Are You a “Full-Grown” Christian?
“WHEN I was a babe, I used to speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe.” So wrote the apostle Paul. Really, all of us were once helpless babies. However, we did not remain such forever. Observed Paul: “Now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a babe.”
In a similar way, all Christians start off as spiritual babes. But in time, all can “attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13) At 1 Corinthians 14:20, we are exhorted: “Brothers, do not become young children in powers of understanding . . . Become full-grown in powers of understanding.”
The presence of mature, full-grown Christians is a blessing to God’s people today, particularly because there are so many new ones. Full-grown Christians add stability to a congregation. They have a positive impact on the disposition, or dominant attitude, of whatever congregation they attend.
While physical growth is more or less automatic, spiritual growth comes about only with time and effort. Not surprisingly, back in Paul’s day, some Christians failed to “press on to maturity,” in spite of having served God for many years. (Hebrews 5:12; 6:1) What about you? Whether you have served God for many years or for only a relatively short period of time, it would be appropriate for you to examine yourself honestly. (2 Corinthians 13:5) Are you among those who can truly be called mature, or full-grown, Christians? If not, how can you become such?
“Full-Grown in Powers of Understanding”
A spiritual babe is easily “tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error.” Paul thus urged: “Let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:14, 15) How does one do so? Hebrews 5:14 says: “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”
Note that mature people have their perceptive powers trained through use, or experience in applying Bible principles. Obviously, then, one does not become mature overnight; it takes time to grow up spiritually. Even so, you can do much to facilitate your spiritual growth by personal study
Zealous Preachers and Teachers
Jesus directed his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) Zealous participation in the preaching work can also spur your spiritual growth. Why not strive to have as full a share in it as your circumstances permit?
At times, the pressures of life can make finding the time to preach challenging. Yet, by ‘exerting yourself vigorously’ as a preacher, you demonstrate the importance you attach to the “good news.” (Luke 13:24; Romans 1:16) You may thus be viewed as “an example to the faithful ones.”
Growing to maturity also involves putting forth effort to keep your integrity. As recorded at Psalm 26:1, David declared: “Judge me, O Jehovah, for I myself have walked in my own integrity.” Integrity is moral soundness, completeness. However, it does not mean perfection. David himself committed several serious sins. But because he accepted reproof and corrected his way, he demonstrated that his heart still retained genuine love for Jehovah God. (Psalm 26:2, 3, 6, 8, 11) Integrity involves wholeness, or completeness, of heart devotion. David told his son Solomon: “Know the God of your father and serve him with a complete heart.”
Keeping integrity involves being “no part of the world,” staying out of the politics of the nations and their wars. (John 17:16) You must also refrain from corrupt practices, such as fornication, adultery, and drug abuse. (Galatians 5:19-21) Keeping integrity means more, though, than avoiding those things. Solomon warned: “Dead flies are what cause the oil of the ointment maker to stink, to bubble forth. So a little foolishness does to one who is precious for wisdom and glory.” (Ecclesiastes 10:1) Yes, even “a little foolishness,” such as inappropriate jesting or flirtatious behavior with the opposite sex, could ruin the reputation of one “precious for wisdom.” (Job 31:1) Therefore, demonstrate your maturity by seeking to be exemplary in all your conduct, avoiding even the “appearance of evil.”
A full-grown Christian is also loyal. As we read at Ephesians 4:24, the apostle Paul exhorts Christians: “Put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” In the Greek Scriptures, the original-language word for “loyalty” carries the thought of holiness, righteousness, reverence. A loyal person is devout, pious; he carefully observes all his duties toward God.
What are some ways in which you might develop such loyalty? One would be by cooperating with your local congregation elders. (Hebrews 13:17) Recognizing that Christ is the appointed Head of the Christian congregation, mature Christians are loyal to those appointed “to shepherd the congregation of God.” (Acts 20:28) How inappropriate it would be to challenge or undermine the authority of appointed elders! You should also feel a sense of loyalty to “the faithful and discreet slave” and the agencies that are used to disseminate spiritual “food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:45) Be quick to read and apply the information found in The Watchtower and its companion publications.
Showing Love by Your Actions
Paul wrote to Christians in Thessalonica: “The love of each and all of you is increasing one toward the other.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3) Growing in love is an especially important aspect of spiritual growth. Jesus said, as recorded at John 13:35: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” Such brotherly love is not characterized by mere emotion or feeling. Observes Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: “Love can be known only from the actions it prompts.” Yes, you press on to maturity in this regard by putting love into action!
For example, at Romans 15:7, we read: “Welcome one another.” One way to show love is by greeting your fellow believers and newcomers at congregation meetings
Using Our Assets to Promote Pure Worship
In ancient times, not all of God’s people fulfilled their responsibility to support Jehovah’s temple. God thus sent prophets, such as Haggai and Malachi, to stir up His people in this regard. (Haggai 1:2-6; Malachi 3:10) Mature Christians today joyfully use their assets to support Jehovah’s worship. Imitate such ones by following the principle at 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2, regularly ‘setting something aside’ to contribute to the congregation and to the worldwide work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. God’s Word promises: “He that sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
Do not overlook other assets that you possess, such as your time and energy. Try to ‘buy out time’ from less important activities. (Ephesians 5:15, 16; Philippians 1:10) Learn to be more efficient with your use of time. Doing so may make it possible for you to participate in Kingdom Hall maintenance projects and other similar activities that promote Jehovah’s worship. Using your assets in this way will give added evidence that you are becoming a full-grown Christian.
Press On to Maturity!
Men and women who are studious and knowledgeable, who are zealous preachers, who are flawless in their integrity, who are loyal and loving, and who are willing to lend physical and material support to the Kingdom work are truly a great blessing. No wonder, then, that the apostle Paul exhorted: “Now that we have left the primary doctrine about the Christ, let us press on to maturity”!
Are you a full-grown, mature Christian? Or are you still, in some ways, like a spiritual babe? (Hebrews 5:13) In either case, be determined to apply yourself to personal study, to preaching, and to showing love for your brothers. Welcome whatever counsel and discipline are offered you by mature ones. (Proverbs 8:33) Shoulder your full load of Christian responsibility. With time and effort, you too can “attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.”
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Full-grown Christians add stability to a congregation. They have a positive impact on its disposition, or dominant attitude
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Mature ones contribute to the spirit of the congregation by taking an interest in others