There is growth in the Christian life. The final end of that growth comes when we are face to face with God and are transformed fully into glory. As Paul writes, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).
One of the problems we continually encounter in the evangelical world is an attitude that says, “I don’t want to learn theology. I don’t need to study. I just want to preserve my childlike faith. I want to keep it simple.” This is not an expression of Christian maturity but reflects an orientation toward infantile pursuits. It expresses a false humility.
Childish behavior is totally appropriate for children. If, for instance, a small child has an imaginary friend, that does not concern us. If an adult has an imaginary friend, however, we should be very much concerned. Now, the Bible does indeed call us to be like children in one sense: We are to have a childlike spirit of trust and confidence in our heavenly Father. But there is a great difference between being childlike and being childish. Our Father desires for us to grow in our knowledge and obedience to Him. He wants us to mature.
It takes time for fruit to come to fullness. This is true in the realm of persons and of spiritual growth as well. Today it seems as if everyone wants to hurry through this process. We want “five easy lessons to be an effective Christian,” or “eight quick steps to spiritual victory.” This is simply not possible. Human beings are made in the image of God Himself, and are far too complex for such simplistic and mechanical programs.
For fruit to mature—and ultimately it is we ourselves who are the fruit of the Spirit—there has to be nurture. There is no substitute for the classical biblical way of Christian maturity. It is through gradual growth, nurtured in the context of active participation in the sacraments and community discipline of the church, through study of the Word, and by means of faithful prayer, obedience, and service that Christians mature.
Each aspect of the fruit of the Spirit—that is, each aspect of you as you are transformed—is nurturedthrough personal relationships. Because Christian character does not develop in a void, take theinitiative to become involved regularly in a small group fellowship.