Is not the desperate need of the church of Jesus Christ mature men—men who will lead both the church and their families in such a way that God will be glorified and men will be edified? Mature men are characterized by godly living resulting from making right decisions. A mature man can be identified by five distinctive traits.
Newborns thrive on milk, and baby Christians certainly need the milk of the Word. However, if young Christians are to become strong and overcome the Wicked One, the Word of God must be ingested and digested (1 John 2:14). Baby Christians are unskilled in matters of righteousness. God wants them to feed on the Word in order to grow in grace and knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18). Babies do not know what is good for them. Most of them would prefer chocolate fudge over spinach any day! A mark of maturity is to be able to distinguish between that which is harmful and that which is beneficial. The Psalmist says, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes” (Ps. 101:3). A mature Christian has progressed from milk to meat. A working knowledge of the Word of God assures the ability to acquire facts, analyze issues, and apply Biblical principles to life’s problems (Heb. 5:14).
Right diet leads to keen discernment. Children are easy prey for child molesters because they can easily be deceived. A mark of maturity is accepting that which is true and rejecting that which is false. We are to be wise in the things of heaven and simple in the things of hell. Many Christians are led away by false teachers because they often teach truth but insidiously insert deadly error. Rat poison is 90 percent wholesome food mixed with ten percent poison. The messengers of Satan are deceitful workers, transforming themselves into angels of light (2 Cor. 11:13). Discernment trained by the Word of God protects us from deception. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20).
Children have virtually no sense of duty or responsibility. Basically they are selfish and enjoy only that which pleases them. Maturity brings a heightened sense of responsibility. “We then that are strong [mature] ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Rom. 15:1). A mark of maturity is to accept personal responsibility and to perform that responsibility “as unto the Lord.” To put it bluntly, immature Christians are shirkers, and mature Christians are workers.
One of the great marks of maturity is discipline. Had Joseph been an undisciplined man, he would have fallen prey to the temptation of Potiphar’s wife. He had his value system right. He saw adultery as a great wickedness against God. In the first chapter of Daniel, we are amazed at the maturity of four teenage boys. Daniel displayed discipline when he said, “I will not defile myself with the king’s meat and the king’s wine.” Daniel’s purpose of heart came from godly discipline. Paul addressed discipline in 1 Corinthians 9:25–27. Discipline equals restraint. He kept his body under restraint. Energy under control builds; energy unchecked wrecks havoc. Failure to control passions takes away the privilege of public service and results in disapproval and disqualification.
Devotion characterizes a person living close to God. A spiritual person is one whose life is devoted to God. “Devote” means to consecrate or consign over, to give up wholly. Nearly everyone is devoted to one thing or another. Many are devoted to the TV set and give huge blocks of time to it. Others are devoted to fishing and hunting. No sacrifice is too great! Loss of sleep and bitter cold are not sacrifice but opportunity to the faithful hunter.
Personally, I have a desire that people know me as one devoted to God. I will give myself to worshipping God. I will adoringly respond to all that God is and all that He has done, is doing, and will do. I will stockpile His Word in my heart that I might not sin against Him. I will give myself to the will of God. I will not be unwise, but will seek to understand what the will of the Lord is. I will give myself to the work of God. I will be a true disciple of my Lord Jesus Christ. I will be a faithful, loving husband, father, and grandfather. I will be a good neighbor and citizen. I will be a good church member and do all I can to promote its program in the world.
Only mature believers can accomplish these noble ambitions. As Hebrews 6:1 exhorts, “Let us go unto perfection [maturity].”
Dr. Gene Gurganus is the author of several books and served as a missionary in Bangla Desh for seventeen years. He also served as the Southeastern Representative for the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism. He now lives in Rocky Mount, NC.
(Originally published in FrontLine • July/August 2001. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)