If we are not careful we could easily get the impression that adolescence is a disease with headaches and heartaches, pressure and pain as its only symptoms. Not so! Adjustments and struggles may be present, but not to the exclusion of tremendous growth and remarkable achievements. These can be some of the most exciting years of one's spiritual pilgrimage.
Fruit of the Spirit
How can we know if we’re really making progress in our spiritual walk? After all, the Bible offers no prescribed checklist of duties to perform that prove we’ve “arrived” as mature believers. But a list provided by Paul in Galatians 5:22–23 does offer proof both to ourselves and to those around us that the Spirit of God who dwells within us controls our thoughts and actions.
And that’s the catch. We can’t produce such fruit on our own—even with the most sincere effort. We can’t fake this fruit either. Rather, the fruit of the Spirit is a supernatural result of yielding to the Holy Spirit. Once we’re exhibiting the pure, holy fruit of the Spirit, the contrast is stark between those who are filled with the Spirit and those who obey the deeds of the flesh, as seen in Paul’s other list in verses 19-21! When we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, all the glory goes to God.
The more we study the “Peter Pan Syndrome,” the more we understand what we are dealing with. Although the name is new, the problem is old. In fact, we can trace its roots all the way back to the fall of man in the garden. As we shall see, not even the early church was free of this insidious problem.
Although young in the faith, those Jerusalem believers demonstrated a commendable growth toward maturity. But this condition was not found throughout all congregations. As is true today, there were some who were old enough to be well on their way to maturity, but they preferred to remain immature and irresponsible…adolescents in adult bodies.
One of the most remarkable eras in the history of the church occurred during the first century. Shortly after Christ had left the earth, His disciples (who became apostles) led congregations into new and exciting vistas of faith. Though young and relatively inexperienced, the believers who comprised the first-century church showed evident marks of maturity…the children were now growing into adolescence!
Which “childish things” have no business lingering once we become mature? Believe it or not, God's expectation that we grow spiritually is firmly rooted in the Old Testament, where the prophets of old laid down a clear path for knowing God deeply.
There is a well-worn path stretching across every adult's life. It is impossible to grow up without travelling down that path. That path is the path of childhood. What is true physically is equally true spiritually. How essential is a healthy, happy childhood in the family of God…yet how rare!
Few things are more foundational to a productive life than walking. That is not only true in the physical realm but especially so in the spiritual realm. However, the tragedy is apparent: many in God's family (dare we say most?) have little or no knowledge of the way to do it. Let's dispel the ignorance and remove confusion regarding the manner in which God's children are to walk.
Infancy is back-to-basics time! It is during that era that we set the cornerstone and fix in place the initial blocks, upon which we develop the balance of our lives, spiritually speaking. Because of the essential nature of these truths, it is helpful for us to return to them periodically and be reminded of their importance.
All who work with babies and bottles, toddlers and high chairs, building blocks and toy boxes enjoy one of the special delights life offers. Yet with all the thrills, there are also the threats unique to newborns. Being so tiny and dependent, their little lives often hang perilously close to danger and death. What is true of infant humans is equally true of infant believers in God's family.
There is one common analogy used throughout the New Testament regarding the local church. It is not a business, farm, team, school, or hospital, though those word pictures are frequently used by us to convey various dimensions of congregational life. The most often used analogy is that of a family. God is our Father; we are called His offspring—sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, even fellow heirs.