Immaturity Evidenced Through Instability
A critical skill for pastors, and really all Christians, to develop is the ability to discern the maturity of other individuals. When trying to help others, seek counsel, or appoint different leadership roles, it is vital for us to be able to accurately assess the maturity of those around us so we can be an encouragement assisting them in their growth. We need to not only possess this ability, but also be able to identify spiritual immaturity in our own lives so that we may grow in the Lord. One of the key marks that Scripture gives as evidence of immaturity is instability. In Ephesians 4:11-16, the Apostle Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says:
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” -Ephesians 4:11-16
Notice that Paul equates the immaturity of children with being tossed to and fro by waves of false doctrines and cunning deceits. If you have ever been on a boat in a large body of water, then you most likely have a living picture in your mind of what it means to be tossed to and fro by the waves. It is a bumpy experience where it is difficult for you to maintain your balance and stability without falling overboard into the water. Paul wants us to understand the instability of this position. There is no solidity in immaturity, which is why instability is a marker for those who are immature.
The Contrast of The Deeply Rooted Righteous Man
The book of Psalms uses different language to describe the man pursuing the righteous ways of God. In the very first Psalm, we read:
“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.” -Psalm 1:3-4
In this passage, the righteous man is described as a deeply planted tree by streams of water. This man has deep roots in the Word of God which gives him the stability to stand. He is producing fruit unto the glory of God and eternally prospers according to the will of God. Contrastingly, the text also discusses the instability of the wicked being easily driven away.
These two passages bring us to a crucial point for understanding spiritual immaturity. A Christian or church constantly chasing after the newest fad, the most modernized teaching, and the most popular doctrines of the culture are only evidencing themselves to be immature. Because they are hopping from one doctrine to another being blown about by the whipping tides of this world. They are not seeking the stability of Scripture, instead, they are picking up a surfboard riding from wave to wave of doctrines developed by human deception. It is not that they are progressively gaining more knowledge of the Word increasingly conforming to it thereby gaining stability. Rather, they are straying further and further away from the Word chasing after the ideas of the world as opposed to remaining stable in the sufficient Scripture.
Applying These Truths in Practicality
Now, that we have seen the textual basis for instability as one of the leading marks of immaturity, we can begin to apply this in the life of the believer and the local church. Foundationally, how do we see spiritual immaturity in our own lives? First of all, we should look for inconsistencies where we are not submitting to the Scripture by being conformed to Christ. As an illustration, if a man is seeking to be subject to the Word, but speaks in an angry way towards his wife, that is an inconsistency with the teaching of Scripture which says our speech is to be gracious and seasoned (Colossian 4:6). It also clearly teaches a man should love his wife as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). Therefore, the anger of this man towards his wife is evidence of immaturity because he is giving in to the flesh on that issue instead of standing with stability upon the Scripture. Conversely, a mature man will act with love towards his wife demonstrating a proper tone towards her and others whatever the circumstance. Even in the midst of disagreements, a mature man has the ability to speak the truth with a seasoned and gracious voice to his wife.
Essentially, the way to spot immaturity is to look at yourself in the mirror of the Scripture which exposes sins with the pure light of Christ. You can see the unstable parts of your life where there is not a high degree of maturity. We must pray to God that He would give us the clarity to see where we need to grow and the ability to put the sins of the flesh to death by picking up our cross, denying ourselves, and following after Christ (Matthew 16:24). Then, we seek to grow in our consistency and fidelity to the Lord by being consistently stable in the His Word.
The way to spot immaturity amongst those around us is very similar, to see the instability in their character. Differences in moral conduct from one day to the next. A willingness to put on a face in front of some individuals and then talk completely differently in front of others. Being easily blown about by false doctrine and unable to see error through the lens of Scripture is another evidence of immaturity. The reason it is important to discern these areas is so that you, as a fellow brother or sister in the Lord, can begin to help other Christians in their growth. We are to encourage one another and it is important to take that step by encouraging other believers to grow in the Lord. Local churches should welcome accountability and helpful insights from Christians seeking to biblical push one another forward in the Lord. If you cannot accurately spot the needed growth of yourself and others, then it is going to be very difficult for you to offer meaningful counsel in personal situations. Additionally, it will be incredibly hard for you to see if a man is mature enough to lead in the local church.
Since we have seen the marks of immaturity, our objective as believers must be to cast these areas out of our lives and pursue the Lord. We are to be increasingly growing in the Lord. So, where we spot instability, inconsistency, and immaturity in our life where we are giving in to sin, we must put those things off and walk in Christ. Our goal should be to develop consistency in reading the Scripture so that we might be filled with the truth of God. We should seek to rightly apply that Word by living in obedience throughout the entirety of our lives. A prime objective must be to exercise faithfulness every day not wavering to and fro, but boldly standing with our roots deeply planted in the Word. May we all grow for the glory of the Lord who has saved us, is sanctifying us, and will bring us to glory where we will reign with Him forever!