Maturity

Maturity

Most of us have the impression, especially when it comes to our spiritual relationship with God, that as time passes our relationships will almost automatically deepen and strengthen. However, we have all experienced earthly relationships grow more distant over time, spouses move apart over time, friendships can be lost as time passes, and it all begins by drifting, with neglect, even with moving onto ‘maturity’. Well I would suggest that this possibility is no less true in the spiritual sense; age is no guarantee of a deeper/mature, or perhaps a better way to put it, a more tried and tested spiritual relationship with God. The Ephesian Christians are first met in Acts 19, and we read of them in Acts 19:19 burning dubious articles from their former lives, and also read of the word of God growing and prevailing among them. They were zealous about the gospel in Acts 20. We read the Apostle Pauls letter to them in the New Testament and he commends them in many places and exhorts them in others to be cautious about false teachers and also to pursue a greater love. We read a further letter from Paul to Timothy, who remained in Ephesus, concerning false teachers exhorting Timothy to guard the gospel and the godliness associated with it. But we meet the church at Ephesus again many years later, perhaps in the region of thirty years later, in the book of Revelation. They had listened to the advice on false teachers because God recognises in Revelation 2:2 that they could not bear those who were evil but unfortunately we read the sad description in Revelation 2:4-5 that they have left their first love and if they do not repent of this their witness would be removed. This is a church that has endured, has been long suffering, has been discerning but yet is loveless. Well perhaps it might be better to say that no one is loveless but they had moved the focus of that love. To the mighty church at Ephesus this was a painful but necessary lesson, that we have a great possibility of doing the right things but forgetting the reason and love behind our doing. This is a church that has matured and grown yet had drifted far. We might think their increased knowledge perhaps compensates for a little less zeal, a little less love. Yet God does not think the way we do. Revelation 2:5, repent and do the first works, the works of love, or I will remove you. There is a very real possibility of personal and corporate relational drift, even in well doing. Love is not something we can move beyond in the Christian life, a healthy church will, like a marriage, be marked by a growing love. As our focus moves from Christ to ourselves even to a worthy cause, to a maturing level of experience, or even with an increase in busyness it is easy and very dangerous to lose that initial love. May we pray and work to ensure that in ‘maturity’ we never outgrow love.