Portraits of a Mature Christian
A mature Christian knows that he is at peace with God.
In the corner of the fitness room stood a life-size cardboard picture of a man with the perfect body. I stared at it a few seconds and thought, “I’ll never look like that.” I’m a realist. On the bright side, at least I was in the gym. I might not ever be the poster boy for fitness, but I can improve my health. That’s my goal: to improve, not be perfect. When some Christians think about growing into spiritual maturity, they feel the same way. They see Jesus in the gospels and think, “I could never be like that.” They’re right. They can never be perfect. Only Jesus is perfect. That’s why we trust in him. But we can grow and mature. What else would we want to do? Growing in Christian maturity honors the One who saved us. With this Bible study we begin a 12-part series on the portraits of a mature Christian. In each study we’ll look at a distinguishing mark of a mature Christian and consider what it takes to become a portrait of maturity ourselves.
Peace with God through Christ The first mark of a mature Christian is that he knows that he is at peace with God. Jesus’ life mission was to make peace for us with God. Those who listened carefully to him understood this. Do you remember the story about the woman who barged into a Pharisee’s home where Jesus was eating dinner and washed his feet with tears and expensive perfume? The Pharisee was so religious that he hadn’t heard Jesus when he promised peace with God. But this woman heard him. She had longed for peace in her troubled conscience. Up until she met Jesus, nothing settled her troubled soul. Once she realized that Jesus himself was her peace, she had to show him her appreciation. So many men had come to her to take. No man had ever come into her life to give so much. The irony to the story is that to most people it was the Pharisee who looked mature. After all, he was so religious. No one would have thought that the sinful woman was more mature than he was, but she was. Before you go any further, pick up your Bible and read the story in Luke 7:36-50. Pay careful attention to verses 48-50. The questions that follow are a personal spiritual workout to help you live in peace.
Luke 7:48-50: 48Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
POINTS TO PONDER 1. Why did Simon criticize Jesus for allowing this woman to gush over him? In verse 39 Simon says that if Jesus were a prophet he would not let her touch him because she was so sinful. He felt Jesus was not concerned over true righteousness. For Simon true righteousness was keeping oneself ceremonially clean and avoiding people who lived sinful lives. He thought he was earning God’s favor for trying so hard to be “clean.” He failed to see that Jesus had cleansed him and this woman by being their Savior.
2. What reason did Jesus give Simon for her actions? He told Simon that she was gushing over him because she knew how much Jesus had forgiven her and she was honoring Jesus for the peace he brought to her.
3. Why do you think Jesus said, “Go in peace,” and not “Now, go and sin no more”? She was remorseful for her sins. She needed to be told at that moment that she was forgiven. The fact that she had just spent expensive perfume on Jesus showed that she was ready to go and live a changed life to glorify God, empowered by God’s love.
4. How would this moment with Jesus help this woman live free from her past? No doubt she would often reflect on the sins of her past and have regrets but instead of swimming in them she would remember the day that Jesus himself had told her that she was forgiven.
FRUIT TO BEAR 1. Describe how a person filled with Christ’s peace lives and acts. Here are just a few things. Someone who is freed from guilt before God will learn not to use guilt to motivate others. He also will not hang his head in shame all the time. That person is confident that life has been given back to him and that he will have good works that God has prepared in advance for him to do. When that person hears the name of Jesus, he will smile, knowing that he is forgiven by Jesus himself.
2. What are some things we Christians do that sometimes make us lose the peace we have in Christ? Sometimes Christians forget that the forgiveness we have is the most important gift from God. Then we can get so caught up in trying to be good and religious that we become judgmental of ourselves and others. Also, we can get so busy with the good things God has given us to do for him that we become like Martha in Luke 10 and get angry over the hard work it takes to serve. We can also fall into sinful habits that increase our guilt and shame. Without a clear view of the good news, our sins, after coming to faith, can still bury us.
3. Explain this statement to someone: “No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace!” If we do not have Jesus in our lives, we will not have the peace he brings. No other religion or philosophy can take away sins and the guilt they produce. Once you truly know Jesus as your Savior you know by experience what peace really is.
4. Think of someone you know who tends to beat himself or herself up over sins. How will you use the story in Luke 7 to free that loved one from the chains of guilt? You could get your friend to read this story with you and then ask him what he thinks his sins were. Then ask how many times he thinks he committed them. Then ask him to close his eyes and picture Jesus sitting right there with him. Have him tell Jesus how sorry he is, and then, while he listens, you tell him what Jesus told this woman: “Your sins are forgiven. . . . Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Tell him to remember your moment together each time he gets caught up in berating himself.
Contributing editor Don Patterson is pastor at Holy Word, Austin, Texas.
This is the first article in a 12-part series on Christian maturity.
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © November 2009 reprinted with permission.