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Why Try to Become Perfect?

Jesus declared the highest possible standard for His followers: they must be “perfect.” “You be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The righteousness that Jesus demanded is nothing less than complete conformity to God’s perfect law in everything a person is and does (22:34-40). Jesus is concerned, not only with our behavior, but with the righteousness of the heart, also. The scribes and Pharisees considered only the outward compliance (5:20). With Jesus’ standard who would ever claim to have reached it?

The very nature of the kingdom of God as taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount drives us to despair of ourselves in living this kind of life so that we will turn in faith to Jesus Christ and find new life in Him to live as He lived.

The Holy Spirit produces this kind of life in the believer as we make ourselves available to His indwelling presence. God produces in us by His power what we cannot do ourselves. It is the product of the new life of Christ in us (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:13). This way only God can possibly get the glory because we can live it only by His power.

This righteousness is God given. But Jesus also went a step further and declared; “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). The statement is in the form of a command; “You shall therefore be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Does this mean Jesus was teaching holiness perfection in the sense that men could reach sinlessness in this life on earth before death? What does the Bible teach when we let Scripture interpret Scripture we have the correct interpretation (Rom. 7:7-26; Gal. 5:16-24; Jas. 3:2; 1 John 1:8; Phil. 3:12-16)? 

You may be asking, “Then why even try to become perfect?”

The main reason is because that is what God commands of us, “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

The word “perfect” (teleioi) in the context of this verse means, “having attained the end or aim,” “brought to completion, full-grown, mature, lacking in nothing.” We should not be satisfied with halfway obedience to Christ.

To be perfect is to reach the goal for which a person was designed. Jesus calls His disciples to become mature, reaching the high standard God has for them. We are to be constantly pressing on toward attaining that goal (Phil. 3:16-18; Col. 1:28).

Another reason is because with the new life of Christ in us we want to become like Christ. We are a new creation, and all things have been made new. The apostle Paul longed to become like Jesus (Phil. 3:7-16).We have received as a gift from God an imputed righteousness that was purchased for us by Jesus Christ on the cross (2 Cor 5:21). It is impossible for us to be saved without this righteousness that God alone provides for the believing sinner.

The only way we can be completely conformed to the law this side of eternity is by this imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). No human being can earn this righteous standing before God. There is nothing we can possibly do that will atone for our sins (Isa. 64:6). There is no human detergent that can cleanse the guilty conscience and make a person right with God. Nothing can wash away our sin but the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus poured out His blood on our behalf (2 Cor. 8:9; Matt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45; Isa. 53:5-6).

The Holy Spirit sanctifies those for whom Christ died. By the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit we obtain a righteousness of inner condition and outward conduct. We become pure in heart by the purifying influence of the Holy Spirit.

Do we become sinlessly perfect so that we never sin again in this life? No. We will sin and God has provided a cleansing that works and restores our fellowship with God. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” will be satisfied one day when we enter into glory with Christ Jesus in heaven. It will be realized in us when we see Jesus face to face in glory. It will be perfectly fulfilled when we see Jesus and not before then (Phil. 1:6; 3:12; 2 Thess. 4:7, 8; Rev. 21:27).

Jesus demanded the sincere devotion of the heart to God. We must love Him with all our mind, heart and personal being. If we truly love Him we will keep His commandments.

In the Christian life we always have before us something for which to strive. No matter how far we have progressed in our spiritual life there is still more to conquer. We must bring every thought, every attitude and every behavior into subjection to Christ.

Though we will never be perfect in this life, we are to aim and strive at Christ-like character. By God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit we are to move toward that goal every day of our life.

Our goal in ministry is that “we may present every man complete (perfect, teleioi) in Christ” (Col. 1:28; cf. Eph. 4:13).

 

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

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(c) 2006  Message by Wil Pounds. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.

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