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Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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Maturity

I Won’t Grow Up!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So…you learn something new every day. Case in point: I just learned a cool definition for maturity – from Wikipedia, yes, but I trust them whole-heartedly 😉

In psychology, maturity is the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner. This response is generally learned rather than instinctive, and is not determined by one’s age. Maturity also encompasses being aware of the correct time and place to behave and knowing when to act appropriately

Man! What a definition; the ability to respond in an appropriate manner, knowing how and when to behave appropriately.

When I think about Christian maturity I know a lot of us REALLY come up short of that definition! The Apostle Paul once wrote to the church in Corinth:

Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. (1 Corinthians 14:20)

His distinction between infants and adults is fascinating. There is a naiveté to children in regards to evil. When it comes to our behavior we’re to be like kids – innocent and free from that junk. But when it comes to our thinking it’s time to grow up and be adults. So how were they thinking like children?

They were thinking selfishly.

That pretty much sums it up. Childish behavior is selfish. “It’s about me. What I want. Now. It doesn’t matter where we are. It doesn’t matter what’s going on. Serve me. My way.” This is completely opposite to the definition we just read. Childish behavior isn’t able to delay gratification depending on environment and circumstance.

The same is true in Christianity. Sometimes we behave like little children. We act selfishly. We desire our things. We want our way. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances. It doesn’t matter what else needs to happen. We’re focused on one thing and one thing only – ME!

In the church we see this come into play in a lot of different ways. “I don’t like the music.” “I don’t like how the pastor does….” “They’re sitting in my seat.” “They didn’t do my idea.” And that’s just off the top of my head. It all comes back to being selfishly motivated. When I focus on ME instead of on OTHER then I’m always going to put my wants and desires first, and I will pursue those wants and desires regardless of the appropriate manner, time, or place to engage in such behavior.

But Christianity is not about ME. It never has been. In fact, the only person Christianity has ever been about is Christ, and even he said:

The Son of Man (that’s himself) did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

If we are to really strive to be like Jesus, if we are really going to mature as Christians, then we need to be intentional about putting off our selfish drives and start to focus on how we can serve others. That’s what stinks about maturing. Because we LIKE getting our way. We LIKE having the things we want – when we want them. It feels good to have our immaturity catered to – to remain like a spoiled kid. There’s a Peter Pan in all of us that wants to stay with the Lost Boys in Neverland forever. “I WON’T GROW UP!”


Too many Christians take that song as their theme song and join in: “We won’t grow up! We will never grow a day. And if someone tries to make us we will simply run away.” Ouch. Hits a little close to home, huh? I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. We’ve all done it to some degree. But that’s not what God’s family is supposed to look like.

We can do better. We can be better. Paul writes in Romans 12 that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. With God we really can change. We can leave behind childish selfishness and embrace Christian maturity.

It’s time to mature. It’s time to be an adult.

Grow up.

Related Posts:
~ God’s Big Boy
~ Becoming a Better Me
~ Creating Life Change
~ Sustaining Change in Your Life
~ Knowledge Vs. Relationship

No Pain Like Lego Pain!

Do You Know Lego Pain?
Do You Know Lego Pain?

I talk a lot. I’m a preacher, you know, so I talk a lot. It’s amazing to me to find out what actually sticks with people. Sometimes it stuff I never intended to stick. For example, one time I told a story about Lego pain.

You know the kind – there is nothing quite like stepping bare-footed on a Lego brick. I talked about it in one sermon and now every time someone sees a Lego meme on Facebook I get tagged and they say, “This made me think of you, Pastor!” Yes, I love Legos. My father passed the love on to me and I’m passing it on to my children.

For years my kids have played with Legos. Technically, I guess you would say they’ve been playing with Duplos. Duplos are the bigger blocks made for younger kids. It the same company and same concept, just harder to swallow pieces and the designs are not very complex. My kids and I have a blast playing and building stuff. You really get to use your imagination when you’re trying to build an airplane or a zoo or a dinosaur out of Duplos.

But something happened yesterday that changed everything. My daughter won a prize at VBS (Vacation Bible School) and she picked out a set of “big kid” Legos. This wasn’t just a 10-piece-your-done set either. It was a car, a helicopter, and an air-traffic tower – maybe 100 pieces total. It was the kind of thing where she couldn’t do it alone – she needed a parent to “help” build (yes, I ended up doing a lot of the building). It was a proud moment for me because my baby girl is growing up and moving up to the Lego big leagues. It was a sad moment for me because my baby girl is growing up and is not the same kid she used to be. But that’s a good thing.

We’re not supposed to stay with the baby toys forever. In fact, if we play with the baby toys for the rest of our lives then there’s probably something wrong. We were designed to grow and move from childish things on to more complex and grown up things. This is especially true in our Christian life and thought.  While we start out as babies, we ought to grow to the point where we put childish ways behind us and move on to mature Christian behavior. The Apostle Paul gets frustrated with the Christians in Corinth because they continue to act in immature worldly ways and have not yet adopted the behavior of mature adult Christians.

For Paul, Christian maturity meant behaving well and leaving behind jealousy, fighting, and quarreling. That’s kid’s stuff. My kids fight and bicker all the time. I joke that I could teach NFL Officials a thing or two because I do more reffing in 5 minutes with my kids than they do in the entire Super Bowl. But as they mature and grow they (hopefully) will move beyond that and treat each other well.

Too many of us are content to stay playing with the baby toys. We enjoy our immaturity and never grow out of it. That’s not cool. It’s not healthy. As Christians, as humans, we ought to strive to grow. Who we are next week should not be the same person we were last week. Eventually we put away the Duplos and pull out the more complicated stuff. It’s part of growing up. Even when we recognize the need to grow up it’s not always easy to do, so let me end with giving a few practical tips on how you can move towards maturity:

  1. Read. Read voraciously. Reading gives us knew information and power and ability to be better than we used to be. Magazines, books, blogs, whatever. Find ways to develop what you know. You can’t implement new ways of behaving if you lack the knowledge of what you need to be like.
  2. Find a coach, mentor, pastor, someone who can help you in the process of maturation. It’s easier to do when you have someone who has walked the path to help you along.
  3. Mentor or teach someone else. Nothing solidifies knowledge in your head as much as teaching that info to someone else.

It’s time to put down the baby toys. It’s time to grow up. Stop acting like an immature Christian and start behaving the way responsible adult believers are supposed to behave. C’mon, we’ll build a neat-o Lego set together!

 

It’s Not My Fault

My family seems to like quirky movies. Recently we’ve discovered Disney’s Meet the Robinsons. It’s quirky and goofy. But this isn’t a movie review, so I’ll get to my point. There’s one scene where the hero confronts the villain. The villain holds the hero responsible for how miserable his life has become. The hero says that life could have turned out differently depending on the choices and decisions the villain made along the way. And then comes one of the best lines of the move. The villain declares:

 Let’s see – take responsibility for my own life or blame you? Ding, ding ding! Blame you win hands down every time!

It’s the kind of line that makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. It sums up perfectly the attitude that many of us have. No matter what happens in life we will play the victim. We regularly have outbursts:

“My life is not the result of what I have done. My circumstances are not the consequences of my behavior. Oh, no! Don’t you know that this junk is happening because you are a terrible person. If you weren’t so mean I wouldn’t be facing what I’m facing. If you weren’t so terrible my life situation would be a lot easier.”

In fact, it seems that a good deal of social media posts revolve around this victim mentality and blaming others for life. We’ve become a nation of experts at avoiding responsibility; of accepting life as the consequences of our behavior.

But this is an immature view of life. It’s kid stuff. Just ask my six year old. If she behaves in a way she KNOWS she is not supposed to she will quickly tell you that she only did it because of her brother, or sister, or me (Daddy). Were it not for these outside forces acting upon her OF COURSE she never would have done something like that!

 

Kid stuff.

 

But it’s not the way that mature adults are supposed to behave. Well, not Christians at any rate. God calls us to be people of…dare I say it…responsibility. We are supposed to own up to our behavior and accept the consequences.

The New Testament letter of James tells us:

15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

It’s there in verse 16: confess your sins to one another and pray for one another. Own up to your behavior. No victim mentality – it’s about grown ups saying, “I did this and I was wrong.” We don’t see a whole lot of that going around. But look at that Bible passage again (go ahead, it’s only the previous paragraph). Notice that James says that our ability to own up and take responsibility has spiritual significance. Forgiveness and healing come when we own up to our behavior. It would seem to indicate that passing the buck would then keep us stuck without forgiveness and without healing. Um…what?

John also talks about that horrible word: confession.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Yep – it’s a whole lot easier to say to the world, “Why are you doing this to me?” It’s easier to play the victim and pretend that we’re innocent. But, in fact, we’re not. The Bible is clear that we’re all broken people. That means that we all (even the best of us) will act out in broken ways. I’m not justifying it. God doesn’t give you the green light to act inappropriately just because it’s “human nature”.

So…bottom line ~ Stop playing the victim when it’s your poor behavior that has cause grief. Don’t blame others but confess and seek forgiveness and healing.

~ Time to accept responsibility for your behavior.

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