A Matter of Spiritual Maturity

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ďBrethren, what shall we do?Ē (Acts 2:37)

But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:20-24)

Acts 2:37 is Lukeís record of the response of Jews who were not Christians realizing they abandoned the Messiah. Ephesians 4:20-24 is Paulís declaration to gentile Christians. The first had not yet become Christians. The second had been Christians for a while.

Those who were not Christians reacted in terror when they realized they abandoned Godís Messiah. The Christians were to accept the responsibility of their privilege.

The fear of terror is not to be confused with the reverence of faith. Both proceed from a profound sense of awe. Yet, the first proceeds from an understanding. The second proceeds from a sense of gratitude. The immature are terrified. The mature are grateful. To oppose God is terrifying. To be blessed by God fills the person with gratitude.

Terror in anticipation of punishment is insufficient to sustain a lifetime of devotion. Even the finest people get weary of terror and eventually rebel. Gratitude sustains a lifetime of devotion. Time makes gratitude deeper, richer. He or she who is grateful only becomes more grateful as the sense of privilege deepens.

It is one thing to stand helplessly in a sense of need generated by acknowledged failure. It is quite another to accept the responsibility of privilege. Being in Christ is being a new creature. New creatures exist by Godís forgiveness through Christ Jesus. Realizing what God did and does for us in Christ produces gratitude. Gratitude produces responsibility.

It is grossly insufficient merely to say, ďThank you, thank you, thank you, Lord!Ē It is only appropriate for new creatures to live and act like new creatures. Knowing Jesusí identity does not terrify you before God. Knowing Jesusí identity makes you willingly responsible to live and act like the forgiven person God made you.

Thus, new creatures do not deceive. They get over anger quickly. Instead of exploiting people, they help people. They speak as godly people when they talk instead of speaking crudely as the ungodly. People are encouraged by their words instead of being discouraged. They are committed to encouraging the work of Godís Spirit within them instead of causing Godís Spirit grief. They refuse to be ruled by negative, ungodly emotions. Instead they want Godís forgiveness to make their hearts tender.

Do you serve God in failureís terror or gratitudeís responsibility? Itís a matter of spiritual maturity.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 11 May 2006

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