For The Spiritually Mature

We find ourselves in the fourth chapter of John, verses four through twenty-four. According to the very first verse of our reading, Jesus is in Samaria, near the town of Sychar. It is about noon and the Master was near Jacob’s well (Ge. 48:21-22). He was warm from his journey, so he approached the well for a cool drink of water.Normally, people drew water from the well at the end of the day because the heat had passed. For this reason, Jesus must have been surprised to see a woman at the well. She was a solitary figure. It is important to note Jesus is the one who initiated the conversation. In doing so he broke several of his society’s boundaries. First, men never talked to women in public in their society. Second, Jews never talked to Samaritans. The hatred between the two groups is well documented. Regardless, Jesus interacts with this Samaritan woman because he recognized she had a problem. He wasn’t wrong.

Her life was a mess and filled with regrets. She just couldn’t find a decent man; she was a repeat offender. She had been married five times and was living with another man. In our society, only fifty percent of first-time marriages last. Every time you marry, your chances of a successful marriage are cut in half. That means, on her fifth wedding day her chances of a happy marriage were down to 3.1%. If she would have married number six, it was down to 1.6%. She was at the well in the middle of the day, alone, to hide from the harsh tongues of the other women in the community. She was the punchline of every joke in her community, and she knew it. This is the oddest thing about the story. Jesus chooses this mistake-filled woman to talk about spiritual maturity.

We are more like the Samaritan woman than we care to admit. I do not want to sound harsh, but it is painfully true. Our churches are filled with sinful, spiritually immature people. I have met very few spiritually mature people. Spiritually mature people stand out in our society because there are so few. Can I ask you these questions? Do the people in your life consider you spiritually mature? Do you consider yourself spiritually mature? The Samaritan woman struggled with Jesus’s words because she was spiritually immature. Could it be we struggle with God’s ways because we are spiritually immature?

The topic of spiritual maturity is common on Christian websites and blogs. I read several to gain some insight before I wrote this blog. They were are all different, yet they were the same. I morphed the information on those platforms into five questions. By answering these five questions you will discover your level of spiritual maturity. Remember three things. First, your answers are not for public knowledge. They are a self-discovery tool. Second, it is important that you answer these questions honestly. Dishonest answers are of no help. Third, it is important that you answer these questions in balance. In other words, don’t be too critical of yourself and don’t think too highly of yourself. Never forget, God expects us to grow spiritually. This is question number one.

Do you have an appetite for meat? Infants drink milk regularly, but in time they ask for solid food. When a twenty-one-year-old asks his mother to spoon feed him mashed potatoes, it is creepy and dysfunctional. When a nursing home resident can’t take a single bite, it is sad because the end is near. Spiritually mature people can’t get enough meat. In other words, they can’t get enough of the Bible. They study the Gospels. They study the entire Old Testament. They study the epistles. What part of the Bible are you studying right now? Are you studying the Bible right now? Have you ever really studied the Bible? Or is the Bible just too hard to understand? Maybe that is the reason you are spiritually immature. Spiritually mature people have an appetite for meat. Hebrews 5:14 says, “Solid food is for the mature.”  This is question number two.

Are you easily offended? Experience has taught us that mature Christians seldom get offended. The reason is simple, they see the big picture. When Jesus turned the tables over because people were using the law for personal gain, people were upset with him. Jesus didn’t care because he saw the big picture. The temple was a house of prayer, not a place of profit. Do you see the big picture, or do you only see yourself or your personal interests? The only thing that matters is Jesus! Our churches are filled with offended people because our churches are filled with spiritually immature people. Philippians 1:18 says, “In every way Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes. I will rejoice.”  This is question number three.

Is your conscience formed by scripture or opinion? One of the great attributes of a mature Christian is grace. We are saved by grace and by grace alone. It is a simple truth to understand, but it is a hard truth to live out. I have grown tired of negative, critical, and judgmental people. No one needs your permission; no one must live up to your standards. Spiritually immature people are always critical of others. I have grown tired of people being critical of me. Spiritually mature people understand that we are saved by grace. Romans 14:1 says, “As for one who is weak in the faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.”  This is question number four.

Do you serve humbly? God uses sinners in this world to do good things because there is no one else to choose. Have you ever known anyone who boasted about what they did for their church? Have you ever known someone who boasted of something they did for God in this world? If so, then you have the perfect example of a spiritually immature person. Spiritually mature people get it. They know it is not about us, it is all about God. Do the people in your life consider you humble? 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”  Do the people in your life consider you arrogant? This is question number five.

Do you credit God for success? We live in a culture that idolizes people. It may be a well-loved pastor or the pope. It may be a historical figure, like George Washington (1732-1799) or John Wesley (1703-1791). That is a true sign of spiritual immaturity. Spiritually mature people understand the truth. People, both contemporary and historical, are nothing more than tools in the hands of God. It is God who deserves all the credit. I Corinthians 3:7 says, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”

So how did you do with your little quiz? Did you find you are a spiritually mature person? Or did you find you have some work to do? So let me summarize. Spiritually mature people can’t get enough of the Bible, are seldom offended, are interested in Biblical truth, humble, and give God the credit for personal accomplishments. Spiritually immature people are Biblically illiterate, easily offended, preoccupied with their personal opinions, arrogant, and promote their accomplishments. So, are you spiritually mature or spiritually immature? Never forget God expects us to grow spiritually.

When I was young my grandmother came to visit twice a year. She lived in Brooklyn, New York and we lived in Warren, Ohio. I can remember going to the Greyhound bus station to pick her up. Later, she flew into the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. It really didn’t matter how she traveled. It was always exciting to pick her up because she came with gifts. Every reunion was the same. I would run up to her and give her a big hug. She would always square my shoulders and say, “Let me look at you. You have gotten so big.” My dad, who hated those visits because he didn’t like her, always responded, “I would hope so. If he wasn’t growing, there would be something wrong.” I think he missed the point, but he wasn’t wrong. We expect children to grow. If they don’t grow, then is something wrong.

My wife, Kathryn, has a non-profit called Project Orphan Outreach. The focal point of that ministry is orphans in the former Soviet Union who will never be adopted. We have traveled to Eastern Europe several dozen times, visiting Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. We learned that children are the same around the world. Each one deserves to be loved. Thanks to the pandemic and Vladmir Putin (born 1952), those visits were suspended, but will resume this Summer, when we travel to Estonia.

One of my lingering memories of my trips to Russia came from a single orphanage. It was the Renewal Orphanage in Dmitrov. It is approximately fifty miles north of Moscow and the home of approximately one hundred emotionally, physically, and mentally disturbed children. Each one of those children had a story. Each one was sad. One of the boys in the orphanage stood about four foot tall. That would be fine if he was a preschooler, but he was a teenager. I don’t remember his name, but my heart went out to him. He stood with crutches and always had a smile on his face. The other children liked him and considered him a leader. Every time I saw him, I wondered what was wrong. We expect healthy children to grow. This is the truth.

God expects you to grow, and God expects you to mature spiritually! When God looks at you does he say, “Look how big you have gotten!” Or does God say, “What is wrong?” Never forget, we are to be a little more like Jesus every day. It is your choice. Are you maturing spiritually or just growing old?

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