Thursday, October 13, 2011

Barking up the wrong tree

There is a lot of talk about becoming a mature Christian.  Have you ever wondered what that means?  I do.  I thought I knew what it meant but it turns out I was barking up the wrong tree.  Not just barking but growling, howling and yelping till I wanna throw up and the tree picked off its own fruit and began chunking it at me.  What I thought was maturity was definitely growth into something, but it wasn't Christ.  It would more be likened to learning to play the gong or clang cymbals really well.  I wanted to be the best damn cymbal clanger alive and I didn't care if you like cymbals or not, I was banging them to my little hearts content.

Looking back on my noise making days I realise that my motives were good but my technique was all wrong.  I wanted to help others grow but I was giving them teachings and doctrines to feed on when all the while I had the bread of Life to share with them.  I remember a time when I considered heavy doctrinal teaching to be a feast and today the only feast I desire is to feed on the body and blood of Christ.  There is a big difference.  One is is system of teaching designed to help us to live right with God the other is a living person inside of us empowering us to live in Him.  One way leads to death and the other to Life.  I speak from experience.

I've stated here before that listening to sermon after sermon is not the way to mature as a christian.  The reason I say that is because sermons (at least the one's I have heard) are mostly always about breaking down a passage of scripture in order to nail down some doctrines.  A solid doctrinal base does not equal spiritual maturity.  Contrarily, the more we emphasize select doctrines the more prone we are to arrogance and judgementalism toward others who don't see things the same way we do.  Rather than displaying maturity through our knowledge we get puffed up, seek our own glory and shame the name of our great and holy God.

Maybe I'm all alone in this, if so someone please straighten me out because the more I look at scripture the more I believe that doctrines are the things we do and the way we live not the systematic points we believe to be true.  Some say that you can know a persons doctrine by the way that they live.  I certainly agree with that .  Knowing a persons doctrine by the things they say? ...not unless their tongue sounds more like a noisy gong and they are not speaking from love.  Then it is pretty obvious that their doctrine needs a little more Jesus and a lot less knowledge.

So now, instead of spending all my time trying to mature in my knowledge of doctrine I spend my time maturing in building relationships with others.  I'm learning more through experience than I ever did in years of deep word studies and combing through commentaries.  Rather than letting my actions be dictated by intellectually contrived beliefs from scripture that are based on my own subjective understandings I'm letting the Spirit lead me where He will and I'm finding that the Bible objectively confirms His leadings as truth.

Maturity comes through experiencing the Life of Christ in us as we walk in the Spirit not through endless preaching and teaching of historical creeds and confessions.  If we want to mature we must have relationships with others who are more mature than us and imitate their way of life.  If we want to help others mature we must walk through life with them and live a life worth imitating.  But first we gotta stop barking up the wrong tree and decide instead to hike our leg on it and move on.


  1. Right there with you. I used to think that maturity involved reading the right books, listening to the right sermons and attending the right conferences. In fact I used to kind of sneer at those who couldn't wax eloquent about doctrine even while they were serving others. Knowing doctrine is important but it is a step on the path to maturity and not a sign of it.

  2. Co-sign. Great call, Bobby.

  3. Thanks for the post. I spent too many years on that treadmill myself. Books and teaching (even blogs)can be very productive toward maturity but there must be a rhythm between information and application. It is hard to keep that rhythm because it depends on us being in Him. If our loving relationship with Jesus and His people (everyone) is not the overarching narrative to our lives we will always fall short, the rhythm will be off and we will clang a little more, build with a little more stubble and miss the mark. If our lives are spent seeking Him, finding Him and loving Him in direct relationship and in people, the application and rhythm of life become easier to find. Though we fall short we press on.

  4. We have all been given all we have to give by Christ and he is our reality. I look forward to spending time with you soon and sharing HIS life together.

  5. Arthur,
    I'm still wrestling with the same behaviors, I'm still being purged from the smug superiority I inherited from those who walk among the tulips.


    we fall short and press on indeed. Somehow there is a rhythm, I just haven't found it yet.

    greatly looking forward to sharing together with you as well.

  6. Bobby,

    This is very timely, because I'm working on a workshop on teaching. I had already decided that the ideas that you are presenting here would be a major part of that workshop.


  7. Bobby,

    Right on!

    I never tire of telling my brethren the truth of what you are saying.

    Jesus said, “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”. The starting point of making disciples is the obedience (observing Jesus commands) of the disciple maker.

    There is only one way the disciple can understand what that obedience entails and means, and that is to spend much time (maybe two or three years) as the constant companion of the obedient disciple maker in daily life.

  8. Right on. At some point we need to put into practice what we have learned from Scripture, or we just seeking more knowledge and biblical insight, which is not the proper way to mature.

    Great post!

  9. Alan,

    thanks for the kind words about me on your blog, you encouraged me a lot. I'm looking forward to your series. I've been thinking about this subject lately and you always do a good job of putting things into a biblical framework.


    I agree, it seems like we think that constant companionship has become an unnecessary need as filling pews and bookshelves has taken precedence in the walk toward maturity.


    your series on confessional statements has been one of the catalysts that gave this post birth. Thank you for what you are writing.


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