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Christian Perfection (II)

It is true that we will never be perfect in this life, but the perfections outlined by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are still those for which we should aim and that we should increasingly attain by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

We are to aim at Christ-like character.  Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

How good must a person be to stay saved? 

I am a sinner.  Nothing I will do will ever be perfect.  What can I do to be saved and to keep saved?  Since self-efforts will not save us, we must receive the perfect righteousness that God has provided in the atoning substitutionary death of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).

Only the LORD God is perfect, and He works to perfect sinful man.

How does God work to perfect sinners?  There are three Biblical facts we must keep clearly in mind.

1.  We are sinners, and there is no denying that fact.  Sin is an offense against God, and He cannot ignore it.  Sin has to be dealt with completely according to His just standards.  This is why God the Father sent God the Son to die for our sins. Jesus bore the penalty for our sins in full, and canceled all claims of God’s justice against the believing sinner forever. God punished our sins on the cross of Jesus.  “By one sacrifice Christ has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Heb. 10:14).  Have you believed on Jesus Christ as your Savior? 

How perfect must a Christian be?  The Christian believer must guide his life by the perfect, ethical standard of Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “You are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

2.  The second principle we must keep in mind is that from the moment we believe on Jesus Christ as our Savior, God begins a work in us to perfect us in this life.  At the new birth, we are given a perfect standing before God in one sense, but it is also true that we are far from perfect in our daily life.

The apostle Paul distinguishes between two ways the word “perfect” is used in the New Testament.  In Philippians 3:12 he writes, "Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12).  Paul has in mind here absolute perfection – God’s perfect standard, absolute spiritual maturity, fully-grown just like Jesus Christ.  It is the same idea that Jesus Christ spoke of in Matt. 5:48, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).

In the next sentence Paul tells us that even though he has already been declared acquitted before God on the basis of his faith in the atoning sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, he is still in the need of practical daily work of being perfected in Jesus Christ.  "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained" (Philippians 3:13-16).

 “Perfect” in verse fifteen is a relative, spiritual maturity, indicating the stages of growth, hence, perfect in growth at certain stages.  Even as an elderly Christian, Paul had not arrived to sinless perfection, but he did not give up, and make excuses for sins.  All of his guilt is covered by the payment of Christ on the cross.  The penalty has been removed, but God is still at work in his daily practice of holiness.  Paul is not getting better and better so that one day he can say he is without sin in his daily life.  God has provided for us in His saving grace a provision for cleansing of sin and restoration of fellowship in the Christian’s life (I John 1:8). 

3.  Our ultimate sanctification or what the Bible calls glorification will take place when we are presented perfect just like Jesus Christ, and it will take place in the moment of our death.  God’s work of perfecting the saints will take place when we see Jesus in glory and not before then.  At that moment we will be presented to God the Father sinless and complete (1 John 3:1-3).  We never know that perfection in this life.  We will in the likeness of Christ be pure and holy in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, wisdom, humility, obedience, etc. 

What God began in your new birth, He will continue to work on throughout this life until He has perfected us and presents us perfect to the Father.  What God begins, He always finishes (Phil. 1:6; Rom. 8:24-29).  God will not give up on any born again believer.  He will keep on perfecting us until the day when Christ comes for us.

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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