I was reading last night when I came to this verse from the Oxford bible:
“And if you and we belong to Christ, guaranteed as His anointed, it’s all God’s doing; it is God also who has set His seal upon us and, as a pledge of what is to come, has given the Spirit to dwell in our hearts.”
– 2 Cor 1:22
What hit me with that verse was how little involved we are in what God is doing within us. It really is all God. Our only part is to be willing to allow Him to do the work in us and through us.
We often want to base our “religious” maturity on outward actions or what is perceived by others. Most modern Christians assume that morality is the focal point of measurement in what God is doing in our lives. For instance, if we are “good” spouses and parents, we don’t sleep around, we don’t drink, smoke or cuss. This somehow proves we are God’s chosen. Now I am not in any way advocating we do any unhealthy behavior. But doing or not doing that stuff neither justifies us nor condemns us. Although it sure will make our lives much more complicated. The work of maturity in our hearts and lives belongs to God, His calling on our life and our openness to hear Him and do.
Anabaptists can have a tendency to base justification on what they do. They are “good” people who will feed the poor and give sacrificially to help those in need. With the pinnacle of their theology’s focus being the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). We see this as the ethics of Jesus. The greatest expression and principle commands that every “follower” should be doing. Often we tend to base ours and other’s spiritual maturity on what we see people do. And although I would think that doing these things would show a higher outward understanding of what is going on inwardly, it still does not justify. People can and will do all kinds of really “good” things in the name of religion for wrong motives.
Unfortunately the measure of someone’s faith can never be determined by the outward. We can get a hunch, but sometimes the greatest of these are the most humble of these and sometimes the baggage which we all have is just more apparent in those with very public sins. But sin is sin whether it is done in the privacy of you own home when no one is around or it is a scandal that becomes national news. We ALL have fallen short and will continue to fall short as long as we are under this curse, as long as people have free will and evil exists.
I think if we look at that verse above we will see that the measure of spiritual maturity is created, nurtured and brought to maturity only by God. Our only part in the process is to be open, to listen and do what He asks. That is the only principle shown in the New Testament for bringing God’s Kingdom here to earth. This is what Jesus taught and modeled; then He told us (His followers) to do the same.