Read the following verses. As you do so, have this one thought in your mind: The Holy Spirit is cutting away our worldly image of what it means to be mature people and is remaking and re-clothing us to look like Jesus.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. . . . In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge a er the image of its creator. . . . Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. . . . And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3:3–17)
I love that picture. Just as we change clothes, in the power of the Spirit we are to take off our former way of living and put on the new life that we learn from Christ. It is through this daily taking off and putting on that we move toward maturity.
This is a serious matter. When we follow Christ and become a part of His church, we have the tendency to simply baptize our worldly paradigms and idiosyncrasies and name them “Christian.” James and John had followed Jesus for some time. They were two members of the triad that formed the core leadership of His disciples. But, in the name of faithfulness, they brought their ego-driven, CEO attitudes to the table when they asked Jesus if they could be His two “main men” when He came into His kingdom. Their idea of being mature was to be the most powerful men in His realm.
The turf wars that exist between staff members of a large church can be very much like the vying cliques of junior high school. There is the senior minister of a large church who is so controlling that he is unable to work with the elders appointed by the Holy Spirit to assist him in leading the congregation. He can be very much like a six-year-old throwing a tantrum if he doesn’t get his way.
We are seduced into thinking that the position itself is synonymous with maturity. We think that attaining the rank of elder, deacon, minister, or theologian is what makes us mature. That is a worldly paradigm that we have brought into the church and baptized in an attempt to make it holy. It is not holy. Satan has wrought havoc in the church using the immaturity of ministers, elders, deacons, and theologians who had no idea of how spiritually infantile they were.
Sometimes, the church has told us that certain spiritual gifts are a shortcut to Christian growth and maturity. Others in the church have said that if we become intellectually adept in a certain theology, we will be mature. Maturity does not come with attaining a certain position, a particular spiritual gift, or a theological expertise. Our model of maturity is Jesus, and the maker of our maturity is the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, the hammer and chisel used by the Spirit are quite painful. We see Jesus’ maturity in every aspect of His life—in the mundane and the sublime, when facing the constant pressure of the crowds and when facing Satan alone, while boldly claiming His deity before the Sanhedrin and while remaining silent before Herod, when entering Jerusalem as the Messiah to the hymns of the crowd, or when dying on the cross to the jeers of evil men. Thus, Jesus models maturity in every possible situation we may encounter. And the Holy Spirit will be there in each situation with the hammer and chisel of His Word, conforming us to the image of Christ.