MATURING IN CHRIST
This presentation is based on at least two fundamental presuppositions: one, that as a Christian, you accept the teaching and practice of Jesus Christ as the ideals for life; two, that even though you may not have a sense of “ministerial call” nonetheless you are prepared to work with a sense of Christian vocation.
The four major parts of my presentation are: to be in Christ, the portrait of Christ, steps to maturity in Christ, evidences and implications of maturity in Christ.
- TO BE IN CHRIST: I like to start with a biblical examination of the prepositional phrase “In Christ.” It is not only a relevant exercise it is also interesting and rewarding. Ephesians 1:3-8 teaches that when we are in Jesus Christ we are blessed with a new spiritual status:
- verse 3: In Christ we are blessed with every spiritual blessings,
- verse 4: In Him we are chosen,
- verses 5-6: In the Beloved (God’s dearly loved Son) we are destined in love and adopted to become God’s children. Grace (unmerited favour, divine blessing and enablement) is bestowed on us.
- verse 7: In Him we are redeemed and forgiven.
This biblical truth (Colossians 1:27-29) should excite us, inspire us, encourage us, satisfy us, overwhelm us, challenge us. In the New Testament the glory of the Christian life is that “in Christ God has chosen us, destined us, adopted us, accepted us, redeemed us and forgiven us.” Praise the Lord!
Let me corroborate this with the Pauline use of the phrase. According to Apostle Paul in Romans 16:3-13, to be a Christian is to be in Christ, to live in Christ, to serve in Christ:
- verse 3: Priscilla and Aquila were described as “fellow workers in Christ Jesus,”
- verse 7: Andronicus and Jumias “were in Christ before” him,
- verse 8: Ampliatus in his “beloved in the Lord,”
- verse 9: Urbanas in his £fellow worker in Christ,”
- verse 11: Tryphena and Tryphosa are “workers in the Lord,”
- verse 12: Persis “has worked hard in the Lord,”
- verse 13: Rufus is “eminent in the Lord.”
I hope you appreciate further the significance of the phrase “in Christ.” This is not merely a grammatical, biblical, religion or theological point but one that has very serious practical implications. Whereas in contemporary religious parlance the thing is to be “born again,” in the New Testament it is to be “in Christ.” Are we “in Christ?” Do we like to be, to live and to serve “in Christ?”
- THE PORTRAIT OF CHRIST: In Philippians 2:1-11, Jesus Christ is portrayed as exhibiting the following characteristics:
- Selflessness, caring for other (verses 3-4),
- Servanthood, service, love (verses5-7) through his incarnation, life and ministry (Matthew 20-:28),
- Humility, obedience, self-sacrifice (vv.8), cross bearing is sometime humiliating,
- Exaltation, victory (verses 9-11).
Do we truly desire the mind of Christ? Do we like to cultivate these Christ-like attitudes? Do we like this Jesus to be our model our hero? Do we sincerely accept him as the pioneer (author) and perfecter (finisher) of our faith? (Hebrews 12:2). Are we willing ready to adopt his lifestyle? Or do we have our own different idea of what we want to be outside Christ?
- STEPS TO MATURITY IN CHRIST: Some steps to achieve maturity in Christ are: Come to be in Christ (spiritual conversion), Grow in Christ, Serve in Christ. While this presentation is not primarily meant to be evangelistic it should be emphasized that maturity in Christ calls for presence in Christ. Only those who are in Christ can live, grow and serve in Christ. Only those who have the spirit of Christ can follow and imitate Christ. Only those who belong to Christ can accept the principles and practice of Christ.
When we realize that we are sinners who fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and believe that Jesus died for our sins and that God raised him from the dead, our repentance and confession of sins will give us salvation (Romans 10:9-10). When we so come to Christ: we become new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17), we renounce worldliness (Romans 12:2), we seek to be transformed by the empowering and sanctifying ministry of the Holy Spirit to become more and more like him who is our Saviour (2 Corinthians 3:18), we worship him and we pray in his name (John 20:28), we study his word and it prunes our lives (John 15:2), we pay very close attention to his instructions for our daily living (John 15:14), we serve him and serve others in his name (Ephesians 6:5-9). No one can mature in Christ who does not accept him as Saviour and submit to his Lordship.
- EVIDENCES AND IMPLICATIONS OF MATURITY IN CHRIST: How do we know a person who is in Christ, who is even matured in Christ? How do we measure Christian, spiritual maturity? I like to propose that our degree of Christlikeness is our degree of maturity in Christ. Somebody has stated the following varying degree of the presence of Jesus Christ in Christians: Christ is present in all (true) Christians; Christ is prominent in some other (growing) Christians; Christ is pre-eminent in a few spiritually maturing Christians. Is Christ merely present in me? Is He prominent? Is He pre-eminent? Christian maturity is achieved when:
- We dies to self (e.g. John the Baptist – John 3:30; Paul – Galatians 2:20)
- Christ is formed and seen in us (Galatians 4:19; Romans 8:28-30; Acts 11:26),
- We attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).
When by the grace of God we grow to this point of spiritual maturity it will show in our personal and corporate lives in many ways. Our lives will be characterized with:
- Self-image, prestige, meaning and satisfaction that will be built up on the spiritual status of being “in Christ,”
- Discipline (disciples of Christ are disciplined), self-denial (Mark 8:34), sexual morality/ purity, hard work (faithful stewardship of time), transparent honesty in handling fund/and resources, no to secret societies and cultism (Ephesians 5:7-14), a life worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8), corporately, maturity in Christ will make the our society to be characterised with Christ-like relationships. We will refrain from negative attitudes and actions that will tear people down: Judging one another (Romans 14:13), biting, devouring, consuming one another (Galatians 5:15, provoking, envying one another (Galatians 5:26), lying to one another (Colossians 3:9), speaking evil of/against one another (James 4:11), grumbling against one another (James 5:19).
Instead we will do positive things to build up one another; welcoming and receiving one another (Romans 13:7), forbearing with one another (Ephesians 4:2), being kind, tender hearted and forgiving towards one another (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13), serving one another (Galatians 5:13), practising hospitality (1 Peter 4:9), Admonishing/instructing one another (1 Peter 4:9; rom. 15:14), submitting to one another (Ephesians 5:2) comforting one another (1 Thessalonians. 4:18). With such exemplary conduct of “one anotherness” (1 Timothy 4:12), we will be impacting the lives of others so much that they will become God-fearing, responsible citizens and leaders of our society.
REVD DR. EMIOLA NIHINLOLA