How did we arrive here? What are the root causes for immature Christian living that currently stunt the church’s growth and impede her necessary sanctification? I believe there are three primary reasons and a host of secondary causes why we remain immature rather than pursuing maturity in Christ. Immaturity is available for any and all who do virtually nothing about it. Maturity, on the other hand, is the fruit of days and hours of walking in the Spirit, a steady and intentional pursuit of Christ, developing a biblical value system, a healthy disdain for even respectable sins, and strong effort to kill our besetting sins—or, as the Apostle John categorizes them, idols of the heart (1 John 5:21).
Apathy is a primary maturity killer. When self-focus enters our hearts and consumes us, the hunger for spiritual things exits. The cold hard fact is that some people just don’t care and have been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13). Small thoughts of God yield a small view of sanctification. Little thoughts of God snuff out the necessary zeal for mature Christlikeness. The backslider has said in his heart, “I don’t care.” A cold, apathetic faith is an immature faith. Immaturity as a result of apathy doesn’t animate anything; it only steals, kills, and destroys maturity. Apathy cannot be reasoned with and makes us numb to spiritual realities. All sin makes us stupid, but apathy makes us cold and stupid.
Laziness is the second primary maturity killer. While apathy says, “I don’t care,” laziness cares but doesn’t do anything about it. The harsh reality is that many Christians are unwilling to pay the high price of personal discipline to pursue Christ above all else. There is a refusal to work diligently (1 Cor. 9:27).
The Apostle Paul, at the very end of his life, said that he wanted to know Christ, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil. 3:10). Countless times it fell on him, under the inspiration of the Spirit, to admonish the church to “excel still more” (1 Thess. 4:1). Keep in mind that immaturity isn’t just a modern problem—there were immature Christians in the first century, too. Listen to Paul’s challenge to the Corinthian church, a church fraught with immaturity:
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? (1 Cor. 3:1–4)
Laziness must be replaced with the rigorous discipline that results in growing maturity in Christ.
A third primary cause for immaturity is ignorance. I am not being pejorative here but speaking of the spiritual competency needed to grow in Christ. Ignorance can be willful and sinful, or it can be that someone’s a new Christian or has simply never been taught how to walk with Christ. Regardless of the reason, ignorance is no state in which to remain. Peter said we have everything we need from God for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Excuses are mere speed bumps to the straight path of obedience that Christ wants us to pursue. We have direct access to the mind of Christ, the Word of Christ, the church of Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of Christ that aids us in putting off the works of the flesh and its excuses in exchange for genuine maturity. We can claim ignorance for a short while, but after a while, it becomes a poor excuse.
We are expected—even called—to live a mature Christian life. Maturity is something we must strive to attain. If it’s expected from believers in Scripture, it is possible. Ignorance for any reason is a slayer of maturity and something we must resist with all our might.
The church needs mature Christians to be examples for others to follow, to serve God’s kingdom, and to be salt and light to a skeptical and dark world. Immaturity smothers our testimony and makes us the laughingstock of the community. Childish living turns people off more than anything else. It’s high time that we act our age, put off childish things, gain some gospel composure, and grow up.