Posted on July 2, 2014
#61: Three Forgotten Steps to Christian Maturity
Gerald was a stubborn man. Downright mean to his wife, his marriage had been a matter of sheer endurance for years. Gerald showed up for church services every Sunday at 10:45 on the dot and was proud of never missing a Sunday. He was also proud of his habit of reading the Bible through each year. In any discussion of spiritual issues, he had all the answers. Yet no one who knew Gerald would have referred to him as spiritually mature—except for Gerald himself. The mechanics may have been in place, but there was no evidence of growth. What was wrong? Jesus’ teaching in Mark 10 helps us understand.
Thanks for joining me for this post in our study series, Knowing Jesus. We’ve spent the last few weeks studying Mark 10. Today, we’re summing up that chapter. Get your Bible and let’s read!
Read through Mark 10, making a mental list of the people Jesus interacted with. Then divide your list into two groups—those who frustrated Jesus and those who pleased Him. Can you define what set the two groups apart?
Most sermons or lessons about maturing in Christ include three basic elements: read/study your Bible, pray, and go to church. I’m sure we’d agree those are all good things. But the truth is those steps don’t guarantee maturity. In Mark 10, we met several folks who (1) knew the scriptures/commandments thoroughly, (2) had made a science of prayer, (3) and were regulars at the temple/synagogue. (Two of them were Jesus’ disciples and close friends.) Yet they disappointed Jesus.
I think that’s why we find Jesus, in this chapter, giving three heart-altering ideas about gaining spiritual maturity. Jesus taught us to:
• be like a child. Jesus used children as a living lesson of the type of person who would receive the kingdom of God (Mk. 10:14-15). A maturing follower of Christ will increasingly be able to obey without hesitation, abandon personal agendas, give generously, forgive indiscriminately, and love lavishly. She’ll be more concerned with pleasing her Father than with pleasing herself. (For more on childlike faith, see this series’ post #56: Like a Child.)
• hold possessions loosely. One of the greatest threats to a growing faith is the desire for things. A prime example was the rich young ruler who approached Jesus, eagerly seeking the key to eternal life—but abandoned the quest when challenged to let go of his wealth (Mk. 10:17-22).
In His parable of the sower, Jesus compared the pressure of possessions to thorns that strangled the sower’s crop (Mt. 13:22, Mk. 4:18-19.) He said, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear [God’s Word], but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” (Luke 8:14, emphasis mine.)
Mature Christians understand that possessions can stifle growth in Christ, and they refuse to become entangled in their belongings. What about you? If brought to a choice, would you choose Jesus over your “stuff”—or, like the rich ruler, would you sadly walk away?
• be content to be last. James and John made a bid for top spots in Christ’s kingdom (Mk. 10:35-37), but were wise enough to listen when Jesus taught that kingdom greatness would come in the form of service. Mature Christians don’t push to be first, to be noticed, to be heard, to call all the shots. Instead, they quietly, lovingly serve. And in the process, they stumble upon greatness.
These three steps may not make their way onto the typical list of growth points, but I guarantee they’re on Jesus’ list. Do you want a mature faith? Keep the basics—Bible study, prayer, and church involvement—from being mere mechanics by adding the contented, childlike heart of a servant.
Maybe you know a Christian who has quietly served and in the process has touched many lives, becoming unintentionally “great.” Can you think of an example? Make that person your mentor as you continue maturing in your faith.
© Diane McLoud 2014