This blog was originally published on Facebook on Sept. 5, 2010.

 

Lifted Hands Silhouette

The other day I was reading Ephesians 3:14-19. I was struck by the last part of verse 19. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is that they would “be filled with all the fullness of God.” It seems as though Paul is referring here to the believers’ spiritual maturity. He wants them to be able to understand just how big God’s love is (v. 18), and not just in an intellectual way. He wants them to experience it, to “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (v. 19). The result is that they will be filled with all the fullness of God. This got me to thinking about my own life and the way I’ve thought about spiritual maturity in the past.

I was raised in the Adventist church. I grew up hearing Bible stories, going to church every week, and learning the doctrines of the church. I’ve always known that spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study are important in the life of the Christian. I knew I was supposed to do those things every day, and that if I did so, I would become spiritually mature. But maybe I didn’t really understand the purpose of those spiritual disciplines. I viewed Bible study as a way to learn about God, and indeed it is. But maybe it’s more than that.

In Ephesians 3:19, Paul indicates that spiritual maturity is knowing God’s love. To turn that phrase around: knowing God’s love is the way that we become spiritually mature. I’ve tended to think of spiritual maturity in terms of being “good,” and in terms of knowledge. In other words, I’m spiritually mature when I become a “good” person, when I read my Bible and pray a lot, and when I know a lot about the Bible and about God. But maybe that’s a bad approach. Maybe I should focus on knowing and experiencing God’s love, and being good will happen as a result. Spiritual maturity isn’t knowing a lot about God; it’s knowing God! Spiritual maturity isn’t about what I know; it’s about Who I know. And it’s not even so much about what I do as it is about why I do it.

Here I am, a recent college graduate with a degree in theology. I’m currently studying at the seminary to earn a Master of Divinity degree. I’m trying to “be good.” I’m trying to “be a pastor.” I’m trying to figure out how I can have a deeper relationship with God. I want to be spiritually mature. But now I’m wondering: maybe it’s not just about studying the Bible more, praying more, doing more good things. Maybe it’s about connecting with God through all of the above. Maybe, despite my best intentions, I’ve been self-centered in my attempts to grow spiritually. Maybe I need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and refocus, reminding myself that this is not about me. If I want to grow spiritually, I need to live a God-centered life. Reading the Bible isn’t about me becoming smarter, filling my head full of theological facts; it’s about getting to know God and His amazing love. Praying isn’t about me being pious; it’s about talking to Jesus, my best friend.

As I read that passage in Ephesians, I felt God calling to me and saying, “Get to know Me! Stop trying to be a good person; come sit at My feet, like Mary did, and learn to be a godly person. Stop trying to perfect yourself by becoming better and smarter; instead, learn to follow Me, the only Perfect One, and along the journey you will come to reflect My character.”

If you’ve ever had similar thoughts about your own spiritual journey, I encourage you to take a good look at how you view your relationship with God. Do you study and pray because it’s the right thing, the good thing to do? Do you study and pray because it makes you better and smarter? Or do you study and pray because you want to know Jesus more, because when you’re digging deep into the Scriptures, or when you’re kneeling beside your bed at night, it’s like hanging out with your best friend? Are you trying to be a good person, or are you trying to be a godly person? Someone has pointed out that the two really aren’t different. To be truly good is to be godly, and vice versa. But it’s a matter of focus. If we’re striving to be good, if we’re reading the Bible to become smarter, then our focus can easily shift to self. But if we’re striving to be godly, if we’re reading the Bible to know God, then our focus is on Him.

As we continue to hang out with Jesus day after day, we’re going to become more like Him. We’re going to become good. It won’t happen because we tried really hard to become good. It will happen because we spent a lot of time with a Good Person, and by beholding Jesus we became like Him.

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