What does immaturity look like? The immature person doesn’t grow up. They don’t take responsibility or build healthy relationships. They’re easily led and influenced by those around them, easily swayed, rarely stable, their character changing depending who they’re with. They can’t see passed their own needs, or imagine how others feel. They’re quick to fall out with those with a different point of view, quick to quit when things are hard. They never apologise, can’t admit mistakes, want everything their own way and sulk when they don’t get it.
What does the immature disciple look like? There’s lots of overlap. The immature disciple is easily led or influenced, prone to chase after the latest idea or fad. Lacking self-discipline they’re up and down spiritually. They think individually; their needs, their wants, their preferences, and are slow to consider and serve others. They’re quick to seek conflict and slow to forgive and reconcile. They don’t know their bible or see the need to. They listen to Bible teaching but don’t apply it. They’re double minded; trying to live both in the world and the church.
It’s an unflattering picture isn’t it? None of us wants to be immature. The Bible calls us to grow up as disciples. But how do we grow? What does a mature disciple look like?
What is God’s plan for you? That’s a basic question every disciple should be able to answer. How we answer it will shape how we follow Jesus. Where is Jesus leading you? What’s he leading you to? And what does that leading look like?
In Ephesians Paul is helping a small church see God’s big plan. Ephesus was a big bustling prosperous port city. Heavily influenced by Roman and Greek culture in terms of it’s values, thinking, norms and worship. It had a synagogue, a lecture hall, and a temple to Artemis among others. It loved and worshipped commerce and wealth, ideas and idols. Against that backdrop and worldview Paul writes to encourage what were probably small house churches by showing them that the most significant thing happening in the city of Ephesus wasn’t what was happening in the market place or lecture hall or temples but in the church.
In ch1v3-10 he unrolls God’s blueprint for history from eternity past to eternity future. God planned from eternity passed to bless his people with every spiritual blessing by sending his Son to redeem, forgive and secure their adoption. And to reveal to them the mystery of his plan (10)“to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”
That’s God’s plan and he’s called them to be part of it. Not to spectate but to play a crucial role in it. Not as individuals but together as God’s new humanity reconciled in Christ. Jew and Gentile united in Christ as a new humanity; a glorious display of the power of the gospel and a teaser trailer of where the universe is headed when Christ returns and everything is united under him. The church in Ephesus isn’t insignificant, it’s vital to God’s plans and purposes; 3v10 “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realm, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The diverse yet united, Christ following, God glorifying, Spirit filled and empowered church is God’s declaration to every power and authority in the spiritual realm that the gospel is glorious and will achieve God’s purposes in Christ. It shows how everything will one day be; united under Jesus.
Do you see God’s purpose for you? We mustn’t shrink God’s purposes down to a more manageable size. God’s saves and calls us for a hugely significant, cosmos shaping, task. If we think too small, if we minimise God’s plans for us, we’ll get discipleship wrong, we won’t be following Jesus because this is what he’s leading us to. We will never grow, never mature unless we see what God’s purpose is for us. Our joy will be stunted and circumstantial, our hope will be fragile, our prayers will be about management and comfort not change and glory.
God’s plan for us is corporate not individual. The call to follow Jesus is bigger than our small selfish me-ism. God’s cosmic plan always gathers people together. It began in the garden with the need for more than one and the mandate to fill the earth and create communities of worshippers. It’s what Abraham is given a vision of; God’s people in God’s place enjoying God’s presence and protection fulfilling his plan. It’s what Jesus inaugurates as he gathers disciples and creates a new community. Disciples can only mature as they gather together. The first step to mature discipleship is to see God’s plan and purpose and repent of and resolve to fight our sinful tendency towards isolationism and individualism.
But secondly seeing God’s plan reminds us that church is significant, from the largest to the smallest gathering. We tend to copy our culture and think bigger is better. But Ephesians reminds us that no church is insignificant, every church, where Jesus followers gather round his word to serve him and worship him is where things happen that will echo into eternity. Is that how we think of church?
But having grasped God’s plan in it’s sheer staggering scale. Having seen that maturity begins together how do we grow as a church? What does that look like?