Christian Perfection

Christian Perfection

Matthew 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Does that command from Jesus disturb you? Are you perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect? I’m not, and I wonder “How can we, who are born with a sin nature, be perfect as our heavenly Father, who has no sin nature?”

Theologians answer the question by saying the Gospel declares we are “positionally perfect in Jesus Christ” even though we don’t act perfect according to the Law. In other words, I’m perfect in Christ even though I am not perfect. That is perplexing to me.

Does that mean the Gospel of Jesus Christ requires less holiness than the Law? If so, just how much less does it require? Where do you find a rule in the Bible, to determine how much less holy you are allowed to be under the Gospel than you would be under the Law?

Shall each one judge for himself? Then I ask, can you determine any point at which, when you have arrived, you can say, “Now I am perfect enough; it is true, I have some sin left, but I have gone as far as it is my duty to go in this world?” Where do you get your authority for any such notion?

Jesus also said in the same sermon, Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness?

Unfortunately, a great part of the Church does not expect to be any more righteous than they are. Much of the time, they do not even desire to be perfect. They are content with their lack of a hunger and thirst after righteousness, and they do not expect to be filled.

Maybe, all of us in the Church can be encouraged to be perfect like God if we knew what perfection is. Before we define perfection, let’s look at what the Scriptures say it is not.

1. It is not perfect knowledge.

Romans 11:33-34 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?

We cannot have complete knowledge of the ways of God, the things of Heaven, the time of Christ’s return, the events of tomorrow, or even a complete understanding of all Scripture. Lacking knowledge in these things do not cause us to break God’s command to be perfect. God is not expecting perfection of knowledge like He has.

2. It is not freedom from mistakes.

As long as we are human and lacking perfect knowledge, we are inclined to be mistaken in regards to facts, better judgment, or sometimes even common sense. The most mature Christians sometimes do things they later regret, misunderstand facts or details, or even misunderstand areas of Scripture.

3. It is not freedom from infirmities, physical weakness, slowness in understanding, etc. For example, we cannot say, “If I am to be perfect, then it is not God’s will for me to be sick”.

If it was God’s will to bruise His perfect Son (Is. 53:10), why shouldn’t He bruise you?

After all, what reveals God in your life is not your health or lack of tribulation, but your genuine, living relationship with Jesus Christ, and your unrestrained devotion to Him regardless of your circumstances.

1 Peter 2:19-24 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

We have been healed from the eternal consequences of sin because Jesus was wounded for our transgressions. Therefore, we are to die to sin and glorify God with our life regardless of our infirmities, persecutions, and weaknesses.

4. It is not freedom from temptation. If perfection would free us from temptation, Jesus would not have been tempted.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus was perfect in every way, yet He was tempted. Temptation is not sin, and does not become sin until it is welcomed and entertained and given consent by the mind.

James 1:14-15 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

5. It is not absolute perfection.

Only God is capable of absolute perfection. He has perfect knowledge, no weaknesses or infirmities, and cannot make mistakes. Christian perfection is not, and never can be, absolute perfection.

So how can we obey the command to be perfect as our Father is perfect? We can’t. God makes us perfect by making us one with Himself and giving us His Spirit, a spirit of love. Without the Spirit of God, we can do nothing but add more sin to the sin we already have.

1 John 4:16-17 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.

Therefore, Christian perfection is oneness with God that exhibits God’s love every moment of the day, even amid the seemingly unimportant aspects of life. We are called to live in such a perfect relationship with God that the life and love of God dominates us and becomes visible to others because we are like Him.

Thoughts about ourselves hinder our usefulness to God. God is perfecting us to the place where He can use us. Therefore, let Him do what He wants with you and remain faithful to abide in Christ and allow Him to abide in you. Be filled with His Spirit and become like Jesus in this world.

1 John 2:3-6 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Too long the Church has been in the habit of thinking that the Gospel is to save men from the punishment of sin. As a result, many Christians think that they can continue sinning and still go to Heaven. The Gospel has been reduced to “repeat this prayer and you are saved and going to Heaven”. This is a lie from the pit of Hell, deceiving people to believe they are saved even though they have not repented nor been born again of the Holy Spirit. The command to be perfect is never considered.

The real design and power of the Gospel is to deliver men FROM SIN. If Christ is Lord of our lives, if He abides in us by the Holy Spirit, we will do right. The full Gospel is Jesus came to deliver us from the the power of sin, reconcile us to God, and fill us on earth with all the fullness of God by being born of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

God is love, and love fulfills all the Law and Prophets. Christian perfection can be summed up as perfect love toward God that expresses itself in cheerful obedience to His commandments, and perfect love toward others that causes us to treat them rightly. This perfect love is God’s love, and requires us to have the same Spirit as Jesus, the Holy Spirit, who produces in us God’s love. This, and nothing less than this, is Christian Perfection.

Romans 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Loving God with all our hearts, souls, and minds means that we do not think, speak, or act to satisfy our own wills, but the will of God. This causes us to be just as perfect as God—to feel as He feels, to love what He loves, and hate what He hates, and for the same reasons that He loves and hates.

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Loving God perfectly sounds impossible, but He who calls us to be perfect, holy, and sanctified also gives us grace to achieve that goal.

First, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, we are given His righteousness and made holy. Then through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are given the love of God and He continually perfects us by transforming us into the image of Jesus from one degree unto another.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Therefore, the command of God to be perfect cannot be obeyed without the Holy Spirit!

The point is, if we will surrender ourselves completely to God, allow the Holy Spirit to take full residence within us, then He will guide us into perfection through repentance and death to self. As we grow in grace and love, we become more and more like Jesus Christ, and we become less and less selfish, and more and more perfect. We will love God and people, and we will desire the things of God over and above the things of this world.

Galatians 5:16-18 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

We must never dispense with the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome the sinful tendency of our flesh. Only through the continual, moment by moment power of the Holy Spirit is our sinful nature overcome.

The sinful nature is not eradicated until the day of the Resurrection, when our mortal bodies are transformed into perfect immortal bodies like Christ. In the meantime, the Christian learns to live in the sphere of the Spirit, not in the sphere of the flesh. The believer is never beyond the reach of temptation nor the possibility of sinning. But in Christ, he is given grace and power to have victory over all known sin. Sin no longer has dominion over him.

Therefore, we do not have to sin. We choose to sin. We have no excuse to not be perfect as our Father is perfect because He has made it possible.

We must stop yielding to our flesh and yield to God’s Spirit. And by the Spirit, we must press on toward the goal of becoming perfect in Christ. We begin this process by obeying what we already know is right.

Philippians 3:12-16 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Jesus came to deliver us from the power of sin. He atoned for the sin of mankind on the cross and rose from the dead. After He ascended into Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to abide in all His disciples, giving them love for God and for one another. Love fulfills the law because it does not disobey God, nor does it harm a neighbor.

Romans 8:3-11 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Have you been walking by your flesh or by the Holy Spirit; if in fact, the Holy Spirit dwells in you? If He dwells in you, the Holy Spirit is either convicting you or confirming your righteousness right now. If you sense conviction, repent and surrender to Him.

Maybe you have been trying hard to live righteously, but find your flesh does not submit to God. Indeed, you cannot please God in your flesh. You must be born again of the Holy Spirit, for no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they have been born of the Spirit. Furthermore, anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to God. Without the Holy Spirit, a person is still God’s enemy and remains under condemnation.

Acts 2:37-39 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Jesus said in Luke 11:9-13 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”