Matthew 5:48 used to put me in chains.
Be perfect therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:48
In college, this verse led to so much pain in my life. Instead of realizing this verse was to show us that we could never measure up to the perfection of God the Father, I made it my standard.
Now, yes, the Bible is replete with references to being holy because God is holy, of striving to live worthy of the call of God. That being said, the Bible never expects us to be perfect humans in our own strength. Let me say that again and make sure you see both sides of that statement.
The Bible never expects us to be perfect humans in our own strength.
Oh, how I missed this message in the Scriptures.
Instead of allowing my imperfections to drive me to the power of the Spirit, I allowed them to shame me of doing things that now embarrass me. Let me lay it out for you.
I put my faith in Jesus and what He did for me on the cross on December 24, 2000. I was seven years old.
What this means is that the vast majority of sins I have committed in my life have come after putting my faith in Jesus. So what began in college was a process of dealing with that sin in an unbiblical way.
I would live for Christ, having verses about being perfect always on my mind and heart. Yet over the course of weeks and months sin would pile up in my life. Instead of repenting of it and accepting grace, I would naively and foolishly simply restart my life with Christ. This would look like buying a new journal, buying a new Bible, buying a new Bible study or Christian book and simply beginning afresh (this often involved getting rid of those things that I had previously been using for my spiritual life).
My life was all about being perfect and shoving sin back down into my heart by simply pretending like I was starting afresh. To talk about it in Christianese terms, I made private rededications to God dozens of times. The first few days of a ‘rededication’ would be absolutely great. But then the weight of all of my sin would come crashing back down on me.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Two years ago, while in Phoenix, God spoke through my now wife and through His Word to tell me clearly the following: stop running, accept grace. All of my rededications didn’t have the power to change a stinking thing in my life. When faced with the reality of my sin, I was running away from the very One who had died in my place, the very One who I could find rest in.
Stop running, accept grace.
Maybe you are somewhat like me. Maybe you are constantly under the weight of the call to be perfect. Maybe you are trying to be that perfect man or woman under your own power. My encouragement to you is found in the following verses.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. – 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:4
Even typing this up in my office brings my heart to worship. Oh, how I wish I had searched the entirety of Scripture for what it says about being perfect.
Let’s meditate on 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 together.
In that passage, someone is doing the following:
- Sanctifying you completely
- Keeping your spirit blameless until Christ comes again
- Keeping your soul blameless until Christ comes again
- Keeping your body blameless until Christ comes again
Is it you?
The Scriptures make clear that it is God, the one who calls you, the Faithful One, who does this work in your heart and life.
HE. WILL. SURELY. DO. IT.
That gets me animated in preaching, teaching, and in this case blogging.
HE. WILL. SURELY. DO. IT.
That verse does not say, and you will surely do it. You will keep yourself blameless and holy. No! It says He will.
I just had the temptation to run down the hall of my church. This seriously gets me so excited.
The pressure is off my tiny little shoulders.
We are called in Scripture to be perfect and holy.
But this is not on our strength.
No, it is done by God, and according to James 1:4 it is often done through the difficulties of our lives. This is a small reminder that everything in our lives, including the rough parts, are used for His glory by making us more like Him.
I wish I could tell you that I have never felt the urge to run since God called me out of my rededication addiction in October 2016. I wish I could tell you I have perfectly embraced the reality that I will not ever be perfect under my own strength. That’s not the case. But looking at my shelf right now and seeing two years worth of journals is a reminder that I’m no longer running from the past.
Yes, you are called by God through Scripture to pursue holiness and Christlikeness. It is an active thing. That being said, it requires resting in the finished work of the Faithful One on your behalf.
The pressure is off your shoulders.
The pressure of perfection was placed on Jesus Christ and He accomplished what we could not.
You are called to be blameless and perfect.
HE. WILL. SURELY. DO. IT.
In His Name,