“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
For the last week we have been discussing different issues concerning perfection and holiness (and let me encourage you to go back and read these posts). We started off with the command of the Lord Jesus Christ for the believer to be perfect as God is perfect. Then we read about how the Christian must be not unequally yoked to this world but radically separate. Christ and Satan have nothing in common, and neither does one who is in Christ with someone who is in the world. Next, the lack of preaching and exhortation about perfection by pastors from the pulpit was addressed. If we take the Bible seriously then we had better start doing what it says. Then we defined holiness and how its end is perfection, again focusing on the radical change that is to take place in the life of the believer. Holiness is not a superficial “I’m sort of different from how I used to be” but a drastic change into one who is completely and totally set apart for the glory of God. Yesterday we looked at worldly perfection and how it is meaningless and unattainable, a chasing after the wind.
“Now all has been heard;
Here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
For this is the whole duty of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
Including every hidden thing.
Whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
The reality is that life is meaningless apart from God and his will for your life. You cannot attain perfection in your own worldly life, no matter how hard you try. Nothing will satisfy that void in your life that you are trying to fill with the things of this world. Nothing, except Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior.
Yet many who call themselves Christians are still chasing the wind of the meaningless in this world. They are no different than when they supposedly started walking with the Lord. Or they are only superficially different in a few small areas. The church has lost the meaning of the word holiness and the command to be perfect. It has lost the fear of the Lord and the conviction to obey his Word. So instead of being the victorious Church that Christ intends for it to be, it is stagnant, dry and barely hanging on to life, if not withered and dead altogether.
When the church forgets what the church is supposed to look like, and takes on a different image from the one God created it to have, it ceases to be the church.
Christians do not obey the command of Christ to be perfect. They are not set apart from this world. Pastors are not teaching what it is to be a Christian, set apart as holy for God and striving towards this perfection Christ has commanded. The pastors nor the congregation really know what it is to be holy and perfect by the biblical standard.
It’s time to get with the program and live what you claim to believe.
The conclusion of the matter is to fear God. Exodus 20:20 says that the fear of the Lord will keep us from sinning. Everything God has ever commanded us to do is attainable if we fear him, because then we will obey him and in turn we will not do the things he has told us not to do, or refuse to do the things that he has told us to do (https://minds2mentes.wordpress.com/2007/01/23/the-fear-of-the-lord/). Our whole duty as human beings is found in fearing God and being obedient to his will. Indeed everything we have ever done will be judged by God, whether good or bad. On judgment day God is going to weigh out your life and see if it has been lived for his glory and honor, in obedience, or if instead it has been lived for your own selfish pleasures and gains. There is not middle ground, no fence to sit on, no time to waste waiting until the last moment to “convert.” You cannot fool God and he will not be mocked. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Again I will ask a question absolutely pivotal: You have a responsibility to do something with what you have heard. What are you going to do about it?
Perfection of this world is not perfection at all. Worldly perfection is man-made, or at least man-attempted. People trying to get the perfect body or the perfect job or the perfect family with the perfect car and perfect house. People trying to find the perfect experience of sensuality or the perfect high or the perfect adrenaline rush. All these things are a chasing after the wind and you know it. The so-called American dream doesn’t exist in reality. Money, friends and popularity are here today and gone tomorrow. Cars rust and houses rot with age. Sex and drugs are gone as quickly as they came to be consumed. There is no such thing as the perfect image, or the perfect lifestyle, or the perfect strut at all. A chasing after the wind, all are unattainable, and the pursuit itself is meaningless. What are you chasing after and why and do you really think you are ever going to catch it? You can’t catch perfection. The American dream is an illusion; it does not exist.
What does it mean to be holy? It seems that the church has become confused about the meaning of the word. They define it as being “set apart,” which is a good definition based on the Greek root hagias and the related word hagiazo, meaning sanctified. Indeed it does mean to be set apart.
But the question then becomes What does it mean to be set apart? This is not a superficial expectation God has of his children. It is not a superficial “being different” from other people and things, whatever that means. Holiness and sanctification are radical, a total break from the norm. The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology describes holiness as being completely clean and morally fit before God. This is not superficial at all, but radical.
The end of holiness is perfection. To be made holy is to be perfect. To be holy and perfect are commands of God found in his Word. Therefore they are unavoidable in the Christian life if you are truly surrendered and seeking God’s will for your life. They are expected of us. But we are not expected to live self-righteously and earn our salvation as by works. God himself has given us the power to live these things because of Christ in us (2 Peter 1:3). We have a part to play, a responsibility to obey the commands of God. Yet his power has given us every tool we need to be able to fulfill our responsibilities to obey these commands. And if God has given us everything we need, then what’s stopping us from obeying completely? Selfishness? Rebellion? Fear? It’s time to step up and do as you have been commanded. “Be holy because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).
It doesn’t come as a surprise that today’s watered-down Christianity is afraid to preach perfection. But the root of the why is a serious one.
It seems that the church today is afraid to stand on the absolute truth it was planted upon. For the sake of relevance church has become more like a counseling session than a place to learn about the Lord and who we are in him. John Hannah says something to the effect of, “churches are as plentiful as self-service gas stations and Starbucks coffee.” Church has become a product to consume instead of somewhere to go to be consumed by God.
The absolute truth the church is built upon is the Word of God, both the Logos, that is the Lord Jesus Christ, and the written Word of Scripture. The Scriptures seem to have been put on the backburner, and this is the root of the problem. The church intellectually affirms the inerrancy of Scripture, but rarely lives it out as such. They say they believe the Bible to be the Word of God, yet they live their lives as if it is only an optional self-help book that may have some sort of insight but nothing concrete to offer.
We cringe at teachings about perfection because we do not believe, or do not want to believe, that the Bible means what it says. If the Bible means what it says, then we have a responsibility to do something about it, we have to do something about what we read and what we hear. We actually have to obey it.
Well, the Bible does mean what it says. And it teaches perfection of the Christian believer. What are you going to do about it?
14Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
17″Therefore come out from them
and be separate, says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”
18″I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
1Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
This is the last verse of Matthew 5, the first of the three chapters where the Lord Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is recorded. What was he talking about?
Well, the Lord Jesus starts the sermon by talking about those who are blessed in God’s sight, known as the Beattitudes. Then he tells us that we are salt and light in this world and are responsible to reflect the One we serve. Next, he talks about the law of the Old Testament, how he is going to fulfill it, and how we must surpass the righteousness of those who keep every letter of the law in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Next, the Lord tells us that not only are we not to murder, but we are not even to be angry with someone or we will be judged the same. And then we are told that not only should we not commit adultery, but we must not even lust or we have already committed adultery in our heart. We are told to cut off the parts of ourselves that cause us to sin. Then the Lord says that divorce is only permissible in the case of unfaithfulness. And then the Lord tells us not to swear by anything but let our yes be yes and no be no. Next we are told to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. Finally, the Lord tells us to love our enemies, because even the worst of people love those who love them and there is no reward in that. After all this, the Lord tell us to be perfect.
From verse 21, speaking about murder, to the end of the chapter we find a series of statements saying, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago… But I tell you…” The Lord Jesus Christ raised the bar in every single instance he talked about here. He raised the standard from merely keeping the letter of the law (v. 20) and commands us to keep also the principles behind the letter. And he ends this part of his discourse by telling us to be perfect.
That’s quite the standard to be kept. But if we profess Christ as our Savior we cannot ignore it. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me you will obey my commands.” Do you believe the words of the Lord? Do you believe the Bible is the very Word of God? It’s time to start living like it. Gandhi, not a Christian but a follower of Hinduism, once made a statement in effect saying that Christians will never make an impact, even a dent, in this world if we do not make the Sermon on the Mount part of our creed. He was right. Until we live out these words of the Lord we can never expect to impact this world for Christ and win souls to salvation. But more than that, if we do not obey the words of Christ we cannot even say we are truly following him in the first place (John 8:31).