Rutledge Etheridge – Child-like Maturity and Childish Adulthood

What does it mean to have a child-like faith? And how in the midst of their stormy youth are we adults to guide little ones away from childishness and toward the child-like maturity which Jesus commends as the only way to receive his kingdom? We could begin by shoring up our understanding of “child-like” vs. “childish.” Often without realizing it, and always to kids’ detriment, we adults tend to get those categories confused.

In order to keep us from sweating the details of biblical doctrine, Christians will often call one another to a child-like faith. The problem with this use of the concept is that children do not want to remain ignorant. They do not naturally see deep learning and trust as opposites. Neither does Jesus. Children love to ask “Why?” and they love to say “Wow.” Children rightly refuse to accept from adults shallow answers to deep questions. A child-like faith is one which longs to learn all we can from our Lord, who has called his church to teach all that he’s commanded (Matthew 28:18-20), not just what we might consider spiritual “child’s play.”

To continue reading Rutledge Etheridge’s article, click here.

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Owen Strachan – The Kidification of America: On the Goodness of Maturity

The way to stand out today is this: to hunger to be mature. In a culture that has aestheticized rebellion, immaturity, and the expressive self, the way to truly march to your own beat is to pursue maturity.

Compare this statement to the findings of a new study discussed in The Telegraph. According to polling data, many twentysomethings don’t consider themselves “grown up” even after starting a family. This is startling news:

Just over one in five (22 per cent) of the 2,000 adults surveyed said that people felt mature when they had their own children, while a further fifth (21 per cent) said it was when they moved out of their parents’ home.

We’re in the age of the “Kidification” of America. We adults watch comic-book movies, wear the shorts and leggings that seven-year-olds have traditionally worn, take our favorite games with life-and-death seriousness, show up late to the functions we attend, refuse to build a vocation in order to hold a series of jobs that we never truly commit to, spend above our means and thus incur heaping debt, opt out of our commitments on a whim, snark and blurt out a constant stream of commentary on social media, narcissistically whine about how hard life is (to people whose lives are demonstrably harder than ours), and act wounded when confronted with our faults.

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Jonathan Thomas – Are You Mature?

When I went to junior school, I thought I was really grown up. I would no longer have milk in a little bottle or throw my toys out of the pram. Now I would chew my food and sort out my quarrels and squabbles. Years later, when I went back to visit the school, I realised how small I was back then: I couldn’t even fit into the seats as they were so tiny. I had thought I was mature but I was only a child.

I wonder, are you mature? Spiritually mature?

The answer to that question may be a little more nuanced than you think. You see, the Bible says that all Christians are mature but that sometimes we can also be immature.

All Christians are mature

In 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 Paul explains how all Christians are mature in that they have all received a message of wisdom. What is that wisdom? The message of the gospel. It seems foolish and weak to the world, but to those who trust in it, it is the power of God for salvation. Paul is teaching the Corinthians that, whilst the message of the cross may seem inferior and lesser than the ‘wise’ philosophies of the day, it is actually true wisdom. Therefore, Christians, those who trust in the gospel, are mature compared to the most impressive minds in the world. For we have the mind of Christ.

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Archibald Alexander – Practical Directions How to Grow in Grace and Make Progress in Piety

Archibald Alexander

When there is no growth, there is no life. We have taken it for granted that among the regenerate, at the moment of their conversion, there is a difference in the vigor of the principle of spiritual life, analogous to what we observe in the natural world; and no doubt the analogy holds as it relates to growth. As some children who were weak and sickly in the first days of their existence become healthy and strong, and greatly outgrow others who commenced life with far greater advantages, so it is with the ‘new man’. Some who enter on the spiritual life with a weak and wavering faith, by the blessing of God on a diligent use of means, far outstrip others who in the beginning were greatly before them.

It is often observed that there are professors who never appear to grow, but rather decline perpetually, until they become in spirit and conduct entirely conformed to the world, from whence they professed to come out. The result in regard to them is one of two things; they either retain their standing in the Church and become dead formalists, ‘having a name to live while they are dead’ — ‘a form of godliness, while they deny the power thereof’ — or they renounce their profession and abandon their connection with the Church, and openly take their stand with the enemies of Christ, and not infrequently go beyond them all in daring impiety. Of all such we may confidently say, ‘They were not of us, or undoubtedly they would have continued with us.’ But of such I mean not now to speak further, as the case of back-sliders will be considered hereafter.

That growth in grace is gradual and progressive is very evident from Scripture; as in all those passages where believers are exhorted to mortify sin and crucify the flesh, and to increase and abound in all the exercises of piety and good works. One text on this subject will be sufficient: ‘Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’ And this passage furnishes us with information as to the origin and nature of this growth. It is knowledge, even the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Just so far as any soul increases in spiritual knowledge, in the same degree it grows in grace. Persons may advance rapidly in other kinds of knowledge, and yet make no advances in piety, but the contrary. They may even have their minds filled with correct theoretical knowledge of divine truth, and yet its effect may not be to humble, but to ‘puff up’. Many an accurate and profound theologian has lived and died without a ray of saving light. The natural man, however gifted with talent or enriched with speculative knowledge, has no spiritual discernment. After all his acquisitions, he is destitute of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. But it should not be forgotten that divine illumination is not independent of the Word, but accompanies it. Those Christians, therefore, who are most diligent in attending upon the Word in public and private, will be most likely to make progress in piety.

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J. C. Ryle – 6 Marks of the Believers’ Growth in Grace

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Let me take it for granted that we do not question the reality of growth in grace, and its vast importance. So far so good. But you now want to know how anyone may find out whether he is growing in grace or not? I answer that question, in the first place, by observing that we are very poor judges of our own condition — and that bystanders often know us better than we know ourselves. But I answer further that there are undoubtedly certain great marks and signs of growth in grace — and that wherever you see these marks — you see a growing soul. I will now proceed to place some of these marks before you in order.

1. One mark of growth in grace, is increased HUMILITY. The man whose soul is growing, feels his own sinfulness and unworthiness more every year.

He is ready to say with Job, “I am vile!”
And with Abraham, “I am dust and ashes!”
And with Jacob, “I am not worthy of the least of all Your mercies!”
And with David, “I am a worm!”
And with Isaiah, “I am a man of unclean lips!”

And with Peter, “I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
(Job 40:4; Genesis 18:27; 32:10; Psalm 22:6; Isaiah 6:5; Luke 5:8). The nearer he draws to God, and the more he sees of God’s holiness and perfections — the more thoroughly is he sensible of his own countless sins and imperfections. The further he journeys in the way to Heaven — the more he understands what Paul meant when he says,

“I am not already perfect!”
“I am not fit to be called an apostle!”
“I am less than the least of all saints!”
“I am the chief of sinners!”
(Philippians 3:12; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:15).

The riper he is for glory, the more, like the ripe corn — he hangs down his head. The brighter and clearer is his gospel light — the more he sees of the shortcomings and infirmities of his own heart. When first converted, he would tell you he saw but little of them — compared to what he sees now. Would anyone know whether he is growing in grace? Be sure that you look within for increased humility.

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Kevin DeYoung – Desiring Knowledge and Maturity

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All else being equal, I’d rather have a mature Christian with simple theological knowledge than an extremely knowledgeable, well-read Christian without a lot of maturity. But, of course, neither situation is desirable. Let me explain.

A Tale of Two Corners

In this corner, we see Mr. Bookworm. He’s not quite thirty years old. He’s very intelligent. He’s read Calvin, Edwards, Luther, and Bavinck. He knows Warfield and Hodge, Piper and Carson, too. Since coming to the Lord in college, Mr. Bookworm has been on fire for learning. He listens to a dozen sermons each week on his iPod. He has a better grasp of current theological debates than most pastors. He loves Christian conferences—the good, meaty ones. Mr. Bookworm knows all about hermeneutics, propitiation, covenant theology, the regulative principle, and the ordo salutis. He’s even teaching himself a little Greek. Hebrew and Latin are around the corner, and then Ugaritic, if he’s got time.

Mr. Bookworm is smart, serious about his faith, and wants to serve the Lord. But he’s twentysomething and not all that mature. In terms of knowledge, he’s playing in the Major Leagues, but as far as wisdom he’s batting below .200 in Class-A ball. He does’t have gross sins, just some annoying ones. On the truth-grace scale, he’s all truth. He’s obnoxious, bordering on abrasive. He lacks all sense of proportion. He can’t see that a debate over presuppositional and evidentialist apologetics is not as serious as Athanasius versus Arianism. Everything is a first-order issue because there are no other kinds of issues.

To make matters worse, Mr. Bookworm talks too much. He sees every conversation as a forensics match waiting to happen. He’s opinionated. He doesn’t ask questions. People are scared of him and he doesn’t know why. Except for those in complete agreement with him, Mr. Bookworm doesn’t have many friends. He’s not trying to be rude or arrogant. In fact, when push comes to shove, he can be a winsome fellow. The problem is he has all this knowledge and doesn’t know how to use it wisely or winsomely.

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Michael Boling – Lessons From the Garden: The Concept of the Seed

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There is an interesting concept that can be observed in the formative pages of Scripture, namely that of seeds. We find God creating the vegetation with the command in Genesis 1:11 of “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth.” We also find God creating the sea creatures, the birds of the air, and the animals with the command they be fruitful and multiply – a command that refers to seeds and reproduction. Most magnificently when it comes to God’s creative act is the creation of man. The command to be fruitful and multiply is also noted, referencing yet again this reality of reproduction.

If we ponder the idea of the seed for one moment, we have to first begin with some basic facts. Look at a plant seed, say for instance a nut that falls from a tree. Given the right conditions, soil, and watering, that nut contains a seed from which will grow a tree. This means that everything that makes that tree a tree can be found in that nut and its seed. The same is true when it comes to man. The seed if you will is found in what is provided by the man and the woman which combined, forms all that is required to produce a human being.

Another important element inherent in this concept is the aspect of growth. A seed is planted, in the ground or in the womb of a woman and that seed then experiences a period of growth wherein that seed grows into maturity after its own kind. For instance, a seed of the aforementioned nut tree will grow into the kind of tree from which it came. The seed of the man and woman combine to produce a human being. In both instances, they are a reflection if you will, an image of that from which they came. So the concept is a seed that reproduces and grows into a mature entity.

This is the pattern God established at creation. It is a pattern we find all around us in nature. Furthermore, it is a pattern we find not just in the natural realm, but also in the spiritual realm as well, in particular when it comes to our relationship with God. We typically think of being made in the image of God as something related to matters of intellect or some other matter of spirituality. While true, perhaps a forgotten element is that in order to be an imager of God, the movement towards maturity has to take place, the growth of the seed.

We can describe this growth as the progression from merely being to becoming. If we think about this on a practical level in more everyday parlance, we often call the teenage years as the movement from being a child to becoming an adult. It is a transformative time in everyone’s life when they leave their childish ways behind and move forward into an increasing place of maturity. If one maintains childish mannerisms, their growth can be stunted and that movement towards adulthood and maturity might not become reality.

The same is true in our relationship with God. He created Adam and Eve, placed them in the Garden and gave them the command to be fruitful and multiply. Also given was the command to be obedient. The expectation was a growth towards maturity with further reproduction of progeny who also would be obedient to God’s commands as well as the God given commands within the familial structure provided by Adam and Eve with their children reproducing and their children reproducing to populate the earth in a place of perfection. Of course with the entrance of sin, the reproductive movement towards spiritual maturity became a bit marred.

Nevertheless, moving from a state of being to a state of becoming is an important and necessary part of being a God imager, a reflection of who He is as well as the need to move towards maturity. One cannot just be a seed that is planted and sprouts a little bud with that sprout being all that takes place in the life of that seed. We find in Scripture the repeated command to move forward into maturity. We even this construct of maturity in matters of theology within Scripture. The seeds of the message of the gospel and redemption are found in Genesis. Move forward through the pages of God’s Word and you can see the growth of that message take place until we find its maturity in the return of the bridegroom Jesus for his bride and the final redemption and restoration of all things, that return to the Garden we have been focused on of late. With that said, as these matters of theology take place in Scripture, they do not and cannot contradict the DNA if you will that was inherent within the seed planted in Genesis. If that takes place, what one has is a mutation and not the result that should have taken place had the seed been allowed to grow properly after its own kind, in this case from a properly rooted perspective of Scripture that grows (to use this planting metaphor) from those formative pages of Scripture. Perhaps a good way to look at this is the seed sprouts roots from which the branches and fruit are produced.

This means that in order for us to grow into mature imagers of God and to reproduce as God commanded spiritually speaking and in relationship with Him, we have to grow our roots firmly in the foundation of His Word, allowing those roots to take shape in a consistent and purposeful manner. Roots in the physical world do not dig deep overnight. They take time to work their way into the soil. It takes a great deal of watering for those roots to take shape in order to allow the trunk of the tree to rise, for the branches to extend, and for the fruit (i.e. actual fruit or leaves) to bud and then grow).

The same is true in our spiritual lives and in our relationship with God if we are to be consistent with the pattern and principle God has established. The seed is planted and it takes time and watering for our roots to grow. Furthermore, our roots must grow in a consistent and purposeful manner. If our roots merely grow along the surface, the tree has no depth and it will either wither away or be blown down by the passing storms of life. Trees with strong roots are able to withstand what comes their way and to then grow into maturity, bearing fruit. If we have no depth in God’s Word and instead chase after every whim of doctrine, not caring to establish the roots of sound theology from the first pages of Scripture, spiritual growth and the movement towards maturity in our relationship with God and others will be stunted, if it takes place at all.

Far too often we find ourselves chasing around Scripture for answers to this or that, not realizing that we have not first established solid roots. We have often not taken the time needed to dig deep and to allow the seed to take root before trying to shoot up into the proverbial sky. It is no wonder that the fruit that is produced can be a bit theologically speaking. It had no proper root and it was not watered appropriately from all of Scripture, allowing the seed to take root, to sprout, to spread, and then to grow into maturity, all coming from the seed. It is almost as if the tree is trying to grow without a seed. Such a thing is impossible in nature and it is impossible in the spiritual realm as well.

The concept and pattern of the seed found in the early chapters of Genesis is far more than plants reproducing after their kind and humans making babies. Those are certainly part of the picture God is painting for us. With that said, He is also providing to us the important reality of spiritual seed. He expects us to grow in maturity given growth is an inherent part of natural reality. To grow we must have roots. Those roots must be found in the front of the book and established in such a way that we recognize that from the seed, comes the mature tree. Growing in maturity in the faith necessitates allowing that seed to grow with the Word of God taking firm root in our lives. As we embrace what God has to tell us, the result is that movement towards maturity through the work of the Holy Spirit watering that seed in our hearts.

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Clint Archer – 5 Signs of Spiritual Maturity

Superman-kid Let me start by saying that it’s not wrong for a new believer to be immature any more than it’s wrong for a child to be childish.

Puerility is only annoying in an adult. When a four year old dons a cape and wears his underwear over his pants, claiming x-ray vision it’s cute. When his dad does that it’s concerning (or certifiable).

When you’ve been a believer for many years though, lack of these indicators should be concerning.

Mature believers possess these 5 indicators…

1. An Appetite for Meat

It’s good to enjoy the milk of the gospel with every meal. But some Christians pride themselves on focusing only on the gospel, snubbing the offer of deeper doctrines. The love of doctrine may need to be acquired over time but it will always be there in a mature believer.

The writer to the Hebrews chides his readers for their reluctance to chew.

Heb 5: 11-14 [W]e have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

An infant’s meal needs to go through a blender for the first few months of his or her life. When a normal 21 year old still asks mommy to spoon feed him mashed potatoes it is just creepy and dysfunctional.

2. An Imperviousness to Personal Offence

It is seldom that a mature believer feels offended. Offence is appropriate at any attack on God’s glory, as when the zeal of God’s house consumed Jesus and he aimed an Indiana Jones whip at the overpriced animals in the Temple’s corrupt commercial zone.

But mature believers don’t take personal offence easily. They understand that when someone sins against them there are bigger issues at stake than their personal rights; e.g. God’s glory, the attacker’s relationship with God, etc.

Take Paul. When he could no longer draw a crowd (being in jail for the gospel and all) rival preachers were pouring salt on his shackle-blisters by preaching the gospel in competition with him. He didn’t get uppity. Instead he seemed buoyed by the news that the gospel was still getting airtime. That’s maturity!

Phil 1: 15-18 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? [So what?] Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.

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