Matthew 5:48 NIV “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Sounds relatively straightforward doesn’t it? Be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. But there is one major problem. We can’t do it. In and of ourselves, whether we are professing Christians or non-believers, we are not able to perfectly be perfect. And although there are major differences between those who profess faith in Christ and those who do not, there is one supreme article of faith or trust for Christians that stands out from all others, which I shall get to shortly.
This verse above is taken from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”. It’s where He spells out what we are to do, as well as what we are not to do. And just in case we miss the total impossibility of being perfect, Jesus takes perfection to a whole new level when He says, “But I say unto you …” or “But I say to you …”
Most true believers in Christ, at one point in time or another, have gone through that part of our journey of life, where we knew that we weren’t perfect in all that we said or did but we thought, all things considered, that we probably weren’t as bad as some and we considered ourselves “good” people in essence. Notice I said “most of us”. There are undoubtedly some who do understand themselves enough to know that in essence, they are not “good”. Perspective is everything. How we view ourselves and others, is determined by how we look at things. Basically it is how we see things through our own eyes, where our perspective is the means by which everything else is evaluated. We are the focal point of all reasoning that we maintain.
Of course, the Bible and in particular, Jesus, changes all that. Jesus gets us to look at things from God’s perspective and God’s perspective about perfection is radically different from our own. The Law in the Old Testament was given to show Israel and ourselves, what exactly perfection is, from God’s perspective. The Ten Commandments are the basics but as we quickly learn, there is much more. And then, just in case that doesn’t sink into our consciousness, we have the Tabernacle, the Priesthood and the sacrifices. Plus we have the failures, don’t forget the failures.
Anyone who takes the time to read the Bible should quickly come to one crystal clear realization. God is holy, we are not. God spells it out for us, He tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Because our ways are not God’s ways and because sin, which is in essence, the difference between God’s ways and our ways, where our ways violate and ignore or diminish the validity of God’s ways, we cannot, in and of ourselves, put God’s ways in their rightful place, above our own ways, within ourselves, via our thoughts, words or deeds. In short, we can’t become like He is because we are not like He is. External accommodation does not change our inward reality, our hearts and minds. Hence when Jesus said, “But I say unto you …”, He was showing us the depth of this reality.
I could expound upon the promised Redeemer, the function of the Kinsman, the covering over of sin via blood in the sacrifices and many other pointers that are laid out before us in the Old Testament that paint a picture of the need for and the promise of the coming Messiah, but to do so would fill a book in itself.
But Jesus summarized it all in another verse within the “Sermon on the Mount” when He said in Matthew 5:17 NIV “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus came to perfectly fulfill, on our behalf, God’s demand on us for perfection. He and He alone is the means whereby we become perfect in God’s eyes or God’s perspective. He did for us, what we in and of ourselves, cannot ever do. That’s why the author of Hebrews 10:14 NIV states “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
Was the Apostle Paul filled with the Holy Spirit during his ministry? Of course he was. Yet Paul himself tells us in Philippians 3:12 NASB “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.”
You’ll observe that the Apostle Paul noted his own lack of achieving perfection but he also said “but I press on …”
It grieves me to see Christian brothers and sisters who are heavily weighed down by their own imperfection. And they are not alone, because I also am acutely aware and grieved about my own shortfalls. But, we all have shortfalls, each and every one of us, without exception.
Please note that I am not advocating that we walk after the flesh (continue in sin), we are indeed told to walk in the Spirit. Obedience to the commandments of Jesus are NOT optional.
But we need to realise that God’s perfection for us is Jesus. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” We are given imputed perfection now, in Jesus and future perfection in the age to come as John tells us in Revelation 21:3-4 NASB where John says ” And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Our imperfections focus on us, our perfection focuses on Jesus.
Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB states “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Note that the author of Hebrews says “let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us ….” He didn’t say entangles you, he said entangles us.
That’s why it is important to focus on “pressing on”, the direction that we are heading in, in spite of our imperfections, is what we are asked to do. We’re going to fall short, we all do in varying degrees, but we are in the process of being made holy while at the same time we are deemed as being holy, because of what Jesus did for us that we in ourselves could not and can never do.
Remember when Moses lifted up the bronze serpent? Bronze represents judgement. Numbers 21:9 NASB “And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.”
1 John 1:9 NASB “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
There’s a lesson here on who to focus on. The judgement for our sins, past, present and future, until the day we die, has been paid for in full by Jesus. He is our righteousness, He is our perfection. Focus on Him. And press on …
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!