January 2023 | The True Vine and The Soon Coming King

Maturity in Mission
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Maturity in Mission

Pr. T. M. Joel

Jesus Christ is the content of the Christian message. The mission of Christianity is human redemption which embodies forgiveness of past sins, the hope of immortality and maturity of personality which is the abundant life of the Christian. The standard of Christian maturity is the radiant personality of Jesus (Colossians 1:28; Ephesians 4:11-14). To enjoy the fullness of Christian maturity one must have a spiritual rebirth and be renewed in spirit day by day (John 3:3-5; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Titus 3:4-7). This is spiritual transformation (Romans 12:2). 

One of Paul’s primary personal goals and mission objectives was to reach greater levels of spiritual maturity and to see all Christians do the same. The goal of evangelism is never just seeing people come to Christ. Indeed, the primary command of the great commission is not evangelism but making disciples. Making disciples naturally included evangelism, but it goes far beyond that-to make perfect in Christ.

There are three dimensions of discipleship in which we can grow and mature as under:-

1. The personal dimension. What does it mean to be a child of God who is constantly becoming more like Christ ?

2. The corporate dimension-How do the gathered people of God live and function as a Christian comm-unity? How do these gathered disciples participate in the Kingdom of God?

3. The public dimension- What difference do we make in the world as disciples of Jesus Christ?

The Personal Dimension

The personal dimension of spiritual maturity was a major concern and a key objective of Paul and other writers of the New Testament epistles as seen in the following passage:  

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly-mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready (1 Corinthians 3:1-2). 

One of the key Greek words used here is teleios, “having attained the end, purpose, complete, perfect.” It was used of a full-grown, mature adult. In comparison with 3:1 we find an instructive contrast. Teleios, “mature,” is contrasted with the word for “babe,” nepios in both of these passages. Thus, in a spiritual sense, teleios speaks of one who is fully developed, spiritually mature according to the spiritual qualities detailed in the New Testament. Paul urges Christians who have been so greatly graced by God’s salvation to seek what is perfect (Romans 12:2). God’s will is “perfect,” and believers, by the renewing transformation of their minds accomplished by God’s Spirit, can know God’s will. God purposes nothing short of the goal that his people should perfectly accomplish His will. Along the same lines, Paul insists that perfection, or maturity, derives only from living according to God’s will (Colossians 4:12).  

The Corporate Dimension 

Spiritual maturity is not so much in what we do, but in what God intends to do in us through Christ. Spiritual maturity is a matter of participating in and cooperating with God in what He wants to do in and through us. 

What does God intend to do in and through us? The answer to this question lies in the Incarnation. What God did in and through Jesus is the answer to what He intends to do in us. For Irenaeus, a bishop from France in the late 2nd century, God’s intentions were clear: “Jesus Christ, in His infinite love, has become what we are, in order that He may make us entirely what He is.”  Scottish theologian James Torrance expands upon this idea when he writes, He who was the eternal Son of God by nature, enjoying eternal communion with the Father, became the Son of Man that we “sons and daughters of men” might become “sons and daughters of God” by grace and be drawn into the Son’s communion with the Father, that through the Spirit we too might call God Father. Everything we do emerges from who we are in Christ. Spiritual maturity is about growing in our under-standing of this identity and our believing it to be true.  

One of the favorite expressions of this new identity in Christ in the Bible is in II Corinthians 5:16-21. It grounds evangelistic endeavor in the kind of understanding of what God is doing in our lives. In this passage, Paul is primarily describing his own apostolic ministry. But I think it is proper to extrapolate from this passage, truths that apply to Christians in general. In this particular instance, Paul grounds his motivation to minister the Gospel in terms of “reconciliation.” God has reconciled us to himself through Christ, enabling us to become a “new creation.” Paul implies that with this new relationship with God comes a new perspective (v. 16). Along with this new relationship with God comes a new identity, which in this instance Paul describes in terms of being ambassadors for Christ. 

Ambassadors represent the country or ruler whom they serve, and they deliver messages from their commissioning agent. In this instance, Paul again emphasizes the message of reconciliation, “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Paul then summarizes the Gospel in these words, “For our sake he made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” That is the heart of the Gospel message that as ambassadors we seek to make known to our neighbors, and it is the Gospel truth that again brings us back to what God intends to do in and through us - manifest His righteousness, His justice, in everything we are and do.

The Public Dimension

As people consecrated to God, we share His love for the lost and His compassion for the poor and broken. The Great Command- ment (Mathew 22:36-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) move us to engage the world in evangelism, compassion, and justice. To this end we are committed to inviting people to faith, to caring for those in need, to standing against injustice and with the oppressed, to working to protect and preserve the resources of God’s creation, and to including in our fellowship all who call upon the name of the Lord

Through its mission in the world, the Church demonstrates the love of God. The story of the Bible is the story of God reconciling the world to himself, ultimately through Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). The Church is sent into the world to participate with God in this ministry of love and reconciliation through evange-lism, compassion, and justice.

By love it is meant that we must love God, our families, and everyone else. Love is the greatest commandment and the greatest test of Christian maturity. The love of God is a selfless love concerned for others’ needs. On major issues in other people’s lives, love takes action. A loving person will not stand by and watch someone destroy his life. On the minor issues, love accepts people as they are. It is more important to accept people as they are than to try to “fix them” or “snub them.” Christians should be the most accepting people in the world. Others should know us by our love.

This means loving people who are different from us in values, lifestyle, and actions. Accepting people as they are provides an opportunity to take action on the major issues in someone’s life. When people know you love them, they are willing to listen to you when you warn them of impending danger to them physically or spiritually. A mature believer lives a life so different from the non-Christian that people can tell there is something different about them. Mature believers are constantly thinking about ways to share Christ with family members, friends, and people they have just met. In addition, mature believers are intentional about seizing divine moments, developing redem- ptive relationships, and in bringing and including friends in the life of the church.

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