Saturday, December 30, 2006

# 181: Christian Perfection

# 181: Christian Perfection Over the years, quite often, I have heard this Christian adage: “No one is perfect.” That seems like an open-and-shut case, and yet that statement is true and at times is false. Those who believe it is true lean on that alibi in an attempt to “cover their tush,” while other sincere believers may be demonstrating their need for a Savior, Jesus Christ. But it doesn’t end there.

The word “perfect/ion” has several implications in the New Testament. And yet, most are referring to excellence of certain Godly qualities. This post will explore them; then we may be able to acquire a more complete understanding of God’s truth as it pertains to the Christian life.

Let us first examine the fact that Scripture says every disciple of Jesus Christ is perfect, making the above saying also untrue. Listen to this one: Hebrews 10:14. “. . . because by one sacrifice he HAS MADE PERFECT forever those who are BEING MADE HOLY.” [emphasis added]. Exactly what does this verse mean? Simply put: God the Father freely considers as perfect in His sight all who have made a commitment to believe Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That is astounding; of course, “being made holy” implies only those who are/will be continually striving to experience higher levels of holiness. Scriptural evidence: 2nd Peter 3:14. “. . . make every effort to be found SPOTLESS and blameless and at peace with him.” Luke 13:24. “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” [emphasis added]

Now the question remains: How should we respond to God’s action, in that he gave us an undeserved status of perfection? Our main reaction must be to make it our sincere desire to attempt to live up to the perfection given to us by the creator of all things, God Almighty. Before anyone can start to live in that manner, one must, wholeheartedly and with every fiber of strength he/she can muster up, believe our new holy status is an ACTUALITY (for real) and not just holy words. When one makes every effort to truly believe they possess a perfect standing with God, then and only then will/must one’s life start to change dramatically.

What if a person merely says she/he believes their new standing with God, but whose life changes little or not at all? Then what? That is concrete evidence for the lack of genuine belief in his/her initial response, and/or lack of belief that God sees him/her as perfect.

Belief in what God has said and done is the motivating factor for acquiring holiness (living a life of love for God, which is evident by obedience to Christ’s teachings). These are the words of Jesus. John 14:23-24. “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.’”

God does not want us to merely be in a perfect honorary position with Him, via the perfection He freely gave us; more importantly, He also wants us to experience that perfection. Matthew 5:48. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Here are several ways to increase one’s level of perfection: Ephesians 2:10. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We do these good works not as a means of justifying ourselves—we have already been justified—but as a result of our belief in the perfection God freely gave us. Here is more evidence of how God sees us: 1st Corinthians 6:11. “But you WERE washed, you WERE justified, you WERE sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” [emphasis added]. Matthew 19:21. “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”’

This last verse sounds kind of nonsensical; that is the reason that kind of talk is rejected in our modern culture by organized Christianity. They say that verse pertains only to a very few extremely wealthy people, which is truly a destructive lie. But still, the logic behind it is embraced by the true family of God. Logic says: it is almost impossible for a wealthy person to be obedient. The second MOST crucial/imperative command in Scripture is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and still have more than enough of whatever, while others go without. Said another way, the aforementioned is also a prerequisite to becoming a disciple of Christ, when he said “THEN come, follow me.” Jesus in essence is saying that in the Kingdom of God on earth, equality is the norm. Repeating, there can be no wealthy disciples while another doesn’t have the basic essentials. Generous Christians who are obedient to this command are experiencing Godly love, and exposure to Godly love is to touch the hand of perfection. That doesn’t mean that tomorrow, one cannot acquire a greater degree of Godly perfection.

Here is an aspect of the word “perfect” which may be difficult to understand in this power-hungry society. 2nd Corinthians 12:9-10. (The Lord speaking and the Apostle Paul’s response): “But he [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made PERFECT in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I DELIGHT in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak [adverse worldly circumstances], then I am strong.” [God’s power is activated]. Who in their right mind desires to be weak? Only those who are out of their mind, for Christ’s sake.

Jesus Christ desires us to rely on Him and his strength when promoting His cause; thus, when His power is being exerted in our lives, it gives us a greater degree of perfect (we are made stronger). We can possess Christ’s strength when everything seems to be falling apart in our lives (hostile conditions occurring) without many worldly accolades to rely on; whereas, when we have many great human attributes, qualities and characteristics in our back pocket, as it were, we attempt to use our own meager strength to do His work. That may be one of the reasons Christianity is in the pitiful shape it is in. Therefore, the word “perfect,” when used in this context, implies growing in strength to do God’s work, because of Christ’s power resting on us, or better yet, allowing Him to make us more perfect as He works through our bodies.

In this next verse, the word “perfect” is used in a way that is contrary to the aforementioned uses. Philippians 3:11, 13. (The Apostle Paul speaking): “. . . and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made PERFECT . . . Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” Because of the supernatural powers that Christ was using through Paul, some envious peers badgered him, saying his (Paul’s) Godly power to heal materialized because he was raised from the dead.

Here is the reason why: Acts 14:19. “They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.” Repeating, that was the reason some thought his GREAT COURAGE and supernatural powers came as a result of him being raised from the dead, and therefore couldn’t die again in a human body. I truly believe that stoning did kill Paul—did/could anyone ever survive a stoning?—and God, in response to the prayers of the disciples, gave him life, but not the final resurrection; but just like when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

Therefore, when Paul used the words “made perfect,” he meant literal eternal perfection. This is the only time the word “perfect” was used in that context.

While we are on the subject of being raised to life, which has little to do with perfection, I present several verses that have mystified me and millions like me for many years. These verses are only in the book of Matthew and not in the synonymous books of Luke or Mark. Matthew 27:52-53. “The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” I ask, then: What happened to them? Also, I ask, in an event as significant as that, why wasn’t it mentioned in the other two harmonious gospels? Many theologians believe the book of Mark was written first; then Luke and Matthew were, in many ways, copies/holy plagiarism since many identical verses appear in all three Gospels.

Here is one theory for the reason those two “off-the-wall” verses were in Matthew and not in the other gospels: an overzealous scribe-turned- disciple—a scribe is a person who was taught to copy Scripture verbatim—wanted to counter the story that Jesus was not resurrected and that His disciples took the body of Jesus, as stated in Matthew 28:12-13, and 15. “When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, “his disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were sleeping.”’ . . . And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” Just remember, this is holy speculation, even though it makes more logic than to leave us in silence as to what happened to all those holy people.

I am of the belief that when a single verse pops up that seems a bit contrary to all else said on any subject, it is best not to give it too much credence even though it is in God’s Holy Book. If you think this theory is all hogwash, give me a better reason for the above incident.

In ending, the punch line is that when the word “perfect” is mentioned in the New Testament or in this blog, most often it means some sort of Godly excellence, or the perfection that God prematurely bestowed on all true believers, and not the ultimate perfection we will receive in eternity.


Anonymous said...

A question I have is what is the story on christians that smoke cigaretts, because there is an awful lot of them that belive they are going to Gods kingdom, ? are they, because scripture says, what goes into the body(temple)does not make it unclean for worship. E.S.

JC said...

Anonymous, thanks for your interesting question.

I don’t think there is a cut and dry answer to you question. But it takes so much discipline to live up to all that Christ demands of His disciples. If a person that claims to be a Disciple of Christ and can’t quit smoking;it is indicative that the smokers relationship with Christ is faltering.

The next thing is this: what type of an example is the smoker setting for other that desire to follow Christ? Christ want us to be faultless in the eyes of the world.

Just remember, there are million upon millions that claim to be Christians and are not living in accordance to what Christ commands. The smokers may easily be in this category. althinker