I’d like to divide believers into three stages of Christian growth and maturity:
1. Infancy/Baby Christian Stage:
In pharmacology, children are not to be considered young adults because of the grave risks such simplification could expose them to. E.g. you just can’t say that because an adult takes 1000 mg of paracetamol, a child should take 500 mg. This is because, amongst other things, the organs involved in the metabolism and elimination (excretion) of the drugs are not fully formed(matured).
So, because these organs (liver and kidney especially) aren’t completely developed, the dosage of the drugs are carefully calculated though these organs are working at their full capacity for this stage of development. In fact, certain drugs are avoided at certain stages of a child’s development to avoid both functional and aesthetic abnormalities that may compromise the child’s bio-social life.
This is the same for a Christian baby, that just gave his life to Jesus Christ. Although he is born again and functioning at a 100% capacity, yet he’ll sometimes manifest certain attitudes that might be misunderstood.
And being a baby Christian, he lacks some knowledge and experience on several things concerning God, His Word, house, work and people. He’s not fully ready to eat the meat of certain teachings on restitution, unconditional forgiveness and love for enemies etc.
Acts 18:24-28 talks about a man, Apollos who was quite eloquent and mighty in the scriptures but knew in part and so taught in part; he was zealous and fervent in spirit but lacked a comprehensive understanding of God. When Aquila and Priscilla observed this, they gently took him aside and explained God’s way more accurately to him, and he was quite receptive.
Matthew 16:21-23 shows both a rebuke from Peter to Jesus, and from Jesus to Peter. Peter reprimanded Jesus for saying that he’d suffer and be killed by the elders, chief priests and the scribes. Although he did that privately (an important lesson), that attitude showed immaturity or better still, the inability to understand the plan of salvation through death.
He might have thought that Jesus would save all Israel while being alive, but that was in sharp contrast to God’s will. Remember: without the shedding of blood, there’s no remission of sins. And that attracted a sharp rebuke from Jesus.
Peter’s display of zeal and immaturity continued in Luke 22: 31-62 when he vowed to go to prison and even to death with Jesus. Jesus calmly told him “It’s ok Peter. I see your zeal, but I know you’ll deny me in a few hours from now. However, I’ve prayed for you to be recovered after the fall. When you eventually get matured, help to bring your brethren to maturity.”
Shortly, Jesus was arrested, and Peter denied him three times. After repentance and the resurrection of Jesus, Peter decided to go back to fishing, leaving the assignment he was given by Jesus. Jesus again restores him in John 21:3-19.
Acts 9:8-22 tells the story of Paul’s conversion. I like to think of verse 8 as what happens to anyone that encounters Christ newly – He needs to be led by the hand, brought to a place and have a matured believer explain the rudiments of the Christian faith to him until the scales come off.
1 Peter 2:2 draws an analogy between the importance of the nutrients a new-born gets from his mother’s breast milk and the nutrients an infant believer derives from the rich milk of God’s Word.
2. Middle-age/Adult Christian Stage:
At this stage, the metabolic and excretory organs are fully developed. Working at full capacity, the organism can efficiently take the maximum recommended human dose. It’s supposed that the blood-brain barrier, liver, kidney, intestines etc are matured enough to bear this increased dosage.
In specific cases and under certain conditions, this principle may not apply, but generally, an adult can take up to 1000 mg of paracetamol at once for a maximum dose of 3000 mg daily.
In this case, also, we can draw some similitude with a believer. At this stage, a believer is supposed to have become sanctified, filled with the Holy Ghost, acquired and displays the fruits of the same. Simply put, he’s a matured believer and so possesses definite features that are distant from immaturity.
We’re told in Gal. 2:11-14 of Peter’s attitude and the resulting rebuke from Paul openly. Although Peter’s behaviour towards the gentiles was purely wrong and discriminatory, he showed maturity in accepting an open rebuke from someone that has far less experienced in the Gospel ministry than himself.
When Jesus asked Peter for the third time if he loved Him, Peter almost got offended for how repetitive and rhetorical the question sounded. But here was Peter receiving an open rebuke from a junior officer without anger. So, maturity entails accepting your faults and not getting offended even when the rebuke shouldn’t be done in the open.
We see this virtue displayed again in 1 Sam 1:12-17. Hannah needed a child, so she went to pray in the tabernacle. In bitterness of soul, she prayed weeping in anguish; her lips barely moved as the sorrow was too deep to utter.
Prophet Eli was unaware of her pains and misery and so mistook her for a drunken woman, rebuking her sharply. Hannah could have responded in kind but for her maturity. She understood that Eli was God’s prophet, and there was no need saying hurtful words back at him. It was her respectful and mature response that gave her Samuel and other sons and daughters.
Galatians 5:22-26 give full details of the fruits that a mature, adult Christian must acquire and live by every day of his life. Other qualities were detailed by Our Lord Jesus in Matthew 5:1-12.
A matured believer is fully equipped with the amour of God to stand demonic stratagems, as we find in Ephesians 6:10-18.
In Hebrews 6:1-12 we see Paul detailing the milk of infant believers and counselling that we move on to the things that accompany salvation, which things make for the maturity of a believer.
So, an adult Christian is on a continual, steady, progressive match towards becoming holy and perfect as Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:1-2). He lives and teaches to live by faith in God’s written and spoken Word (Hebrews 11:24-27).
Finally, Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:13-14 says “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
3. OLD AGE CHRISTIAN STAGE
At this stage, if a Christian isn’t careful, a gradual, sometimes rapid, deterioration of the organs sets in. This stage is characterized by a decline in the functionality of the organs involved in both the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of the drugs, which predisposes the old to toxicity from some of these.
Observe that here there’s no problem with the development of the organs as we saw in infancy. Rather some parts of these organs are either dead or work at a lower capacity, constraining the physician to readjust the drug dosage.
After years of experience in following God, maybe teaching God’s word or functioning in any capacity in God’s house, or simply participating actively as a member of a Church, one may begin to slide back.
There’s a possibility of developing some form of contempt towards God’s Word, house and His people. There’s also a chance of wanting to taste the world a bit, as though you’ve missed something since knowing and following Jesus, just like Peter desired to go back to fishing.
This has made many matured, vibrant, zealous, experienced Christians to fall back to the world and most especially to the attributes of the world. They pick up the lies, unteachableness, tetchiness, offence giving and taking, strife, insensitivity, hate, immorality, unforgiveness, envy, divisions, lackadaisical attitudes towards anything dealing with God etc.
In Galatians 3:1-4 we see this state of decline that slowly crept in among the Galatians. After they’ve received Jesus by faith and served Him in Spirit, they returned to questioning the doctrine of justification by faith. It was as though some form of dementia had arisen that made them forget their beginning.
Such stage is characterised by absolute carnality and absence of spirituality as evidenced in 1 Corinthians 3:1-23. Division and an unfettered quest for positions of authority take the place of unity and servanthood. It’s a very dangerous stage, that needs understanding and a spirit of gentleness to win such a one back (Galatians 6:1-2).
While biological ageing is a natural, somewhat reversible, process, a spiritual decline can be fully and completely reversed if one comes in humble repentance. 2 Chronicles 7:14.
If as a christian you’ve discovered that you’re in this stage, you can return to God and be fully restored.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9).
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