“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Ephesians 4:11-14 ESV
Have you ever heard the phrase “man up”? I know that people can take this to mean different things, but just let me share with you some of the definitions I found online:
Man Up: (idiomatic) To “be a man about it”; to do the things a man is traditionally expected to do, such as taking responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions, displaying bravery or toughness in the face of adversity, providing for one’s family, etc. (Wicktionary).
Man Up: informal: to make an effort to deal with something (such as an obligation or a challenge) in a way that is considered strong or manly
“… You’re starting a family. Man up. Time to do grown man things.”
— Cassanova Womack … man up and be honest that what you did that night was wrong (M-W Dictionary).
This is NOT about being a macho man. This is not about being a bully. This is about being a grown up as opposed to acting like a child. This is what this passage of scripture is talking about, too, especially when it uses the phrase “mature manhood” in opposition to acting childishly (immaturely).
And, this isn’t just for men, either. This is for all of us, and it is telling us that we need to stop acting like children, and that we need to behave like mature adults. We need to become mature (responsible and loving) adults and put childish ways behind us.
So, how do we do that? How do we move from childish (irresponsible, self-indulgent) ways to maturity – to becoming responsible self-sacrificing adults?
Well, one of the ways for the follower of Jesus Christ is to listen to what the prophets of old taught, and to listen to what Jesus taught, and to listen to what the New Testament apostles taught. And, we need to listen to ALL of it, not just the parts that we like.
Everything that they taught that Jesus also taught and that is taught in the New Testament under the New Covenant is for our instruction. And, what they taught was how to become mature, how to live holy and godly lives, pleasing to God, and how to put childish and sinful ways behind us and to walk in the ways of the Lord. And, we need to do what they said!
And, if Bible teachers, preachers, pastors and evangelists today are teaching the truth of God’s Word, and the whole counsel of God, and if they are teaching how to put away our childish and sinful practices, and if they are teaching us in how to be godly and holy people set apart for God, then we should listen to them, too. But, not too many of them do that these days, which is one of the reasons we have so many people behaving childishly.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV
If we want to become mature followers of Christ and not remain in our childish and irresponsible ways, we have to be followers of truth. So many people are still walking according to the flesh, and are continuing to be irresponsible and self-indulgent and foolish because they are listening to and they are believing the lies instead of the truth, and they are closing their eyes, hearts and minds to the truth, because they want the lie, instead.
But, we have to be those who speak the truth, in love. And, “in love” doesn’t mean we wimp out, either, or that we coddle people in their sins. That is not love! True love does what is best for others. True love tells people the truth. True love helps people out of their bondage to sin. It does not placate their sin and tell them that everything is okay. It tells them like it is, it is honest, and it is loving in that its goal is to see others be delivered from their prisons. Love does not tell people lies, and it doesn’t leave them in bondage.
So, we speak the truth, in love, and we teach what the Word of God teaches with regard to holiness, godliness, purity, honesty and righteousness. We teach what the Word teaches with regard to putting our old lives of sin behind us, and we teach that we must follow our Lord in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives. And, then we will help one another to “grow up” and to become mature adults in Christ Jesus, their Lord.
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV
This says it all, doesn’t it? Our faith in Jesus Christ is not free license to continue in habitual, childish, irresponsible and sinful ways. When we trust in Jesus Christ with God-given and divinely-persuaded faith in Jesus Christ, we leave our old lives of living for sin and self behind us, and we go with God, and we follow our Lord in walks of obedience to his commands.
In Christ, we aren’t supposed to be living in immorality and sensuality. This is not supposed to be what we practice. This should not be our “go-to” when life gets tough. Yet, so many people today who claim Jesus as their Savior and Lord are living in immorality, in sensuality, and in all sorts of wickedness. And, it is because they have hardened their hearts to the truth of God’s Word and they are following after what their flesh desires, instead.
But, the way we should have all learned Christ is that we must put off our old self, which belongs to our former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and that we are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and that we are to put on the new self, which is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. And, we do this in the power and strength of the Spirit of God at work in our hearts and lives.
But, we have to yield control of our lives over to the Lord. We have to let it all go and let God be God. And, we have to listen to him, and we have to follow him and his ways, and do what he says to do. And, then we will be able to move away from being childish to being mature followers of Christ.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.