The second part of the little acrostic, "joy," is "others." (Jesus Others Yourself- Jesus first, others second, yourself last, spells joy)! What about others? Obviously, if we are all wrapped up in ourselves, we will most likely think little of others. Yet, Jesus gave much time, care, and help, to others. A very definite indication of Spiritual maturity is what we do for others. What are some ways in which we can do this? First and foremost is really caring about other's well-being. Physical help, financial help, emotional help, mental help, Spiritual help, are ways to minister to others. We may be able to help in some of these ways or some may be able to reach out in all of these ways. All of us can reach out in at least one way, except in the most extreme circumstances (such as being severely challenged in some area). Even most bedridden people can pray and/or converse by phone. Even writing to some folk would bless them. Have you found someone that you can help? If not, ask God to bring to your attention someone that He wants to love through you. Be alert to His promptings and respond with loving care to that person's need(s). Selah! Meeting a need in someone's life may open his or her heart to having their deepest need met by Jesus. Will you be His Instrument to touch their lives for eternity? Ron
"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth." (I John 3:18)
Thinking about the lyrics of our great hymns, can we relate to the messages conveyed? Do some hymns remind us of God's Presence and purposes in our trials? Do hymns sometimes give voice to testimonies we have but can't articulate. Are hymns a way we can offer gratitude and praise to God for Who He is and what He means to us? Are hymns a vehicle through which we can worship, honor, and adore Him? Can we identify with many of the hymnwriters, having experienced some of the things they wrote about? Do hymns help us understand and appreciate the great doctrines of our faith? Do we only sing the words and not think about them? Are we more "taken" with good music than we are with the truths contained in the words? In short, do we truly internalize the meanings? If we are gifted in singing or playing an instrument and we are asked to do it in a church service, are we entertaining or ministering? If we are ministering, why do people clap? Are they doing it for our "performance?" Pray that God will use your ministry to effect eternal results and that the listeners will think more about God and their relationship with Him than how well you sang or played. It's more important for hearts to be moved than for bodies to be stirred. Selah! Singing and ministering in music and letting hymns reflect your experience of and love for God are indications of Spiritual maturity. Ron
"Speaking to yourselves (communicating to others, as well as to yourself) in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart (and hopefully resonating in other's hearts) to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:19)
Oddly, there are two words that intimidate many Christians. One is "theology" and the other is "doctrine." I believe that somehow the enemy has instilled in too many minds that these are difficult areas to deal with unless you are very learned and/or you are going to be a preacher. If you consider these areas are beyond your capacity, you have 'bought into" his deception. The fact is that theology is the study of God and doctrines are teachings. Could there be anything that a maturing Christian needs to pursue more than the study of God and the teachings of His Word? Without this kind of grounding, we are vulnerable to "every wind of doctrine" ( See Ephesians 4:14). Many (at least, professing) Christians and possibly some genuine ones have become victims of cults and/or college teachers (sceptics) who pride themselves on their supposed knowledge that rules God out of their foolish thinking (See Romans 1:22). These teachers are spiritually blind. Our only insurance against being blindfolded, Spiritually, by them, is to know God through Jesus in a vital personal relationship and to be deeply into the truths of the Bible. (Go back in these articles for a basic overview of major doctrines). Selah! It is deeply satisfying and builds a strong faith to be deeply involved in the study of theology and doctrines directly from the Bible, using good aids such as a concordance, good Bible Dictionary, and reliable commentary or commentaries. Ron
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom.." (From Colossians 3:16)
Jesus saw the whole world as a mission field. (All missions are foreign from Heaven's viewpoint). It would indicate a tragic lack of Spiritual maturity if we failed to have a concern for, and involvement in, worldwide evangelism. If you are called to go, go! If you are not called to go, you are called to be involved (Acts 1:8). How are mature believers to be involved? At the top of the list pray for missionaries and their mission. Give to whatever extent possible to support world missions (maybe even sacrificially)! Educate yourself (and others when possible) about missionaries and missions. Keep in mind that you are a missionary in your sphere of influence. Missions begin where the sinner crosses your path and you are afforded a moment of engagement with him and/or her. Writing letters and making phone calls are additional opportunities to fulfill your role in world missions. In regard to these, use caution. Discuss with those missionaries you are involved with, the best way to do this. Some problems can occur, if not done in a wise way. Encourage missions in your local church. Selah! What other ways can you think of to advance the spread of the Gospel? Ron
"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." (From Mark 16:15)
We tend to extremes which, by the way, Satan uses to his advantage. One extreme is to read only the Word of God and nothing else. The upside of that is that we would gain a lot from listening to God. The downside is that we might be out of touch with our mission field. The point is that as we listen to God, we find that He wants us to function in our mission field. What would happen to a missionary going to, let us say, Africa, if he or she knew nothing about Africa? Suppose they had no knowledge of the culture or the people. Imagine that they didn't know how they should behave in front of their observers. How likely would it be that they would succeed in their assignment? This is where reading comes in, for us. Reading (the right kind) can help us dig more deeply into our Bibles. Good books explain what some of God's people, who have gone ahead of us, Spiritually, have learned and wanted to share with us in their books,etc. (If you don't know where to start, may I suggest the list of books on the left of this article). The other extreme, which is very dangerous, is to read books instead of reading the Bible. Always keep the Bible "Number One" and then good books, etc. in a supportive and serving role. Selah! The most mature Christians that I know or know about majored on the Bible and used good books to Spiritual advantage. Ron
Paul, in prison, wrote in his letter to Timothy these requests: "The cloak,….when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments." (From II Timothy 4:13) Was he not requesting, above all, the Word of God? Yes, but also the books.
Let me start by again reminding you that all of these indicators of Spiritual maturity are not all accomplished overnight. These are progress signs on the road to maturity. These are being developed as we prayerfully apply and obey the Word of God.
It is in God's character and nature to give. As born again Christians, His nature, in us, moves us to give. How we give is important. Is it duty only? If we have to give, we will do our duty. That is, at least, a starting point. However, if we are are truly growing Spiritually, we will come to enjoy giving. We will wish we had much more to give and if we were trusted with more, we would gladly give more. How does one reach this level of giving? First, think hard on what God gave. Think on the love that moved Him to give. Secondly, realize that your giving isn't just letting go of your bills, coins, and checks into the offering plate or handing it over for some need. Those are the means to the end. The end is the eternal results from our combined giving. God takes our means and uses those means to support and increase the giving out of the good news of salvation. He uses those means to provide opportunities to worship, praise, and give thanks, as well as provide training in Godliness through the public preaching of His Word. He uses our means to give us the joy of experiencing Himself, together with brothers and sisters in the local assembly of the saints. Selah! I wonder if we won't be surprised at how many there are in Heaven that are there because we, together with God's people, supported getting the message out. Think about that! Ron
"Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver." (II Corinthians 9:7) Do you have a heart that moves you to give cheerfully?
"Worldlings" experience all kinds of fears. Some are legitimate. Being afraid of fire, for example, can motivate people to be careful around it. There are irrational fears. Someone might be afraid to mix socially for fear of catching a cold or perhaps fear of being "put down." Some Christians fear ridicule if they try to talk to others about their need of Jesus or because they believe the Bible. For unsaved people to have certain fears is understandable. They don't have a relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ and so do not have the confident assurance of being in His loving and wise care. They have no concept that God's purposes are worked out in His people. Even the bad things, from a human perspective, can be used for ultimate good. God blesses but He also supplies sustaining grace for the trials that He allows. When He allows them, He has a good reason and one reason is to let us trust Him even when going through life's hardest experiences. Fears can warp and weaken the mind. Some folk, sadly, lose it mentally, in tragedy. For the mature believer, true trust in God alleviates the stresses of fear. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7). There is a peace "which passeth all understanding." (From Philippians 4:7). Selah! The One who keeps track of the hairs on our heads and even takes notice of the sparrows that fall can give our hearts the calm assurance that He cares for us vastly more than the lowly sparrow. Ron
"Tho sometimes He leads through waters deep, Trials fall across the way, Tho sometimes the the path seems rough and steep, See His footprints all the way. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest Name I know, Fills my every longing, Keeps me singing as I go." ("He Keeps Me Singing" Luther B. Bridges)