Be perfect! A Call to Christian Maturity by Tricia Tillin - How Mature Am I?

Articles

"Be Perfect! How to Grow Up" by Tricia Tillin

PART Two-B: How Mature Am I?

perfect gem

Characteristics of the Immature - Babies versus Adults (Part Two)

 

5. BEHAVIOUR

a) Selfishness is Childish

The paramount thing in a child's mind is to get something to satisfy his needs or wants. And he thinks nothing of working on people till he gets it. He is self-centred, self-obsessed and self-absorbed. We tolerate this in young children but clearly any adult who acted in the same way would be a major pain in the posterior for us. Adults are expected to grow out of selfishness.

Probably the best indication of immaturity is somebody who is consistently self-centred.

CHILD
(Natural & Spiritual)

ADULT
(Natural & Spiritual)

SCRIPTURES

  • Focused on SELF.
  • Seeking to satisfy his needs and desires.
  • Does not register the presence or importance of others.
  • Uses people to get what he needs.
  • Thinks of others.
  • Can deny himself.
  • Notices the needs of others and seeks to supply them.
  • Respects others, will not use them.
  • Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another;  (Rom 12:10)

We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, leading to edification. (Rom 15:1-2)

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.  (Phil 2:3-4)

 

Have you met the person whose whole focus in life is himself? He doesn't seem to notice you! He's full of all that he has to suffer, he's acutely aware of his emotions, pains, fears, worries and so forth. But you are insignificant and unimportant to him. You are only important in so far as you might be able to supply his needs.

This is childish behaviour at its most irritating. The only remedy for such a person is to GROW UP! Maturity brings respect of others. Maturity means we begin to look outwards from ourselves to other folks. We seek to please others, not just ourselves. We put ourselves last, and exalt eachother, help each other. We are not afraid of denying ourselves.

b) Look at ME!

CHILD
(Natural & Spiritual)

ADULT
(Natural & Spiritual)

SCRIPTURES

  • Perception of life is that he's the centre of the universe; others revolve around him.
  • Expects at all times to be centre of attention.
  • Longs for attention, approval and acceptance; showing off. Sulking when ignored.
  • "Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 16:15)
  • Self-sustaining.
  • Does not need approval to function.
  • Defers to other people.
  • Seeks God's will rather than man's approval.
  • Humble, not self-exalting.
  • "How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" (John 5:44)

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. (Gal 1:10)

".. even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: Nor of men sought we glory.". (1Thes 2:4-6)

"Not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men." (Eph 6:6-7)

A child spends a lot of time looking for attention.  "Look what I did, Daddy" is his cry. If a child senses the attention is going somewhere else, he'll cry, be naughty, or perform some kind of action to drag the attention back onto himself. That is the way of a child.

Immature believers act the same way. They believe they should be the centre of attention - they seek attention, crave it. They also need approval all the time, in order to function.

This leads them to some bizarre behaviour - showing-off, pretending to have spiritual gifts, or presenting you with a series of emotional problems. Whether it's with a spectacular ministry or a spectacular problem, either way, they have to be SPECIAL.

Look at some leaders on stage, or standing at the front of their churches, making a show of themselves - it's all a performance because they have to be centre-stage, have to have the applause and approval of others.

Ministers who are like this cannot say anything critical of others in case they lose their support-base. They are frequently in the ministry for the POWER and PRESTIGE, and the kudos it brings them. Man's approval, to them, is all, but "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets". (Luke 6:26)

Attention-seeking is a sure sign of immaturity.

A mature Christian can function in God's will, get on and do the job, whether he receives approval or not. Think of the old Reformers - they continued to function, in the teeth of persecution and reviling. They were not prepared to be threatened or flattered into submission. It was God's will, not man's approval that they sought - and so it is with every mature believer.

c) Flesh Rules!

CHILD
(Natural & Spiritual)

ADULT
(Natural & Spiritual)

SCRIPTURES

  • Lives on emotional energy; is emotion-driven
  • Ruled by the flesh.
  • Decides according to what he feels and thinks and needs.
  • Cannot endure hardship.
  • Ruled by God's will and nature.
  • Puts his own needs to one side.
  • Willing to go without for the sake of God, and for others.
  • And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.(Gal 5:24)

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. (Rom 8:5)

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? (James 4:1)

Immaturity, as we have seen, is all to do with staying childish. And the main characteristic of a child is his selfish inability to see beyond his own needs and desires. So, immature behaviour is all about the SELF (which should be "crucified with Christ" and put under the blood.)  Too many Christians are ruled by the self-life, instead of the will of God.

There are many adults who are selfish and self-centred - most unbelievers are. But Christians should know better. They have the new nature of Christ within them, and should be allowing that nature to shine out. Christians should progressively learn how to forsake the flesh

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:3)

A carnal Christian is ruled by physical desires, and emotional needs. He doesn't know how to say no to his desires - to him, being satisfied in the flesh is the most important thing.

Unfortunately, this makes him vulnerable to anyone who knows how to manipulate emotions. Because of the great significance he gives to his emotions, the immature Christian is a target for leaders who induce feelings of guilt or inadequacy,

I pity Christians who exaggerate their faults and sins in their own minds because they focus on their own emotions. They also allow false teachers to place heavy burdens of guilt on their shoulders and give in to suggestions that they are not loving enough, not spiritual enough, not active or effective - in effect, failed Christians! They are not failing at all in God's eyes, but none the less they continually torment themselves with thoughts of having committed the unforgivable sin, of having failed to reach the required level of faith.

While all this may appear to be a quest for holiness, it is in reality self-obsession. I'd like to say to them "get over yourself!". But I know that if I did so, I'd be misunderstood. I respond graciously and gently to such Christians, but the fact is they spend so much time thinking about what they feel and think, they have little time for anybody else. Navel-gazers like this cannot see other people around them and never respond to the needs of others. They are babes in faith!

In order to function as a working member of the Body of Christ, extending a helping hand to others, enduring the often abusive and critical attitudes of other Christians, and facing up to the need to put others before self, maturity is VITAL. No immature Christian is going to last long in an environment where self-denial is called for.

d) Dealing With Criticism

CHILD
(Natural & Spiritual)

ADULT
(Natural & Spiritual)

SCRIPTURES

  • Easily offended.
  • Easily harmed by criticism.
  • Have to be careful to give praise, build them up.
  • Can be corrected, and even be thankful for it.
  • Doesn't take every word as a rejection.
  • Can function without praise.

Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. (Prov 9:8)

Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now. (1 Cor 4:12-13)

Every ten minutes, a child is squealing or crying or sulking about something. His toy has been taken away, or he's been put to bed when he wants to keep playing, or another child is getting the attention. Imagine if adults were like this too (but many are!).

There are just too many knocks and setbacks for childlike sensitivity. In order to function as adults, we have to grow out of being a drama queen, and learn how to deal with criticism and rebuke.

There is nothing more certain in life and especially in the Church but that you will receive criticism, accusation and rebukes for what you do and believe. Some of this is just and some unjust, but it all feels the same - painful! The Lord promises that you WILL be chastened and rebuked, so you shouldn't be too surprised when it happens: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent .(Rev 3:19). The way you handle it is a measure of your growth to maturity.

Immature believers can't deal with criticism - they can't be corrected. They go into depression, or cry, or have a tantrum. They turn to hate, retaliation, bitterness and all kinds of unhealthy reactions instead of taking it to the Lord in prayer. This is because they are still living in the emotional realm, and their feelings are so precious to them that they feel the slightest indication of rejection.

We all know people who have decided that you dislike them even before you are through the door. Before you open your mouth they have seen three things about you that accuse them of wrongdoing. There's no way you can make friends with this person because his or her rejection antennae are so finely tuned that everything you say and do is translated into rejection in their eyes.

Even if you make a good first impression, you sense that without walking on eggs you are not going to last very long in their good books; and sure enough the first time you disagree with them or say something out of turn, it's all over! You are now their enemy for life! There's really no good way to handle this level of immaturity - you just have to pray for grace!

Such people also cannot function without praise and approval. They have to have praise lavished on them all the time or they can't continue. Put them into an environment where no praise is forthcoming and they will wind down and stop like a clockwork toy.

Maturity brings with it the ability accept rebuke.  When rebuke is correct, godly and necessary, the right response is to take it to God, be honest, and repent. How many can do this? How many will react to ANY rebuke by defending themselves hotly and indignantly?

When it comes to unjust criticism and rebuke, however, the differences between the immature and the spiritual Christian becomes even more marked.

A mature Christian will sense he's being unjustly dealt with, and of course he'll be hurt and tempted to retaliate, but his finer feelings will prevail eventually and he will not make a war out of it. He will meekly allow others to accuse him,  receiving false accusations graciously in the name of love and good order in the Body. He will entrust himself to God who knows all and repays all.

"Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Pet 2:21-23)

Just as Jesus allowed himself to be maltreated, misunderstood and unjustly accused, so Christians should develop the same spirit of love and tolerance although it's the hardest thing we are asked to do. The flesh wants to have revenge and justify itself, but a mature Christian will strive to restrain his flesh and do the better thing. (I am not saying it is wrong to defend yourself against somebody's slander or false accusation - I am talking about the heart's attitude.)

e) Having to Endure

CHILD
(Natural & Spiritual)

ADULT
(Natural & Spiritual)

SCRIPTURES

  • Has to be kept amused.
  • Needs stimulation and entertainment.
  • Needs innovation - the "new thing".
  • No staying power or endurance.
  • Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Heb 12:1)
  • For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: (Heb 10:36)
  • You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (2 Tim 2:3)
  • Works long and hard for no immediate reward.
  • Patient, long-suffering.
  • Can persevere, endure hardship.
  • I know your works, your labor, your patience.and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. (Rev 2:2-3)

My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. (James 5:10)

But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. (Mark 4:15)

that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Heb 6:12)

Because the flesh of an immature believer dominates, and the flesh needs to be amused, placated, and entertained, immature believers are butterflies that flit from person to person and task to task chasing after what is novel, exciting and new. They rarely stick at a task long and have no powers of endurance, especially where self-denial is called for.

For example, some Christians have a hard time dealing with a task that involves long hours of hard, boring work. I discovered this the hard way, as a few years ago I was involved in intensive and demanding work creating my newsletter and tapes and sending them out to thousands of supporters. Coming to the end of my own resources, I asked for people to help me; some offered, but when they discovered that they would be expected to lick stamps and seal envelopes for hours at a time they suddenly had "important engagements" that kept them away!

You see, people imagine that "ministry" is all fun, excitement and glory. They think that I am hob-nobbing with "Big Names" and leading meetings all the time, and they want a slice of the action. That is why some offer to "help" me in the ministry, really because they are seeking glory and excitement. But when they realise that nine tenths of the work is boring and hard graft they lose interest.

But a mature believer is not like this. He or she makes decisions based on God's will, not his or her own feelings or needs. God's will is the deciding factor.

"My judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:30.) "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done". (Luke 22:42.)

It takes patience to achieve anything worthwhile in the Christian life. You have to have stickability - only maturity brings that. No child will give attention to a task that is long, tedious, boring, and with no immediate reward.

Mature believers like a good time just as much as anyone, but when the need arises they are prepared to forego their own pleasures, and stick at it. Things like patience, long-suffering, endurance - these are signs of mature character. Mature believers can persevere. They can accept hardship and self-sacrifice. These are the ones who will offer to do the work, put themselves out to help you, and not give a thought to the personal rewards

Only mature believers are fit for the work of Ministry! This is why it is so VITAL for Christians to grow up. A world with all babies and no mothers and fathers could never function, since babies don't reproduce, they don't work, they don't contribute anything.

The bible envisaged a Church where every single member had a part to play. The babes in Christ would be nurtured and matured, and would grow into a new generation of servers and leaders. However, as things stand, in the Church there are just a few who labour on, doing all the work, with everybody else hanging on their coat tails. As the world, so in the Church, all babies and no adults is not a system that can work.

6. RELATIONSHIPS

a) Being Aware of Others

CHILD
(Natural & Spiritual)

ADULT
(Natural & Spiritual)

SCRIPTURES

  • Looks inward, knows only self.
  • Not aware of others, only in relation to self.
  • No empathy for others.
  • Cannot feel for others or enter into their predicament.
  • No awareness of the consequences of their actions.
  • Looks outward; aware of others.
  • Can connect with others, relate to them.
  • Good listeners.
  • Genuinely aware of others' feelings or sufferings.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.(Rom 12:15)

To the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.(1 Cor 9:22)

And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.(1Cor 12:26)

Spiritual adults are those who empathise with you. They feel your needs, enter into your predicament. The mature believer is the one with whom you feel you are making a connection. There's a feeling that he or she has understood your soul. Such people pay attention to what YOU are saying and feeling and are not constantly thinking of themselves.

Somebody who has hardly any awareness of other people, and no comprehension of the consequences of his actions on others, is immature. We often think of such people as selfish - this may also be true, but an inability to focus on others is a sign that the person is insecure and childish in his attitudes. It is a trait of childhood as we saw previously.

Some people seem to be on another track, unaware of you. You start to speak about a subject, and they don't acknowledge it but immediate head off on another track of their own. You don't seem to be connecting with them. Sometimes it seems as if you're invisible - I have often felt so when talking to people.

While being acutely aware of their own feelings, they blind to yours. They are always watchful lest they be rejected, indeed, thoughts of rebuff and rejection rule their thinking, but when it comes to YOUR feelings they regularly violate them and stamp all over them without noticing.

Mature Christians, however, are a joy to be with - but sadly we meet se few! These are the ones who will put their lives on hold, just to listen to your woes on the phone. They know how to put themselves on one side, forgetting self, and attend to you. They make you feel special.

While talking to the immature you sense the conversation has a hidden agenda designed to milk you of your praise and approval. You are being mentally manipulated to be what that person wants you to be.  However, the more mature person will have "no side" - as they say. That means, he or she is all front on, with no manipulation. They do not have to think about themselves, and to consider their own feelings in everything.

b) Let me Check with my Elder first.

CHILD
(Natural & Spiritual)

ADULT
(Natural & Spiritual)

SCRIPTURES

  • Exaggerated view of others; sees others as all-knowing, totally able, godlike.
  • Submits to the rule of men.
  • Hero-worship of leaders.
  • Cannot believe his mentor is fallible or wrong.
  • Balanced view of others.
  • Knows that others are as fallible as he.
  • Can cope if people fall, make mistakes, do wrong
  • Does not require others to be perfect.
  • Does not put people on pedestal.

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Gal 6:2-3)

For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.(James 3:2)

Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him .(Luke 17:3)

We have already established that babies and young children think they are the centre of the universe. From this viewpoint, adults are seen as remote, godlike beings. A child's well-being and destiny depends on these beings, so he tries his hardest to do what they want.

Although that is perfectly natural and correct for a child, it has its drawbacks. Children can be led astray and taught all kinds of evils simply because they place too much trust in the adults who are in charge of them. A helpless trusting little child is very vulnerable to abuse. This is true in the natural and spiritual world.

Hero-worship is a sign of immaturity.

 Immature believers see leaders and ministries as godlike, beyond the normal realm, certainly above their level of faith.. In their minds, they invest leaders with godlike powers, seeing them as all-knowing beings who can do no wrong. In fact, they are worried and offended if their leaders don't know something.

Much more so, they are shaken and overthrown if their chosen leader is exposed as less than perfect, or having fallen into sin. In such cases they will frequently defend their hero blindly, stubbornly refusing to believe anything about their leaders that tends to highlight their failings or mistakes.

But an adult sees with adult eyes. He is no longer a tiny dot in the centre of the world, dependent on adults, but one of the community, just another grown up. An adult recognises that other people are just like him; therefore he can forgive them for being fallible and fallen. 

An adult does he depend on elders, shepherds and ministers for his beliefs. He does not see himself as dependent on leaders, but thinks and acts for himself.

We are all one Body. God calls and gifts each one of us. We are all limbs, and we all need each other. God values each one uniquely and equally, and each of us has a role in the Body. Therefore we should not elevate one man or woman to a special spiritual realm 'above us' and place them on a pedestal out of reach of correction.

Often today, the exposure of false doctrine or abuses is met with the knee-jerk reaction "Don't touch the Lord's anointed". In the first place, nobody is "more anointed" than anybody else in the Body; secondly this puts leaders beyond examination and correction which is a place none of us can claim! The demand that we see leaders today as a cut above the rest of us is part and parcel of the drive to keep believers immature.

Maturity brings a respect for others, and makes us see that we are all prone to fail and to make mistakes. As grown-ups we learn to value one another, and to value our leaders but not to worship them. Thus we avoid being spiritually abused and misled by unscrupulous teachers.

c) Manipulation

CHILD
(Natural & Spiritual)

ADULT
(Natural & Spiritual)

SCRIPTURES

  • Seeks to control people.
  • Adept at manipulation.
  • Uses guile, trickery or cunning to force people to do his bidding.
  • These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. (Jude 1:16)
  • Will walk in his own counsel, and allow others to make their own choices also.
  • Refuses to bend people to his wil.l
  • Not afraid of an alternative viewpoint.
  • Will respect people's decision to be wrong or to do the wrong thing.

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly; (1 Pet 5:2)

Did I take advantage of you by any of those whom I sent to you? I urged Titus, and sent our brother with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps? (2 Cor 12:17-18)

I think every parent knows that children are little manipulators! They want everything and they know how to get it! Thank the Lord that children don't possess the sophisticated brains of an adult, or else they would be powerful deceivers.

However, there ARE grown-up manipulators who have learned to bend others to their will. These are the ones who never grew out of childish ways. In the same way that a child will demand its own way and show its displeasure at being thwarted by throwing a tantrum, screaming, sulking or sobbing - so the immature person will employ emotional blackmail of various kinds to get his or her own way in life.

Immature people are very wilful and demanding. However, they sense that a direct attempt to manipulate somebody would not be acceptable in society and would actually earn them disapproval instead of praise, so they couch their demands in subtle ways.

They keynote in their behaviour is CONTROL. They are controlling people but often it takes a while for you to realise that you are being steered in a certain direction. The hints and suggestions and casual remarks are so subtle that you end up doing what they want without realising it - especially if you are an accommodating and kind person.

Controlling behaviour always stems from insecurity and emotional immaturity. A mature person will allow you to make your own decisions, and respect your right to an independent choice (even if it's detrimental to his own position.) Even though he may try to reason and persuade, h will not manipulate you to do his will. That is because he accepts that not everybody will like or agree with him, and he's not afraid of that.

One reason for us to grow up into maturity today is so that "we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting". (Eph 4:14)

Having established the need for maturity as Christians, let's go on to discuss HOW we can "be perfect".

  CONTINUE TO PART THREE: How can I Become Mature?


© 2013 Tricia Tillin-Booth. All rights reserved. Birthpangs Website: http://www.birthpangs.org/  This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information.   One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.