The following post is an excerpt of Chapter 2 in Dr. Berin’s new book, Pursuing Maturity.
Maturity: The Goal of God
My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you. – Apostle Paul, Galatians 4:19 NKJV
Maturity is a God idea.
Although Jesus does emphasize that a person needs to have childlike faith, He does not promote childish faith. It is not His intent to have a kingdom full of Peter Pans. His goal for each of us is that we grow up to be like Him. I heard a humorous tale of a minister who was having terrible troubles getting along with his wife. Finally, in exasperation, he prayed “Lord, can’t you change her and make her a bit more compatible and like me.” He got a quick response from up above, “If I make her more compatible and like you, I’m going to have an even more difficult time making her more compatible and like me.” The point is God wants all of us to become more like Jesus.
The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:13 NLT that “we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” Paul goes on to describe this process as involving the active participation of all of the five-fold ministry:
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children (Ephesians 4:11-13 NLT).
We will discuss in a later chapter the powerful impact of other people and the five-fold ministry gifts in our growth to maturity, but Paul in this section goes on to give us the ultimate objective of this process two verses later: “But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 NKJV).
God’s objective for every Christian is that we would “grow up in all things” and become like Christ. In the New Testament, there is this wonderful description of young Jesus’ growth process before the nation of Israel: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52 NKJV).
In the famous 1 Corinthians 13 love chapter, Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11 NKJV). Although Paul still did not understand everything and admitted in the same chapter that he “saw in a mirror dimly,” he did acknowledge that he was moving to the day when he would see Jesus “face to face” and “know” just as he also was known.
The writer of the book of Hebrews talks about a person’s ability to digest profound teaching. He says, “so let’s stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding”(Hebrews 6:1 NLT).
In any sphere of study there is a progression towards a mature understanding. One of my good friends is a radiologist. He spent 13 years of academic study pursuing the field of medicine. He now has a mature understanding of a tiny area of the brain that few others could diagnose. Mature scientists attend conferences where information is shared that the majority of the public wouldn’t even begin to comprehend. However, it is in the hands of these scientists that breakthroughs in technology happen. From their mature minds come the latest and greatest mobile devices, painkillers, and cures for major diseases. The greatest fruitfulness in people’s lives lies at the point of maturity.
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul longed to relate to Christian believers in a mature way. He longed to go deeper with them and to unpack spiritual mysteries. He wanted to share with them the ancient types and shadows from the Old Testament, things like the tabernacle, the covenants and the meanings of the feasts of Israel. He writes “Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten” (1 Corinthians 2:6 NLT).
Later in the same letter of 1Corinthians, he writes “Dear brothers and sisters, don’t be childish in your understanding of these things. Be innocent as babies when it comes to evil, but be mature in understanding matters of this kind” (1 Corinthians 14:20 NLT).
The point is that maturity is a very biblical concept. Even the parable of the sower in the Gospels has this concept built into it. The objective of that story is what happens after the seed matures. Some seeds get choked to death and others multiply by 10,000% (hundredfold). For those not good at the math, if one seed produced a second seed, that would be a 100% return or a doubling of the original seed. If one seed produced 10 seeds that would be 1,000% return. So if one seed produced 100 seeds, that would be a 10,000% return. The secret revealed in this parable is that the quality of soil, or the condition of heart, on which the word of God lands determines its fruitfulness.
Perfect Means Maturity
Jesus spent 30 years preparing for his earthly ministry and a lot of that was spent studying the Scriptures and developing His human understanding of the world. Only when His preparation was mature did He then spend three years doing ministry. Most people going into ministry work spend three years preparing for 30 years of ministry work. It is clear who got the pattern right.
For Jesus, the maturity of His calling was the cross. Everything in His life led up to that last 24 hours from the Last Supper through the crucifixion. Had He not been mature enough in His preparation and had He not brought his calling to completion, we would NOT HAVE the salvation we enjoy today. The maturing of our lives and calling can affect millions of people.
It is interesting that the word in the Greek for ‘mature’ is often translated in the New and Old King James versions as the word ‘perfect.’
Here are a few examples of how different versions of the Bible translate this word perfect:
Hebrews 6:1 NKJ Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.
Hebrews 6:1 NLT So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God.
2 Corinthians 13:9 KJV For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection.
2 Corinthians 13:9 NLT We are glad to seem weak if it helps show that you are actually strong. We pray that you will become mature.
Colossians 1:27-28 KJV To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.
Colossians 1:27-28 NIV To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.
From these Scriptures it is very clear that the Apostle Paul had the MATURITY or PERFECTING of God’s people as the absolute central goal of his work. He knew he would have to present God’s people someday before the throne of God and the measure would be their maturity. The pursuit of maturity for EVERY believer is the GOAL OF GOD.
In Matthew 5:48 NKJV Jesus says, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
I like the way The Message translation puts this verse of Jesus. I will make this the concluding verse of this chapter because I don’t know how it could be said any better:
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you” (Matthew 5:48 MSG).
It is obvious that Jesus wants us to produce enormous fruit for Him and come to a place of great maturity, but where do we start? Let’s begin by looking at the disposition of heart that a person needs to have in order to receive from God. We will then look at those defining moments in our lives that change and alter our destiny, those places and times and experiences where the seeds of greatness and calling are planted into our hearts. Let’s start with our appetite for the things of God.
The above was an excerpt from the second chapter of Dr. Berin’s sophomore book Pursuing Maturity. If you would like to purchase the book, you can do so by clicking here.