Growing in Christ; going from one level of maturity to another

Understanding the meaning of  the word “Maturity” can result in great joy and motivation. Misunderstanding it can result in discouragement, despair and a feeling of hopelessness.

 “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature” Colossians 1:28 (ESV)

 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 (ESV)

 “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brother.” Romans 8:29 (ESV)

 “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, life in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11 (KJV)

 “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13 (KJV)

You serious Bible students reading this, and who want to invest the time, can study the word in Greek (Telos) to get the full scope of the meaning intended.

Whatever your view of spiritual formation is, and the process you might be engaged in to get there, there is no question that the Bible encourages us to grow up and be mature. Some of the above mentioned verses (depending on what translation you read) use the word “perfect” or “Mature” to describe the goal we are all moving toward.

First a confession/admission. I am a perfectionist and I have the gift of administration.  When I see things that are not as it could/should be, something inside of me wants to make it right or better–whether that is people, systems, organizations or things.

This can range from what’s going on in my life and in the lives of others, to a painting or a rug that is not straight, or a room or desk that is not neat. At times I am thankful for this “gift” and at other times I would happy to give it to someone else.  When I am really discouraged I would like to trade personalities with someone. When it comes to my own walk with Jesus, I am always striving (hopefully in the power of the Holy Spirit) to make progress in some area of my life.

At any point in time I am focused on one area or another to grow and be more mature. Given my penchant for perfectionism, this can cause me great consternation and lack of joy; there is always something that is not as it could or should be.

Now, I’m not a newbie, having been at this for 60 years. Yes, I know when life on this earth is over I will have arrived–perfect in practice, not just in position, with everything new!

My critical and key question is not focused on what I will be like then, but what could or should I be like now? How much grace-driven effort do I invest in getting there now? When should I be satisfied with where I am as opposed to continuing to work toward more maturity in any given area?

I’m not as gracious as I want to be or should be. I’m not as sensitive as I want to be or should be. I ‘m not as affectionate as I want to be or should be. I’m not as generous as I want to be or should be. But when is enough, enough already? And who decides it’s enough? Me, my friends my family, Jesus?

I read Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, “Changes That Heal” where he said, “If we demand perfection from ourselves, we are not living in the real world. The self is not perfect—a reality we all must come to grips with. People who can’t deal with accepting both good and bad develop some type of perfectionism, which is the demand for a pre-fall existence and the rejection of any person or thing that is not perfect.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself!  So here I am…caught between longing for and striving toward perfection/maturity, yet fully knowing that I’m never going to get there in this life.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 8:15 (ESV)

Is this making sense to any of you leaders who take your walk and maturity in Christ seriously, who are wired up as I am?

At times I feel like the person who said, “I’m not what I’m going to be, and I’m not what I want to be, but thank God I’m not what I was.” It’s the not what I’m going to be or not what I want to be that sets my mind to worrying (just being brutally honest here.)  

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:24 (ESV)