Are you perfect yet? Me either. And yet, that is the goal: not ‘pretty good’ but perfect. Really? Take it straight from Jesus:
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. “ (Matthew 5:48)
And Paul says, the reason he struggles to teach everyone about “Christ in you” (See: Don’t Miss This!) is:
“… so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28b)
You’re thinking, “If following Jesus means I become perfect, then either I’ve failed or the whole thing is a hoax.” Not to worry; Jesus’ brother, James, wasn’t perfect and he knew we all mess up:
“We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” (James 3:2)
And Paul knew he wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot.
” Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect,… (Philippians 3:12a)
But he knew that perfection was the ultimate goal:
“…but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12b)
So, what’s the deal? If no one attains perfection, how can that be the goal? Why does Paul work so hard to “present everyone perfect in Christ”? It’s the last two words, “in Christ,” that make all the difference. Perfection is something Jesus does, not something we attain by our own striving. It comes for all believers in the future, at the end of the age and the renewal of all things .
But right here and now, it is important for us to know that the word, perfect, in Greek, also means, complete. And that helps us understand. When someone trusts Jesus, Jesus completes that person by installing the essential, missing piece, His eternal life and Spirit in their soul (See: Don’t Miss This). Their connection with God is restored immediately and the process by which He will one day perfect them begins. All that has been prepaid by the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
“But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God… because by one sacrifice he has made perfect [complete] forever those who are being made holy [perfect].” (Hebrews 10:12&14 with my explanations)
So, are you perfect? Not yet. But, with Christ alive in you, you will be.
Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
James 3:2; Phil 3:12; 1 Co 13:10; Heb 10:14 & 12:2; Eph 4.13
For me this verse is the center of the Sermon on the Mount — the point of the sermon — be Telios, complete. We think of ‘perfect’ as flawless, and for now we won’t be. But we can be complete!
I like this illustration for this very topic; once Nanci and I went for a hike in the woods and came upon a “perfect” Christmas tree. It was lovely and real and full, but it wasn’t ‘flawless’. A ‘flawless’ tree is artificial 🙂
Much love, dear bro…