How Do We Grow Up?
I have highlighted the problems and dangers of immaturity. But that's not enough. Telling you the problem is only half of it. You and I need to look at HOW to grow up!
As we have seen previously, it is a BIBLICAL COMMAND TO BE PERFECT! It is not an optional extra for a Christian.
"And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect."
And Jesus repeated this command to be perfect to his disciples:
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matt 5:48
God is not telling Abram to be sinless, nor does Jesus command us to attain sinless perfection. As some teach today; but the bible's word for "perfect" as we have already speaks of maturity, growing up, becoming adult, of full age, ripe like a fruit.
We can substitute "grown-up" in the Bible, for "perfect". In Hebrew, the word translated perfect is as follows:
TAMIYM (taw-meem'); entire (literally, figuratively or morally); also (as noun) integrity, truth.
TAMAM (taw-mam');a primitive root; to complete, in a good or a bad sense, come to the full, be whole. (etc)
So the word of God COMMANDS that we be perfect!! We are commanded to grow up - but HOW? Think about that a second. HOW DID YOUR CHILDREN GROW UP - in their bodies and minds? Was it ---
- A course of education?
- Medical assistance?
- By your help and encouragement?
NO, it was a natural process, wasn't it? If you left them all alone, they'd grow up anyway. You can't stop that process - anyone who's had to buy children's clothes knows that!
In the same way, growing up is a natural process for a Christian. This should give us all encouragement. The only thing we have to worry about is avoiding all that HINDERS this process. Well look at what hinders later in the article.
FRUIT GROWING ON THE TREE
We are designed as Christians to go on to perfection. Fruit grows on the branch, using the sap of the parent tree, until it is fully ripe. It comes to perfection, and then serves a purpose - it provides life for a new generation. The seed of new life is within it, and it changes form, and becomes a new life.
We can see this as a parable of the way a Christian grows. The bible talks about us as fruit-bearing branches on the Vine of Life. We are joined to the Tree of Life, who is Jesus. We grow up in Him, nurtured by his life. And we are supposed to ripen, to come to full age, to perfection. Then we can perform a service to others. We can generate new life.
"The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.
"These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word's sake, immediately they stumble.
"Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
"But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred."
We can and should bear fruit - according to our abilities. And God expects that of us, as we've seen. God does not desire a church of babies, but fully grown adults, able to be of use to him and to others, and able to withstand the storms.
THE BARREN TREE
Jesus came looking for fruit on the Tree of Israel, and it wasn't ready. (Matt 21:19) It wasn't ripe. Green figs are no good for eating. Are we as a Church in the same condition? God is looking for ripe fruit, sweet to eat, useful, something that will build strength into others, and give new life to others. But when he looks at the Tree of the Church, will he see only leaves?
"These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots." (Jude 1:12)
These people referred to as fruitless trees are not pagans, nor unbelievers. No, they are believers who have fallen away. They are dead branches - Jesus says they were once IN HIM. Look at: John 15:1
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch IN ME that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
Dead branches without fruit are no use to the Lord. The very fact that theres no fruit on a branch tells the gardener that theres no life flowing, no sap, that this is an unhealthy, diseased or dead branch. Jesus expects and commands that we do bear fruit:
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. (John 15:16)
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Gal 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
The fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of maturity, the personality characteristics that we looked at in Part Two. You can only produce these qualities in abundance as you come to maturity, not as a spiritual babe.
So, God desires and commands that we bring forth fruit. That is the purpose of his life in us. But now the question arises of the wrong kind of fruit. Its possible to use the sap of the life of Jesus simply to service our own needs, rather than to produce healthy growth.
MISTLETOE IS SELF-CENTRED FRUIT
As we have already seen, FRUIT grows as a result of the life of the TREE. As long as the branch is attached to the Tree, the sap produced life, which is turned into fruit. In the next passage, Jesus pictures Himself as the Vine providing the essential nutrients for growth, health and fruit.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples (John 15:2-8 )
So, Jesus says, if you continually abide in ME, you will bear fruit - naturally. But now lets consider a type of fruit that is a counterfeit. This counterfeit is present in many churches today.
Mistletoe grows on the branches of a tree, rather like real fruit, but it's a parasite. It sticks on - it's the supreme "hanger-on" - it sticks onto the branch and then saps the life out of the tree, without adding anything useful.
The fruit of the mistletoe, therefore, is not life-giving, but poisonous. Mistletoe berries produce a hypnotic effect - they act like a drug. (That's why they were so prized by the pagans, and the druids.)
At Christmas people remember the immorality of the pagan midwinter feasts, because they still kiss under the mistletoe. Thats because the mistletoe berry was used in pagan times to produce a drunken state in which the natural senses are aroused. Using this as a spiritual parable, is this kind of counterfeit fruit-bearing what we see all around us in churches? I believe so.
We now have mistletoe growth, instead of fruit growth!! Many Christians are like parasites hanging onto the church, sucking the life out of it, USING Jesus for their own erotic ends. They are arousing their senses and satisfying their needs, instead of producing life for others.
HOW DO WE GROW?
WE ARE DESIGNED TO GROW. Growth is natural and almost inevitable, both in the physical and spiritual worlds. Fruit will be borne on a fruit tree as long as sap reaches the branch. Similarly, spiritual growth will take place and fruit will be borne by a Christians so long as he or she is attached to the Vine, abiding in Christ.
We are not supposed to remain babes in Christ for ever; we should be moving on. If we are walking in God's will as we should be - feeding on the Living Bread, drinking at the Fountain Head - we WILL be growing up and maturing.
However, if we feed on something else, the growth process falters, slows down or even stops. It's important to remember that the growth we want as Christians occurs because of the new life of Jesus Christ within us. It does not come from our own souls, nor the world around us. Indeed, if we DO draw our life from those areas, we will end up both hindering our spiritual life and producing unwanted worldly growth!
There are two sources of energy we can draw from - our own natural energy, or God's life. OUR life, or GODS life.
- God's life produces fruit, and maturity.
- Our own natural life produces nothing worth having vanity and emptiness.
So the secret of how to grow up and become mature and bear fruit, is to feed on the life provided for us in Jesus Christ, and forsake our own natural life. When the bible says: "Dying to self" it doesnt mean giving up smoking and not watching blue movies (although thats a good thing!) dying to self actually means putting aside the natural inclinations, thoughts, opinions, emotions and drives that conflict with Gods new life within us.
We will grow, unless we HINDER growth. If we co-operate with the growth process, we WILL mature as God intended. So the question is not, how do we achieve maturity, but HOW ARE WE HINDERING something that is taking place by God's grace.
TO SUMMARISE - Growth occurs if:
- we forsake the things that hinder growth, and
- we submit to the things that encourage growth
Therefore, to conclude this article, I am going to look at the development of a fruitful and mature Christian life in each of the sections of Part Two, together with the hindrances that halt growth in those areas.
We feed on the Word in order to grow. This involves reading, studying and meditating on scripture, which transforms our minds as we soak ourselves in its wisdom.
we draw near to God, resist the devil, and develop a hatred of sin; plus we understand the need for self-discipline
We stop depending on others, or our own efforts, and lean on the Lord
We develop spiritual discernment
We deny ourselves (the self-life) and encourage the nature of God within
We practise putting others first
(1) THE WORD OF GOD FEEDS US, CAUSES US TO GROW UP
Babies are given food, firstly milk, then soft food, and only later on food that needs to be chewed. So we saw earlier that as babes in Christ, we drink the milk - of what? THE WORD:
"As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." (1 Pet 2:2 )
Also in the bible, the deeper wisdom of God is compared to "strong meat" reinforcing this idea that the Word of God is the primary way of feeding our Christian lives.
Thus, if you are not feeding regularly on the Word, you will grow very slowly. The inmates of the concentration camps found that the growth of children was slowed without food. Children looked like toddlers when they were nine and ten years old.
(2) AWARENESS OF SIN COMES WITH CLOSENESS TO GOD
We saw previously that babies and toddlers need to be cleansed by others. Immature Christians need to be reminded to keep themselves clean. They have little awareness of sin.
On the other hand, those who are most aware of their failings, are the ones who are closest to God. The nearer we draw to God, and to spiritual things, the more we become aware of what offends God.
"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:5-6)
Job's faith was a theoretical thing before he had a personal revelation of God's character. Job could argue back and forth about intellectual concepts of sin and purity, but when he met God face to face in a personal encounter, he was moved to heartfelt repentance. It's a genuine personal relationship with God that makes us understand who God is - Almighty and HOLY. When we draw near to Him, we hate our sin.
If we are living in the world, we adopt the world's standards and lose sight of God's holiness. But for those who live close to God, things that seem acceptable to the world, feel wrong!! Even seemingly harmless pastimes and activities sometimes prick the conscience of a truly spiritual Christians, because he or she is close enough to God to feel that the Holy Spirit is grieved. Those who live close to God cannot sin with a clear conscience.
Also, the more we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our living, the more the holy nature of God will take over, and convict us of wrongdoing. All progress in the Christian life and faith is accomplished by allowing the holy and pure and powerful life of God overtake our flesh and transform us unto the likeness of Christ. Remember:
- IT'S NOT BY WORKS, BUT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD.
- IT'S SPIRITUAL GROWTH, NOT LEGALISTIC DO'S AND DONT'S.
"For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God." (Heb 7:19)
It's not by doing, but by being, that we grow - being attached to the only good thing available to this world, the new life of Jesus Christ, the Vine of the Father! As we fellowship deeper and deeper with God by the Holy Spirit, we begin to grow. We don't grow by practising religious rituals:
"Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal 3:3 )
It's not by works of the flesh, but by forsaking the flesh that we become "perfect". We make room for God's life, and that life is a life of maturity, because God is fully mature.
(3) ABILITIES - GROWING STRONG BY BEING WEAK!
Mature people have an inner strength - they are not weak like babies. But how do we become strong?
"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect (brought to fulness) in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, (WEAKNESSES) that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Cor 12:9 )
This is one of the mysteries of the Christian life. We seek to be strong, but we only grow and become strong in God as we allow our own natural strength to wither. We have to become weaker in ourselves to become stronger in God!
Let's see this in the life of Jesus. Jesus was the perfect Man. He's our model of what maturity is really like - we follow His lead. For the word says:
"The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master." (Luke 6:40 )
So we need to see how Jesus acted, and what brought HIM to maturity. Yes, even he underwent a natural process of maturity. Jesus was brought to perfection - he was always sinless, so this is not sinless perfection we are talking about.
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." (Heb 2:9-10 )
"Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." (Heb 5:8-9)
TESTING AND TRIALS BRING US CLOSER TO JESUS AS THE SOURCE OF LIFE
Babies run away from trials, not realising that they are the very things that cause us to GROW. In trial and suffering and testing, we find out the truth about ourselves - that we are weak and incapable without God.
- Depending on yourself or other people is a sign of immaturity.
- Depending on God is a sign of growing up to maturity.
We come to depend on God through afflictions, tribulations, trials, that test the metal of our faith, as metal is tested in the furnace.
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:2-5 )
FORSAKING OUR OWN WAY - ALLOWING GOD TO HAVE HIS WAY
What more can we learn from the attitude of Jesus? He didn't let his OWN human life interfere with God's will. Even though he was divine, the Son of God on earth, He said: I DO NOTHING OF MYSELF. Jesus submitted himself to God the Father; he humbled himself; he depended on the power of the Holy Spirit. That is why he was mature!
Jesus forsook the energy of the self-life EVEN THOUGH FOR HIM IT WAS PERFECTLY SINLESS. Despite the fact that he was the spotless Son of God, perfect in holiness, Jesus Christ still forsook his own will and nature and thoughts and emotions, in order to obey the Father's will at all times.
"For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." (John 6:38 )
"Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42 )
If we remain immature, we open ourselves to error. We are gullible and undiscerning. We become a prey to false teachers, who utilise our desire to be spoon-fed.
The more we look to GOD alone for support and guidance, the more we can withstand error. So the answer to immaturity is - get rid of the babysitter! Start looking out for yourself! Don't expect others to protect you, or warn you, or tell you what you should believe.
We are not told that we will always be (like children) protected from error or danger or trials. On the contrary, some trials and suffering is to be expected in the normal Christian life, but we are commanded to endure suffering, knowing that it works strength into our souls:
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." (1 Pet 5:8-10)
As we saw above, the most basic element of the Christian life and walk is to "deny self", that is, to deny self-life, and encourage the nature of God within. If we have PUT ON Christ and we are attached to the Vine (the bible calls it "abiding in the Vine") of Jesus we will grow if we do not hinder the sap of his life.
But this requires that we - for our part - actively PUT OFF the old ways of living, the life the depends on our worldly understanding and reactions to things around us. We have to begin looking UP and walking in a spiritual realm, understanding the things of God.
"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." (1 Cor 13:11 )
The nature of a child is to be self-centred. That is the basic nature of mankind, also. Almost everything that goes wrong on this planet is due to a selfish, self-seeking nature - people want things and they are prepared to do almost anything to get them. Robbery, murder, adultery, anger and threats, addictions and every other sin is a result of man's self-centred and demanding human nature.
That is also what the Bible says:
"Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." (James 4:1-3)
On the other hand, the whole ethos of the Bible message is denial of self! As we have seen, Jesus denied himself to the absolute. He laid down his life for others.
The way to growth is, as we have seen, TWOFOLD
- - submit to the growth-giving life of God, and...
- - forsake the self-life of the natural man, which HINDERS growth.
The two activities go hand-in-hand. You can't please yourself AND please God. No man can serve two masters. If the FLESH is in charge, then GOD will NOT be in charge, and growth is hindered. On the other hand, if you make the quality decision to allow God to take charge, and to obey his will in all things, then your flesh will recede and no longer be such a factor in governing your life. The bible makes a promise that the flesh will NOT rule if we are walking in the Spirit:
"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. [promise] For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." (Gal 5:16-25)
Notice that Paul above recognises that we are already IN the Spirit (saved, Christian) but even so we need to make a decision to WALK in the Spirit daily. This is where you have a choice to make - are you going to submit to the pleasure of having your own way, doing your own thing, or are you going to forsake self, and allow God to guide you into HIS way? On that decision rests your growth to maturity.
SEEKING GOD'S WILL DAILY IS THE KEY
What it comes down to in practise, is SEEKING GOD'S WILL on a daily, hourly basis. We have to continually check with God in prayer: what do you want, Lord? Is this right for me, Lord? What should I do, Lord? What do YOU want? Should I go to that meeting? Should I have fellowship with that person? Show me Father if this is my will or your will.
We develop a lifestyle that is not depending on human emotions, thoughts or opinions, but that looks beyond those natural things to the things of the Spirit. We develop an ear that is tuned into God all the while, waiting and watching for the prompts that tell us "something is wrong" or "do this, do that!"
A bonus is that those whose attitude is to do God's will, are those who will have discernment - they will know if the teaching is from God.
"Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:16-17)
When trying to identify whether you are hearing the voice of God or not, I suggest a few simple guidelines: generally, the first thing thought that comes to mind is from YOUR OWN mind and will. It is STRONGER than the voice of God. If you obey the first thought that comes into your head you could be misled. You have to learn to STOP, think TWICE. Think once for self, twice for God.
Often, after rejecting your first impulse and seeking God, a third suggestion comes to mind - this may be the subtle whisper of the devil, tempting you by offering you another alternative. The way it goes is like this:
The preacher is delivering a strong message about reaching out to save the lost. You feel moved in your emotions, but does God want YOU to be an evangelist?
- The first thought you have is fearful and worrying - this would be a difficult life, exposing you to ridicule. That is your own mind at work and your natural selfish emotions.
- Therefore, you put those thoughts to one side and seek for the quiet peaceful voice of the Spirit. He says either yes, or no - there is no sense of being pressured or driven; nor does He make you feel obligated or guilty about refusing.
- But then, if you will not listen to God (because the voice of the Spirit is not what you wanted to hear, or you are still unwilling to obey God) another thought comes to mind: if you respond in the meeting you will become a great man of God, and save thousands; your name will be mentioned in 'Charisma' magazine and you will have the joy of entering heaven knowing that you have pleased God. This ministers to your arrogance, self-confidence and pride, a sure sign that it's the voice of the devil. It could only come in because you refused to listen to God in stage two.
I won't guarantee that it is ALWAYS like this, so please do not make these infallible rules. However, I believe these are useful guidelines.
Don't decide or do anything rashly or in haste. Often the devil tricks us into doing his bidding because we give no time to seek God's will about it.
If you write a hasty letter reacting angrily to somebody who hurt you, don't be tempted to send it straight away. Sleep on it; pray, seek God, submit to His leading and often you will calm down and think better of it. Don't be pushed into making decisions on the basis of an exciting meeting or video presentation - go away and ask God what is His will for your life.
MISTRUST YOUR OWN THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS! You are not the Holy Spirit. You are not infallible. We all make many mistakes - even the Apostle John knew that truth! (James 3:2) Your mind and heart is still part of this fallible fallen world. That means you have to put your own desires to one side, forsake them, just as the bible says.
Remember, we PUT AWAY the childish things - the self-centred things.
This section is closely allied to the previous one. Again here the key is forsaking self and putting others first.
As we grow in God, we become more aware of others, less self-centred. BUT - we don't have to wait for that day to dawn. We can start the ball rolling by deliberately forsaking our need to be first and foremost.
If we just act without any check to ourselves, we will invariably end up being self-absorbed and failing to notice other's needs and feelings. But it's possible to PUT A CHECK on our emotional and thought life, the life that demands we be important and noticed; we pass it through a mental filter, before paying heed to it. We position a guard at the door:
"I said, 'I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me.'" (Ps 39:1)
"Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips." (Ps 141:3)
This fits the category of putting away. We are just making sure things of the flesh don't hinder the flow of the life of God, which is God-centred and thinks of others.
We can make it a rule to give precedence to others. TAKE A BACK SEAT, literally and metaphorically. This involves making a conscious choice not to be exalted in your flesh. If you are put into a situation where there's an opportunity to take a leading role or an important place, fall back, and let another take that place. If it was genuinely intended by God for you, let HIM promote you. Don't seek glory for yourSELF.
If you go into the Bible study and there is an easy chair, a hard kitchen chair and a stool - which will you take? Your natural inclination is to head for the easy chair by the fire. So deny yourself, and sit on the worst chair in the room.
"Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king, and do not stand in the place of the great; For it is better that he say to you, "Come up here," than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince." (Prov 25:6-7)
"When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honourable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, 'Give place to this man,' and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, 'Friend, go up higher.' Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 14:8-11)
Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6)
DO YOU WANT GOD TO RESIST YOU?
"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time." (1 Pet 5:6)
Humbling yourself is something you can do; you don't need to wait for a prompt from the Spirit.
When the biscuits come round at the end of the meeting, and of course they are all plain crackers and water biscuits and ONE nice chocolate one left, this is an opportunity. Your flesh says "take the chocolate one"! So you say to your flesh - "shut up. I'm in control here!". Then you deliberately take the plain biscuit.
You won't overthrow the power of the flesh this way - it's just an exercise in self-denial. It's self-discipline. As Paul said, "I keep my flesh under". I give it a good talking-to and say - "get under, flesh!!!"
DEAL WITH ANY PRIDE WITHOUT MERCY - BE HARD ON YOURSELF!
If you see any form of PRIDE in yourself, ruthlessly put a stop to it. Go out of your way to stamp out pride, because that's our besetting sin - we want to be known, approved of, praised. If you sense in yourself the inclination to boast or seek praise, put a stop to it.
LISTEN, AND BE INVOLVED IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS
On the telephone, or in conversation, make a positive effort to listen to what OTHERS want to say. If necessary, put your hand over your mouth and just shut up and listen.
We all know that our natural inclination is to talk about ourselves. Therefore, make up your mind when you go into a room that you are going to ask about OTHERS, and listen to their reply!!!
It's irritating, isn't it, when people only want to tell you the story of their lives - they are SO self-important. They ignore your needs and feelings; you might almost not be there. You could be curling up in agony or suffering a bereavement, but they will never notice or enquire. If you do try to start up a conversation with them, their eyes are wandering - they are already thinking about the next thing about themselves they are going to say.
People always gravitate towards "good listeners" - all they are doing, is giving attention to YOU, not themselves!!
WHAT WE FORSAKE TO MAKE ROOM FOR GROWTH (PRUNING!!)
In John 15, the Father is the vinedresser. If he sees a good fruitful branch - he PRUNES it. That is, he cuts it back so that it might become more fruitful. Any dead wood or unproductive parts, or diseased parts are pruned off.
God will be doing this with any fruitful life, and we must allow Him to challenge us, and mould us, and prune us back. We must allow Him to take things that are wrong and unproductive for us.
Anything contrary to God's will for our lives will hinder the flow of God's life, and slow our growth in Him. So if we want maturity, we have to allow Him to prune off the things that hinder growth. Such as resentfulness, grudge-bearing, and unforgiveness.
"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matt 6:14-15)
Immature people are very prone to bearing a grudge. It's almost a key feature of the life of an immature person. This is simply because at the baby stage of development we all seek approval, and if we do not receive it we cannot function properly. We get vicious and angry and resentful.
As we have already learnt, childish behaviour is insecure behaviour, where our flesh feels it's not being praised and accepted by others. We conclude, in our pit of self-misery, that "nobody loves me!". The world's remedy for this universal condition is to work on your levels of self-esteem and think more of yourself. "Love Yourself" is the world's answer.
God's answer is the exact opposite! We already think TOO MUCH of ourselves, if we still expect to be the centre of attention, or have everyone like us. Grow up! In the adult world there are thousands of people who will never like us and we'll just have to live with it.
NOBODY LOVES ME!
The only way to deal with this insecurity problem is to see yourself in the light of the Bible. You are loved by God, BUT you are still a sinner saved by grace. You don't "deserve" to be loved, as the world says! (Don't you just hate that advert that ends "Because I'm worth it" or "I deserve it" - YUK. How self-important these people are!)
You don't have a 'right' to anything on earth, except DEATH and JUDGEMENT! You don't even "deserve" to be saved - you can never earn it.
Your sins mount up to heaven and offend God, and it's only by the grace and mercy of God that you are still here. You deserve to DIE. God loved you enough to provide a way of escape - but not because you are "special". It's to do with God's mercy, not your nature at all.
You are a servant. The servant is not above his master - and Jesus humbled himself, even unto death, a criminal's death on a cross. If you think you are something, forget it.
I have had my fair share of people whining "nobody loves me" and my reaction (even though I may not say it out loud) is - "why should they?". Nobody in this world has to love you! Not even your parents, although I pray they do, and will. But there's no rule or law that states even your parents HAVE to love you! Stop punishing the world for being fallen. You are fallen yourself, remember?
If people don't like you, maybe it's not their fault, maybe it's YOUR fault! But who cares, anyway, what YOU are like? Or if anybody likes you? God loves you and that is enough! Now forget yourself and get on with being his servant, and doing his will. Start looking outwards to others and see how you can help them, and soon you'll forget yourself.
And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. ... We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (I Jn 4:16-21)
DILIGENCE IS NEEDED
"But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, (mature, grown-up) be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. (Phil 3:13-14)
There is a life-long process here. We may feel that we never fully attain, but we "press towards the mark". This illustration refers to the "finishing line" of our spiritual race. All runners are straining to reach that one goal, the finishing line. Paul sees the process going on until the day of his death - or rapture. He expected the Rapture - the upward call - to interrupt his work. Meanwhile he's running so as to win the race - diligently!
"And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, 'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you." (Rev 3:1-3 )
This final passage brings us back to the real reason for growing up today. We are coming near to the coming of the Lord. He commands us to be watchful, prepared and ready.
We cannot and will not be ready for the Lord's return if we don't grow out of immaturity. Therefore I commend the search for "perfection" to you all.