Growing Up

Ephesians 4:13-32

You may have heard or used the phrase, “Growing up is hard to do”. It sounds trite but is profoundly true.

Those of us who are a little older possibly understand this reality a little better because we have had decades to learn that growing up is in fact extremely hard to do. And in many ways it is not an automatic, guaranteed progression. You cannot live our life believing that growing up comes with age. It doesn’t work that way. In fact, growing up – becoming mature – takes an enormous amount of intentional, focused effort, based on a correct understanding of what our Creator defines maturity to be.

In the book of Ephesians, we see a glimpse of the Father’s definition and expectations of growing up.
Ephesians 4:15,16 “.. but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
What an interesting, challenging, difficult piece of truth. We see that growing up comes from and is made possible by love. Love is the cause, the motivation, and the goal of maturity. Of course – because God is love and if we grow up into Christ, we will grow into and by love. One can say that the ultimate proof of maturity is the ability to love as Christ does.

The goal of growing up is explained to the Church in the verses preceding these. In Ephesians 4:12,13 it says, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”. We must grow up so that we, the saints, can do the work of the ministry. What is this ministry for? The edifying of Christ’s body, the Church. How long must we do the works of the ministry? Until we all come to the unity of the faith, meaning until we all understand Who Jesus is and how His Kingdom operates. Remember that verse 15 clearly states we must grow up into Christ. We don’t mature simply for the sake of it or as a natural, physiological progression of some kind. We mature so that we may become like Jesus and bring His Father greater glory.

It goes on to say we must grow up until we come to knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect (mature) man. These are incredibly difficult words. They should make us cringe. The knowledge of the Son of God is a lifelong journey requiring our fullest and deepest commitment to Him and His Church. And then it says we must grow up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. These are seemingly impossibly difficult words, and they prove that God’s expectation of our growing up has as it’s primary goal our becoming like His Son. (I encourage you to take hold of your Bible and meditate on these Scriptures, asking yourself honestly how you measure up to these God given expectations).

You may be wondering how it’s possible to even begin this journey of growing up into Him who is the head. We have some clear direction given to us in Ephesians 4:25-32 “Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

In these verses, we are given instructions to obey which will result in us growing up. They deal with our hands, our lips, our minds and our hearts. These expectations are very practical and very doable. Do you do any of the things listed here? If you do, the Bible says you need to stop being immature and grow up by ceasing these behaviors. Why? because they do not reflect the Christ we serve, who saved us in order to transform us into His likeness. And they do not serve His Body, who He purchased with His own life.

The dictionary definition of “mature” is: ripeness; full development; perfected condition. Friends, as Christians, this is our journey. To develop more fully, aiming for that perfected condition of becoming like our Perfect One. Let us be diligent in growing up into Christ, serving His Church, and bringing the Father greater glory.

Manifest Glory

Everything in Creation is about God and people. Hence His greatest commandment to love Him and others.

When God decided to manifest and reveal Himself and His glory on earth, He created human beings to be the vessels of His glory. He is fully and properly manifest through His male and female creations. He intentionally chose not to manifest Himself through any of His other creations: they are expressions of His creative ability but not containers of Him and His glory. His glory, which is Spirit in essence because He is Spirit, can only live within a spiritual container. And only He can make spiritual containers. He chose to put His Spirit into men and women, His truest self-image creation.

The entrance of sin into human hearts through the rebellion of Adam and Eve resulted in the distortion and limitation of the expression of God and His glory through His men and women. Jesus then came to earth to redeem and restore the corrupted and therefore hindered expression of Himself in men and women.

And because God is spirit, His image is carried in our spirit. Spirit can only live within spirit, which in turn is contained in our body of flesh. This is why, as human beings, we have to be born again spiritually. Christ’s perfect work on the cross at Calvary enables the salvation and renewal of our spirit, which is required for us to be containers of God’s Spirit – God’s glory – which it is our purpose to spread across the earth.

God’s glory can only be properly made known through His created glory containers and carriers. These containers are you and me, saved by His grace through His son’s sacrifice, to fulfill His original commandment to Adam and Eve: to make Him and His glory manifest across the face of the whole earth.

Neighbor

Zechariah 8:16,17

These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,’ Says the LORD.”

Speaking truth to our neighbor must flow from the well of Truth we carry in our own hearts. Again we see that the way we treat our neighbor profoundly affects the way God treats us. Why? Because He is the God who loves our neighbor and therefore commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, so that when we do this we manifest His nature and His glory is shown on the earth. Of course, we do not determine who our neighbor is. Our responsibility is to love them as He does.

Justice and peace are the consequence of speaking the truth – in love, as the Bible commands – to our neighbor. We must actively resist the temptation to think or practice evil against our neighbors, rather we must love and serve them in His grace and strength.

In January, the Holy Spirit gave me as my verse for the year Ephesians 4:15, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” This is not for the faint of heart. It requires a firm and steady commitment to the Lord and to living out His truth in daily, practical demonstration of His love and truth dwelling in us.

Today, let us speak truth in love to our neighbors because He commands it and because it reveals Him to those around us. You know who your neighbors are – love them with His truth.

Teach

Everything we do teaches something to someone. When this thought first entered my mind many years ago, I didn’t appreciate how true and difficult a reality it would turn out to be. Especially in this world of “always on”, one can feel stressed having to measure every thought, word or action. On the other hand, if I live with this knowledge as a tool in my hand, my “everything I do” can be a source of blessing and help to others. And it makes me more responsible and mature. Good leaders are happy to shoulder this burden.