How Good Must I Be? (2)
How Good Must I Be? 2
We will never be perfect in this life, but the perfections outlined by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are still those toward which we seek to grow and that we will increasingly attain by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
When Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). He was saying we should all make an effort to be more like His example. That means likewise, “If you love me you’ll keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Thus again I say, a 15-second insincere prayer for salvation is insufficient. It may be enough to keep you from condemnation and the 2nd death but might not be enough to lift you into a higher condition in The Heavenly Kingdom.
How good must a person be to stay saved?
I am a sinner. Nothing I will do will ever be perfect. What can I do to be saved and to keep saved? Since self-efforts will not save us, we must receive the perfect righteousness that God has provided in the atoning substitutionary death of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).
Only the LORD God is perfect, and He works to perfect sinful man.
How does God work to perfect sinners? There are three Biblical facts we must keep clearly in mind.
- We are sinners, and there is no denying that fact. Sin is an offense against God, and He cannot ignore it. Sin has to be dealt with completely according to His just standards. This is why God the Father sent God the Son to die for our sins. Jesus bore the penalty for our sins in full, and canceled all claims of God’s justice against the believing sinner forever. God punished our sins as Jesus was tortured to death! “By one sacrifice Christ has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Heb. 10:14).
Do you believe upon Jesus Christ as your Savior?
Romans 10:9 New King James Version (NKJV)
9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:9 New International Version (NIV)
9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
I have written at length about the true gospel, but this is the most important statement of it. I cannot be clearer than this.
How perfect must a Christian be? The Christian believer must guide his life by the perfect, ethical standard of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “You are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
- The second principle we must keep in mind is that from the moment we believe on Jesus Christ as our Savior, God begins a work in us to perfect us in this life. At the new birth, we are given a perfect standing before God in one sense, but it is also true that we are far from perfect in our daily life.
The apostle Paul distinguishes between two ways the word “perfect” is used in the New Testament. In Philippians 3:12 he writes, “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” (Philippians 3:12).
Paul has in mind here absolute perfection – God’s perfect standard, absolute spiritual maturity, fully-grown just like Jesus Christ. It is the same idea that Jesus Christ spoke of in Matt. 5:48, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
In the next sentence Paul tells us that even though he has already been declared acquitted before God on the basis of his faith in the atoning sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, he is still in the need of practical daily work of being perfected in Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:13-16 New International Version (NIV)
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Following Paul’s Example
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
Spiritual maturity, (verse 15) indicates the stages of growth, hence, perfect in growth at certain stages. Even as an elderly Christian, Paul had not arrived to sinless perfection, but he did not give up, and make excuses for sins. All of his guilt is covered by the payment of Christ on the cross.
The penalty has been removed, but God is still at work in his daily practice of holiness. Paul is not getting better and better so that one day he can say he is without sin in his daily life. God has provided for us in His saving grace a provision for cleansing of sin and restoration of fellowship in the Christian’s life (I John 1:8).
- Our ultimate sanctification (setting apart as not common) or what the Bible calls glorification will take place when we are presented perfect just like Jesus Christ, and it will take place in the moment of our death. God’s work of perfecting the saints will take place when we see Jesus in glory and not before then. At that moment we will be presented to God the Father sinless and complete (1 John 3:1-3). We never know that perfection in this life. We will in the likeness of Christ be pure and holy in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, wisdom, humility, obedience, etc.
What God began in your new birth, He will continue to work on throughout this life until He has perfected us and presents us perfect to the Father. What God begins, He always finishes (Phil. 1:6; Rom. 8:24-29). God will not give up on any sincere believer. He will keep on perfecting us until the day when Christ comes for us.
The more we make ourselves available to God and The Christ the deeper becomes our awareness of that intimate relationship with Him. The life we live, we live by sincerity and faith in the risen Christ.
Dr. Stephen Newdell, drawn from inspirational notes at http://www.abideinchrist.com
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