1 John — Part 3: The elements of a mature Christian
This is week 3 of our 8-week journey through 1 John. Last week, we discussed the transformational message of how Jesus is our advocate, and that it is Jesus himself who maintains our fellowship with the Father.
This week John is going to provide us some encouragement on spiritual maturity and then admonish us not to love the world. Grab your Bible and turn to 1 John chapter 2.
Read 1 John 2:12-17
Notice the repeated categories in verses 12-14: Children, fathers, and young men. Many theologians have taken these verses as spiritual maturity ladder where we move from children to young men to fathers. But I want us to look at all three as important aspects of a mature Christian walk.
“I am writing to you children because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.” This is not a bad thing. Jesus said in Matthew 18:3 “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Child-like faith is a prerequisite to enter the kingdom of heaven.
While there is an element in our Christian walk where we must move past the elementary truths from milk to meat, child-like faith is also a sign of maturity. Our sins are forgiven not for our sake, but for his name’s sake. It’s all about Him. And as Children, we should look to the Father as our provider for all our needs.
“I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.” The fathers are the mature, the wise, the seasoned believers. They’ve been around for a long time. They are the ones that heard the message from the beginning and make sure the message remains untainted.
Spiritual fathers are the OG’s in the Christian community.
In 1 Corinthians 4:14-15 Paul writes: “I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”
All of us should be spiritual fathers to someone. We should all be discipling, mentoring, and preaching the gospel. This is a sign of spiritual maturity.
“I am writing to you young men because you have overcome the evil one.” That word overcome was used in the Greek to describe victory in battle or conquest. You can’t overcome the evil one if you’re not in battle. Furthermore, you don’t send the children or the fathers into battle, you send the young men.
The young men stand in battle against the evil in this world.
There are those who stand in battle against the evil one. And why are they victorious? Because the word of God lives in them. This is important, because for us in law enforcement we cannot win the battle against evil in the streets on our own. Only through Christ can we be victorious.
All three of these are vital and important aspects of a mature Christian walk. Child-like faith. Constantly reminding yourself that your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake. Being a Spiritual father. Pouring into others, discipling. And having the fervor and strength of a young man going into spiritual battle.
Do not love the world, it’s a sinking ship.
The culmination or litmus test of spiritual maturity in this context is whether or not you are still in love with the world. Here, world does not mean people but the worldly system that does not regard the Lordship of Christ. John makes it clear that you cannot love this world and the love of the Father reside in you at the same time.
Why? Because love of this world leads to three types of sin: Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life. This world and its desires are passing away, but whoever does the will of God remains forever.
This world is a sinking ship, but fellowship with God is the lifeboat. You cannot love the sinking ship and be in the lifeboat. Mature Christians don’t love the world, they have abandoned the sinking ship for the security found only in fellowship with God.
Do you have child-like faith? Write down a few areas in your life where you have relied upon your own strength that you need to relinquish to God. Let him be your provider.
Write down a list of all the people that you are currently mentoring or discipling. Now write down all the people who are mentoring and discipling you. Who can you personally reach out to as a spiritual father in the next week?
Whether you realize it or not, us in law enforcement fight a spiritual battle every day in the streets. In John 16:3 Jesus said “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” May this Scripture remind you that we are overcomers in Christ Jesus because the Word of God lives in us.