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Can Christians have developmental delays?
As parents, we sometimes determine that our children have delays in their development. Some are late bloomers, others have more serious disorders that cause a significant delays.
Can the same be true for Christians; and if so, what are the parameters that indicate Christian immaturity?
This week, we embark on a new Good Morning Girls Bible study in the book of 1 Corinthians.
If you would like to join us, stop by the post: Study 1st Corinthians With Me to get all of the details.
Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church because the church was in serious spiritual decline.
Their lack of spiritual growth and maturity had led to attitudes and behaviors that were not only displeasing to God, but were giving a bad testimony to the unbelievers around them.
And we see this same scenario in the church today.
There is a remarkable lack of spiritual maturity in the church today that has not only led to blatant misapplication or complete dismissal of certain passages of Scripture, but has also led to tolerance of sin.
We see divisiveness in the church, elevation of man, and an inability to digest the hard truths of God’s Word, because we’ve chosen not to discipline ourselves to become disciples of Jesus Christ.
5 Warning Signs of an Immature Christian
While there is much blame to be laid at the door of pastors who refuse to teach the gospel and the meat of the Word, they are not fully to blame.
In today’s society, nearly every country and every culture (and most certainly English-speaking countries) have unlimited and free access to the Bible in every format and in numerous translations.
There is also free access to dozens of commentaries and study aids, as well as journals and other amazing, free resources.
There is no one to blame for spiritual immaturity other than the one staring back at us from the mirror.
1. Immature Christians are too fascinated with fallen man
“Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” 1 Corinthians 1:12-13
“For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?” 1 Corinthians 3:4-5
Even back then the church fell into the idolatry of celebrity pastors and Christians. They were arguing over who was a better spiritual leader, based on the superiority of their wisdom.
Today we see this same tendency with celebrity pastors, mega-churches, celebrity Bible teachers, and celebrity worship leaders. And God isn’t any more pleased with it now than He was in A.D. 55.
Preoccupation with fallen man is idolatry.
Paul said, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:2-5
The danger we face when we put our faith in the wisdom of men, and not in the power of God, is when they show they have feet of clay, we grow disillusioned.
And they will show they have feet of clay, because they do.
They are fallen, just as we are fallen. Just because they are teachers of the Word or worship leaders doesn’t mean they are sinless!
A mature believer knows that they can glean from the godly wisdom of pastors, Bible teachers, and enjoy the worship music of worship leaders without adoration of them.
They are a vessel that carries the wisdom, not the source of wisdom!
2. Immature Christians put too much trust in intellectualism
This was a problem in Greek culture that carried over into the church.
Philosophy has been a part of Greek culture for millennia; a culture that elevates intellectualism. This is a trap for Christians because salvation doesn’t happen through the intellect.
While we may intellectually understand the Bible, perhaps even be able to win debates with atheists through our great knowledge and understanding of apologetics, we should not assume that this equals spiritual maturity – or even salvation.
Intellectual understanding and knowledge of God’s Word does not equate spiritual maturity or a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’ Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-21
If our knowledge of the Bible is not paired with an experience with Jesus Christ, we will become arrogant and Pharisaical in our attitudes and behavior; leaving us immature as believers.
3. Immature Christians display carnal behavior
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal… For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” 1 Corinthians 3:1, 3
One mark of a spiritually mature Christian is one’s willingness to allow the Holy Spirit free access to their life, to root out behavior that is not pleasing to God.
I remember as a child often seeing the bumper sticker, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” and how much it bothered me.
While there is truth to this statement, the bigger truth is that it is used as an excuse for immature and carnal behavior as Christians.
We excuse ourselves on the basis of our intentions, while God judges us on the basis on our actions.
Furthermore, the world is not interested in, nor are they able to see our intentions, but they clearly see our actions, and when our actions are in opposition to God’s Word, we bear a bad testimony.
There comes a time in every believer’s life when they must make the decision to either grow up and begin exercising spiritual discipline and maturity, by surrendering and submitting fully to the entire Word of God as the final authority for every decision and action….
or to remain in spiritual immaturity and carnality, excusing their actions by saying, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.”
4. Immature Christians have no appetite for anything but milk
“I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;” 1 Corinthians 3:2
There is a reason why there are so many mega-churches with preachers that only “tickle ears” – preaching self-help, self-care, and motivational speeches.
There is a reason why Bible teachers who used to teach solid, biblical teaching are now caving to “Judaizers” and embracing social justice over the Bible, and liberal values over biblical values.
That is because those who flock to them only have an appetite for milk.
They only want to hear about God’s love and grace, without the balance of God’s judgement and their responsibility to work out their salvation “with fear and trembling”.
They want to hear about how much God accepts them, but don’t want to hear about the fear of the Lord.
And these pastors, Bible teachers, and worship leaders who cater to these milk-toast Christians leave them in a state of developmental delay and immaturity while falling into the same condition themselves.
5. Immature Christians tolerate gross immorality
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:1-2
The Corinthian church didn’t just tolerate a man being incestuous with his mother-in-law, but they were proud of their tolerance…
Their liberal values.
“Your glorying (boasting, rejoicing) is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” 1 Corinthians 5:6
Rather than mourning over the condition of his soul….and more so, the infectious danger this posed to the entire church, they took pride in their ability to tolerate diverse sexual situations.
We see this happening in the church today.
Because the church has chosen to listen to the voices of our culture, bow the knee to modern psychology and give more respect to liberal philosophies, she has chosen to remain in immaturity.
- We tolerate fornication and adultery in our entertainment
- We tolerate immorality in our churches, refusing to confront a brother or sister in sin as Jesus instructed us in Matthew 18
- We tolerate homosexuality in our entertainment, and have allowed it to shape our world view
- We listen to the voices that tell us that people can be born gay, rather than accepting that the Word of God says that it is an abomination
- We listen to Bible teachers who praise those who claim to be Christian and are same-sex attracted, but choose to remain celibate, rather than surrounding ourselves with those who preach a word of deliverance
- We have accepted the terminology of gender dysphoria
My friends, acceptance of sexual immorality and deviance in the church has become a dividing line and the issue on which Jesus is choosing to sift the church at this point in history.
Those Bible teachers who remain silent choose a position of affirmation on this subject by way of their silence.
It is time for the church to be clear and openly rebuke those who are affirming of or engaging in immorality and abominable sexually deviant behavior.
Silence will halt our spiritual development.
Acceptance will halt our spiritual development.
Pride in being “woke” Christians will halt our spiritual development.
But more than that, it makes us spiritually diseased and infectious to the body.
This is why Paul said in verses 5 and 6, “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”
Dear sisters, I know this isn’t an easy word. This is a hard word – it is meat. It must be chewed on and digested. But it gives life and health to the body.
Paul said in chapter 4 verse 14, “I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.”
We must heed God’s warning to the church.
God doesn’t shame His children, but He does warn them, because intentional and habitual disobedience to His Word brings judgement and jeopardizes our relationship with Him.