I heard someone say recently that you can be a 25-year Christian, or you can be a one-year-old Christian for 25 years. The Bible actually has much to say about spiritual maturity and the call to grow in the Lord. One reason our churches don’t grow is because of a lack of spiritual maturity.
When we first come to Jesus, we are spiritual babies. At my former church, we had a “baby” shower every time there was a baptism. When someone committed his life to the Lord, we celebrated the new life with a party and gifts.
Those gifts included a Bible, Christian books, journals, even Christian music–things that would help the new believer surround himself with the things of the kingdom, rather than the world.
3 Signs We Need to Grow Up
Just as a physical baby needs nourishment to survive, a new Christian needs a steady diet of the Word, prayer, and fellowship with other Christians. As a baby grows into a toddler and must be guided as he learns to walk, we need others to show us how to walk with the Lord.
In fact, Paul shared this as his prayer for the Colossians:
“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, and being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”Colossians 1:10-11 NIV
Peter shared this:
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”2 Peter 3:18
If a baby doesn’t grow, he will be diagnosed with “failure to thrive,” which left untreated, leads to death. The same is true of us spiritually. If we are not thriving, our fire for the Lord will die out and we will be useless in God’s kingdom.
So how do we know if we need to grow up?
The Bible gives us some signs of what spiritual immaturity looks like:
First, immature Christians don’t crave the Word.
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”1 Peter 2:2-3
You see, Peter is saying when you first get saved, you ought to crave the “milk” of the Word, just like a little baby craves its mama’s milk. But notice he says that by that Word, we should grow up in our salvation. So we aren’t supposed to stay on the milk forever.
The writer of Hebrews describes the problem of not growing in the Word:
“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”Hebrews 5:11-14
God is saying that He wants to give us solid food, but we can’t comprehend it because we’re like a 10-year-old sucking on a bottle. By this time, some of us should be the big sister, feeding another baby, discipling and encouraging others in the faith. But we still haven’t trained ourselves in the Word.
The mature Christian continues to crave the Word so that she is able to grow from the milk to the meat.
Second, immature Christians still love the world.
“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?”1 Corinthians 3:1-3a
Is there anything more ungodly than Christians who have been in church for years, caught up in jealousy and quarreling? Paul says that is a mark of worldliness–spiritual immaturity.
If they had been growing in the Word, they would be convicted of their sin and seeking to turn away from it. That’s what a mature Christian does.
Worldly Christians are those who still have a me-first attitude. They want things their way, and they don’t care whom they hurt to get it. But that’s not God’s way.
God wants to address us spiritually, reveal His truth to us, deliver us from sin and bad habits, grow us into His image. But many of us are still crawling around in the same stinking diaper we were wearing last year, still holding onto bitterness, jealousy, unforgiveness, pride, and selfishness. Worldly.
The mature Christian loves the things of God more than the things of the world.
Third, immature Christians don’t want to work.
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we come to 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.”Ephesians 4:12-13
Bless our pastors, they are trying to prepare us for works of service, but they spend most of their time plugging in our pacifiers. Our churches aren’t building the kingdom because of the lack of unity, faith, and knowledge.
We need to grow up.
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ. 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.”Ephesians 4:14-16, emphasis added
When we grow up, we get to work. We stop wasting time on meaningless activities, and we get focused on the mission. We stop striving to get our way about everything, and we start seeking to build others up. We start working together in unity, because regardless of our own opinion, we have a common mission that outweighs our wants.
When we grow up, we stop gossiping and quarreling and being jealous of one another. We value and seek peace over personal opinions. We seek to give more than we receive. We look for other people to be kind and generous to.
When we grow up, we crave the meat of the Word. We long for quiet time, Bible study, and church. We can’t wait to see what God is up to next in our lives, because we know we are on a great adventure with Him to build His kingdom on earth.
And best of all, we start caring for some other babies by holding and feeding and supporting them while we watch them learn to walk and grow up in Him.
Lord, may we all grow in the grace and knowledge of You.