My first attempt at shooting a bow was pathetic. The target leaned against a stack of straw bales in front of a hedge only thirty yards away. I had no problem aiming the arrow at the bull’s-eye, but the tension on the bowstring was so great that I struggled to pull it back to fire the arrow. Muscle tremors and sore fingers caused me to shoot into the ground, short of the target. The Christian life works like archery: we must know where our target is to aim at it and we must have the capacity to reach it. So, what is spiritual maturity?
Two passages identify our target and explain how God even provides all the help we need to hit the bull’s-eye:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom. 8:28-29)
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:11-13)
God’s destiny for us is conformity to the image of Christ or, put another way, the spiritual maturity that we see in Christ.
Sounds like a tough target! But Paul goes on to explain (in Rom. 8:30) that God has removed all the obstacles. Having laid out the horizon of our destiny, He called us, justified us, and glorified us. When Paul says that God justified us, he means that God dealt with our sins through Jesus’ death on the cross and now He counts us as sinless. We are able to have relationship with Him again and, as His children, we can grow to become like Jesus.
The church body is also part of God’s plan. The apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers build up each member of the church in faith and maturity. We are not alone; we have help. We tend to think of maturity as a personal goal; the Bible speaks of it as a quality shared by church members. True maturity happens in the context of church.
What does it mean to become like Jesus? Jesus’ title “Son of God” helps us to understand. While Jesus was on earth, He related to God as His Father. He had conversation with Him that we call prayer and He obeyed what God spoke to Him through prayer and Scripture. Jesus pleased God in every thought, word, and action. As soon as we repent of our sins and make Jesus master of our lives, we are His adopted children. From then on, we can relate to Him as our heavenly Father—we talk with Him, praise Him for who He is, thank Him for what He does, and obey what He says.
Keep that up for a lifetime and He will conform us to the image of Jesus.
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