Recently, I preached from Hebrews on spiritual immaturity and the ultimate danger that it poses. Strikingly, the author of Hebrews says it is impossible to restore those who turn their back on their profession of Christ (Hebrews 6:4-6). This warning is frightening. It also triggers endless debates about perseverance and apostasy. So it’s important to note that whatever the issue was that originally prompted the warning, it wasn’t a sudden occurrence. It is a persistence in spiritual immaturity that leads to this eventuality. That is why the author urgently exhorts his readers to remain spiritually switched-on, by not becoming dull of hearing (Hebrews 5:12; 6:1; 2:1). And biblical hearing is a faith-filled combination of listening to and acting on what God says (Luke 6:46).
Biblical hearing is a faith-filled combination of listening to and acting on what God says.
But spiritual immaturity is somewhat abstract to quantify. So then, how can I unmask its persistence in my life to combat against its danger?
The Prevailing Attitude towards Spiritual Immaturity
Today, most cultures celebrate tolerance and self-love as ultimate values. Thus an “I don’t necessarily have to” attitude has become an anthem of perceived maturity and self-actualisation. “I don’t necessarily have to believe in a god,” or “I don’t necessarily have to hold to a specific set of morals,” and so on. However, this attitude masks pride and an unwillingness for change and development.
If not vigilant, Christians will find themselves being carried downstream by this cultural current, covering up serious deficiencies in their spiritual maturity by adopting an “I don’t necessarily have to” attitude regarding their heads, hearts, and hands. But as Hebrews warns, spiritual immaturity is perilous.
Engage Your Head in Understanding the Faith
Failing to recognise the necessity of engaging my head leads to spending less time reading my Bible and Christian books. I reduce Christianity to how it makes me feel, focusing little on what I actually think about God, myself, the world, the church, and more. This attitude fosters apathy in exercising vigilance over what we are allowing to disciple our minds (Mark 12:30). Thus we must prioritise Christian doctrine and a Christian worldview to discipling our minds. If we don’t some other content will.
Lacking intentionality in discipling your mind with Christian truths allows it to be discipled by everything else.
Our minds are not dormant entities until such time we choose to activate them — they are constantly absorbing input. Guarding against what we allow our minds to absorb sets us on a course away from spiritual immaturity, towards Christian maturity. Lacking intentionality in discipling your mind with Christian truths is unintentionally allowing your mind to be discipled by everything else. In order to faithfully engage with culture we must be grounded in our faith. Thus we must strive after gospel-mindedness and a biblical understanding of things.
Condition Your Heart to Feel What it Should
It goes without saying that God created our whole person: the spiritual, physical, and emotional parts. Much of our emotional being is expressed by the feelings of our heart, which are powerful motivators for our actions. But this internal motivating power has become the ultimate cultural authority that grants personal freedom to do as one pleases. As a person feels, so must they act — without asking whether what they are feeling is what they actually should feel. We believe that we’re entitled to act on our feelings indiscriminately, simply because we feel them.
When Jesus taught that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks, he was implying that a renewed heart will bear good fruit in conduct. This renewal is a gift of the gospel (Luke 6:43-45). But upon receiving this gift, we become accountable for whatever fruit we bear with it (Matthew 12:35-37). Therefore, my feelings must be assessed and conditioned by the gospel.
Jesus taught that a renewed heart will bear good fruit in conduct.
Such conditioning is necessary for combatting spiritual immaturity. I must persist in fighting for my heart to feel:
- Reverence for God — approaching all of my life as worship to the living God;
- Love for my neighbour — serving and sacrificing for others;
- Distaste for what this world has to offer — so that I am not easily lured by the promises of power, wealth and fame;
- Hope in Christ that sees me persevering through my addictions, mental illness, pain, and suffering — so that my sense of peace and contentment is in the Lord despite these difficulties.
To mature as Christians, it is necessary to condition our hearts to feel — and then act — as they should in Christ.
Use Your Hands in Tangible Ways
The consumeristic culture we’ve allowed to filter into the church has yielded a dangerous by-product. Many Christians no longer see the necessity of having to do something to grow in their faith. Such effort feels too inconvenient in their busyness. They would much rather have someone else, like the pastor or church staff, be the one to do something tangible to see them grow — and file their complaints if that doesn’t happen.
Many Christians no longer see the necessity of having to do something to grow in their faith.
But it is imperative, for both kingdom advance and avoiding spiritual immaturity, that I be the one to have to use my hands in tangible ways. In closing, I will suggest three.
1. Give from Your Treasure
The process of having to give up earthly treasures for the sake of eternal ones is crucial for maturity. As we sacrifice in the here and now that which we would rather keep, we learn to trust in God over and above what we would rather have.
Through sacrificial giving, we discover that the riches which are ours in Christ far outweigh anything in this world.
This deeper trust, the evidence of a maturing faith, is only possible through tangible acts of sacrifice. Through sacrificial giving, we discover that the riches which are ours in Christ far outweigh in their preciousness anything that this world has to offer.
2. Sacrifice Your Time
Use the time, you would otherwise have spent on yourself, to invest in: the spiritual growth of others through life-on-life discipleship; leading a small group effectively at church; serving in a ministry you feel called to. Make time, because certain things are far too important to miss, for missional living and sharing your faith; picking up the phone and calling a saint who is going through a tough time; or better still, actually getting in the car and going to visit them. The Scriptures bear evidence to the fact that we will find ourselves being more blessed when we give of our time and service than when we do not (Mark 10:42-44; Acts 20:34-35).
3. Share the Talents God Gave You
Throughout history, the times when we see the church at its healthiest and growing are when the people of God become intentional about doing the work of God within their context. This doesn’t require that they all become clergy or scholars, but just that they simply commit to using the talents God has placed in their hands wherever they are.
Leverage the talents God has placed in your hands as opportunities to share your hope.
Are you a teacher? If yes, how are you using your influence on children and their parents at your school for the sake of Christ? Are you a medical practitioner? How are you using people’s fears of sickness and death to help them discover life eternal? Are you in the financial sector? How are you helping people see beyond just storing up treasures for themselves in this world by becoming rich in the eyes of God?
Leverage the talents God has placed in your hands as opportunities to share the hope you have of a better Kingdom in Christ. Nothing fuels our excitement for growth more than seeing ourselves being used by God in leading others to Christ.
God’s Way out of Spiritual Immaturity
Many of us get stuck in spiritual immaturity because we’ve believed the many other gospels being preached in the surrounding culture. If we are to escape that trap we need to not only listen to but also act on God’s words. This involves discipline, cultivating change and pursuing obedience. Our only hope of succeeding in this fight is by engaging our heads, conditioning our hearts, and using our hands.