Beth Moore - The Art of Growing Up - Part 1
Turn with me in your Bibles to Ephesians chapter 4. Now, I've gotta tell you something. This is part of my memory work right now. So, when I tell you I shouldn't have even been surprised that this is where God would land it, because this is what I'm saying over and over and over to him every single week, trying to get down in the depths of my mind, where it's alive in my bones. And there's a part of it that just keeps jumping out to me, and he began to really emphasize it and just throw some light of the Holy Spirit on it, and that's where this particular theme began to come to life.
Ephesians chapter 4, verses 1 through 16. "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called", listen to this part, "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace". I love this part. "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift".
Verse 8, "Therefore it says, 'When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.' (In saying, 'He ascended,' what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)" So, what he's saying is this: our understanding from the New Testament is that when Christ finished out his time on Planet Earth, in his visible person, that after he gave his life on the cross, was stone cold dead in the grave, raised from the grave, and he was resurrected before their very eyes. He was on that landscape with them, interacting for a period of 40 days.
The very beginning of Acts tells us that he was teaching them about the kingdom of God, and then he literally stands on the top of the Mount of Olives with them. He gives them their last command, tells them to wait for the Holy Spirit, for the promise that he was going to keep when the Holy Spirit would come to dwell within them. They were to wait there until he did. And right before their very eyes, he just ascends up into the heavenlies. Well, here's what we know then. Ten days later, on the day of Pentecost, he pours out that Spirit just like he promised. And when the Holy Spirit poured out on the sons and the daughters, just as it pours out on us, when we receive Jesus today, comes not only as that anointing, not only as that seal on our lives, not only is that portion of the Spirit of Jesus that comes to dwell inside of us, he also comes with gifting.
Every single one of you in this room, if you have received Christ, if Christ Jesus is Lord to you, you are enormously gifted. He wants to put those gifts to work, and he wants you to steward those gifts in such a way that he brings back a harvest that is stunning beyond your imagination, from your very, very unique life. And I want you to see what it tells us then. It says in verse 11, if you'll go back with me there, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry".
Now, the saints, that's us. Every single one of us who've received Jesus Christ as Savior, "for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ," verse 14, "so that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way". Everybody say, "Grow up in every way". We are to what? "We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love".
The name of our event this weekend is "The Art of Growing Up". And I know that as we go through some of it, our very big temptation will be, if you happen to be mothers, or if you happen to be grandmothers, to somehow apply it to them and see them on the forefront. I wonder how many of you who are mothers were thinking of your own children, instead of the fact that, actually, that is going to be you represented this particular weekend. We're the ones he's talking to right now. Somebody on the other side of that screen, this is you. This is you. This is not about your children, if you're a parent. This thing is about you. It is the art of God growing us up.
Now, if I were sitting where you're sitting, and I was already listening to this kind of introduction to this lesson, I would be thinking to myself, "What a bummer". Because who really wants to study maturity? No one does. I don't even like the word "maturity". Do you? I don't like the word "mature". I certainly don't like the word, "mature". Do you? I don't know. There's nothing about it that just rings the bell of my heart, as we gather here. If someone had said to you, "I really want to go this particular weekend to this event where we're gonna have some really mature teaching," would you have gone, "Woo, yes"!?
Even though we really do want it, I mean that's what we're hoping for, that there's some kind of maturity, but at the same time, it's kind of like going to the doctor or getting a flu shot. It's like, I know I need it, but I don't want it. And I hope we're gonna come to a place to understand that there is nothing like the adventure that comes with growing up in the faith that God has called us to, nothing on earth. I've gotta tell you that I Googled the face of maturity. And you should've seen it. It was not pretty. And listen, maturity, don't think to yourself that I'm dogging age, because, well, I'm obviously not, since I am aged. And secondly, because this isn't about that. It isn't about that. It is about the kind, not the age of someone, but the kind of someone that you and I would say, "That is a very mature person".
Do you know I cannot think of one of them that I looked at online that were in the top 20, the face of maturity, maturity in an expression, not one was smiling, not one. Very solemn faces, the kind you would see as like a bank president. When you think of somebody really being mature, do you see their eyes sparkling? No. No. They need eyedrops. Every part of them, I mean, their face looks like they're chewing a lemon peel. You know I'm telling you the truth. You know that these are people that for whom it seems that all adventure has flown, and they've traded their glee for responsibility. Anybody know what I'm talking about? Where they're too focused on their fiber supplements to have a little fun.
So, it's not exciting to hear that we're getting together so that we can grow in our maturity, because that's the face we put with it. I think we're gonna find that maturity in the Word of God means we've finally gotten old enough to be in a convertible and go fairly fast. Because we're gonna see this whole idea in the Word of God turn upside down with what the world seems to see as maturity, something that everybody needs, but nobody wants. I hope to convince you even before this night is over, that this is the very thing we want most. Nothing, nothing will prove more exciting to you, nothing will have the adventure to me like getting on this track and growing up in the faith day in, day out with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me tell you something. The young ought not to dread being us. They ought to want to be us. And when they look at somebody that's growing up in the faith, that's what I want to be like. That's what I want to do when I grow up. That's the kind of thing you and I are talking about. There are 89 total chapters when you put the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, together, 89 chapters in the four gospels. Four chapters out of those 89 include the birth narrative of Christ. Of about half of one of those, it would be a part of Luke chapter 2, talks then about the childhood of Christ and when he is around 12 years old. That means that a whopping 85 chapters in the gospels of the New Testament engage and revolve around Jesus as an adult. That ought to tell us something, because he is the measure we're growing up into.
I don't want you to miss the wording of it in Ephesians 4, because sometimes when I'm saying it from memory, I do a little, I just kind of do this little workout with it, because I want you to hear what it says. "To equip the saints for the work of ministry". You are a saint if you are in Jesus, and you are called to ministry. That doesn't mean it's vocational. That doesn't mean it's always at a church. Listen, God is always gonna put lights out in the darkness. That's where he needs the most light. That will always be true. If all of us are crowded into churches and formal vocational ministries, we are not ministering to the globe, and that's what we're called to do. Every single one of us, in Christ, are called, and we are saints, and we're to be equipped for our calling.
Verse 13, "Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ". So, what he's calling us to do corporately, which is as a body, that we're to grow up in unity together, that if each of us, if it's in our local churches, for instance, if in our local churches, everybody in that local church was equipped in their gifting, and doing what they were called to do, and receiving that gifting from others he placed in the body there, we would be functioning like nobody's business. I mean, we would be drawing people. People would be so magnetized to that particular body of believers, because it would actually function in a healthy way.
And to some degree, because people are people, and because I would be part of the church, and I'd bring all my flaws and imperfections into it, that will never happen in a way that we'd hope it would in all perfection. But it is constantly our goal that we are growing up in him as a corporate body of believers. We can't make that body of believers we're a part of all grow up with us. But you know what? We could grow up. Let me say that again. Actually, we could. Because what he's called us to do corporately, he's called us to do personally, or it never takes place corporately.
In other words, what is happening with you and me in this process we've been called to, since we know he's conforming us into the image of Christ, so with all the individuality he gave us in our personality, being conformed into that image. What you and I are doing throughout our faith lifetimes, throughout our faith journeys, is this: we are growing up. Say that you want to picture Jesus. I'm just giving you this as a metaphor. Picture that he's this tall. We've got this kind of room to stretch out in, in our own personal calling, that throughout our lifetimes, we are growing up in to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. We're growing up in him.
We're going to be paralleling the physical lifespan of an average human and the growth that we go through, the stages of life we go through, with those we go through spiritually. We'll see that there are a lot of parallels, and then there are a lot of places that it differs, and it goes off in its own way and its own uniqueness. But I think that you're gonna lock in very quickly to where this is going. This is why it's so important that you don't mix it up and I don't mix it up with age, because we could be 40 years old and have been in the faith, knowing Christ for 20 solid years, and we could still prefer building Legos more than the kingdom of God.
We know how that is. We could still prefer, after all that time, to play video games where we're slaying dragons, instead of the fact that out among us are powers and principalities of darkness, and we actually could be drawing our swords instead of daydreaming about what our life could've been about. We could be up and doing the thing, instead of lost in the screen, we actually could be up and doing the thing. So, I did research 'cause I wanted to see what does the world call growing up? If we were just looking at it from a secular point of view, we were looking at it from the world, what would they call growing up?
So, I Googled that a lot, and I read one article after another, and basically it locks down to this. From the world's point of view, the essence of growing up is also really not age. There is that. But psychologically speaking, growing up is coming to a place where you take responsibility, where I take responsibility. And, of course, that has a place in the spiritual walk, but I'm gonna tell you that would not be the definition of growing up in the Scriptures. Go with me to Philippians 3. I want to read verses 12 through about the first half of 15. "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead," verse 14, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way".
You want to know what mature thinking is? It is pressing toward the goal. It's figuring out what the goal is, what the goal of your life is, what your life is supposed to be all about, what my life is supposed to be all about, and I mean getting into the thing. Anybody hear what I'm saying to them? That is what growing up is all about. When you and I begin to get that in our head, this is what it's about, this is what we're doing here, this is why I'm on the planet, somebody this very week has honestly just like pushed back from your desk and said, I mean, "What is this all about anyway"? Why does any of this matter? What is the point? Anybody ask recently just what is the point?
You know what? Your life really does have a point. It really does. My life has a point, and it's something that every single part of our life flows into... that in the purpose Jesus has for us, where he is the ultimate goal, he himself is the ultimate prize, that he is waiting on the other side of that finish line, and that everything is found in him, that when we lock in and we surrendered fully to his purpose for us, every single thing we have ever been through, everything we have ever endured finds purpose, every single part of it. You can't, you cannot lose with him, because in everything he buys up everything, that when you surrender your life to him, I mean, he starts buying up everything for purpose. That is redemption, everything pulled out of slavery, where the darkness has had a command over it, and oppression has taken such a stronghold on you, such a stronghold on me, and Jesus begins to redeem it. You and I are gonna be taking down six statements that revolve around this whole concept of the art of growing up.
So, I want to make two, the first two right on top of one another, because we've been talking about the first one all this time, getting ready for it. Number one is this: we're growing up when we know the goal and get on the track. All it takes to qualify is to know this: that Jesus Christ, before time began, already knew exactly what generations would be laid out on this planet one after another, after another, until his first coming, his glorious death and resurrection, and his second coming, and after that when he renews all of creation with a new heaven and a new earth, that that Jesus right there already knew he was gonna put you on this planet in the time frame that he has done it.
He knows every single day, according to Psalm 139, he knows every single day you will live. He knew it before you were born. He selected the exact timeframe that you would be in. He has already equipped you. If you are in Christ, you not only are in the right place, at the right time; you have been gifted with the right gifts to be able to minister there. And so when you begin to see, okay, the goal is this: I want to live this thing out in the glorious name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I want my face fixed right there.
And whether I am working as a bank teller, whether I'm the president of that bank, whether I am that university president, or I am in the hall sweeping up after those students, whatever I may be doing, whatever, whatever is before me in my life experience, I've gotta do that to the glory of the living Lord Jesus Christ. I'm gonna do it, pressing toward him. I'm gonna get my feet on the track. This is what I want. I want to have a goal in my life. I want to know that there's a purpose for my life, that he's got something he intends to do with it. I want on my way in that purpose; and in that, everything else in my life, every hardship, every mountain, every valley, every detour, every tumble will find purpose in that one overarching goal. I'm gonna live this thing to the outrageous glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Number two is this: every stage of growing up is sacred to God. How sacred life is and how sacred it is before God, that when you see in the creation narrative back in Genesis 1 and 2, when he called out, "Let there be light," and there was, he didn't just say let there be man. He took his hands to it, that man was formed from the dust of the ground, so that it could be in the warm palms of God, the intimacy of that, the sacredness of that, the proximity of that. The word "Adam" means in Hebrew, "ground," ground. To picture it, if you picture it with me, it's like God reaching down into the dirt with a handful of fresh ground and molding this man from it. And then instead of calling to the winds, as he told the prophet Ezekiel to do, in Ezekiel 37, "Call to the winds and tell them to breathe breath into these that have been slain," no, it wasn't that way at all. He didn't call to the winds. He himself breathed a spirit into Adam.