What does it mean to become mature in Christ? Why do people stuck in legalism never really grow up? Here are some thoughts…
Step One: Children do not control their time or focus. Their education is dictated and orderly. They live under simple rules and specific directions.
Step Two: Young adults are offered freedom. They are welcomed into the community of adults, who are expected to control their own time and focus. They direct their own further education, which has no specified order. They are expected to learn to make complex value judgments and have freedom to make their lives significant or inconsequential. This is a time of trauma and uncertainty, requiring self-confidence. It requires a restful confidence that the childhood lessons provide a good foundation for life. Step Two comes gradually and in stages. There is more freedom in high school than in grade school. There are far more possible paths in college than in high school. The job / hobbies / lifestyle horizons are almost endless.
Aborted Step Two: If young adults refuse to “grow up” then there are many ways that they are maintained under the control and direction of others. They in effect are treated like children (step one). Some in high school have great freedom, while others are watched relentlessly. Some high school graduates remain at home with parents while others go away to college. Some are directed into the military for more time to mature. Those who refuse to make legal choices may be placed in prison followed by extended periods of probation, assigned guards or probation officers to guide their decisions. Some marry a controlling spouse who is more a mother/father than a wife/husband.
Step Three: Those who embrace their individual freedom have the opportunity to keep learning and to become productive citizens in society. They develop specialized skills. They marry, raise children, face complex ethical issues, and learn from their mistakes. They face pain and hardship as well as opportunity and privilege. No two lives are the same.
God desires for us to be mature. He wants us to walk as his mature children, not as slaves in his house. He wants to call us his friends. In Isaiah 28, God expresses his desire for his people to be mature, and his frustration when they refuse to grow up.
Step One: Childish patterns are described in verse 10. God is ridiculing his people. Are they still children? They look like adults but they must be children because of the teaching style God is forced to use with them, one that is used only with children. “Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there.”
Step Two: God offered the people their rest from childish tutors and disciplines in verse 12.
Aborted Step Two: The people refused the rest God offered them in verse 12. The result was a continuation of childish training and oversight (verse 13). “But they would not listen. So then, the word of the Lord to them will bcome: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule …”
Step Three: The complex and fulfilling lifestyle of a mature person is described in verses 23 through 29. There is much to learn. There are not simple rules about what to do and what not to do. How does one farm? No simple answer – depends on the crop. What is one supposed to do today? No simple answer – depends on the season. The adult lifestyle is one of maturity, personally accountable to walk God’s individually designed path, to learn from God, and to obey him (verses 23 and 29).
This passage describes the readers as those who should have matured to be teachers, but instead were still being taught as elementary students.
The difference between the mature and the elementary is the ability to distinguish good from evil. This is the complex stuff of adult discernment, not the simple rules of childhood.
It requires faith to enter into maturity, entering what God calls “his rest.” Trust him today. Believe that he will guide you, by his Word and by his Spirit, into a path of service specifically designed for you.