Immature Christians are sometimes described as being like babies who are not yet weaned and thus unable to feed on the solid food of Christ’s teaching. So what are we to about this situation? I believe we can expect our spiritual maturing to proceed as our physical maturing did. That is, it moved sometimes slowly and sometimes rapidly over a considerable time period. Nonetheless, our body had a plan for what the finished result would be.
I think I have taken the eating and physical growth metaphor as far as it will go as there is no end in this life for our need to continue maturing in Christ. There also seems to be no end to suggestions as to how Christians are to mature, many of them involving events and/or products.
To get anywhere with God in any attribute, I believe, we need to put our Creator in charge. After all, he made each of us unique and only he knows what he has in mind for each of us. There is an old joke that goes “The trouble with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar.” However, this witticism may bring us close to the problem of maturing. Most of us may prefer doing something rather than being something, such as a willing servant of our Lord. Yet we will only become more mature as we allow ourselves to be made more and more in the image of Jesus.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “[T]his slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17 RSV). We may find rather more than slight affliction is required as we take on the weight of eternal glory but in the end I am sure we will think it worth it.
Redemption has many facets. It is not enough that people know about good and evil. This understanding is insufficient to do the two things necessary to bring us to God. The first is to free us of the condemnation we have as heirs of Adam’s sin and the second is to free us from our own sinful condition.
Freeing us and others from the eternal consequences of Adam’s sin required a life of perfect obedience to the Father that Adam could not accomplish. Jesus lived out for us the perfect life that is beyond our own capabilities. Thus, by faith in Jesus we can be freed from the bondage and consequences of Adam’s sin.
What has been provided to Christians through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was offered, I believe, to some people before Jesus came to earth through the means we read about in the Old Testament.
When Abram’s name was changed to Abraham it began the process of widening God’s offer of faith and forgiveness to larger groups of people. When we get to Moses, God’s offer continues to widen. However, the fundamental requirements of faith and forgiveness continue. Paul tells us that the Mosaic Law does not save anyone but directs people to the need for faith and forgiveness.
The Mosaic Law stayed in effect until Jesus fulfilled it. Now we have a New Covenant but, I believe, it is as impossible for me to live up to it on my own as it would be for me to completely obey the Mosaic Law. The extent to which I am able to fulfill it depends on Christ’s gifts to me of faith, forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit.
For our own sins a sacrifice was required. This sacrifice Jesus offered for us by going to the Cross. What Jesus did is made effective in us by our repentance for our sins, our acknowledgment we are not able to present ourselves righteous before God by our own efforts, and our belief the Jesus Christ is the living Son of God. It is in this way we come to redemption.
Our Sunday school class this week focused on the part of Paul’s prayer for the Philippians that is given to us in verses 9 to 11 of the first chapter of his letter to them. The following is the English Standard Version of this passage.
9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
What seemed to be to be of interest to me was the phrase “so that you may approve what is excellent.” What does “approve” mean here. When I came to write the post, I found that the phrase differed in the two other translations I looked at. The New International Version (1978) has “so that you may be able to discern what is best” and the Revised English Bible has “enabling you to learn by experience what things really matter” and replaces “pure” with “flawless.”
I think I want to go with the ESV translation. Here’s why. The NIV says that the Philippians are to discern what is best. How is that a help to me who cannot be sure of discerning which of three translations is best. The REB tells me I can learn what really matters and become flawless. Being both a slow learner in regard to spiritual things and having no hope of ever, in this life, being flawless, I don’t see anything for me in the REB translation.
Let me give you my thoughts on the ESV version. Recently I have read in two articles that Johann S. Bach was a great Christian composer. However, I do not have the ability to judge his composing or, to tell the truth, enjoy his music. I did though receive pleasure from knowing that he was such a great composer and had glorified God and continues to inspire people with his music. I think approving what is excellent is something I can do without it requiring that I have personal qualities that I don’t. In other words, being on the right side of evaluations is something that can help bring about in us the sanctification that is the gift of God to those who believe in his Son.