(Jesus Over Everything Series Slide)
Good morning, my name is David Sorn. I’m the Lead Pastor here.
Let me start this morning with some harder questions about your faith:
How would you answer the following questions:
How is your relationship with Jesus?
How much does your life look like His?
Are you continually growing deeper in Him?
Do you look and act more like Jesus today than you did a year ago?
Would you say that you are “spiritually mature?”
Now, you may be here today and just checking out Christianity, and so those questions may not be for you, and that’s just fine. So pumped you’re here.
But if you are a follower of Jesus, for many of us, those questions, maybe make you want to shrink back in your seat a bit.
I think a lot of us feel stuck in our faith.
We know we have a ways to go, but truthfully we’re not really sure how to get there.
Or how to become “spiritually mature” as the Bible would say
That’s the idea that as we grow in our faith, God grows us to look more and more like His Son, Jesus (as Romans 8 teaches)
But HOW does one actually become Spiritually mature? And what does even that look like?
Let’s take a look at this today
Everybody grab a BIble
As you’re grabbing a Bible, let me say that I think one of many unique things about this church is we believe not every message should sound (or even feel) the same because not every Scripture passage sounds the same.
And so sometimes our messages cut right to your heart, sometimes they deeply challenge your thinking, and other times they’re just super practical.
And that’s today. I’m going to give you about 107 ideas today…and I pray you take some of them.
We’re going to get a chance to find some answers about spiritual maturity today because in our letter of Colossians that we’re studying, Paul begins to write how he longs for the Christians at Colossae to become spiritually mature.
He actually started to talk about this in our passage we looked at last week.
Take a look at verse 28 of chapter 1
(Colossians 1:28) – NIV
He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.
Paul then begins to more fully flesh out this concept of spiritual maturity in our passage today, in chapter 2.
So look now to that big number 2, and small 1: That’s chapter 2, verse 1:
I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be…
And I’m actually going to stop right there for a bit because Paul is about to describe his goal of seeing Christians become fully mature.
(Spiritual Maturity Title Slide)
But before we talk about what Spiritual Maturity looks like, we’ve got to talk about HOW it happens first.
Because I think most Christians are a little fuzzy on how the process to become Spiritually Mature works
So let’s talk about this process
Author John Ortberg wrote a great analogy for this years ago, but my mind always works in continuums, so I’m going to put his analogy on a continuum.
(Boat Continuum #1)
And I want you, as we go, to plot where you think you might be on this continuum.
Ortberg said that a whole lot of people think that spiritual maturity is like taking a paddle boat across the ocean.
(Boat Continuum #2)
And so they (on their own) try and improve their Spiritual Maturity by trying harder than anyone else to be good and try to stop sinning and paddle their way across the whole ocean toward their end goal of Spiritual Maturity!
And this process is exhausting, unsuccessful, and often leaves people unchanged and wanting to walk away from Christ.
But there are other Christians who think Spiritual Maturity is much like a raft.
(Boat Continuum #3)
This group thinks that Spiritual Maturity comes from just laying back and soaking in God’s grace, and letting God do all the work
And God’s love is supposed to drift their raft out to sea and towards spiritual maturity.
But this just leaves you stranded in the ocean not going anywhere in your faith.
But Ortberg says that Biblically, spiritual maturity is like sailing the ocean in a sailboat.
(Boat Continuum #4)
Which, if the sailboat moves at all, is a gift of the wind (of God)
We can’t control the wind, but good sailor discerns where the wind is blowing and does the work to adjust the sail accordingly.
Spiritual Maturity is a result of you doing the work to put yourself in the right position to catch the wind…and let God move and grow you!
So that’s the process of becoming Spiritually Mature.
But what does Spiritual Maturity look like?
How should we define it?
What Paul is going to show us today is that Spiritual Maturity is a lot more well-rounded than most of us think it is.
Let me show you what Biblical Spiritual Maturity looks like:
(Human Drawing #1)
Spiritual Maturity happens when you grow in your head knowledge about God, your heart grows to be more in love with Him, you use your hands to grow in your spiritual disciplines, and you walk out your faith with your feet.
The challenge though in our culture is this:
Most churches tend to primarily focus on just 1 of those things.
For some spiritual maturity is almost completely synonymous with knowledge of the Bible.
In other churches, it’s all about how emotional you get it worship, or your quite time
Where for others, it almost has nothing to do with the Bible, but the spiritually mature are those who are out there in the community serving like Jesus
But the descriptions of Spiritual Maturity in Scripture are much more well-rounded than that.
So let’s read now of Paul’s hope, his goal, of seeing this new Colossian Church become fully mature:
(Colossians 2:2-8) – NIV
My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
(Spiritual Maturity Title Slide)
Okay, so let’s start talking through what Paul is describing here.
And let me say: This is not a comprehensive description of Spiritual Maturity.
If we were looking for that, there are a few things I would add to his list from other letters from Paul, or other parts of the Bible
But here, Paul gives an image of the type of maturity he was hoping for the Colossian Church in their context.
And so let’s go back to our drawing of the person
(Human drawing #1)
And we’re going to spend a minute talking about each of the 4 areas of spiritual maturity that we can grow in
And as we do, I want you to be thinking: “Which of these 4 areas do you need to still grow in?”
Let’s start with the head
(Human drawing #2).
What do we see Paul list in our passage as examples of spiritual maturity in this realm?
He says he wants them to have the full riches of “complete understanding (v. 2)
That in Christ are the treasures of Wisdom & Knowledge (v. 3)
Also, twice (in verses 4 & 8), he says it’s important that Christians aren’t deceived by other philosophies
And so if you’re going to grow to be spiritually mature, it is absolutely critical that you grow in your head knowledge of God’s Word.
Way too many Christians nowadays are taken captive (as verse 8 says) by false doctrines and ideas
In other words, these new ideas lure you away telling you some lie like, “Christianity means you won’t have to suffer, and God will give you every victory!”
Or they tell you that “Christianity is most importantly about social justice, or electing the right leaders,”
And all sorts of Christians, especially those who haven’t truly studied what the Bible teaches…are “taken captive”
And to what?
To “Hollow philosophies” Paul says.
Philosophies that are like those hollow chocolate bunnies at Easter time.
They look good on the outside but are nothing but unsatisfying air on the inside.
And so many chase after these appealing new ideas, only to be left completely empty in a year or 2.
But Paul wants to see Christians led to a MATURE faith. A stable faith.
This is why good Bible teaching is so important.
Because what will help you better identify false philosophies is, you, deeply learning the truth of God’s Word
In his timeless book, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby tells the story of the Canadian Mounties that train people in anti-counterfeiting work…the art of identifying fake currency.
And interestingly enough, in their training, they never let the trainees see a counterfeit bill (a fake one).
The trainees only thoroughly study every square centimeter of the real bill, so that if they see a fake one, they will absolutely know it’s counterfeit.
Because you simply can’t imagine all the ways people can make counterfeit money.
But you can study the truth.
And the same is true with the Bible and your spiritual maturity.
So what can you do to grow in Spiritual Maturity in this realm (in your head knowledge)?
Let me give you a few action steps
Head Action Steps:
1. Buy a good study Bible (NIV Study Bible)
2. Use an online commentary: EnduringWord.com
3. Consult a good theological site: GotQuestions.org
4. Use RenovationChurch.org/messages
5. Take a Renovation U Class
Okay, but you can’t just grow in head knowledge because then your head would get so big, you’d fall over
So we see that Paul also lists examples of spiritual maturity pertaining to the heart
(Human drawing #3).
He says he wants us to be encouraged in our HEARTS (v. 2)
He wants us to KNOW Christ deeply (v. 2)
And he wants our hearts to overflow with thankfulness (v. 7)
The best Biblical definition of how the heart is used in Scripture is that the heart is the most comprehensive term for the authentic person.
The heart is who you really are inside.
It’s the part of our being where we desire and will.
And Jesus teaches that your actions flow out of your heart:
(Matthew 12:35) – NIV
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
Jesus teaches that the heart is where our words come from and our actions spring from.
(Human drawing #3).
And because that’s true, this means that if you want to be spiritually mature (and you want to look more like Jesus), you must focus, not just on your head, but on your heart.
You can’t just know about God, you need to know God!
As Dallas Willard says in a book that helped name this very church, a book called “Renovation of the Heart,” He says,
“What we want is not to subscribe to trying to follow a different set of rules that avoids bad stuff…what we want is a heart that just doesn’t desire those things anymore” – Dallas Willard
So becoming a disciple of Christ…isn’t as bland and as boring as saying, “Okay, I’m a Christian now, I guess I better force my heart to not get drunk. To not like porn anymore. To not like spending all my money and time on myself anymore.”
No, that’s the paddle boat approach. You won’t get very far.
(Spiritual Maturity Title Slide)
What the Bible teaches is that the more you truly make room for Jesus to do whatever He wants do in your heart…
The more Jesus the carpenter will come in and take out some of those old dirty walls, and put up some new ones.
And there will be new parts of your heart that say, “No, it’s not just that I shouldn’t do that anymore…I don’t WANT to do that anymore. I want God instead.”
True spiritual maturity is a heart that is having its desires changed by God
And because that’s true, you want to take action steps to let God into your heart, the core of who you are.
Heart Action Steps:
1. Meet with Jesus every day
2. Listen to Christian music
3. Go on a prayer retreat: Wilderness Fellowship
Okay, let’s keep moving because Paul actually rounds this out more than our head and our heart
We see that Paul also lists examples of spiritual maturity pertaining to the hands
(Human drawing #4).
Here Paul says that he is delighted that Colossian believers are already disciplined in their faith (v. 5)
And that they need to continue to be built up in Him (v. 7)
In fact, if you look at verse 7, Paul throws out 3 metaphors at once.
He says continue to be rooted, built up in him, and strengthened
And grammatically all 3 of those are passive.
And so what that means is you put yourself in the right position, and Christ is the one doing the work.
He’s the wind that’s blowing you to maturity.
But your hands have to do the work setting the sails so that you’re there when the wind blows.
These are the disciplines that Paul is talking about: .
Hands Action Steps:
1. Set your alarm to get up 10 minutes earlier to meet with God
2. Put your phone away (or on do not disturb) when you meet with Him
3. Begin trusting God with your finances
4. Try fasting for 24 hours
These are all examples of being disciplined to use your hands to position your life to catch God’s wind.
Okay, Paul gives us one more area of spiritual maturity, and it’s the feet
(Human drawing #5)
If you’re going to grow, you gotta get up and move outside the church and outside your home
Paul says in verse 2 that his goal is that the Colossian believers be UNITED together in love
And also in verse 6 that they would live their LIVES for Him
And I think both of these are critical Biblical points that modern day American Christians miss
The first one, United in Love, is key.
Many of us aren’t growing to a spiritually maturity (that many of Christian brothers & sisters across the globe are) because we’ve wrongly deduced that Christianity is mainly individualistic
We think it’s just about studying theology, having our own quiet time, and then growing to be a better person…and that’s it.
But the truth is: We’ve got to move our feet to be united with other Christians.
That’s one of the reasons we shut off our livestream as a church
You can’t grow to full spiritual maturity watching a screen by yourself.
We need to be united together with other Christians who are going to support one another, challenge one another, encourage one another, and so on.
As I’ve said before, there are over 50 “one another” commands like that in the Bible.
You can’t become spiritually mature without other Christians.
This is why House Groups is SO important to your spiritual growth.
And you know, I think on another note, many of us don’t grow to be spiritually mature because ultimately we’re not “living it out,” or walking it out like Paul wants his readers to do
And that’s also because modern Americans have wrongly turned discipleship into a consumeristic model (which, is very American of us 😊)
But spiritual maturity and discipleship isn’t just about YOU growing for your own sake.
At some point, we’ve gotta walk out our faith in a way that affects others
And this is where, if we were taking a more topical approach, and looking at all passages, we’d probably add things like service, and evangelism, and even obedience.
(James 1:22) – NIV
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
If you know a ton of theology and love to worship in your car at the top of your lungs, but you don’t actually walk out your faith in obedience to God…
That’s not maturity.
In marriage, that would be like a spouse saying: “I’ve read 15 marriage books, and I can’t tell you how much I love my spouse, but I wouldn’t say I ever serve them, or go out on dates, or encourage them, or do any of that marriage stuff”
The evidence of real maturity is seen in action.
Feet Action Steps:
1. Get in a House Group
2. Sign up to volunteer
3. Start sharing your faith
4. Be obedient to what the Holy Spirit has been telling you
And listen, it’s important to me that you don’t leave here overwhelmed with a list of too many things you have to do.
Don’t go into “paddle boat mode.”
Because some of you are already doing that.
You wrote down 12 things you’re going to do by Friday and you’re already overwhelmed!
(Human Drawing #5)
The main purpose of this passage is to show you that spiritual maturity is a well-rounded affair.
And to get each of us thinking about where our weak spots may be…
…and to maybe just pick one thing…and press in
(Boat Continuum #4)
But we must remember that we cross the ocean of spiritual growth in a ship with sails.
If you would, look at verse 6 just one more time
Paul says, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him”
Let me ask you:
How did you receive Christ at first?
You received Him by admitting that you can’t do it on your own, and by letting His grace save you, and lead you, and change you.
And in the early days of your faith, because of that, so many of you kept your hands busy, your feet were moving, and your head was learning, and your heart was coming alive.
And how was that happening?
It wasn’t because you were “trying harder”
It was because you were raising the sails all the time, and waiting for God to bring the wind.
And He did!
And Paul says, “Just as you started that way, keep living that way”
…and catch the wind again!
Let me pray
A man once bought a home with a tree in the backyard. It was winter, and nothing marked this tree as different from any other tree. When spring came, the tree grew leaves and tiny pink buds. "How wonderful," thought the man. "A flower tree! I will enjoy its beauty all summer." But before he had time to enjoy the flowers, the wind began to blow and soon all the petals were strewn in the yard. "What a mess," he thought "This tree isn't any use after all."
The summer passed, and one day the man noticed the tree was full of green fruit the size of large nuts. He picked a large one and took a bite, "Bleagh!" he cried and threw it to the ground. "What a horrible taste! This tree is worthless. Its flowers are so fragile the wind blows them away, and its fruit is terrible and bitter. When winter comes, I'm cutting it down." But the tree took no notice of the man and continued to draw water from the ground and warmth from the sun and in late fall produced crisp red apples.
Some of us see Christians with their early blossoms of happiness and think they should be that way forever. Or we see bitterness in their lives, and we're sure they will never bear the better fruit of joy. Could it be that we forget some of the best fruit ripens late? - Misty Mowrey,
He explains that the church in Colossae was early in its development, and many of the members had not even met the apostle. And like many new believers, they were susceptible to corruption. Paul writes to the church that they may have the full riches of understanding Christ.
[The label on the bottle said:] "Blueberry Pomegranate, 100 percent juice, all natural."
[There was also a picture of] a ripe pomegranate [spilling] its exotic, glistening seeds onto mounds of fat, perfect blueberries. …
And then I read the ingredients list: "Filtered water, pear juice concentrate, apple juice concentrate, grape juice concentrate." Where was the blueberry? Where was the pomegranate? Finally I found them, fifth and seventh on a list of nine ingredients, after mysteriously unspecified "natural flavors."
By law, food ingredients are listed in descending order of weight. That means a product contains the greatest proportion of the first ingredient on the list and successively less of those farther down. So according to this list, the jug in my hand held mostly water and other juices, with just enough blueberry and pomegranate for flavor and color.
In the bottom corner of the front label, in small, easy-to-miss type, were the tell-tale words: "Flavored juice blend with other natural ingredients." The enticing pictures and clever labeling were decoys to sell a diluted, blueberry-pomegranate flavored product, convincingly disguised to look like something it wasn't. I put the juice back on the shelf.
I left the store empty-handed and wondering, What if I had an ingredients list printed on me? Would Jesus be the main ingredient? If not, how far down the list would he be? Would my "label" accurately represent my contents? Or would I falsely project a misleading outward appearance that cleverly masked diluted ingredients? My packaging may be convincing. I may look and sound like the real thing. But what if someone came to me looking for Jesus beneath my "Christian" label and found something else? Something Jesus-flavored, but not Jesus-filled? …
Key: No shortcuts! There is a process of growth involved and you cannot just short circuit the process, jump on some promising bandwagon and arrive!
There’s an old myth that says:
I met a young man not long ago who dives for exotic fish for aquariums. He told me that one of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. He explained that if you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium you put it in. Sharks can be six inches long yet fully matured. But if you turn them loose in the ocean, they grow to their normal length of eight feet.
That is like what happens to some Christians. I have seen some of the cutest little six-inch Christians who swim around in a little puddle. You can look at them and comment on how fine they are. But if you were to put them out into a larger arena—into the broad view of a whole creation—they might become great.
God help us not to be confined to a little puddle out of insecurity, but instead to see that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. He made us, and if we will both have internal integrity and relate ourselves to the larger structures in the ways he has ordained, we will be able to serve him according to a holistic vision of his purpose on the earth.
He knew that discouraged, downcast Christians are easy prey for the world, the flesh, and the devil.
This is why the discipline of being in church, house groups, even a discipline as simple as listening to Christian music is so important.
The goal is that your heart delights with Christ.
That you learn to love Him. That he is on the throne of your life.
The mature person is the one who loves Christ and hates sin.
The one who is repulsed by Gossip, doesn’t watch what others watch, etc.
See, what you KNOW about God is a huge determiner for how you will relate to Him as a disciple.
If, in your knowledge of you think God is, you think God doesn’t forgive you when you commit a major sin, you’re going to relate to Him way differently than someone who knows that Jesus died on the cross, yes, even for that sin.
If you want to become a doctor…you aren’t going to do it just by hanging out by the pool with other doctors.
You need to learn some anatomy.
If you want to become a disciple…a disciple of Jesus…it’s time to learn about Jesus.
Recommend Bible reading.
Listen, God cares very little about an outward show.
You can’t fool him with your church attendance or the fact that you dress a little bit more appropriately for church.
(Matthew 15:8) – NIV
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
He wants your heart,
Flower Apple Tree conclusion?
I think most people do want to improve who they are as a person.
We want to lose weight or get better at a hobby or get better at relationships.
It’s a pretty natural thing.
It’s why the self-help industry makes billions of dollars
You ever seen the self-help section at Barnes and Noble?
Because those authors KNOW you want to declutter your life, you just don’t know how!
Or learn how to parent better in 7 easy steps!
The problem with this is many churches, and even the church in America at large tends to focus on just one aspect of this, and call it spiritual maturity.
For much of the latter half of the 20th century, spiritual maturity, or discipleship, was almost synonymous with head knowledge.
If you went to Bible studies, and memorized scripture, and studied theology, you were: Spiritually mature.
Whereas nowadays, I hear people say things like, “It’s not about knowing God’s Word, but doing God’s Word!”
And I think, “how do you do something you don’t even know about?”
I know I’m mixing metaphors (but Paul did it so I will do), but I often think of the Robert Murray M’Chenne quote that says:
“What plant can go un-watered and not whither?” – Robert Murray M’Chenye
If you don’t take the time to do your spiritual disciplines you won’t spiritual mature
And yet, we also remember that we just set the sails, right?
So maybe even take just one suggestion today, one thing that the Holy Spirit is laying on your heart this morning, and raise up your sail, and trust Him to begin maturing your faith anew.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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