Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Be Ye Perfect!




Jesus says "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). What is that supposed to mean? Like, that's impossible, right?

In fact there are a number of contradictions in this section of the Bible, part of the Sermon on the Mount ... until you look further. For instance, Jesus speaks of loving your enemies. I've always thought that to be contradiction because if you love someone they are no longer your enemy, but of course, He is saying that although you may love them, they still don't love you. The enemy bit is pretty much in their court not ours.

Further along He says that when we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, we do it "in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven". So does that mean that if I don't love my enemies, I can't be a child of God anymore? No, I don't think that's what He's trying to get across. What He is saying is that God loved me when I was His enemy, and so if I am a true child of God, then I'll behave in the same way. I am to be my Father's Son. I am to see things the way God sees things. When I do that I am doing all that God calls me to do.

But then Jesus goes on to say something absolutely off the wall to me. Or at least at first glance it is ... Lord, you go on to say "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect". That's going too far! I'M NOT PERFECT, Lord. You know that I fall short of this. So what are you trying to say? Your standard is way too high for me!

But then when you think about it, God couldn't have very well said to me, "Just do your best, and I'll accept that." A perfect God doesn't give me an imperfect standard to live by. God wouldn't lower His standards to accommodate us would He?

I guess when I love my enemies, then I participate in something that is part of God's perfect character. I do something perfect in His strength, but I still don't get to that kind of standard in the everyday part of my life. I still get it wrong at times.

Its time to look at how Matthew uses the word "perfect" in this passage. "perfection" in the original Greek has the idea of "complete." In other words"capable of doing everything that God calls us to do"

Colossians 2:10 (NLT) says "So you also are complete (or "perfect") through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority."

"Perfect" (teleios from télos = goal, purpose) means "one who has accomplished the intended goal (telos)." If something accomplishes what it is designed to do, it is said to be perfect (teleios). A child is imperfect in the sense that they have not yet grown to full maturity. So telios is often translated as "mature". When something is fully developed then it is said to be perfect. So Telios has the idea of "being complete."

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) says, "For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.:"

When I trust in what Jesus did for me on the Cross, then I am complete. God sees me as righteous, ie in right relationship with Him, as perfect and complete, as forgiven of all my sins. Instead of seeing me, He sees what Jesus did for me, and so I stand before Him AS PERFECT.

That doesn't mean I'm going to be perfect in my everyday relationships. I'm never going to be perfect in that way. I get it wrong all the time. But as the Lord works through me, I live out the kind of life He wants me to live. I am complete. I am doing all that God has called me to do, and in that sense it is PERFECT and I live in a way that is holy and acceptable to God. It is a journey of perfection that we are taking.

Philippians 3:12-16 (NLT) explains it further,

"I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made."

Jesus is our perfect standard for life and faith, and as I live it out then I display glimpses of the perfection of God in my life. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT) says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work." The Kings James Version says "That the man of God may be PERFECT, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."

"YOU THINK YOU'RE SO PERFECT!" Well, as a matter of fact, we are ... In Christ.

1 comment:

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