Before you start reading this, please browse the internet for “adolescence” and “perpetual adolescence”. Ok, you’re back. The idea of adolescence–the time between being a child and being an adult—came into existence in the last hundred years. Prolonged or perpetual adolescence is an even more recent phenomenon. You might wonder what they have to do with Christianity. Well, the same things we see in society are also found in the Church.
“You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:12-14 NLT)
Clearly, they had not been making progress toward spiritual maturity. They should have grown enough that they might teach and nurture others. Instead, they are still sucking on a bottle and needing someone to take care of them.
Living in a state of perpetual spiritual adolescence is dangerous.
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:11-15 NLT)
While we remain spiritually immature, we are easy targets. Others can influence us and deceive us “with lies so clever they sound like the truth”. Wrong is right and right is wrong. We won’t have a sure foundation to weather the storms of life because we will “be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching”. A ship without a rudder and reliable compass will end up on the rocks since the winds will determine its course. The same is true of our lives.
Life doesn’t have to be this way. Adolescence is meant to be a stage toward maturity not a final destination. In 1 Corinthians 13:11, Paul wrote, “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.” (ESV) There is a time to be a child–and even childish—but not for the rest of our lives.
Steps toward spiritual maturity:
- Be rooted and ground in the Bible
- Learn from others who are more mature
- Accept responsibility for your growth
- Ask the Holy Spirit to help conform you to the character of Christ.
The journey is difficult—that’s why some refuse to take it—but it is worth it. We will no longer be tossed about by the prevailing winds of culture. We will not be easy marks for deception. We will become mature and able to help others make the journey.