Fulfilling one's calling in
life is a part of maturity, but we should not so emphasize calling that we
deemphasize the more critical universal aspects of the explicit definitions
of maturity in the New Covenant Scriptures.
Messianic Jews are committed to living out their calling by identifying as
Jews. This is rooted in the Biblical pattern of life revealed in the Torah
and now applied as fitting to the New Covenant order. This calling is clear
from Romans 11:5 and 11:16 which state that Messianic Jews are the saved
remnant and the first fruits of their people. Yet unless we are clear about
what constitutes maturity in the New Covenant, we in the Messianic Jewish
movement will not fulfill our destiny to be a powerful witness to our
people. Nor will we make a contribution to world missions, also an
important part of our calling.
One official definition put forth in the Messianic Jewish world defines a
mature Messianic Judaism as follows: "An authentic Messianic Judaism
(that) maintains substantial continuity with Jewish tradition ... An
integrated following of Yeshua through traditional Jewish forms and the
modern day practice of Judaism."
This definition seeks to show that we really are part of the Jewish
community and that we integrate traditional Jewish religious practice when
it does not contradict New Covenant faith in Yeshua. I have given over 40
years of my life to helping establish a Messianic Jewish way of life that
reflects this approach. Then why does this orientation of "maturity"
cause me concern? Because it can be read to place claims of
cultural/traditional integration on the same level with the Biblical
definitions of maturity.
Conformity of Character
The Bible gives two primary definitions of maturity. One is conformity to
the character of Yeshua. The character of Yeshua is summarized in His
teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 at the end of which we
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and does them will be
like a wise man who built his house upon the rock" (Matthew 7:24).
The call is to be perfect as God is perfect. The overall issue of maturity
is that by the power of the Spirit and the Word, we become like Yeshua. A
person who is like Yeshua is mature (Ephesians 4:11-13).
"... til we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of
the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the
fullness of Messiah" (Ephesians 4:13).
Discernment in the Spirit
The second passage and definition is found in Hebrews and tells us that:
"Solid food is for the mature, who through practice have their senses
trained to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14).
This capability is a matter of discernment in the Spirit. Watchman Nee took
this text and others to develop the concept of the "spiritual man" as
one who walks in the Spirit at such a level that the person knows and
obeys the voice of the Spirit, but then tests by the Word to make sure that
there is no mistake. Indeed, those who are the sons and daughters of
God are the ones who are led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14). I recently read a
biography of Reinhardt Bonkke. It is an amazing testimony of what God can
do in one who really hears the voice of the Spirit and obeys. The issue of
maturity then also includes attaining aspects of effectiveness in the
power of the Spirit and spreading the Gospel with signs following, seeing
people born into the Kingdom of God and becoming effective in
discipleship. When we recognize our need in the Messianic Jewish
movement on these matters, we are undone and cry out for an outpouring of
Wisdom in cultural integration is very important. However, if we
overemphasize any extra-biblical aspect of life as defining maturity we
will do damage to our spiritual life and the power and success of our
There is a secondary maturity in the right integration of living out
our calling as Messianic Jews among the communities and people where God
has placed us. That level of maturity however, is only exhibited by the one
who is exercising Hebrews 5:14 discernment, and who is being conformed to
the character of Yeshua. Such a disciple can discern what is really from
God in various cultures, and this includes both Jewish and church culture.
How much is from God, and how much emphasis can we give any of these
traditional/cultural elements and still be in balance with God's
Being rightly integrated into the cultures of the people we seek to reach
is important, and I would be the first to describe Jewish culture as being
unique in that its foundation is the divine revelation of a holy way
of life given to Israel. Yet even this original basis in Biblical truth
comes with the temptation to so integrate into tradition, that the hard
edges of the Gospel are compromised. Let us grow in our understanding of
tradition and how we should apply it, but let us not make our extent of
keeping any tradition the definition of maturity and authenticity.
Finding the right balance where Yeshua is central and where we see the
power of the Holy Spirit working alongside tradition in our personal lives
and communities will often be a daily tension - to be resolved through
earnest prayer, humility, and being saturated with the word of God.