Judging Others through the Eyes of Spiritual Immaturity

fork_knifeContinued from here.

As I stated in my last blog entry, there’s nothing “wrong” with being spiritually immature. After all, we all start out that way. When we first become Christians, we are spiritual infants, needing spiritual milk to help us grow. We move on to spiritual baby food and then eventually to solid spiritual food. Just as we wouldn’t feed steak to a three-month-old baby, we need to “feed” spiritually immature Christians what they are ready for.

The problem is that many Christians continue eating spiritual milk and fail to grow in their faith. They only want to focus on the passages of scripture that benefit them, such as the requirement that other Christians extend them grace. However, when someone else is in need of grace, they don’t react with spiritual maturity but, instead, lash out in judgment, behaving like a spiritual toddler. I’ve seen people do this who have been Christians for decades. The passage of time does not, in itself, cause someone to mature spiritually.

I have found that I am most patient in areas where I have matured because I remember what it was like to be spiritually immature in that area. For example, when someone struggles with unforgiveness, I share my experience and gently lead them toward forgiveness, emphasizing that they have every reason to feel as they do, just as I did in my own situation. Because I remember how difficult and painful being bitter was for me, I’m extra gentle with people who are in that place.

However, when I was spiritually immature, I would instead react in judgment, heaping guilt on top of the pain that the other person was already experiencing. And let’s face it – spiritual immaturity is painful! It hurts to carry around bitterness … or to question whether you are really loved … or to fear that if you don’t take control over a situation, your life is going to implode. God once placed heavily on my heart that I was never to judge other people in their brokenness and that all sin arises out of brokenness. Thus, when I see people behaving poorly, I need to extend them grace, knowing that pain is what is driving their poor behavior. That’s tough to do, and nearly impossible to do when we are ourselves still spiritually immature.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace licking her lips while holding a fork and knife. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Assessing Your Own Level of Spiritual Maturity

math_equationsContinued from here.

When I was a teenager, I was wise beyond my years in some areas, which led me to mistakenly believe that I was as mature as an adult. I wasn’t. While I was certainly more mature than the average teen in some ways, I was quite immature in other areas. From the perspective of maturity, I look back and cringe over just how immature I was back then – how completely clueless I was about different aspects of life.

The same dynamic is true in our spiritual lives. Most of us who have been walking with Christ for a while have areas of our spiritual lives that have ripened but others that have not. Just as I did as a teenager, it can be easy for Christians to believe that maturity in one area automatically means maturity in all areas, but that’s rarely the case. It takes time to mature, and we have to be willing to walk with God through the difficult process of growing in maturity in a particular area of our lives.

It’s vitally important to be able to accurately assess in which areas we have matured and in which we are still spiritual babies. We have no business trying to offer advice to other Christians about areas of their spiritual journeys in which we are just as immature, if not more so. If we delude ourselves into believing we are spiritually mature in areas where we are not, we run the risk of causing harm to others. Just as I would not give a toddler the keys to my car, I don’t need to be offering “constructive criticism” to other Christians in areas in which I, myself, have not matured.

The best way to assess your own level of spiritual maturity is to compare your behavior to that of Jesus, Paul, and others in the Bible. When someone wrongs you, does your reaction look like Jesus, who blessed his persecutors? When you are in an uncomfortable situation, do you remain joyful, like Paul? If your honest answer is no, that’s OK. It doesn’t make you “bad.” It simply means you are spiritually immature and that this is an area for growth.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace thinking about math. Courtesy Bitmoji.

 

Spiritually Immature Christians

babyThis week, I’m going to blog about a topic that’s important but one that many people might feel uncomfortable talking about: interacting with spiritually immature Christians.

Interestingly, some of the most spiritually immature Christians I have met were unaware of being spiritually immature (myself included back in the day!). Belonging to a church for decades does not make someone spiritually mature, nor does having lots of head knowledge about the Bible. In fact, if having lots of head knowledge about the Bible made someone spiritually mature, then Satan would be the most spiritually mature being on the planet! Earning a theology degree, pastoring a church, or serving as a missionary does not make a person spiritually mature. Nor does the mere passage of time since you received Jesus into your heart result in spiritual maturity.

Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruit. In other words, spiritually mature people behave in ways that are consistent with the fruit of the spirit while spiritually immature people do not. Spiritually mature people are joyful even when their circumstances are not, peaceful even when they are surrounded by chaos, and gentle even when people are rude to them. Does that sound like you?

How spiritually mature are you? Joyce Meyer shared a simple way to make this determination about yourself. If you want to assess your own level of spiritual maturity, think about how you behaved the last time you didn’t get your way. Did you cuss the other person out? Complain about the situation to everyone willing to listen? Pout? Manipulate the situation to try to get your way?

Or did you extend grace where it wasn’t deserved? Did you submit to an authority figure’s decision, even though you didn’t agree with it? Did you pray for the person who made you angry? Did you choose not to assert your rights, even though most people wouldn’t blame you for doing so? Did you choose to forgive a wrong? Or respond kindly to someone who was rude?

Having a strong handle on your own level of spiritual maturity can help you better deal with others who are not as spiritually mature as they believe themselves to be.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace drinking out of a baby’s bottle. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Walking into the Hall of Faith

swordContinued from here.

I don’t know about you, but I want to walk into the Hall of Faith. When God releases the updated list of people who “by faith” did X, I want my name on the list. I want to hear an angel say, “By faith, Grace …” But that’s not going to happen if I don’t do what those people did. What did those people have in common? They were terrified but did what God told them to do, anyhow.

By faith, Abraham offered his beloved son as a sacrifice. By faith, Moses’ parents defied the king’s edict and hid their baby for three months. By faith, the Israelites passed through the Red Sea. By faith, the Israelites defeated Jericho by marching around it. By faith, David killed Goliath, and by faith, Daniel spent the night in a lion’s den. Is what I am facing any scarier than what they did? My head says no, but as I look my giant in the eye, it looms just as large from my limited perspective as a den filled with hungry lions.

Isn’t it the human condition to want to have strong faith but not have to go through seasons that require it? I want the Jordan River to part before I step into it, not after I do. And yet, it takes no faith to cross the sturdy bridge or dive into peaceful waters. How can I develop faith without being asked to do things that are terrifying without God’s intervention?

And so, I choose to dive in, and not because I’m fearless … My knees are shaking so hard that I can barely walk up to the ledge. I choose to believe God. I trust that He would not tell me to dive into the rushing waters below me unless He was going to ensure that I would be OK. I also trust that He has a purpose and plan for requiring this of me. And so, I walk up to the ledge, say a quick prayer, and dive.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace unsheathing a sword. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Running toward the Giants in your Life

runningContinued from here.

On her television show Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyer pointed out that in the story of David and Goliath, David first spoke his victory and then ran quickly toward him. He didn’t do what I do – He didn’t size up the giant, look him up and down, take a few deep breaths, and try to muster up the courage to do what God told him to do. He didn’t give himself time! How much easier might slaying the giants in my life be if I followed David’s example?

While God has taught me assertiveness over the years, assertiveness does not come naturally to me. It is a learned skill that has served me well over the years. However, when I face a giant – particularly like the one God has instructed me to take down – AGAIN – all of that training flies out the window. I take a few deep breaths to build up my courage, and that’s just enough time for the enemy to whisper in my ear all the ways that I don’t measure up. The giant is much bigger … stronger … a more accomplished warrior… Who am I to believe I can take that giant down? And then I lose sight of the fact that this battle is not mine but the Lord’s, and I hesitate.

I need to follow David’s example and speak my victory. I need to remind myself that God is in control and that He would not tell me to go to battle without ensuring my victory. And then I need to step forth in faith, as David did, building courage with each step as I run into battle. And I need to do this quickly or I’ll lose my nerve.

I wonder if David continued to feel fear when he went into battle after taking down Goliath. I wonder if that one victory was enough for him never to doubt or question the outcome in all of his successive battles. Did his knees continue to shake as mine do when I’m called into battle again? Does this spiritual journey ever get easier?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Diving in to Where God is Calling You to Go

Continued from here.

Many years ago, Steve Curtis Chapman had a great song out called Dive that I encourage you to listen to:

 

This song describes how I feel as I look at the chasm in front of me in my area of greatest weakness and vulnerability. I know this brokenness needs to be healed, not only for myself but also for the sake of those who love me. I know this brokenness is what drives me to say and do things that I don’t want to say or do, and yet I continue to say and do them. I so relate to Paul’s conclusion about his own wretchedness.

I’m standing on the ledge looking at the rushing waters of the river below me, and I’m terrified. It’s not that God hasn’t sent me into this river before – He has many times over the years. Each time he sends me, the platform from which I must dive is higher, and the waters are fiercer. Every time, I pray I’ll never have to do this again. And yet, here I am again, standing over the same river, but it’s at flood level this time. How do I muster the courage to dive in?

Steven Curtis Chapman gives me words of encouragement that I know are true.

There is a supernatural power
In this mighty river’s flow
It can bring the dead to life
And it can fill an empty soul
And give a heart the only thing
Worth living and worth dying for, yeah
But we will never know the awesome power
Of the grace of God
Until we let ourselves get swept away
Into this holy flood”

Either I believe that God is in control, or I do not. What I believe will be evidenced by what I DO. I do have a choice – God will not force me to dive into this river at flood level. However, if I want to follow Him, that’s the direction He is walking. Jesus is walking on the water, but I don’t have the option. I have to muster up the courage to dive in and let the waters sweep me away to wherever God wants me to go. And it’s not like I haven’t swam in this river before, so why the fear? You’d think this would get easier with each pass, but it doesn’t. I’m still terrified.

To be continued…

 

 

Trusting the Rickety Bridge will Hold

Continued from here.

In her book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, Ann Voskamp shares the analogy of the rickety bridge. She talks about how she lives in an area with a rickety bridge that looks scary to cross, but it’s actually very secure. She knows this because she and numerous other people have safely driven over it many times before. She then points out that our life challenges often look like rickety bridges that might give way at any moment. The way we learn to trust that this bridge will hold is by looking in the rearview mirror at all of the other bridges that have already held.

Isn’t our walk with God that way? No matter how many rickety bridges He has held stable in His loving hands, we still question whether THIS is the rickety bridge that will collapse. We forget how unstable our past bridges appeared and assume there’s something much worse about THIS particular bridge. We compare the instability of the bridge in front of us with our own resources and find ourselves lacking. We fear that without God’s intervention, the bridge will collapse, and we question whether we can trust Him. We lose sight of the many bridges He has already held as we focus on the one in front of us. Our faith is measured not in what we say we believe but, instead, in how confidently we step out onto the rickety bridge, trusting that our God is faithful.

That’s where I find myself in this particular area of my life that God is working on – AGAIN. I was terrified the first time I crossed this bridge … and the second … and the third. And each time I made it across by the skin of my teeth, I prayed I would never have to cross another such bridge again. Yet, here I am, with the most rickety-looking bridge I have ever seen, crossing the widest chasm I have ever encountered in the area of my greatest brokenness and deepest fears. Many people call me fearless, but I know fear very well – particularly whenever I face this particular chasm. It’s not fearlessness that drives me to take that first step. It’s courage.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Courtesy Amazon.]