Today we continue our series on the character of the Christian. We are exploring how the various character qualifications of elders are actually God’s calling on all Christians. While elders are meant to exemplify these traits, all Christians are to exhibit them. I want us to consider whether we are displaying these traits and to learn together how we can pray to have them in greater measure. Today we will consider why elders—and all Christians—must strive to live mature and humble lives.
Paul tells Timothy, Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:6)
In essence, [An elder] must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. What we are seeing in the churches today is far from what Paul told the church. There are many persons in their teens who are elders and do not fit the criterion as Paul wrote.
This is a call to spiritual maturity and we learn that elders must be mature for at least two reasons: Because maturity is accompanied by the virtue of humility and because immaturity is accompanied by the vices of pride and condemnation. Thus we must give positions of responsibility only to those who are spiritually mature. If the new believer, given too much responsibility too soon, may easily swell with pride. The implication is that part of Christian seasoning is a humbling process and growing protection against pride. We should see evidence in his life that humility is a fixed virtue and not easily overturned.
Maturity requires time and experience for which there is no substitute, so a new convert is simply not ready for the arduous task of shepherding God’s flock. There is nothing wrong with being a ‘new convert.’ All Christians begin life in Christ as babies and grow to maturity. An elder, however, must be mature and know his own heart. A new Christian does not know his own heart or understand the craftiness of the enemy, so he is vulnerable to pride—the most subtle of all temptations and most destructive of all sins. Again, he states, “If the elders are humble, the people will be humble, avoiding much contention. If the elders are servant leaders, the church will be marked by Christlike, humble servanthood.” God calls all Christians to maturity and humility—and such growth best takes place in the context of mature, humble leadership. Let me strike a NOTE here that there are some men that look mature and act like little children. I am saying that such persons should not be places with the responsibilities of an elder.
This call to maturity is given throughout God’s Word, not only for leaders but for all Christians. What elders are to model, all Christians are to possess. The author of the letter to the Hebrews says,
“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14)
Paul also calls on this congregation to do the following:
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,” (Hebrews 6:1).
Paul says that God gives the church pastors and teachers, he did that for a particular reason.
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:12-13).
He commends Epaphras for “always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:2). God expects that his children will grow in maturity and that this will in turn lead to humility.
Therefore, in a sense, this topic of maturity and humility gets to the heart of this entire series: “the character of the Christian.” Christian leaders—and all Christians—are to strive to become more like Christ—they are to grow in spiritual maturity. As they grow in maturity, they will necessarily grow in humility.
So, how about you? In what ways do you need to pursue greater measures of maturity and humility? I encourage you to consider these questions:
- Are there evidence in your life that you are growing both “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18)?
- Are you more spiritually mature now than you were one year ago? Two years ago? How would you know?
- Do you seek the credit and the glory of man, or are you happy to be unknown and unappreciated? Many Christians want to be thought of as servants, but not treated as servants. Is that you?
- In what ways would your parents, children, spouse, boss, and pastors say you need to grow?
The faithfulness of God will hold us fast, even when our growth feels slow. Take heart as you pray in these ways:
- I pray, Father, that you would make me more like your Son in every area of my life.
- I pray that you would not let there be blind spots in my life and if there have been, that you would give me the grace to see them and turn from my sin.
- I pray that I would take full advantage of your means of grace so through them I can become more like Christ.
- I pray that you would help me be the servant of all and thus pursue true greatness.
Next week we will conclude this series by considering what it means for elders and all Christians to be respected by outsiders.