Time to Grow Up

by John Meador

Sometimes I wonder if God ever tires of saying to us, "Grow up!" The whole thrust of Ephesians 4 is about growing up and it provides the foundation for what grown-up people do in their marriages.

In this series of articles we have looked at the different roles to which God has called the man and the woman. For instance, we defined the husband's role as to love by being a serving leader. The Bible says the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, and he has this incredibly lofty goal of being like Christ.

And the wife's role is to support her husband by being a loving helper—as Christ subjected Himself to the headship of the Father to accomplish the Father's will, so the wife has the same lofty goal of following His example.

Statistics show the number one reason for the failure of Christian marriage is spiritual weakness on the part of one partner or the other. This principle applies whether we are talking about marriage or relationships or just successful Christian living. We need to grow up as spiritual beings. In Ephesians 4, Paul's admonition to the church uses four contrasts to encourage the church to grow up in Christ and be able to live out the roles of marriage that we find in Ephesians 5.

 Grow Up in Our Life Focus

What does Paul mean by that? We are to be "no more children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (v. 14). Instead, "speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him" (v. 15). We have all the things we need to grow, and we have no excuse to be spiritual children anymore. So, what should the life focus of the believer be? To grow up into Jesus Christ.

Even though I am not a girl, I love Jan Silvious' book, Big Girls Don't Whine. This book is great reading for anybody. Jan contrasts mature and immature girls. In one section of the book, she details the behavior of children. Here is what she says: "Children don't think things through to their natural conclusion. They see only what is immediate. Children don't think about how their actions will affect others. Children are unable to see more than one side to any situation. Children take things personally: She hurt my feelings.' That is my doll.' He hit me.' Children really like it best when it is all about me. Children are better manipulators than negotiators. They learn early how to manipulate and whom to manipulate. Children tire easily and allow fatigue to affect their general attitude and demeanor. Children do not know what is best for them, although they may protest loudly when they fail to get what they want."

I read that and I had to laugh as I thought about my own children—but I also realized that many times my children, in their immaturity, convict me of how I sometimes act before God. Boy, that is difficult when you have six kids and six different testimonies about how you sometimes act so immaturely before God.

Jan went on to say: "Making the choice to pursue maturity can fix a lot of what is broken in your life, even when you don't recognize your brokenness." I can tell you that when couples or individuals come to me with their struggles in their Christian life, it's very rare that they say their goal is to be like Jesus Christ. Instead their answers will have to do with being successful or pursuing this great career or trying to gain this or gain that. They have missed their proper focus.

Grow Up in Your Discernment

Paul says, "This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind" (v. 17). He is writing to Gentiles that have come to Christ. They came from a culture which was "darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart" What Paul is saying is "Don't live according to the world's culture and the world's standards anymore. You are different now. You are a believer. You have different guidelines and different principles. Don't live the way you used to live." Children, and immature believers, tend to try to solve their problems with worldly solutions—but that only complicates their lives even more.

Paul also says we should discern between hardness of heart and a clear conscience. I think one of the most terrifying phrases in the Bible is: "excluded from the life of God." But why are they excluded from the life of God? "Because of the ignorance that is in them," and ultimately, "because of the hardness of their heart."

What happens with hardness of heart? You can be moving away from the Lord and never even know it. There is a powerful passage in Matthew 19:8 that shows why divorce takes place. Jesus had been teaching about the permanence of marriage, and the Pharisees asked Him, "Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?" In other words, "God, if you are so concerned about marriage, why did You allow Your servant Moses to grant divorces?"

Jesus answered: "Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way." Why does "hardness of heart" crop up there? And why is it found in Ephesians 4? Because as we grow hardhearted, we move further and further away from God and before long we cannot keep the covenant God has called us to in marriage.

Paul said we also need to discern between selfishness and a servant's heart: "And they, having become callous," as a result of that hard heart, "have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness" (v. 19).

Two words in Verse 19 most clarify troublesome aspects of marriage: "sensuality" and "greediness." Sensuality is the absence of self-control. It is that insatiable desire and lusting after something that is pleasurable. Greediness—pleonexa in the Greek—is a compound word meaning never being satisfied with what you have and always wanting more.

Grow Up in Your Daily Choices

Verse 22 says, "lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, andput on the new self, who in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."

Did you know that you could choose today to live a fleshly life, even though you are set apart and forgiven? You could choose to go back and live that old way of life. It would not be appropriate, if you live that way for very long. There would be cause to question the reality of Christ in you. But every believer is capable of immature Christian living. It boils down to what I choose to do each day. Paul's words are a command—and where you find a command, a choice is involved.

Instead of the old manners of life, "put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity" (Col. 3:12-15). Relationships will be transformed if you put on these new things and put off those old things. I call these the closet of a Christian. Every day I choose from my closet what I will wear that day. The Christian does that in the spiritual realm. You get up and you choose the way you are going to live that day.

Grow Up in Your Communication

How you communicate is a great thermometer for where you are spiritually. It will give you your spiritual temperature. We need to evaluate the words we speak and the manner in which we say those words. This is a very important part of our lives.

Verse 25 instructs: "Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another." Be full of truth. Sometimes it is easier to avoid the truth, but Paul says, be full of truth. Speak it in love. But speak the truth. Don't fail to speak truth just to avoid confrontation. Speak it with grace, speak it with kindness, but speak it—because the truth is necessary for you to live uprightly and for those around you to be built up. Remember Verse 15? "But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him." Apparently, speaking the truth in love is one of the characteristics of growing up.

When someone speaks the truth about some aspect of my life, it points out to me a weakness or affirms a strength and it helps me grow up. It helps me be very aware of who I am and what is going on in my life.

As we have said before, if the only perspective you have on your life is your own, you are very easily deceived. That is why it is so important to have mentors in your life and others around you who will say, "John, there is an area of your life that is strong, but I see an area that is weak and I want to speak the truth in love to you. You need to shore that area of your life up." Husbands can say that to wives and wives to husbands, if we have the same goal of Christ-likeness. Be full of truth, in love, when you speak.

The Bible also says, be full of forgiveness: "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity" (v. 26). When we go to bed or we allow the sun to go down on our anger or allow time to pass without forgiving, without reconciling, without solving issues and problems, it allows bitterness to seep in. It allows resentment to build. And the next time we are in communication with that other person, what comes out of our mouth is the ugliness and the putrid communication of a problem not solved.

As the Bible states, it gives the devil an opportunity to tear you apart as husband and wife, or an opportunity to divide some other kind of relationship, or an opportunity for you to feel justified in being angry and mad instead of solving the problem. The answer to that, of course, is to be able to forgive each other and not be angry—to forgive just as Christ forgave you.

Now look in Verse 29: "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear." The emphasis is on our words imparting grace to the hearer. When someone hears grace-full words, what they hear is grace. Now, that demands a great deal of sensitivity. It demands that we want to build people up instead of tearing them down. Boy, it is an incredible communication relationship when you can do that with each other. Be full of grace.

Finally, be full of the Spirit: "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (v. 30). Have you ever realized the moment you said something that you have just grieved God's Spirit? It's as if something just vacates your life. The Holy Spirit of God does not vacate your life, but you can definitely grieve Him.

Isn't it interesting that grieving the Spirit is brought up in the passage that admonishes us to grow up from childhood communication to full adult communication? Being full of truth, full of forgiveness, full of grace allows us to be full of the Spirit without grieving Him. Grow up.

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