“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1Cor. 13:11)
In the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the story of a rich man that has two sons. One of the sons asks for his inheritance, takes it, and squanders it, but his father forgives him.Upon learning of his father’s acceptance and forgiveness of his wayward younger brother, the elder brother had an unexpected response.
“Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.” (Luke 15:25)
“And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.” (Luke 15:26)
“And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.” (Luke 15:27)
“And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.” (Luke 15:28)
“And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:” (Luke 15:29)
“But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.” (Luke 15:30)
“And he said unto him, SON (teknon: Greek word for “immature little child”), thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.” (Luke 15:31)
Throughout the time that the younger son demanded his inheritance, wasted it with riotous living, joined himself to the heathen, and ended up in the pig sty, the original Greek Scriptures used the word hwee-os’ for mature son in reference to him.
No matter what mistakes the younger son had made, the father never changed his opinion of him. The father always considered him to be the same son that was worthy to receive his inheritance.
The only time the word for son changes to tek-non, meaning a little child, is when the father speaks to the elder son in the 31st verse of Luke.
It was not the outward sin, the transgression, the stumbling that revealed spiritual immaturity, but it was the hidden condition of the heart revealed by the jealous and hateful words of the elder son that caused the father to refer to him as a “little child”.
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.” (1Cor. 3:1)
“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” (1Cor. 3:2)
“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1Cor. 3:3)
Envy, strife, and division are what God considers when determining if we are a “babe in Christ”.
ENVY: “…thou never gavest me a kid…”
STRIFE: “…And he was angry…”
DIVISION: “…would not go in…”
We have seen what God considers to be spiritual immaturity, to be a babe in Christ. But what does God consider to be spiritual maturity, to “grow up in Him”? (Eph. 4:15)
The first step to spiritual maturity is what we have already learned from the story of the “prodigal son”, which is to make a decision that we are no longer going to entertain unrighteous thoughts toward others.
It does matter to God when we talk about someone behind their back. It matters to God when we criticize someone’s appearance or actions whether verbally or in our heart. It matters to God when we harbor anger, or resentment, or unforgiveness no matter how justified we feel in doing so.
When we ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and reveal these hidden sins so that we may repent, we have begun to mature in the spirit. We may stumble in our attitude toward others, but when we do if we repent and determine to do better with God’s help, then we will begin to pass from “glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord”.
We also grow spiritually when we make a commitment to understand the Word of God for ourselves, not just to believe what others may tell us:
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;” (Eph. 4:14)
The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things, but that we must ask in faith. We need to realize that our Bible reading is not just a daily exercise, but an opportunity to hear from the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Whether reading or listening, it takes the Holy Spirit to show us what the true meaning of God’s Word is so that we do not fall prey to error.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5)
“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” (James 1:6)
“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” (1John 2:27)
Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are signs of spiritual maturity and will build you into a mature (finished) house of God filled with every spiritual blessing:
“Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:” (Prov. 24:3)
“And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” (Prov. 24:4)
Any type of deceit or untruth is a sign of spiritual immaturity, but he who is spiritually mature determines to be truthful within and without.
“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” (Eph. 4:15)
“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;” (Eph. 6:14)
This does not only mean truth between you and others, but also truth between you and God. In other words, not coming to God and making excuses about what you have done or why you did it, not trying to convince God that you are something you are not, but coming to God and totally opening your heart to Him in honesty and truth so that He might search your innermost being and help you in your time of weakness.
“Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.” (Psalm 62:8)
“Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6)
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2Cor. 12:9)
Finally, the Christian who has begun to mature in his spiritual walk has come to a place in his life where he is not ruled by circumstances.
The Bible tells us, and experience shows us, that babies are ruled by their circumstances and needs.
“Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:” (Gal. 4:3)
If a baby is hungry, needs changing, or wants something, he cries. If he is tickled, he laughs. If he is rocked or cuddled, he falls asleep.
As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual.
When we are babes in Christ, our prayer life is filled with constantly asking God for the things we need or want, much like a baby crying. The things happening around us and to us consume our thoughts and efforts.
We seem to jump from emergency to emergency, constantly asking God for His help or deliverance without much communication or communion with Him in between.
But just as most children begin to grow and trust that their parents love them and will take care of them, God wants his spiritual children to grow and trust in the love of their Heavenly Father.
“Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” (Matt. 6:8)
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” (Matt. 6:31)
“(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” (Matt. 6:32)
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33)
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,” (Rom. 8:38)
“Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:39)
The Bible says:
“Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” (Psalm 32:9)
When we first become Christians, our Heavenly Father will allow circumstances to come into our lives that will drive us to prayer so we may learn that God hears and answers our prayers.
In the same way that the bit and bridle direct the horse, these circumstances direct us to put our trust in God. But as we grow and see God supply our need and answer our prayers, He does not want us to be driven by these things any longer.
He has a better way and a higher calling.
“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” (Psa 32:8)