often discover that adulthood and being grown up is nothing at all like we imagined when we were kids.
But even considering all of that, we recognize that adults behave in certain ways. We go to work on time, we pay the bills on time, we get along with our co-workers (most of the time), we follow the rules of the road when we drive, the rules at work, and a whole lot more rules than we ever thought adults had to follow. Even when we don’t want to act our age, and even though we don’t always like (or follow) all of the rules, we are even more annoyed by other people who refuse to follow them. We have all met people who, although they were forty, or sixty, or older, they acted as if they never grew up. They were immature and behaved as if they were children.
When Patti and I were first married, we knew of a couple who could barely pay the rent and who worried about how to keep food on the table, well, let me be more specific, the wife worried about how to keep food on the table. The distinction is important, because even though they had a hard time finding the money for necessities, the husband would occasionally come home with expensive toys, like a new $400 shotgun. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to buy grown-up toys, but when your family is worried about having enough food to eat, mature human beings set aside their desire for toys. Many of us can recall times when we cancelled family vacations, or postponed major purchases, or set aside our need for toys for ourselves, so that we could pay for a child’s braces, or school fees, or a class trip, or a host of other things that were more important to our family.
We don’t always have to act like a grown-up, but a mark of our maturity is that we are willing to act our age when we need to, and set aside our wants for the needs of others who are important to us.
In today’s scriptures we are going to hear three stories that all hinge on the maturity of the people in them. But as we consider them, we realize that the maturity of those involved is not just physical and emotional maturity, but spiritual maturity as well.
We begin once again with the story of King David in 2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13 as he murders the honorable and noble, Uriah the Hittite and takes Uriah’s wife Bathsheba for himself.
26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.
12:1 The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
\5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
11 “This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”
13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”
Certainly a part of David had known all along that what he was doing was wrong. It was that part of him that knew he messed up that caused him to try to cover it all up by making Uriah “disappear.” But once Nathan calls him out, David knows that the jig is up, that he has been caught in his sin and defiance of God, and he repents. Even so, even having repented and been forgiven, David still does not escape the consequences of his actions. God declares that David’s own family will turn on him, and that God will one day do to David almost exactly what he had done to Uriah. David’s own son would turn on him, take away his throne, his palace, his kingdom, and all of his wives and that son would sleep with all of those wives in broad daylight so that everyone would know that he had done it.
David got into trouble because he acted immaturely both as an adult and as a spiritual being. David did what he did because he was greedy and selfish, and because he chose to put his desires ahead of the needs of others.
In John 6:24-35, we hear about what happened after the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus fed five to fifteen thousand people and then, instead of being grateful, they follow him so that he can feed them again.
24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Jesus tells the people that he knows they followed him, not because they were impressed by the miracle that he performed, but because they wanted to be fed. He cautions them to work for food that endures to eternal life and not just to work for food that spoils.
Like a baby that cries when it is hungry, the people were being immature; in particular, they were being spiritually immature. They wanted food more than they wanted to do the will of God. They loved Jesus for what he could do for them on that particular day, rather than for who he was and for the gift of eternal life that he had to offer.
Finally, Paul again urges the followers of Jesus Christ, the church, to live lives of spiritual maturity. (Ephesians 4:1-16)
4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Paul says that we should live a life that is worthy of the calling of God. God did not call us to be petty, judgmental, mean-spirited, short-tempered, narrow-minded, people. God called us to be humble, gentle patient, peaceful, and loving people who get along with others because of the love that we have for one another and the love that we have for God. When we act in ways that do not look much like Jesus, then our behavior is spiritually immature. Mature believers have grown in faith and in knowledge so that we are filled with the Spirit of God and become more and more like Jesus. It is our immaturity that allows us to be deceived by false preachers and bad theology. It is our immaturity that allows believers to be deceived by people who try to lead us astray. But Paul says the solution to all of these is to become mature, to grow in faith and knowledge so that together we can, as the body of Christ, do the work that God has called us to do.
We have all met people who, although they were forty, or sixty, or older, they acted as if they never grew up. They were immature and behaved as if they were children.
And, in the same way, we sometimes meet fellow believers who, although they are physically grown up, are still babies, immature, in their faith. Just because we are fifty, or sixty, or seventy, doesn’t guarantee that we act like adults, nor do we automatically become mature Christians because of our age. We grow as we speak, as we act, and as we hear the truth. We grow spiritually in the same way that children grow physically; we need to eat spiritual food. We need to spend time reading and studying scripture, and doing other things where we hear and act out, and exercise our faith so that we can grow in faith and in knowledge.
Our goal is not to fill the pews every Sunday.
Our goal is not to simply a body for Christ, but to become the mature body of Christ.
As such, it is often worth asking ourselves, “Am I mature?”
And to find out, the next question we need to ask is, “Do I look and act, like Jesus?”