Like the time after church when we were deciding what restaurant to visit. Some wanted to go to McDonalds. Others wanted to go to Taco Bell. No one would give in. Everybody was arguing. So I decided to go to my favorite place – The Burdine Restaurant. That’s right. We came home and ate whatever we had in the pantry – probably soup and crackers. For some reason, we didn’t have too much arguing about where to eat after that.
Don’t you hate it when families argue? Paul hated it when the Christians were arguing in Corinth. He told them to grow up.
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there areenvy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
What are the two kinds of Christians?
Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 2 that there are two kinds of people in the world – ‘natural’ (unsaved) and ‘spiritual’ (saved – those who have the Holy Spirit). In 1 Corinthians 3 he explains that there are two kinds of Christians: mature and immature (carnal). The word ‘carnal’ comes from the Greek word sarkos, Sarkos means ‘flesh’ and refers to our human nature apart from God. A mature person is influenced by the Holy Spirit but a carnal person is influenced by their sinful flesh.
A mature Christian allows the Holy Spirit to teach Him and direct him by feeding on the Word of God. A mature Christian listens to what he should do and follows that instruction even when it goes against his nature. The phrase ‘if it feels good, do it’ isn’t part of the philosophy of a mature Christian.
The immature Christian lives for the things of the flesh and his own desires. An immature Christian has little interest in the things of the God. Some would suggest that the ‘carnal’ Christian is not really a Christian. But Paul asserts that he is. He is just influenced by his flesh.
I remember going to Kings Island in Mason, Ohio. They had a stage where a guy would guess your age. If he missed it by a few years, you got a prize. Those guys were usually pretty good. It is a lot easier to guess a person’s physical age than his spiritual age. You can be a Christian for many years and yet still be a baby because you are obeying your flesh. You can be a Christian for just a few months and be mature because you are listening to the Holy Spirit. Your maturity has more to do with the direction of your life, than how much you know or how long you’ve been a believer.
How can you tell the maturity of a Christian?
Paul tells us you can tell if someone is mature by their diet. A baby drinks only milk. As he grows he is able to digest more complex food like vegetables and meat. The more mature a Christian is the more Bible they can spiritually digest into their life. The Bible is our spiritual food. It is called milk (1 Peter 2:2), bread (Matt. 4:4), meat (Heb. 5:11-14), and even honey (Psalm 119:103). Just as we need a good food to keep us physically healthy, we need spiritual food to keep us spiritually healthy. What is your spiritual diet?
Paul also tells us you can tell if someone is mature by how they get along with others. Children disagree and fuss. That’s part of being a child. My wife teaches preschool. Preschool children are just learning how to share and get along. Their favorite word is “Mine.” We often tell young children, “You are acting like a baby.” We tell teenagers, “Grow up.” They want what someone else has. They live in a competitive world.
Mature people know how to treat others. A spiritually mature person considers the needs of others. A spiritually mature person possesses the attitude of Christ by putting others first. You can tell a person’s relation with God by looking at their relationship with other people. Do they get along?
The problems in the church in Corinth were due to immature Christians in places of leadership. When immature Christians get into places of leadership the results are disastrous. Sometimes church leaders talk big but live small. A mature Christian uses his gifts as tools to build others not toys to play with or trophies to boast about.
The goal of a family – maturity.
The goal of a family is maturity. Sometimes in the middle of raising children we forget that we are really raising adults. Our goal is to have responsible adults that are mature. The goal of a church family is to bring people to spiritual maturity.
In The Last Days Newsletter, Leonard Ravenhill tells about a group of tourists visiting a village who walked by an old man sitting beside a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one tourist asked, “Were any great men born in this village?” The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.”
This story reminds us that there is no instant greatness. Whether in this world or in the kingdom of God, growth takes time. So if you know a ‘baby’ Christian, give him a little grace. You would not expect a five-year old to behave like an adult. You shouldn’t expect a teenager to act like an adult. So, allow your fellow Christians to grow up.
Sometimes you can be an adult in one area, but still a baby in another area. Be aware of where you need to grow. Be humble enough to admit, like Paul, that you have not arrived yet (Philippians 3:12). What areas in your life need a little attention? Your best method is to study God’s Word and pray about those areas. Involve others who have more maturity to assist you in your spiritual growth.
What are you doing today to grow up?