God-Dependent Spiritual Maturity
March 11, 2012 § 1 Comment
We often struggle with growth in grace because we transfer what we understand about physical and social maturity to what we think is true about spiritual maturity. By physical and social maturity I mean, quite literally, growing up and becoming responsible, productive adults. In these two areas the goal is, ultimately, to “stand on our own two feet,” so to speak, to depend less and less on others and do more ourselves. It is one of the primary goals of parents to raise children who are not dependent but independent and mature young adults who tackle more and more things that give them a sense of confidence, ability and responsibility.
But such is not the case with spiritual maturity. The goal of spiritual maturity is not that we become more and more independent, but, in fact, the opposite: the goal of spiritual maturity is that we become more and more dependent upon God and his grace in every area of our lives. In other words, we grow in grace and mature spiritually when we become increasingly aware of how much we need God’s grace in Christ—and then consequently take hold of him more and more by faith to follow him in faith by obeying him in the things he calls us to do.
The apostle Paul is a perfect example. Few would doubt that, by the time he wrote 1 Timothy 1, the apostle was deeply mature in his faith. Yet here, now entering his fourth decade of walking with the Lord, Paul says this: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Paul’s words are neither the fakery of false humility nor the obsession of self-absorption; his point is not that he is horrible and of no use—as witnessed by the way he begins this section of his letter to Timothy: “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service…”(1 Timothy 1:12). Rather, it is precisely because Paul understood that the grace of Christ was greater than his sin that God in fact makes him of use for the kingdom.
That is what spiritual maturity looks like, a combination of humility and confidence, of realism and hopeful anticipation. Only the Gospel can result in such a synthesis; only the good news of God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone leads to such God-dependent spiritual maturity.