Marks of Maturity

1 Timothy 5:22-25

Live in time and place that celebrates youth. Business model, marketing campaigns that target young. Fashion, products, advertising, entertainment – all send powerful messages about relative status of youth vs. maturity. Numerous songs, movie, tv series, sports & technology organization, medical spa, seemingly endless list of things entitled “Forever Young”. Even United Nations in on the action: DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD, Adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 1386 (XIV) of 10 December 1959 …”WHEREAS mankind owes to the child the best it has to give,”

Is that emphasis, that perspective biblical? Does it please God?

Ex. 34:26 “The first (or, the best) of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God.”

Bible and UN Declaration clearly at odds with each other with regard to who deserves our best; same is true of present culture and its worship of youth. Something not even the church is immune to. Local church, needing a successor to present pastor – “gotta find young fellow, young family, bring some life into the church”. What about the lack of emphasis and respect for age and maturity?

Lev. 19:32 “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD.”

Prov. 16:31 The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, If it is found in the way of righteousness.

General principle – respect your elders. But how about the Christian? Let’s not stop with what our attitude toward others should be; what should own priorities, goal be? Should we regret growing old, reminisce longingly about time when we were young and strong and perhaps foolish?

ReadEph. 4:11-16

Notice what Spirit of God says here: to a perfect man – a complete or mature man; the measure of the stature of Christ, no longer children; grow up in all things (in every way) into Him. Conversion is only one of beginning steps in Christian life – dramatic, certainly, when depraved sinful nature is converted into nature that desires God. But with radical change of direction, reorientation of desire, a new goal is set before us: Phil. 3:14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Comes at the end of a process, growing up into Christ, maturing from a baby dependent on milk to adult feeding on solid food (Heb. 5:12-14).

It is maturity that is encouraged, not youthfulness. In fact, 1 Tim 4:12, Timothy instructed: “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example” of maturity. Exhortation in our text given first to Timothy and in principle are relevant to all believers. Every child of God should display these characteristics in some measure; leaders within the church should model them well – proper caution, commitment to purity, healthy lifestyle, discernment. They are important at all times, but especially when considering potential ministry leaders; if followed, will avoid much pain and suffering.

A. is not hasty (cautious) v.22a

not a new idea, not even foreign to non-church situations: “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”; “haste makes waste”; “measure twice, cut once” – common sayings make clear that caution is good thing

instruction to Timothy – when considering someone for position of leadership, take your time, be cautious

some churches have practice: individual responds to altar call in morning, baptized in afternoon, preaches in evening, away we go!

flies in face of v.22, also Jesus parable of sower and seed that fell on stony ground

not all who appear to be converted truly are; need time for it to be evident

“let’s all learn together” may be ok for some situations; not biblical model for leaders in ministry

it’s not simple facts being learned, it’s way of life – might be more obvious if went back to calling it “The Way” like in 1st century (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:14, 22)

proper understanding and application of biblical truth requires maturity – means pastors and teachers should be mature believers

NOTE: aging does not guarantee maturity; can grow old without growing up; role of pastors/teachers to equip the saints to “grow up into Christ”, not grow old in the church

instruction to Timothy – when making decisions for the church or by the church, take time, be cautious

very few major decisions must be made instantly; unless matter of life and death, probably shouldn’t be made instantly

our model: God; God isn’t in a hurry, we shouldn’t be either

don’t confuse haste with diligence – working hard and steady not the same as hastily

important to remember: at least 4000 years from Curse to Cross, that was 2000 years ago

give time, thought, prayer to situation before making decision; make sure to apply all relevant Scripture; seek counsel of other mature Christians

B. keeps himself pure (committed to purity) v.22b

don’t share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.” HCSB

Be careful what kind of company you keep; they will rub off on you. Be careful who you put in leadership, too, for the same reason.

but,…. look at who Jesus hung around with – low-lifes and prostitutes and beggars and lepers

homeless people and hookers and panhandlers and people with AIDS; don’t forget the blue-collar guys (fishermen) and white-collar guys (teachers) and wealthy women

fair enough; keep in mind Jesus’ goal with all them – their conversion

what about ones he refused to hang with: (Matt. 23:13-36) scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, blind guides, blind fools, blind men, serpents, brood of vipers

those who claimed to be true followers of God but were not – unteachable, determined to persist in error

defiant sinners who would only increase their condemnation by hearing more Gospel

true for all believers including leaders: fellowship with those who will edify you and who you can edify – encourage growth of godliness

another evidence of maturity – valuing growth in godliness over gratification of desire

C. guards his health (a healthy lifestyle) v.23

self-inflicted hardship doesn’t make you more spiritual – may win points with men but not with God

even ultimate self-sacrifice – give my body to be burned – profits nothing (1 Cor. 13:3)

hair shirts and sleepless nights and harsh diet cannot increase our holiness

genuine spirituality is when our outside mirrors our inside – when outward appearance and action reflects inward devotion to God

neglecting health is wrong on two counts – theological and practical

body is gift from God and temple of Holy Spirit – 1 Cor. 6:19, belongs to God not to us – Rom. 14:7-8

body is what God has given to enable us to serve – good health contributes to good service

Christians have duty to pursue healthy lifestyle, healthy choices; doesn’t always result in good health, though – why??

we are responsible for choices we make, not end results; those are up to God

should eat right, work right, sleep right, exercise right, follow doctors recommendations, all while knowing outcome depends on God and his purpose

God knows how we will be most sanctified and he will be most glorified – those are means he appoints

sometimes affliction is best way to prune branches so they produce more and better fruit

better question than why is how: how do we live in circumstances where God has placed us? how do we handle affliction, because it almost certainly will come?

do we do what is right, make right choices, trusting God for outcome, all with attitude of dependence on him?

remember that part about being an example? includes demonstrating maturity in issues of health and lifestyle!

D. is a wise judge of people (discerning) v.24-25

there’s a Scylla and Charybdis here: a dangerous rock opposite a whirpool, passage between

those who appear qualified for leadership but are not, those who appear unqualified for leadership but really are

it’s easy when sin is blatantly obvious, a “no-brainer” – no discussion, no question, no way

what about other circumstances, when there’s no disqualifier in neon lights? – here’s where maturity is needed

even when not acting hastily, requires discernment to make good “people decisions”

some have strong desire for leadership – do they meet biblical qualifications?

others appear content to take a back seat – should they be encouraged into service?

how best to sort it all out?? – in context of relationship

meeting ongoing needs for leaders from within church family

raising up next generation of leaders from those who have matured in local church body

God in his providence doesn’t always work it out that way, but it’s the model we find over and over in NT

So,… how about you? Are you in the same place in your spiritual development, your Christ-likeness, as you were a week ago, month ago, year ago, decade ago? Have you matured and are you maturing, approaching the stature of a full-grown Christian as measured by Christ himself? And what about us corporately, as local body of believers, a local church under headship of the Lord Jesus? Are we growing in maturity, becoming a body that is well-proportioned to her Head?

We have all resources we need to grow up. Have God’s Spirit and God’s Word. Have body of believers blessed with gifts Christ has given her. Doesn’t guarantee growth any more than food on the table guarantees good health and nutrition. Just coming to the table isn’t enough, must actually take in the food to receive nourishment. Same is true spiritually – must take advantages of means of grace, those ordinary channels by which the Holy Spirit supernaturally influences the souls of men (Hodge) – the Word, the ordinances (baptism and Lord’s Table), and prayer.

Must regularly read God’s Word, meditate on it, study it, sit under the faithful preaching and teaching of it, respond to the Holy Spirit’s illumination and application of it to our minds and lives. Must be present at the Lord’s Table whenever it is set that our fellowship with one another and our faith in Christ may be strengthened. Must be people of prayer, privately and publicly, praying always and for all things, praying with both heart and voice, adding our Amens to the prayers of brothers and sisters.

Apostle Peter’s closing exhortation: “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18) May that be true of us as we strive to attain stature and maturity pleasing to Christ.

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