“For everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good and evil.”
As I read these words this morning, it struck me that these are the marks of mature and immature Christians.
They perhaps aren’t what one might expect. What it seems they boil down to is the practice of righteousness. Obedience to Christ is the key marker of maturity.
So, then, maturity is not defined by eloquent words or apparent profound insights. It isn’t strong emotions seen in a passionate, charismatic delivery; it isn’t the amount of Scripture you can quote; and it also isn’t the length of time you’ve professed a belief in Christ. Maturity is displayed in our ability to discern good and evil, and our consistent practice of choosing the good.
Which makes sense, doesn’t it? Anyone can speak the words people want to hear or the words they think are expected. But our actions, especially the little details we don’t think much about or those that others don’t see—that is where our true character and our beliefs can be seen.
The extent of our belief, the extent of our trust, and the extent of our knowledge of what God’s Word says and how it applies to our lives, are shown in our obedience, in the righteousness displayed throughout our days.
Not self-righteousness, of course. Pride in itself is a sin. God gives grace to the humble, and it is to the humble that He will look. Not to the proud. And it isn’t as if we can do any of this without Him. Jesus Christ is our righteousness, and it is only through His grace and His power and faith in Him that we are able to walk His path of righteousness.
1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” When we love God, when we delight in Him and treasure Him above all things, when we seek His face and are given His wisdom, we will keep His commandments. Because we will want to. We will recognize that His commandments are for our good. They have purpose. And keeping them brings freedom and joy and light. The burden comes when we fight His commands. Peace comes when we surrender.
I’m reminded of an intriguing verse I found in the gospel of John. In John 3:36 we read, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” This very clear linking of our belief in Christ and our obedience to Him captured my attention. There is no allowance for a separation of the two. We either believe in the Son and obey Him, and are thereby saved to eternal life, or we remain under the wrath of God.
So it stands to reason that our maturity is evidenced by our obedience. Reflecting on this statement, it occurred to me that it could sound a bit bland. The word “obedience” just doesn’t sound very exciting. But a life lived in pure, joyful obedience to our God for whom nothing is impossible is a life of beautiful adventure, a life in which the glory and faithfulness of God are lavishly displayed.
“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth…Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” Deuteronomy 7:6, 9