the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
Brothers, stop being childish in your thinking. Be like infants with respect to evil, but think like adults (1 Corinthians 14:20).
As children grow and mature we expect them to undergo changes in their physical, emotional and intellectual makeup. If these changes are not evident we assume there is something wrong. Either the child is developmentally disabled or he is not in an environment that encourages growth. A third possibility is a rebellious heart. A child may prefer to remain childish and hold the responsibility of adulthood at arms length. In any case, we know something is amiss when a child does not grow up.
This is true in the Christian life as well. The Bible tells us that we are to grow up in all things into him who is the head – Christ (Ephesians 4:15). We are supposed to become more like Jesus Christ day by day so that from one year to the next people can look at our life and say, "that person is really growing up; I hardly recognize them anymore." This is not to say we lose our individual personality but means we express Jesus Christ through our personality. In any case it is the responsibility of every Christian to leave childish things behind – self-centeredness, rebellion, anger, lust and so on – and progressively take on the character of Jesus. This is what the Bible is talking about when it says But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him (Colossians 3:8-10).
Children mature when they have good examples and are nurtured in an environment of discipline. This is why it is so important to be part of a Bible-based, Bible teaching church that has godly leadership. Just as children imitate their elders, Christians should expect to have elders in the church they can imitate (Hebrews 13:7). Just as children learn through discipline, Christians should submit to the discipline of the Lord as it is applied by the church.
However, the presence of godly leadership and the application of biblical discipline do not guarantee a mature Christian area believers must willingly be in subjection to the teaching and the admonition of the church. I'm not suggesting the Christian life should be characterized by mindless subjugation to leadership. Instead, believers submit one to another, each functioning in the role God has given them while they keep their eyes on the chief shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ himself. It is a joy to submit to godly leadership and it is a joy for godly leaders to disciple and eager flock
It is the failure to embrace this pathway to maturity that keeps the church in America in a state of infancy. Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting every local church in America is immature and ineffective. Nonetheless, much of the modern North American church is immature and ineffective - and that won't change until we are willing to do what it takes to grow up.
Believer, I encourage you: embrace the means of maturing that God has provided, obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you (Hebrews 13:17). Amen.