“Attain . . . the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.”—EPHESIANS 4:13.
1, 2. What is a goal for every Christian? Give an example.
WHAT does a housewife look for when selecting fresh fruit at the market? Likely, it is not the largest or cheapest pieces of fruit. Instead, she looks for fruit that smells good and is fresh and ready to eat. She wants the fruit to be ripe, that is, mature.
A mature Christian keeps looking for Bible principles that can help him to know what is right and what is wrong
2 After a person learns about Jehovah and decides to get baptized, his relationship with God continues to grow. His goal is to become a mature Christian. This maturity does not refer to becoming older in age. It refers to spiritual growth, that is, having a closer relationship with Jehovah. The apostle Paul wanted Christians in Ephesus to become mature. He encouraged them to be united in the faith and to keep learning about Jesus in order to become “a full-grown man, attaining the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.”—Ephesians 4:13.
3. How does the Ephesian congregation compare with Jehovah’s people today?
3 The Ephesian congregation had already existed for some years when Paul wrote his letter to them. Many in that congregation were already experienced, mature Christians. Yet, there were still some who needed their relationship with Jehovah to become much stronger. Similarly today, many brothers and sisters have served Jehovah for a long time and have become mature Christians. However, some in the congregations are not at that point. For example, thousands are baptized each year, so some still need to grow to maturity. What about you?—Colossians 2:6, 7.
HOW CAN A CHRISTIAN GROW?
4, 5. How are mature Christians different from one another, but what do they all have in common? (See opening picture.)
4 When you look at ripe fruit at the market, you see that the pieces are not exactly the same. However, they do have certain things in common that identify them as ripe. The same is true of mature Christians. They are not exactly the same. They come from different countries and backgrounds. They are of different ages and have different likes and dislikes. Yet, all mature Christians have certain qualities in common that identify them as mature. What are some of these qualities?
‘Are there changes that I can make to imitate Jesus more closely?’
5 A mature Christian imitates Jesus and follows “his steps closely.” (1 Peter 2:21) Jesus said that it is very important for a person to love Jehovah with his whole heart, soul, and mind and to love his neighbor as himself. (Matthew 22:37-39) A mature Christian tries hard to obey that counsel. The way he lives his life proves that his relationship with Jehovah and his deep love for others is most important to him.
6, 7. (a) What are some other qualities that identify a mature Christian? (b) What should we ask ourselves?
6 Love is just one of the many qualities that a mature Christian shows. (Galatians 5:22, 23) He also shows mildness, self-control, and patience. These qualities can help him to endure difficult situations without becoming annoyed and to endure disappointments without losing hope. In his personal study, a mature Christian keeps searching for Bible principles that help him to know what is right and what is wrong. Then, when he uses his Bible-trained conscience, he will be able to make wise decisions. A mature Christian is humble, so he believes that Jehovah’s direction and standards are always better than his own.* (See footnote.) He preaches the good news with zeal and does everything he can to help the congregation stay united.
7 No matter how long we have been serving Jehovah, each of us can ask: ‘Are there changes that I can make to imitate Jesus more closely? Are there ways that I can improve?’
“SOLID FOOD BELONGS TO MATURE PEOPLE”
8. How well did Jesus know and understand the Bible?
8 Jesus Christ knew and understood the Scriptures well. Even when he was 12 years old, he used the Scriptures when talking to teachers at the temple. “All those listening to him were in constant amazement at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:46, 47) Later, when he was preaching, he skillfully used God’s Word to silence his enemies.—Matthew 22:41-46.
9. (a) What study schedule does a mature Christian have? (b) Why do we study the Bible?
9 A person who wants to become a mature Christian imitates Jesus’ example and wants to understand the Bible as much as he can. He regularly searches the Scriptures for deep truths, because he knows that “solid food belongs to mature people.” (Hebrews 5:14) A mature Christian wants to have an “accurate knowledge” of the Bible. (Ephesians 4:13) So ask yourself: ‘Do I read the Bible daily? Do I have a schedule for personal study? Do I have family worship each week?’ When you study the Bible, search for principles that can help you to know how Jehovah thinks and feels. Then use these principles when you make decisions. That will help you draw even closer to Jehovah.
10. How does a mature Christian feel about God’s counsel and principles?
10 A mature Christian must do more than simply know what the Bible says. He must love God’s counsel and principles. Then he shows this love by his desire to do Jehovah’s will instead of his own. He even changes the way he lives, thinks, and acts. For example, he imitates Jesus and develops the new personality, which is “created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Read Ephesians 4:22-24.) It is important to remember that God used his holy spirit to guide the Bible writers. So when a Christian studies the Bible, God’s holy spirit helps him to grow in knowledge, grow in love, and grow in his relationship with Jehovah.
11. What did Jesus experience while on earth?
11 Jesus was a perfect man. However, when he was on the earth, Jesus was surrounded by imperfect people. His parents and his brothers and sisters were all imperfect. Even Jesus’ closest followers showed qualities such as pride and selfishness. For example, on the night before his death, his disciples argued among themselves “over which one of them was considered to be the greatest.” (Luke 22:24) Despite their imperfect thinking, Jesus knew that his followers would soon become mature Christians and form a united congregation. That same night, Jesus prayed for them to be united. He asked his heavenly Father that they all be one, saying: “Just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you.” He added: “In order that they may be one just as we are one.”—John 17:21, 22.
12, 13. (a) What is our goal as Christians? (b) How did one brother learn to promote unity?
12 A mature Christian promotes unity in the congregation. (Read Ephesians 4:1-6, 15, 16.) As Christians, our goal is to be “harmoniously joined together,” that is, to work together in unity. To have this kind of unity, a Christian must be humble. So even when he is affected by the imperfections of others, a mature Christian works hard to keep the unity of the congregation strong. Therefore, ask yourself: ‘How do I react when a brother or a sister makes a mistake? How do I feel when someone hurts me? Do I usually stop talking to that person? Or do I try to repair the relationship?’ A mature Christian wants to overcome a problem rather than be a problem to others.
13 Consider the example of Uwe. In the past, he used to let the imperfections of brothers and sisters upset him. Then he decided to use the Bible and Insight on the Scriptures to study the life of David. Why David? Because David had also experienced problems with some of God’s servants. For example, King Saul tried to kill David, some of the people wanted to stone him, and even his own wife laughed at him. (1 Samuel 19:9-11; 30:1-6; 2 Samuel 6:14-22) But despite what others did to him, David loved Jehovah and trusted in him. David also showed mercy. Uwe admits that he needed to do the same. Through his study of the Bible, he learned that he needed to change how he felt about his brothers’ imperfections. He needed to stop remembering their mistakes and promote unity in the congregation. Is it your goal to do the same?
CHOOSE FRIENDS FROM AMONG THOSE DOING GOD’S WILL
14. How did Jesus choose his friends?
14 Jesus Christ was friendly toward people. Men and women, young and old, and even children, felt comfortable with Jesus. But he chose his close friends carefully. He told his apostles: “You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you.” (John 15:14) Jesus chose his close friends from among those who loyally followed him and who loved and served Jehovah. Do you choose friends who love Jehovah with their whole heart? Why is this important?
Do you choose friends who love Jehovah with their whole heart?
15. How can young ones benefit from friendship with mature Christians?
15 Most kinds of fruit ripen best in warm sunlight. In a similar way, the warm love of our brothers and sisters can help you to become a mature Christian. Are you a young person who is trying to decide what you will do with your life? If so, it is wise to choose friends who have been serving Jehovah for a while and who promote unity in the congregation. They may have had problems in their life and may have endured challenges while serving Jehovah. They can help you choose the best way of life. When you spend time with them, they can help you to make wise decisions and to grow as a Christian.—Read Hebrews 5:14.
16. How did older ones in the congregation help one sister when she was young?
16 Helga remembers that during her last year of school, most of her classmates were talking about their goals for the future. Many of them wanted to go to a university in order to have a successful career. However, Helga spoke with mature friends in her congregation. She says: “Many of them were older than I was, and they helped me a lot. They encouraged me to take up the full-time ministry. Thereafter, I was able to spend five years in the pioneer service. Now, years later, I am happy that I focused much of my youth on Jehovah’s service. I have no reason to regret having done so.”
17, 18. How can we best serve Jehovah?
17 When we imitate Jesus, we will grow to become mature Christians. We will draw closer to Jehovah, and our desire to serve him will also grow. A person serves Jehovah best when he is mature. Jesus encouraged his followers: “Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.”—Matthew 5:16.
18 We have learned how a mature Christian can be a powerful support to the congregation. A Christian also shows his maturity in the way he uses his conscience. How can our conscience help us to make wise decisions? And how can we respect the conscience of others? We will answer these questions in the next article.
For example, older, experienced brothers may be asked to give up an assignment and support younger brothers who receive that assignment.