Spiritual Adulting Is Hard

You know what is really hard? Spiritual adulting.

“Adulting” as a verb is relatively new. It was on the Oxford shortlist for “word of the year” in 2016. The Oxford online dictionary defines it as: “The practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.” Here is their example usage: “It feels really good to take a step back from adulting and have someone else cook dinner for me.”

It’s only as funny as it is destructive. The love and embrace of childishness crossed a cultural threshold where it has become so bad, and so endemic, that it’s more comfortable to laugh about it than to cry about it. We do not live in an age that cares about maturity.

Even as Christians we can tend to talk about spiritual growth, about spiritual fruit, without talking about spiritual maturity. Let’s call it spiritual adulting. The author to the Hebrews scolded his readers:

You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12b–14)

These were not new believers. They had been at it for a while; “by this time you ought to be teachers” (the first part of verse 12). But they were not at the point of τέλειος, of being “mature.” And what does maturity look like? It looks like having and using power to discern good from evil.

Here are some sample questions for Christian grown ups and those who should be growing up in Christ.

  • What does spiritually adulting Facebook engagement look like? What do spiritual adults “like”? What do they complain about, and how?
  • What do spiritually adulting sleepovers look like? This is for younger ladies, but they should be thinking about it. What games would they play? How would they talk?
  • What do spiritually adulting Halloween parties and and costumes look like?
  • What does spiritually adulting movie watching look like? This is not just about adult viewing, but spiritually mature adult viewing.

Contradicting the Celebrating

God is in the business of reconciliation. Paul said that God “reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

This is what God did in Christ. This is what the divine Christ did. This is what happens when the fullness of God takes on flesh: He gives Himself to bring together what was split apart.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19–20)

The division between God and man was resolved, sorted out, healed. The cost was great: “the blood of his cross.” Crucifixion restored peace.

And that is to be so among us, between one another.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him (Colossians 1:21–22)

What does that holiness include? It includes loving your brother. What does that blamelessness look like? It means not slandering or bad mouthing another member of the body. What does being above reproach involve? It involves living consistently with the communion that Christ purchased by His blood.

We are not allowed to hold onto grudges, bitterness, malice, or envy against one another. If you have something against your brother, you need to make it right. “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). We celebrate our reconciliation around this table, so don’t contradict the celebration by refusing to be reconciled with one another.

It Feels Like Conflict

What is life in the Spirit like? Paul told the Corinthian Christians that they were a demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Corinthians 2:4). They didn’t get saved by fancy speech but through God’s supernatural work. Their change was like a recommendation letter, “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God” (2 Corinthians 3:3). They were being transformed into the glorious image of Christ, and “this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Also, all who believe “have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (the second part of Romans 8:15). But again, what is that life like?

The salvation and transformation and adoption are sweet, but we are still in a battle. There is a tenderness in the relationship with our Father in heaven, but why is it so significant that the Spirit makes it so that we can cry out to Him? In context it’s because we must be putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit (Romans 8:13). This shows that we are “led by the Spirit of God” as His sons (verse 14). And this is because we “did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” (the first part of verse 15).

We cannot live according to the flesh, we must not, or we will die (verse 13). How do we do it? We fight for righteousness by the Spirit who reminds us that we are children of the Father. We need the reminding because this is spiritual warfare, and the flesh and sin opposes us. It doesn’t “feel” good, it feels like conflict. Because it is. And it is what spiritual life is like.

Davids and Daniels

Not many Christians are wise, or influential, or popular by worldly standards. God can and does save people in those categories, but He calls us all to humility before the cross whatever our station. Most of us will never walk the corridors of power or have a theological insight go viral or impress a high number. Again, while God does call some Daniels and Davids, most of us will be like that guy who worshipped and obeyed the Lord that the Bible never mentioned.

Yet our salvation is no less from God. The gifts we get in Christ are still wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). He purchased us with His body and blood. And that’s what He wants from us, too.

You are not your own. You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20)

He owns us twice, once as Maker and again as Redeemer. He gave us life twice, and the life we have in Christ changes the life we live in the world.

You were bought with a price. If He gave you lots of talents and influence, glorify Him with those things. But He gave everyone a body and blood. Those also belong to Him, not just your discernment or energy or finances or social media platform.

The context in 1 Corinthians 6 regards purity and sexual immorality. How do you use your body toward others? And this is a question all of us should dwell on as we remember the purchase price to make us a temple of the Holy Spirit.

A Moral Pebble in Your Shoe

Rather than appreciate collateral blessings, our unbelieving culture would rather maneuver Christians off the hill of blessing altogether. More than that, they want us to feel guilty about the good we have. The right way for us to respond, which we’re discouraged from doing by the ones without the good, is to boast more. This requires a little fleshing out, and it’s not something that can be done properly in the flesh.

Here’s an example. A university professor claims that a mom and dad who read to their kids give their kids an unfair advantage of “familial relationship goods.” He said, “I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally.” So it might not be the worst thing ever, but it’s still a moral pebble in your shoe.

There are many other and less laughable and more pervasive examples. You should feel guilty for having so much food when others are starving. You should feel guilty for buying and wearing clothes that others can’t afford. You should feel guilty for having White (skin) Privilege. You should feel guilty for not being a woman, or identifying as one, or however that works.

Really, you should be feel guilty for being a Christian. Saying you have a Savior implies that others need to be saved, and that’s rude. Saying Jesus is the Savior is exclusive and not tolerant. You hater. Don’t enjoy something that others can’t, let alone something that offends them.

Some men do puff themselves up, look down on others, treat others with contempt and injustice. Some do abuse their privileges and cause real hurt, so said Solomon in Ecclesiastes 8:9.

But when we remember the gospel, the word of the cross, the sovereign grace of God, we will not feel guilty for receiving these things from Him as gifts. Jesus is our wisdom, our justification, our purpose, our life (1 Corinthians 1:30). In God’s kindness He gives marriages and kids and food and clothes and gender and generational, systemic fruitfulness. So let us keep on bragging in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:31). To do otherwise is to displease Him.

Who Wants the Cross?

We do not use a crucifix as one of our symbols. A crucifix is a cross that has Jesus still hanging on it. This is the wrong image. He is not still dying, let alone being crucified again and again as the official doctrine of the Catholic mass teaches.

Christ is not still dying, but He will always be the one who died. Paul used the perfect tense in 1 Corinthians 1:23: “we preach a having been crucified Christ.” The crucifixion is finished, but the results of it are forever.

So when the apostle John saw the lamb in heaven, it was “standing, as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). The marks of death were obvious; they couldn’t be ignored.

We will never get passed the need to remember, or the blessing of remembering, the cross. As we commune at the Lord’s Supper, we are remembering His body and blood, spent in substitutionary death. Paul says, “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaimed the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). It’s interesting that he does not say “you proclaim the Lord’s resurrection until he comes.” Christ’s resurrection is our hope. But even a natural man wants resurrection, who wants the cross?

The bread and wine are simple elements. Eating and drinking are among the most mundane activities we do. And yet a crucified Christ is not normal. It offends the world. And it is the power of God and the wisdom of God to us who are called. The cross is craziness to men, and it brings us into communion with God.

Kneeling on Sundays

Of all things, kneeling on Sundays is in the news these days. Interesting, isn’t it? Our society still finds a story in symbols and liturgy. This does not mean that the ones kneeling or the ones standing or the ones talking about it on TV understand the story, but they all know that bodily posture matters. It has for a long time.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;

let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!

(Psalm 95:6)

To be sure, it is possible to assume a position, to do it without much thinking, or even to do it as a lie, thinking the opposite of the communicated posture. It is also possible for position to be a discipline; the heart is not feeling it but putting the body in place reminds the heart of its proper pace. There are also those who are physically incapable of getting into or maintain some position (standing or kneeling).

But none of those change the created reality that certain positions communicate and are expected to communicate.

In our local church’s Sunday morning liturgy we stand to hear the word of God read. We honor God’s gracious revelation in a position of attention. We also get on our knees in humility for our confession of sin. We honor God’s gracious redemption in a kneeling position.

The cross of Christ does not allow us to keep our pride, or to parade our self-righteousness, or to validate our impressiveness. The cross humbles all who come to it, and there is even liturgical opportunity for others to watch us honor God as we kneel before Him.