There’s a newborn baby at my house this week. He was born just a few days ago. He drinks his two or three ounces of formula, deposits two or three ounces in his diaper, and goes back to sleep. He’s tiny, a little less than six pounds. He can’t talk yet, obviously, and he’s months from understanding human speech. He can barely focus his eyes. And yet, he’s human. He’s a complete person.
No parent would take a brand new baby in his or her arms and think, “My job as a parent is done.” The baby is a complete person, right? What more is there to do? The job of a parent isn’t just to bring a person into the world. Parents are responsible for bringing up the child, for raising him, teaching him, disciplining and training him, bringing him to maturity so that he can lead a responsible life as a mature adult.
When a person accepts Christ as their savior they are “born again.” They enter into a new life. The Bible talks about them as spiritual babies. And yet, we seem to think that the work is done. Get someone to accept Christ and say a prayer, and the work is finished. Do that in every nation on Earth and the Great Commission will be accomplished, right? If you really want to put the extra work in, give them a brief handful of sessions on the right doctrines to believe, and get them to go to a church. I guess that since we outsource raising our children to schools, that’s at least consistent, but it results in millions of Christians who are spiritually still babies.
What does it mean to be a mature Christian? I heard this week that most people think you’re an activist if you attend a meeting for some cause, that you’re a Christian if you attend church. Mature Christians tithe and participate in church activities. Really dedicated Christians go on a mission trip, and if they are really fanatical they consider full time ministry.
Sometimes you hear that being a Christian is avoiding a list of bad things. Sin avoidance is a large part of the traditional Christian experience. It’s also a big part of the public perception of what being a Christian is about. When some prominent pastor is accused of some big sin, as has happened again this week, people point fingers and talk about the hypocrisy. I don’t know anything about this week’s scandal, but a life of genuinely following Christ does not have very much to do with avoiding sin. In fact, making your Christian life largely about avoiding sin is a sure path to frustration and failure. You can’t have a mature relationship with God just by avoiding sin.
A mature Christian is someone who has a mature and growing relationship with God. Its that simple. How do you have a mature relationship with God? How do you have a strong relationship with anybody? You spend time with them, and you take the time to learn all you can about them. The same is true of a relationship with God. If you want to know God well, you spend time with him. You read His Word, not as an academic exercise, but as you would strive to learn about someone you wish to know well. You spend time talking to him, not just about your list of prayer requests, but talking to him like you have a relationship that you want to grow.
You can’t have a growing relationship with God by doing good works. Works that are valuable come from a heart that God has filled with his fruit. His fruit comes from being planted in him, from abiding in him, from spending time with him. Faith without action isn’t real faith. It is dead. Works without the Spirit of God at their heart are spiritually dead as well.
Likewise, if you want love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control to be evident in your life, you can’t get them by trying to do the right things. You can only get the fruit of the Spirit from the Spirit of God. You get the fruit by abiding in him, by building a relationship with him, and you do that by spending time with him.
When we first become a Christian, when we first start our relationship with our Father, it isn’t the end of the process. It is not realistic to think that a baby is going to act like an adult. We must grow in our relationship with Him. Similar to the way it takes a life of living and walking with a child to teach them how to be a mature person, it takes a life of walking with God, conversing with him, listening to him, to become a mature Christian.
It isn’t a Sunday morning thing. It isn’t a church thing. It isn’t even a religious thing. Its a personal relationship with a Person.
As a father when I stand in my living room holding a little baby and looking at him sleeping in my arms, I am committed to doing whatever it takes to give him every opportunity to grow up to be a mature, responsible adult who is kind and generous and hardworking, a person of integrity and courage. I pray he will grow to love and serve God. However, I can’t make his choices for him. I can’t choose who he will love. I can’t choose who he will ultimately decide to worship. In the end, he has free will, as he should. Neither does God force us to choose him, and even once we are His children he does not force us to choose to build a growing relationship with him. It is a choice we must make each day. There is an enemy trying to keep you from it. Don’t let him. Choose each day to spend time with the Father, talking to him and listening to him through his Word.