The Yangon BP church is now 13 years old. As the pastor, one of my greatest concerns is maturity in the faith. Because of this, I have been preaching a sermon series on Christian maturity.
As Christians, we all are meant to grow up and become mature. Peter says, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). He is telling us that growth is both desirable and expected. God does not want His children to remain in a state of infancy but expects us to grow up to spiritual adulthood (1 Peter 2:2).
It is not wrong to be a babe in Christ. But disappointment comes when one remains immature because it is very dangerous not to grow. Spiritual life has often been compared to walking upstream. If you are not progressing forward, then you are going backwards. We must always seek to progress in our spiritual lives; otherwise, we will be spiritually declining. If we don’t go on, we will go bad, like rotten fruit!
What is the mark of spiritual maturity? How can I know that I am mature? Just as there are markers for physical and mental maturation, there are also markers for spiritual maturation. Bearing fruit is one of the sure marks of maturity just as mature trees bear fruit. There are at least five different types of fruit mature Christians are to bear:
(1) Fruit of Character: Developing Christlike character is one of the most important fruits because the goal of the Christian life is to be transformed into the image of Christ (Romans 12:2). Paul identifies this godly character as the fruit of the Spirit and presents us with nine fruits: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Actually Paul uses “fruit” (singular) instead of “fruits” (plural). Why? Paul is not naming different kinds of fruit that the Spirit gives; instead he is describing the different characteristics of one fruit that the Spirit is working in us. Many commentators believe that love is the first and foremost aspect of the fruit of the Spirit because it is the first in the list, and the other fruits are seen in love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). It is unfortunate that we live in a culture where the gifts of the Spirit are overly emphasized with very little emphasis on the fruit of the Spirit. People admire gifted people more than people of godly character. Godly character must be our first and foremost desire.
(2) Fruit of Good Works: Mature Christians produce the fruit of good works. Right character will result in right conduct, and as we live a life of good works we produce fruit (Colossians 1:10; Titus 2:14). We place heavy emphasis on studying the Bible because the Bible (cont. pg. 4)
is the means God uses to bring us to maturity: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Here, Paul says that the Bible is the means God uses to bring us to maturity, and that maturity is displayed in good works. We are to measure our maturity by doing good works to others. Maturity is displayed more by actions than words. We may know everything about theology; we may be a walking systematic theologian, and we may spend a lifetime training others in seminary yet still be desperately immature.
(3) Fruit of Evangelism: This fruit is the sowing of the gospel and reaping of others to Christ, especially those who come to Christ through our witness. Jesus spoke of this as a “harvest” (Matthew 9:36-38), and he who reaps that harvest “gathers fruit for eternal life” (John 4:35-36). Paul longed to go to Rome to have some fruit from his ministry there (Romans 1:13). He also characterized the conversion of the household of Stephanas as the first fruits of Achaia (1 Corinthians 16:15). It is hard to understand why Christians are often very enthusiastic in evangelism when they are new Christians, but later, when they become mature, that zeal is gone. Maybe we have become like the church in Ephesus that left her first love (Rev.2:4). Let us repent and perform the deeds we did at first.
(4) Fruit of our Lips: We may also bear fruit with our lips by giving praise to God and thankfully confessing His name (Hebrews 13:15). In other words, our lips bear fruit when we offer thankful acknowledgement to the name of God. This is something we should do continually. The Bible says that un-thankfulness is a sign of the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-2), which God calls perilous times. We truly live in a thankless society. As a mature Christian, when is the last time you thanked your parents for all they did for you? When is the last time you thanked your boss for a job? When is the last time you thanked your wife, husband, or children for what they do? How long has it been since you thanked Jesus for saving you? With all that Jesus has done for us, we should be thankful to Him.
(5) Fruit of Giving: We bear fruit when we give money. Paul designated the collection of money for the poorer saints in Jerusalem as fruit (Romans 15:26-28). When he thanked the Philippians for their financial support of his ministry, he said that their act of giving brought fruit to their account (Philippians 4:15-17).
God loves to give. He even gave His own son to us (John 3:16–17). Jesus Christ also gave His own life to save us from our sins. As Christians grow, we understand His character more and more—we become more like Him. As He is generous, so we also become generous. We’re most like God when we’re giving. The Christian life is all about giving.