WIIFM“So what’s in it for me?”  is an oft-repeated phrase, becoming part of our social fabric where most people “look out for #1” to the exclusion of everyone else. Yet, the Bible exhorts us to lay down our lives for others. (Phil. 2: 1-5)  In light of this, have you ever wondered if it’s always wrong to want to know how a particular activity might affect you, before you participate?  Scripture admonishes us to “put off the old self, which is being corrupted by it’s deceitful desires, to be renewed in the attitude of our minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”? (Ephesians 4: 22-23)  But doesn’t Scripture also say we are to “love our neighbor, as we love ourselves.”  

The notion of considering personal benefit may at first appear to be in total contrast to the sacrificial life espoused in Scripture. (After all, Jesus gave up His life and then urged us to follow His example by taking up our cross. Right?) But before dismissing the notion out-of-hand, we must remember that the Scriptures also say that it was “for the joy set before Him” that Jesus “endured the Cross, despising it’s shame.” There was a benefit (joy) that served to motivate our Lord to finish His mission. This sense of balanced tension seems to be what Jesus meant when He said that “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (emphasis added)

It appears to be possible to be both self-sacrificing and self-preserving at the same time, provided our approach is Christ-centered and faith-supported.  Then the benefits (saving your life, eternal joy, resurrected body, etc.) are biblically-based, and accompanied by godly maturity.  Biblical ‘self-seeking’ results in value-added benefits for both this world and the next.  Paul summed it up by saying, “Godliness (maturity) has value (benefit) for all things,holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 

Here are some of the promised benefits (blessings) that accompany godly maturity:

•An increasing capacity to experience God, and enjoy His presence.  (Heb. 12:14, Ezek. 44: 10-16, 28; Psa. 27: 4)

•An increasing capacity to love others and experience their love in return.  (I Cor. 13)

•An increasing capacity to discern the will, purposes, and wisdom of God.  (I Cor. 2)

• An increasing capacity to escape the corruption of the world and the schemes of the devil.  (Rom. 12, Titus 3, II Cor. 2:11, Eph. 4: 14-15)

•An increasing capacity to be good parents. (Ps. 127)

•An increasing capacity to enter into heaven with rewards and glory.

(II Pet. 1: 5-11; I Cor. 3: 11-15)

•An increasing capacity for no regret at the Return of Christ.  (I Cor. 3: 11-15; I Jn. 2: 28-29)

•An increasing capacity for effective evangelism that glorifies God.  (John 17: Phil 2: 12-16, I Pet. 3: 15-16)

• An increasing capacity to endure trouble and take hold of the enabling grace of God.  (Rom. 5: 1-11; Jas. 1: 2-5)

•An increasing capacity to control our speech, thus decreasing relational conflict.  (Jam. 3: 13-4: 3)

These are just a few of the benefits that we inherit as we take hold of godly maturity.  In actuality, the blessings are far beyond our understanding!  (I Cor. 2:9, Isa. 64:4)

Bob Dukes

bob dukesGrowing up, there were times in our local church when being around other believers became troublesome and tedious.  That’s when someone would usually say:  “To live above with the saints in love…  that will be glory!  But to live here below with the folks I know…  that’s another story!”  Everyone would laugh, but too often there remained an undercurrent of frustration and disappointment.  This prompted me to wonder: “Why is church life so difficult?”

Being with other Christians can be wonderful.  God has placed us in His spiritual family, the Church, to encourage us, protect us, correct us, direct us, and provide for us.  There are specific situations that help believers experience beneficial relationships with other Christians.  Each of these experiences plays a unique role in helping to form us spiritually, but each requires some effort.  Christians who do not have connections with other Christians tend to stop growing. (cf. Hebrews 10: 24-25)

But sometimes being with other Christians can be painful.  Proverbs affirms this tension: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  A sharp tool makes work easier and more productive, but the sharpening file causes sparks to fly.  Anyone who’s been part of a church for a while can identify.  People can be petty and immature.  We’re all human, but we expect more from fellow believers.

In the first century there were very few church buildings.  Mostly the believers met together in private homes for Bible teaching, prayer, and fellowship.  This close proximity allowed for greater intimacy, but it also created the possibility of conflict.  No doubt this prompted the apostles to write such passages as Romans 12: 10-21.  The closer we get to people the more they encourage us, but we can also see their faults more clearly; and they can see ours!

So church life is both challenging and blessed.  In light of this, one of the commodities most needed in the church is maturity, evidenced by servant-hearted love.  Paul seemed to have this in mind when he spoke to a very immature church of a better, “most excellent way”: Love that never fails!  (I Cor. 13: 1-10.)  God is in the process of changing us into His likeness, but sometimes change takes time and requires effort.  The outcome (maturity) is worth it, but the process is still painful.  So we persevere, loving each other, and forbearing with each other.

What are some of the ways you have seen God use the church to help you grow to maturity?

Bob Dukes

Maturity Is Not An Accident!

We all appreciate the maturity demonstrated by the honest business person, the hard working employee, the patient caregiver, the kind shopkeeper, the caring parent, the respectful teenager, the loving spouse, the wise political leader.

But, in actuality, we take more notice of immaturity: at ball games, in traffic, in government… and we all sense that maturity is quickly disappearing.

Our Society seems to be approaching a point-of-no-return, imploding on it’s selfishness. This is tragic, and keeps us on our knees, seeking God and wondering about the future.

The Lord Jesus had a process for equipping the first leaders of the Church to be mature, and His plan remains transferable. His commission to make and equip disciples from all nations applies until His Return.

Rick Warren believes that obedience rather than age is the key to spiritual maturity. Obedience implies that there is more to truth than just “knowing”, it suggest that there is a strong component that requires “doing”.

Worldwide Discipleship Association has spent the last thirty-eight years focusing on one thing: Developing Christ-like character in people and equipping them to disciple others. Take a look at our new brochure, Maturity Matters to learn more about our ministries, processes, and resources that help present people complete in Christ!

As parents, employers, caregivers and leaders we can guide those in our care to maturity! There is a plan, a process and a model, and the results are proven! Together we can make a difference in our homes, businesses, churches, in our communities and in our nation. Because as we all have come to know, Maturity really does matter!

If you agree with us that maturity is important, biblical and necessary consider joining us  with your prayers, your time or your financial support. Together, we can make a difference!

ThreeThree men digging a ditch on a scorching summer afternoon were approached by a friend who asked, “What are you guys doing?” The first, already weary from exertion, responded impatiently, “What does it look like? We’re digging a hole!” The second, sensing that the question was not meant to be rhetorical, added, “We’re laying a foundation pad. It’s going to be filled with concrete.”

The third man, who had been whistling happily while he labored, laid his shovel aside, wiped his forehead, and began to describe in great detail how this particular hole was strategic for the placement of one of the massive flying buttresses that would support an entire wall of stained glass windows for a new cathedral. After describing in great detail the plans and procedures for completion of the structure, which was sure to take several years, he added, “If things go according to plan, on Christmas Eve five years from now my family and I will worship together at the altar where that rubbish pile is now located.”

All three men were working hard at the same task. But their attitudes varied markedly depending on their perspective. The man who maintained the most comprehensive perspective had the best attitude and the most energy. Having a proper perspective enables us to survey a situation and see not just what is happening, but the significance behind what is happening, and the capacity to develop strategies for what needs to happen next. In short Maturity Matters.

The root causes behind our current crisis are complex, but as Christians we must shoulder some of the responsibility. Though individual believers and some communities have found ways to grow and develop, on a large scale the Church has lost some of the capacity to be salt and light in the world. We have not, as the Scriptures command, made growth toward spiritual maturity a primary goal. Disciple building has broken down. When disciple building breaks down, cultures soon follow.

We are again at a pivot-point in history. Will this be our greatest catastrophe or our finest hour? It will depend upon our perspective of God and His Kingdom. Without such a vision, it might be easy to lose hope and become weary in this difficult hour. Are we merely “digging ditches” or are we building something wonderful “to the glory of God”?

What ways are do you see the church digging ditches?  Do you see places in scripture that call us to a bigger vision?

The Apollo Project of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had been a stunning success. It had accomplished what no one had thought possible: putting the first men on the moon. The American public had become accustomed to hearing of one successful mission after another until everyone assumed it would always be so.

Apollo 13
Apollo 13

But Apollo 13 was destined to be an exception. One disaster after another plagued this mission until it seemed impossible to bring the astronauts back safely. The technicians in Houston became discouraged to the point of despair. The thought on everyone’s mind was finally stated: “This could be our greatest catastrophe!”

In Apollo 13  (the movie), a man of vision and action, seeing the situation from a different perspective, prophesied, “No, this will be our finest hour!”    Courageous, visionary leadership galvanized a heroic team effort that beat the odds and won the heart of America and the rest of the world.

Western Christianity, once a bastion of spiritual strength, faces a growing crisis as we witness the breakdown of the structures that have historically fostered morality and character. Our families have fragmented amid selfish individualism fueled by a consumer-oriented society. Our schools have exchanged biblical values for secular humanistic philosophies and eastern mysticism.  Government seems confused, wondering if there is a foundation of absolutes upon which to establish law and policy, or if shifting public opinion should shape public life.  And if that isn’t enough, the media seems bent on pulling down what remains of a biblical worldview in Western Civilization. Are we living, as Dickens observed in A Tale of Two Cities, in the “worst of times?”   The nightly news seems to be evidence enough.

But underlying the crisis in society is a crisis of character.

Though it may seem that all of these problems emerged overnight, this character crisis has actually been developing for some time and can be linked to a blindspot in Christianity.  For many years, the church has failed to produce men and women of character in significant numbers.  Without leaders of character, societies ultimately decline, and eventually fail.  Many of our churches have abandoned a biblical worldview altogether, and others have neglected spiritual nurture for programs in which success is determined primarily by numbers, effectively sacrificing maturity for members.  Ironically, this has produced a “revolving-door syndrome” in some communities, where people move from church to church, disenchanted with their old congregation,  searching for a place where they can find authentic Christianity.

Ironically, we live in a culture that is filled with spiritual needs but growing increasingly hostile toward evangelical Christianity.  Christianity in the West is progressively ceasing to be “salt and light” to the world, and is in danger of being “trampled underfoot by men.” But there is good news.

God is not unaware, or indifferent.  He is sovereign over the nations (Psalm 2) and Lord of His Church, and He will defend the honor of His Name and renew His people.  Throughout history, when it seemed as if the people of God were surely defeated, the troubles they faced often became the catalyst for renewal and victory.  Sometimes it requires hardship and defeat to refocus our perspective.  Romans 8: 28-29 affirms that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.”

But helping people become Christlike is not easy.  There are obstacles.  (It’s easy to see why Satan hates this idea.)  The way is difficult, at times hard-to-understand, and it requires humility and faith.  But the outcome is worth it, both for now and for eternity.  But we must be honest.  Current approaches for helping Christians grow to maturity are not working adequately.

We need a new approach, a new perspective.  Any new perspective requires a new way of thinking.  This in itself is challenging for some.  And it will require biblical balance.  The growth process involves both mystery and method.   God is in charge, but He expects us to do our part.  He is building a people for His own pleasure who are able to rise above the world, take on the characteristics of God Himself, and live significant lives that impact all eternity.  But like the courageous leader of The Apollo 13 Project, we need a proper perspective of His plans and strategies to fully appreciate the process He has designed to accomplish His objectives.

To learn more read WDA’s recent publication “Maturity Matters” at:  www.disciplebuilding.org/maturity-matters/