How do we grow up in the knowledge of the Lord? I heard this question at a conference I attended this week. We tend to think of this as gaining more information, studying the Bible more, having more spiritual authority.
But Scripture looks at maturity as relational. And we don’t do relational well.
The reality is, our culture struggles with relational knowledge. We prefer philosophy, apologetics, studying about God, having faith, talking about grace, even doing the Kingdom “stuff”….over knowing Him and knowing one another intimately.
This relational dysfunction is reflected in how poorly we do in our marriages and churches. We throw away relationships like last week’s newspaper, moving on and keeping busy serving the Lord, hoping it will go better next time.
We’re trying to reinvent ourselves instead of stopping to find out who we are.
We leaders are very good at stuffing people’s heads full of knowledge about the Bible, teaching principles to live by, and even showing how to use the spiritual gifts, but do we teach them how to open their hearts? I say this to myself.
Furthermore, I wonder why books about blood moons, getting left behind, or other sensationalized subjects are such huge best sellers in the church instead of those about growing deeper in the knowledge of Christ and growing in intimacy in all our relationships with each other? Seems rather odd in light of Christ’s goal for His church: the unity of the faith, growing up into Him, and growing in our love for one another.
We’re not good in our relationships because we don’t value intimacy. Actually, we fear intimacy because it requires vulnerability. We’re still hiding behind our fig leaves.
Fig leaf religion comes from a fear-based theology that breeds shame. It comes from being sin-conscious rather than God-conscious.
But the more we learn how to open our hearts and let God look under our hood, so to speak, the more we will open ourselves to each other. His perfect love cast out our orphan fear…of God and of each other.
The body of Christ is not meant to be a disconnected mass of individuals and schisms. It’s meant to function together—many parts of one whole.
Consider that there are NO denominations, non-denominations, Catholics, Orthodox or Protestants in heaven. There’s only one body of Christ.
This doesn’t mean that we reach spiritual maturity when we believe exactly the same way; it’s when we grow up into Christ together and finally learn how to love.
Jesus didn’t say that the world would know us by our Bible knowledge or doctrinal agreement, but by our love for one another (John 13:35).
Diversity thrives in maturity; divisiveness thrives in immaturity.
I believe Christ is wanting HIS Church to grow up into all things…so that we think like Him, act like Him, and most importantly, love like Him, don’t you?
This maturity starts with the equipping gifts (apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, pastors), but the actual growth happens in the context of something else—in our relationships. Notice how Paul describes this maturity process, as he continues in Ephesians 4 (bold type added):
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ, 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Eph.4:13-16 NKJV)
I would like to focus in on the last verse.
Notice that the growth takes place in the “joints.” The joints are where two different body parts come together. This is relational. The two parts cannot function apart from the other. They are not designed to work independently of one another. They were designed to live in interdependence–first, with God, then, with one another. The former makes the latter happen automatically.
When we finally stop making it all about our little world, we find growth at these joints; we’ve just entered into something much bigger than ourselves—His great big Kingdom!
The “effective working” happens when “every part” does its share at these connections—the place where the whole body is joined and knit together. This is where true spiritual growth happens.
It’s easy to think we’re mature at home by ourselves. It’s not until we do life together in community that we see where we really are in Christ! It’s here, at these “joints,” where revelation comes. It’s here where we see what we still lack in our experience in Christ.
Unfortunately, many people leave this life connection as soon as it gets too hard or they feel too vulnerable.
But with no relationship, there is no joints supplying, which means no growth, for we cannot mature in Christ apart from each other.
Finally, the object of this growth is for the edifying of itself in love. Not to show how right we are in what we believe, or to prove to the world how wrong they are…but in order to demonstrate to each other, and to the world…love.
Isn’t it time we actually paid attention to these things and placed a higher value in how Jesus connected us together than on what separates us? Shouldn’t we be learning how to be in relationship with one another so that we can mature in Christ and actually fulfill HIS goal for HIS Church instead of our own? Would this not be like heaven on earth?
Just some thoughts I was pondering today.