The Goal of Holiness

Your wife takes the baby and looks and smiles and counts fingers and toes and checks to see that everything is ok. We have this anticipation that babies are born perfect and our world crashes when things go wrong.

We watch our children grow up. One day they stop wanting Happy Meals. Soon the toy cars disappear; the stuffed animals are put in storage. The dolls are placed permanently on the shelf. The sandbox becomes overgrown with weeds. The swing set rusts from lack of use. The next thing you know, they start wearing cologne and wanting to drive the car. Young men show up at your door.

A certain sadness sets in as you realize that your children are growing up. That little bundle of joy that you used to hold so delicately is no longer a child. You get the children-are-growing-up blues. But, there is pride in seeing your children mature. That is what they are supposed to do. They gain a certain kind of independence, start to think critically and hold intelligent opinions. As they mature, you still miss the child, but you love and admire the transformation that takes place before your eyes.

What was cute and lovable at 3 or 10 or 16 is childish and immature at 21. We hate to see them grow up. Worse still is if they don't grow up, never mature, always childish. It would be a great tragedy if they never grow up.

What is true of our children is also true of God's children. Unlike babies, we don't expect people to be born again in perfect format. But God wants us to grow up to maturity and perfection. In fact that is what holiness is, becoming mature in our spiritual development. And God has given us gifts to help us do just that.

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
- Ephesians 4:11-16

When you think of Spiritual gifts, you usually think of some ability that God gives you to do a task, like teaching or gifts of mercy. But, in these verses, gifts are people. They are Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. We don't have apostles and prophets anymore, but we do have their recorded words. The Bible is the word of the Prophets and the Apostles given to them by God and passed on to us. There are those who are called to be evangelists. And the office of pastor-teacher seems to be one office, though it certainly could be to different offices. Paul emphasizes that those who exercise these ministries are God's grace gifts to the Church. However, I believe that there are other people who are also gifts to us. Godly leaders, deacons, teachers, others who help us along the way to become mature followers of Christ.

The grace gifts are given to us so that they may equip us to be mature Christians. Equipping the saints has two broad functions. When we equip the saints, we equip them for the work of ministry and we build up the body of Christ. Notice that all of us are to be equipped for the work of service. This word “service” is the same as the word ministry and it is used of the work of the deacon. We all have ministry to do. Ministry is not just the function of the pastor; it is the function of every member of the church. But, ministry is not a gift. It is something that we must be trained for. I think that is why preaching is so important in worship. We gather around the Word of God to hear words of instruction. But, that is also why we have Sunday School and Discipleship Training and Choir and Children's church and prayer meeting and mission organizations. If we fail to train, we fail as a Church.

The goal of training and equipping is to build up the Body of Christ. Paul defines what he means by building up the Body of Christ. A built-up church is one that is unified in the faith. Jesus' final prayer was that we all be one. Unity is a sign of maturity. And disunity in the church is a sign of immaturity, of a church that has not equipped itself for ministry.

The second goal is that we have knowledge of the Son of God. It is possible to be called to salvation and to worship Jesus as Lord and Savior though He remains a stranger to us. Just look at your church. Likely there are many who see no need to worship or fellowship. I believe it is because Jesus remains a stranger to them.

The third goal is that we become mature. It literally means “a perfect, full-grown man.” There must be no arrested development among God's people. Believers are called to abandon childish attitudes. The measure of that maturity is the full measure of Christ. We are to be like Jesus. We can't say well, “it's just my nature, I can't change. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.” When you say such things, you deny the power of God in your life. If God can't cause us to become mature in our faith, then he can't save us either. The same power that saves us causes us to grow up in the faith.

The result of growing up is that we are no longer to be children in the faith. Children are lightweight; they are tossed around by every wave that comes against them. Every strange idea, every fad, is like a gust of wind that blows against us. We will stand if we are mature.

Paul says that children are subject to trickery and craftiness in deceitful scheming. The word “trickery” was used to describe someone who cheated at dice. It came to mean trickery of every kind. Craftiness describes the unscrupulous person who will stop at nothing to get his way. Many churches have been destroyed by the immature who think that it is all important for them to have their way. In fact it often happens when a Church is growing into a new stage of service to God. Some churches never grow up because as they make a step forward, the immature will try to pull them back.

Paul said that we are to speak the truth in love. If you have doubts about how to behave, do all that you do in love. Speak in love. Speak to others as you would be spoken to. Love each other as Christ loved us. He loved us sacrificially. He tolerated our sins and died for them. This is one of the great works of the Church, loving one another as Christ has loved us. When we do that we exhibit maturity. We have grown up into Christ. And every part of the body grows. Paul said that when every part works properly, then the body grows and it builds up itself in love.

We are called to grow up in Christ. The goal of holiness is a mature faith, a mature Christian, and a mature Church. Mature Christians think differently. Holiness affects our views on money, our use of our time, our view of what is and is not important in life. What the world needs today is a church that has grown up into Christ.

It is a sad thing to see a child who will not grow up. There is nothing sillier than a childish adult. Sadder still, is a Christian who refuses to mature. So many stunt themselves and never really grow beyond the first few weeks of their rebirth. But the command is to grow up! Let us use our spiritual gifts together so that we may grow up as mature people in Christ.

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