The Two Words That Signify Mature, Adult Christianity


1 Corinthians 4:14-17 (NIV)

14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.


To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people (i.e. “us”):

No, the two words aren’t “thank you,” though that would be good. See if you can locate the two words I’m referring to in today’s text. They are the two words that every adult Christian must seriously consider adding to their discipleship vocabulary as concerns the relationship they have with other believers in their care—and by “adult” I don’t mean over the age of 18 but rather, “mature” disciple of Jesus Christ.

And did you note the assumption I just dropped into that last sentence? Yes, one of the marks of “Adult Christianity” is having other people in your care and over whom you watch in love. No, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are in a formal one-on-one discipleship training relationship or even in a small group with them’though this is usually a good thing. Adult Christianity implies that I have come to the realization that others are paying attention to “my way of life in Christ Jesus.” It doesn’t mean that I am in some kind of official position of Christian leader in a church or otherwise Christian organization. It certainly doesn’t mean that everyone identifies me as “that guy” who is always at church every time the doors are opened.

Those two words . . . have you found them yet? Before I spoil the fun, let me back up to a phrase from today’s text I noted in the last paragraph. To bring even more explicit clarity to the point, an adult Christian is one who, over time, has an established “way of life in Christ Jesus.” It doesn’t mean they go about wearing their religion on their sleeve or saying the name of Jesus in every other sentence in casual conversation. To have a “way of life in Christ Jesus” means I have stepped out of the crowd and left the bland respectability of conventional religion behind. It means I have taken the responsibility to seriously ask myself if I have a “way of life in Christ Jesus,” and how would I know it if I did? Taking it a step further, adult Christianity means I have given at least one other person a set of keys to my life in some way, shape, or form.

We don’t tend to gravitate toward these two words I’m emphasizing today because we would be presumptuous to say them or somehow prideful or haughty. When it comes to stepping up to the plate of “Big League” Christianity, most of us shrink back. We are content to stay in little league. We were all meant to ultimately play in the major leagues. It’s just too easy and respectable to cloak ourselves in false humility and play down instead of up. And no, this does not mean becoming a super serious Christian that no one wants to be around. Mature adult Christian faith means just the opposite. It means having a “way of life in Christ Jesus” that is distinctive, surprising, at times quiet and at other times bold, and in the final analysis—irresistible.

Sometimes—OK often times—when I write the daily text my laptop screen becomes something of a mirror in the way that I am being exposed by the very thing I’m writing. Today is one of those days.

So these two words—when we say them we are effectively writing a check to someone else or to multiple someone else’s. And in light of that metaphor there are really only two reasons we refuse to say them. We either #1. Know we don’t have the money in the bank, or #2. We aren’t willing to invest it. And let’s be clear about #1. The money in the bank I’m referring to is not some savings account you have created. It’s a checking account funded by none other than the Holy Spirit. The money is there. You have to spend it to know.

So let’s get to it. You know the two words by now, but just in case I am going to end with them. Imitate me.


Our Father in Heaven, thank you for your son and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Thank you for the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to follow Jesus and imitate his way of life. Wake me up to the fact that others are imitating me—for better or for worse. Let my life become not a religious performance but a holy act of love; an irresistible freedom—even a contagious uncontainable joy. Forgive me for my lazy little league mentality. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


1. How would you articulate to yourself your “way of life in Christ Jesus?” What did that look like yesterday? Be specific.

2. What will it mean, in particular, for you to have a “way of life in Christ Jesus” today? Even if only one thing.

3. What keeps you from being willing to invite others to “imitate me,” as in you? Are you ready to write that check. Will you write it anyway?