As we continue to grow in our walk with Christ, we might be surprised by just how far we’ve come. Or, we might find ourselves getting frustrated with just how little progress we’ve made. As I’ve thought about my own spiritual maturity, and taken an honest look at myself, I realize I have a long way to go.
Then, God shows me just a glimpse of the future He has in store for us, and my hope is renewed. We won’t truly reach spiritual maturity until we’re reunited with God, personally, in the life after this one; but that’s not the hope I’m talking about. To be sure, the new heaven and new earth will be fantastic, but that’s not the only life He plans to give us.
Jesus spoke of the kind of life He means for us to have compared to the life offered by our enemy in John 10:10:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
See that phrase, “to the full”? Other versions of Scripture render it as “more abundantly”, or “rich and meaningful”. You see, God doesn’t plan for us to just huddle together and scrape by until Christ returns. He calls us overcomers, more than conquerors, and tells us the gates of Hell won’t prevail against us. How often do gates attack? They’re not really all that mobile, are they? No, He means us to bash them in. To destroy the work of the enemy and lead the captives to freedom.
We’ve been talking over the past few days about only a few of the many ways spiritual maturity begins to show in our lives. Today, I’d like to be the “ghost of Christian future” (to borrow a phrase from Dickens) and show you just a bit of the amazing life He has in store for us.
We’ll focus on seeing the world from God’s perspective.
In our early life with Christ, we focus on us. Later, we focus on others. As we reach full maturity, we focus on God. We look at every person, situation, and thought from His vantage point. Strangely enough, focusing on Him gives us the insight to love others more. Not just our friends and acquaintances, but even our enemies — all of whom are precious to God. When we see the world through His eyes, our priorities change. We don’t have to worry about looking out for ourselves because we know He’s already got us in the palm of His hand.
We recognize the Church and she is beautiful.
Again, God’s perspective takes over, as we see the Church not just as a community to which we belong, but as the precious Bride of Christ. We see the people in the Church as people who are righteous in His sight and beloved by God. We don’t think of the members of the Church as part of a social group, but as a part of ourselves. We hurt when others hurt, and celebrate when they celebrate. We don’t stop at looking to them for support, but we do find ourselves becoming the support for others, oddly enough. We find opportunities to teach, mentor, and help them grow, and rejoice when they see God’s victories in their lives.
We get involved in the ministry of reconciliation.
Those who used to be a bad influence in our lives, those we realized we needed to keep an eye on, are now the ones we reach out to with the hope of the gospel. We are firm in our convictions, sure of the truth, and moved by love to reach — not to join — the lost. Instead of them leading us astray, we help them find their way. Led by the Spirit, we are inspired to offer the right words and deeds at the perfect moment to be used by God to draw others closer to the same joy we’ve found.
We don’t have devotions, we live a life of devotion.
As we grow into our maturity, the living and powerful Word of God isn’t just something we read once a day; it has become life and breath to us — we meditate on it even when we’re not reading it. Every moment we do spend in its pages is precious as we revisit familiar friends and wonderful promises. We see the entirety of Scripture as a reminder of the redemptive love our Father has poured out on us. We connect the promise of a redeemer in Genesis to the eternal reign of our Savior in the Revelation. We pore over the pages eagerly because they contain His Words, carefully protected throughout history and lovingly delivered to us.
Our prayer life, too, becomes more than it was. We don’t “take time” out of our day to pray, anymore, as much as we pause during our ongoing conversation with God once in a while to get the other stuff done. We bring every task, every situation, every need to Him as they happen, and we listen and obey as He directs our paths. He is on our minds as we go about our routine, as we realize we’re on His mind as He goes about His.
Our problems cannot compare to our joy.
Yes, we still have troubles, and we will until this life has ended, but the “mountains” that once loomed large in front of us look like mere speed bumps in our rearview mirror. God has been so faithful, seeing us through so many troubles, that whatever we’re facing today will soon be behind us. We have eternity in mind, so a few days, weeks, or even years of struggle are just short-term opportunities for God to show up, again, and give us the strength and help we need. We even use our troubles to inspire others.
All a matter of perspective…
Have you noticed a pattern? In each of the areas we’ve discussed, the real change is our perspective. When we begin to ask God to show us how the world looks to Him, we begin to mature. How does the world look to Him? Well, Scripture tells us God is love. As we grow in love — love for people, love for His Word, and love for God, Himself, changes everything. And why not? The Apostle Paul, in the very well-known passage on love in 1st Corinthians 13, says this:
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
So, while I may not be where I’m meant to be yet, I sure like the look of where I’m headed. How do I get there? I can start by trying to see the world through the eyes of the One who gave everything for me. That kind of love, when it really takes hold, makes all the difference.