Are you a mature believer?
..who you are in Christ is everything.
All believers in Jesus Christ are in one of two camps. You’re either floating around in immaturity, or the word of God is true over your life and you are being conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.
People are always spouting off their reasons why they can’t submit to the word of God. They express their caveats, saying, “The word of God can’t have total authority in my life because I’m a democrat/republican/libertarian/this/that first.”
My response (and God’s response) to this line of thinking is that who you are in this world and after the flesh means nothing. But who you are in Christ is everything. Ephesians 1:23 says Christ is all in all, and we are either with that or against it. If there is even one part of the word of God you say doesn’t have authority over your life, how can you say John 3:16 does? God deliver us from being a bunch of pick-and-choose pansies. Was that too harsh? Sorry. Well, actually, sorry not sorry.
So. You’re either maturing in the person of Jesus Christ, or you’re holding on to what you think are your exceptions that give you an excuse to put who you are and what you want in the flesh in front of Him. At Midtown Baptist Temple, we want to strive to always be maturing in Christ. Let’s look to Philippians 3 to see an outline of how to get there.
Four Marks of The Mature Believer
1. They have no confidence in the flesh
...your physical qualities have no bearing on your own spiritual standing.
Philippians 3:2-3 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. 3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
There are believers who are consisors and are all about your status in the flesh. But just as circumcision had no bearing on the Philippians’ spiritual standing with God through Christ, your physical qualities have no bearing on your own spiritual standing. Whoever you think you are culturally or racially, you’ve got nothing on the apostle Paul. Look at Paul’s pedigree in the flesh.
Philippians 3:4-6 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
By all fleshly standards, Paul was a stud. He had everything going for him according to the flesh: a stellar ancestry, education, and power. But look at what he thought of all that after his salvation.
Philippians 3:7-8 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
Paul recognized that in the face of the glory of Christ, all his greatest qualities and achievements were—and he uses a very vivid word here—dung. Can you walk away from everything you’ve done, everything you are? What is the one thing that will allow you to walk out of that history, that identity, that personhood, the old Adam? It’s the new Adam: Christ.
If you’re going to hold on to who you are and what you’ve done in the flesh, you’re never going to come to maturity in Christ. Say this out loud to yourself: Who I’ve been and everything I’ve ever done in this flesh, when compared to Christ, is poop.
Was that hard to hear? It often is. We value who we are and what we’ve done in the flesh.
Do you know what that tells us? We don’t see Christ for who he is and what he’s accomplished. Oh, my goodness. The only one who ever did anything of value in the flesh was Jesus Christ. He lived his life in the flesh doing what we never could. He was slaughtered on the cross of Calvary by his creation, and in all of that he did not sin one time.
2. They desire to be found in Him
That I may say that my whole life is tending in one direction.
Here’s the goal of the mature:
Philippians 3:9-13 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
That I may know him. That I may know Jesus. That I may say that my whole life is tending in one direction. I am following maturity. I am being conformed. Knowing Christ in his sufferings, and dying to who I am in the flesh. Being who I am in the person of Jesus Christ. This is my life.
Philippians 3:14-15 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
Be minded to pursue Christ and his sufferings and resurrection. What if you recognize you are at all otherwise minded? Just pray. God will reveal to you the areas where you need to mature, where you’re clinging to your rights, your righteousness, your heritage, your position in the first Adam. Just ask Him, and the Lord will reveal it.
3. They have a heart of love and care for God’s people
..they want them to make it. They want them to be mature..
Philippians 3:16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
God tells us to mind the same thing. What should we mind? Well, what is the mind of Christ? If you were to read through Philippians, you would’ve already learned from chapter two that this is the mind of Christ: that he esteemed others better than himself. Christ didn’t care about his rights; he laid his life down so that we could be made right. Thank God for the mind of Christ.
Philippians 3:17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
The mature have God’s heart for his people, and they want them to make it. They want them to be mature, so they model maturity. They don’t flip out on their brothers and sisters in Christ when they don’t perform how they think they ought.
There are enemies of the Cross we see in verses 18-19 whose god is their belly, who mind earthly things. They’re all about their flesh. Man, we don’t have time for that. At MBT we’re all about the person and the finished work of Jesus Christ. We’re all about God’s ministry. And as long as we seek Christ and his righteousness, then we’ll keep growing in maturity. The minute the concision have their way, then we’ll end up in destruction and we’ll be ashamed in the division of earthly things.
4. They never lose sight of the Judgement Seat of Christ
We want to be conformed to the mind of Christ
Philippians 3:20-21 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
One way or another, you’re gonna get humble. If you’re mature, you can say, yes! Amen! We will be fully conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ. We’ll have his mind, we’ll have his body. Our vileness will be fashioned like unto his gloriousness. So if that’s our final destination, why aren’t we all about it right now? We want to be conformed to the mind of Christ, amen?
Four Marks of the Immature Believer
1. They get their satisfaction and solutions from the flesh
What you sow you will reap.
The immature are people that cannot be helped. Whenever you see a little baby throwing a temper tantrum, you know why that is? It’s because they can’t get their way. Their expectations have not been met, and so they’re going to destroy the world as they know it because that’s fair in their little baby mind.
There are many men today who are hairy and can sing bass, but they’re still little babies, throwing temper tantrums and pitching fits because somebody didn’t satisfy their expectations. Did you know you can’t reason with a baby? There’s no reasoning with the unreasonable. The only thing you can do is force them to adjust their outward behavior. But that’s not the goal. Remember: God looks at the heart.
If you’re immature, until you decide you want to grow up, let me just tell you: I can’t help you. No one can help you. If you’re not determined to grow and mature, then you will wallow in immaturity. So let me just describe those who are stuck in who they are in the flesh.
The immature don’t have a heart to seek and follow God. The goal of the Christian life is to know him. If you don’t have a heart to know God according to what his word commands, then I can’t help you. Proverbs 9:10 says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. If you don’t fear the Lord and tremble at his word, no one can help you. Why? Because if all of the word of God is not authoritative over your life, then is any of it?
If you don’t view the word of God as authoritative, then you will violate it and you’ll end up going through cycle after cycle of Galatians 6. What you sow you will reap. So when your authority is your flesh, you’re only going to be able to get solutions from that authority.
Proverbs 23:7a For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:
What are you? If you expect the worst every time, guess what you’re gonna get? According to your faith be it unto you; it’s a solid biblical principle. If you’re determined to be Eeyore, you’re going to get Eeyore’s life.
I know some of you are going through some really sucky circumstances. Your husband, your wife, your parent, your sibling, your child, your boss are [fill in the blank]. Flipping out, going anywhere on a scale of 1-10 antichrist on you. Your best solution is to get full of faith and say, “As for me and my life I’m serving the Lord.” And what happens is that you become the person God uses in the lives of the people you love. If you insist on a wrong focus, you're gonna get one.
2. They don’t take responsibility for themselves
Are your problems always somebody or something else’s fault?
You can easily spot the immature when their problems are always somebody else’s fault.
When I was a little kid I would often wrestle with my Uncle Tim who was a year and a half older than me. I’m not trying to brag, but my dad made me do my chores which gave me a little extra something so I could easily beat Tim at wrestling. Because of this, I was used to beating Tim at everything.
One day we decided to race our bikes, and I’m already rehearsing in my mind how I’m going to be smug about my victory. So I said ready, set, and was going to shoot off on go, but on go Uncle Tim took off, leaving me in the dust. I’m halfway up the hill, and I realize I’m beat. And wouldn’t you know it, I spun out and I wrecked and started crying.
Tim comes back, kind of smug, and asks why I’m crying. I said, “I spun out and fell and there’s a sticker in my foot.” But no! I was crying because I lost! I couldn’t give props where props were due. It was the terrain or the bike or the universe out to get me. It was just unfortunate circumstances, because otherwise I would have crushed him.
The immature never take responsibility for where they’re at. The mature say, I see where I’m at, I see the mark of the high calling, so God help me to get there. Are your problems always somebody or something else’s fault?
3. They hide from the accountability of God’s people
The immature refuse accountability
If you’re immature, you don’t get accountable, you don’t get under the authority of your brothers and sisters in Christ, you don’t let them know what you’re wrestling with. Why? The answer spooks the tar out of me.
1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
The immature leave the assembly of believers because their hearts aren’t truly a part of the assembly of believers. Their deeds are made manifest. What’s even spookier is the verse before this.
1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
People who are immature, who go out from the assembly of the believers, the word of God calls them antichrist. The immature refuse accountability, because if you can’t get accountable to the body of Christ you’re not accountable to the word of God or the Spirit of God. Is that Christ or antichrist? It’s immaturity.
4. They refuse to live in light of consequences, e.g. the Judgement Seat of Christ
Let us be determined to know nothing but Christ and him crucified
When you keep the Judgement Seat of Christ in mind, whether you’re mature or not, you’ll start acting mature. Even little kids, when they know they have to give a reckoning for their actions, can behave surprisingly well. The same thing is true for us, little children. If we keep the Judgement Seat of Christ in focus, we will behave ourselves accordingly.
Let us endeavor, brothers and sisters, to be submitted to the Lord Jesus through his word. Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking we can live without that authority and without the accountability of the local church. Let us be determined to know nothing but Christ and him crucified, and to hold his word so dearly that we cannot help but love and obey him.