If you have seen commercials for Cheez-Its, you are likely to be familiar with the tagline for the product: “we take time for our cheese to mature”. While the advertisements can be comical at times, it does lend to the reality of maturity. Maturity does take time. As we continue our study in 1 John, we see to be a Christian means we are growing in our walk with Christ. In the passage before us we see this in the terms the Apostle John uses. In verses 12 through 14 he uses the terms “little children”, “young men”, and “fathers”. It seems clear from the letter and from the context John uses these terms to describe spiritual maturity rather than chronological age. Earlier John referred to his recipients as “my little children” and reminding them of their advocate Jesus Christ (2:1). It is on the basis of Jesus Christ he says what he does now, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake” (2:12). One of the basic truths for Christians is to realize we are forgiven of our sins because of the life and work of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we are forgiven of our sins for the glory of Christ. We are assured we are forgiven because we know the Father (2:13c). Even as we mature in the faith, we are reminded our salvation rests not on ourselves but on Christ. We have eternal life because we know Him who is eternal (2:13a, 14a). In the maturing process, however, we must be aware of the fight we will face. If we desire to grow in our walk with Christ by living in the light and loving, then we can expect to face opposition. As those who are the “young men” in the faith, John writes for the purpose they “have overcome the evil one” (2:13b). He elaborates more a verse later on how they have overcome their spiritual opponent, “because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you” (2:14b). Christians who are able to overcome the evil one are those who are strong and they are strong because the word of God abides in them. The strength they have is the strength of God. The process of spiritual maturity is not understood in terms of one’s own will-power. Rather, the process of spiritual maturity is characterized by the power of the Holy Spirit. Without the work of God through the Holy Spirit, we would hate what God loves and we would love what God hates. That is why, as Christians, we are told, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (2:15a). What does John mean here by the world? He goes on to show, “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (2:16). Desiring the things of this world over desiring God is sin and is not contributing to our spiritual growth. Desiring to have what is not yours and lusting upon what you cannot have and what you demand is to pursue the things of this world. To find your satisfaction in possessions and to live a life of self-centeredness is to live a life contrary to the Word of God. The purpose of life is not the pride of life but to make much of the name of Christ. Those who know Jesus Christ are those who are forgiven, who fight their sin by abiding in God, and who do not love the world. To love the world and the things of the world is to not abide in the Word. To say it bluntly, if we love the world, we do not have the love of the Father. If we do not have the love of the Father, then we will be facing His wrath for eternity and will be eternally separated from Him. The things of this world are temporary and not worth our love. Only the will of God remains and abides (2:17). If you do not know Christ, confess your rebellion against God and your love for the world and find forgiveness in Jesus Christ today. If you do know Christ, abide in the word of God to continue to grow in spiritual maturity.
- As a Christian, how has God grown you in the last year? How have you abided in His Word?
- Which of these three do you struggle with most: the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, or the pride of life? How can you fight against this struggle?
- How do you respond to the fact spiritual maturity is a process that happens over a lifetime for the Christian?