“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able.” 1 Corinthians 3:1–2

Hardly a week goes by without reading someone’s opinion concerning the up-and-coming generation. It is only natural that my generation is curious to see what kind of job we have done as we see our young adults begin to make their way in the world, but rarely is an article about that. Surprisingly, a great many of the opinions are written by young people commenting on their own generation. Many young men write concerning the lack of manly characteristics they are observing among their peers and a great many young women distressingly reflect upon the difficulty of finding young men who display strength and inspire trust.

With all the attention being given to “micro-aggressions” and faddish causes, it is no wonder. It seems that the less effective a person is in dealing with a problem, the more he is praised; and the more a person cares about the inconsequential, the more he is extolled.

We have created an adolescent culture. Those things which used to promote a confident sense of bearing in young men are being expunged from society. Strong male role models of every living generation are a rare breed, children are being raised in fatherless homes, might is now regarded as a detriment; clear thinking and plain speaking is called downgrading, insensitive, and offensive. To pose answers to life’s complications by referring to straight-forward moral standards is often demeaned as imbecility. Yet, embracing the simplicity of high moral standards is what creates a man that a woman can trust and from whom everyone in his society may gain.

One recent article reflected upon the physical and emotional maturity that ought to be found in a real man. The person reflected that since a man grows into maturity by becoming big, strong, and scary (the type that causes a little child to hide when a strange man walks in the room—that certain something of power under self-control), then shouldn’t a man also strive to grow into someone emotionally big, strong, and powerful?

My thoughts took the question a step further. Is there a parallel challenge to be found in spiritual maturity? Ought not a Christian strive to be spiritually big, strong, and powerful as well? Perhaps it is this “scary” moral backbone of a godly man which makes Christians so “dangerous” and hated in the world today.

What makes a person mature? While I believe that any man is only as mature as his most recent decision, I also believe that maturity is gained by hard work, very often involving rites of passage and overcoming obstacles.

Immaturity is measured by what it takes to distract a person, his avoidance of responsibility, playing the victim, requiring supervision, self-centered thinking, lacking a good sense of appropriate behavior, lacking respect for himself and others, and looking for instant gratification.

Conversely, maturity is observed in taking personal responsibility, self-reliance instead of helplessness, cultivating an appreciation for delayed gratification, exercising self-mastery to a high standard, being more concerned about a good reputation than a good image, working the brain to become a critical thinker, taking personal responsibility for those around him, and embracing God’s commission to Adam to take dominion (essentially to be a creator rather than a consumer as a good steward of God’s earth and all in it). That is maturity in a nutshell.

The road to spiritual maturity runs a hard course, but it is well-marked. Once a person is born-again through faith in Christ, he steps out on the road to maturity. He must grow in knowledge and conformity to the Word of God. 1 Peter 2:2 says, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby.” Through the Word the believer finds that the alluring things of childhood lose their luster as 1 Corinthians 13:11 reveals: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” His spiritual diet expands to include digesting the strong meat of the Word, as Hebrews 5:14 declares: “But solid food belongs to those who are full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

Being well-fed spiritually is not enough, but maturity requires faithful exertion toward becoming more like Christ every day, as Ephesians 4:15 says: “but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” This maturing is illustrated by Peter’s practical words found in 2 Peter 1:5ff: “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” A mature believer always acts according to the highest standards, as Hebrews 6:1 says, “Let us go on to perfection.” He will grow sturdy and strong in his faith and service, as Psalm 92:12 declares: “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.”

It is the mature saint who can truly bring help to those around him by his fruits in righteousness. As 2 Corinthians 9:10 says, “Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness.” It is this kind of spiritual maturity that is big, bold, strong and “scary” to the lost, but powerful in service for God. Trust and obey.