Friday, May 13, 2011

I am not a mature Christian.

WARNING: This is a long one, but well worth it!!

Just when you think of yourself as a mature Christian... The Bible, via Matt Chandler, steps in a helps you see otherwise:

Now, two things: Christian maturity is absolutely behavioral modification and it is absolutely not behavioral modification. See, the water is dirty, it's muddy. It's not as clear as we want to make it... Galations 2:21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness [or rightness] were through the law [being obedient to the law], then Christ died for no purpose.

So, we'll take behavioral modification and go, “now that I'm living right, I'm maturing.” That could be true, but it is just as true that you can change the way you behave and that [change] have nothing to do with Jesus Christ and the knowledge of God. People do it all the time. In fact, one of my pet peeves before I was converted was that Christianity felt like they had a strangle hold on life transformation. ... Life transformation you can do with a good deal of will power. But it doesn't mean you're free, it just means you modified your behavior.

And so the point in Galatians 2:21 is that rightness with God can't be purchased by obedience to the Law, because if it could, then Christ wouldn't have needed to die. …

Are we immature, but maturing? Are we mature? Or, are we stuck in immaturity? You're going to have to answer that question for you. ...

Habakkuk 3:17-18 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. So, here's the first real sign of Christian maturity.  If we think back on Habakkuk 1 and parts of Habakkuk 2... Habakkuk has this goal, this thing that he wants more than he wants to know God, worship God, follow God, love God. Early on, you begin to see he wants justice to be done in Judah; he's frustrated that justice isn't being done. He complains to God...God answers his prayer and says “I will execute justice in Judah,” and then, Habakkuk's complaint is now against God exercising that justice and discipline against Judah.

See, Habakkuk is wanting to use and utilize God for some other goal. The mature man doesn't use God like he's Aladdin holding a lamp. God is the foundation of his deepest joy. God is the pursuit of his joy. And that's a mark of Christian maturity.

As one of the many pastors who pastors this church, I can't tell you how common it is for men and the women to be exposed as using God to some other means, to some other end. People will go, “Yeah, I'll take God, if God will help me with my marriage, if He'll help me with my finances, if He'll help me with my maybe-Satanic kid, if He'll rectify this situation.” And then when that doesn't happen, now all of a sudden God's betrayed them because God didn't give to them what He promised to give to them to begin with. The end goal wasn't God, but rather what God could bring. Now, [thinking that way] is not sinful if [you're thinking that way about] salvation. It is sinful in every other category. If that's you, you have put yourself in an unbelievably dangerous situation. And I'll tell you why.

The only joy in the universe that cannot be taken from you is joy in Christ.

Every other joy can be taken from you. No matter how much you lock it down, no matter how much you defend it, no matter how much you try to protect it, it's like trying to hold oil in your hand. You can't.

So, three weeks ago, we (the church) buried a 25 year old; two weeks ago, we buried a 21 year old; and last night, we prayed with a family who buried their 6 year old son. In my nine years here, I've done dozens and dozens and dozens of funerals. ONE has been for someone over the age of 30. Dozens have been under the age of 10. The rest are between 10 and 30. When tragedy strikes like that—when you lose your health, when you lose a loved one, when the bank account dries up, when you get fired from your job, when your business tanks, when you are rejected, when all that you built your worth on and all you've stocked your joy in is stripped from you—man, you're in a lot of trouble, aren't you? You're very identity is lost. So, if your greatest joy is in your spouse, what happens when they die or get hurt or get weak and can't do for you the things that make you feel like they're your deepest joy? Well, now your life is wrecked.

If your greatest joy is your children, what happens when something happens to one of them? Even that thought, for some of us, is too much. But, I believe that my job before the Lord is to speak truth to you in love, and sometimes truth is hard to hear.

If you build on Christ, if you trust in Christ, if he is your greatest joy, then joy can be taken from you, for your greatest joy serves as the firm foundation that can be rebuilt upon and trust can be established. Why? Because God is sovereign over all. … In the face of Jesus Christ and his glory, does all of that [joy created by anything other than Christ] fade away? Yes, it does. It just doesn't look as important once you're full on in the presence of Jesus Christ. And that's what we've missed out on.

And because he's not our greatest joy, we don't view loss correctly, and we don't view suffering correctly.

Paul looked at it this way: Since Jesus is my greatest treasure, anything—whether it's good or difficult—that gets me closer to my treasure gets rejoiced in. …

Now, think about how often that doesn't occur with us! We want out. We're gathering a bunch of people around us to pray, we're putting weird oil on ourselves, “Get this [burden] off of me!” “Change this circumstance!” And Paul, our dear brother, is going “Hey, this [burden] has got me more of Jesus. This is a good thing. I have learned to be content in all circumstances. So, when I've got money, praise His name. And when I've been broke, praise His name. When I preach the gospel and every body responds, praise His name. When I preach the gospel and they hated it and tried to kill me, praise His name. When I got on a ship, and the ship got to port safely, praise His name. When I was shipwrecked in the open sea twice, praise His name. One time, after I was shipwrecked in the open sea and finally crawled up on land, tried to preach and a snake bit me, praise His name.” …

And so, you've got Paul rejoicing in what? Stuff that you and I do not rejoice in. Why? Because Christ isn't our treasure. You want to watch people with cancer rejoice in their cancer? Why? Because it gets them closer to their treasure. You want to watch people with financial hardships rejoice in Christ? They'll do it if Christ is their treasure.

Now, let me be very clear. I am not talking about some fake, false, smiley, spirit-sprinkled ridiculousness. When we had the [family who lost their 6 year old son] stand up last night at the 7:15 service here, this whole room wept with them, thinking about the loss of their 6 year old son. We got more of Jesus in that moment, when we were hurting and wounded at that loss. …

But, if Christ is your greatest joy, all circumstances push us towards him. If he's not your greatest treasure, then whatever you are ultimately treasuring is at risk to be removed from you. Christ is what can't be taken from you. Everything else can.

The first mark of maturity is that joy is set fully in Christ. He is their treasure.

Here's the second mark of maturity. Habakkuk 3:19 GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. … He's saying “I can't do it. God can do it. I'm going to get out of this valley, I'm going to get into the high places, and I'm going to get there not by my own strength, but by the strength given to me by God.” … Another reason a lot of us lack maturity is that—God help us—we're way too confident in ourselves. And for those of you whom He loves deeply, He will eventually expose your confidence in you, that you might place confidence where it is owed in Him. But, my fear for us in Western society, where a lot is easy and a lot just works well for us, is that some of us are not going to hit that spot where we realize that. … The ones I'm concerned about most are the ones stuff comes easiest to, because you get seduced into believing that your strength is adequate. It's simply not.

How do I know this is true? I know it's true because we don't pray well. I know it's true because we don't run to the scriptures to get fresh perspectives on who Jesus is so that our hearts might be stirred up by the Holy Spirit to worship Him more fully. … I know it's true when our single young men and women go “Yes, I love the Lord. Yes, I want to follow Him. Yes, I want my life to be caught up in Him. But, I'm LONELY right now and so I'm going to date and marry someone who doesn't love Him and doesn't worship Him and isn't prone to follow and submit to Him...” and making an unbelievably dark exchange—trading one sense of loneliness for loneliness on a more monumental scale once you've entered that covenant relationship. …

Where we stop—in that Western sense of things—pulling ourself up by our bootstraps and begin to develop a prayer mantra before the Lord that says, “I don't have to carry this. I cannot carry this. You will provide. These circumstances have sovereignly been placed by You to get me to more of You. So, carry me today, even though there are no figs on the vine and there are no blossoms either... Be. My. Strength. Walk me through this.” And we throw our confidence on Him and off of us, and it lightens up hard times.

It's when you believe that you've got to fix it and make it happen, that you take all the weight that you are not meant to bear and heap it upon your shoulders, and in so doing, begin to crush you and those around you.

We might not be [in that place of maturity] today, but we should be heading in that direction.

So, you've got to answer for you. Are you immature? What's the foundation of your joy? What are you really after? Where is your strength? How confident are you in you versus Him?

  • From “A Glimpse of Maturity” sermon. Matt Chandler. The Village Church. 4.16.11

Wow. I listened to all of this sermon on my drive to and from work yesterday. Ya know, if someone would have asked me the day before if I thought I was a mature Christian, I would have said a simple “yes,” all the while thinking in my head, “Of course I am! Look at my background and my experience!” ...HAH. How arrogant.

To answer Chandler's questions...

Yes, I am immature.

Currently, the foundation of my joy—if I'm blatantly honest with myself—is my husband. If things are going well with us, I feel full. When things are not going well, I feel... devastated and extremely frustrated. I can completely relate with the section in which Chandler talks about if my greatest joy is my spouse, what happens when bad things happen to him? I've spent many, many moments thinking about how awful my life would be if my husband were to die or something terrible were to happen to him. Anytime I think of it, I feel LOST...HOPELESS...EXTREMELY DEPRESSED...SCARED. Just the fact that I more-than-occasionally think about my spouse dying seems to be a red flag to me that he is my hope and my foundation right now, not Christ! I'm so afraid to lose him—whether physically or emotionally—that it's what I think about more than I should and perhaps more than is “normal.” Instead, I should be thinking about Christ and about finding joy in Him. And I'm not talking about happiness. Joy and happiness are two very different things. Joy does not depend on circumstances, happiness does.

Right now, I feel joy because I'm married to a wonderful man who, although not perfect, loves the Lord and loves me well. I feel joy because I “know” (or think I do) that the future holds a family for us, and I want to be a stay at home mom and raise a family in the Lord. That's the entire plan. That's what gives me joy, what I place my hope in.

Instead, I should constantly rejoice in the fact that God is in control and that HIS plan is sovereign! It scares me to death not to be in control and to know that at ANY MOMENT my husband and my “future life” could be taken away from me.

So, as of right now, that is why I am immature.

Part of me wants to say, “Okay, Dacia. It's time to mature. You can do it.” But alas! Isn't that the second part of immaturity that Chandler talks about?! My instinct is to put my effort into becoming mature. BUT I CAN'T WILL THAT INTO BEING. I have to ask for it... for God to grow me into maturity.