Perfection is a big word. It’s a big, scary word. Why? Because nobody ever seems to attain it. It’s the one thing that everybody pursues but never seem to attain, a height that we all fail to reach. At least that’s how a lot of us see perfection. When we imagine a perfect human, we see one without flaws. Somehow the perfect man or woman shouldn’t have one single character flaw. Perfect set of teeth, not too fat, not so slim, the perfect smile, an angelic voice, smart, intelligent and funny, with a great personality and rich (oh yes, that fellow much be rich). Everything must be without one flaw.
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Matt. 5:48 [KJV]
You just read one of the toughest pills for a lot of believers to swallow found in the New Testament. Why is this verse so hard to accept? Why is it a tough pill to swallow? For many, this portion of Scripture is one that is to be skipped or at best ignored. Surely no man can be as perfect as God is. How will Jesus even think of asking us to be perfect, even as The Father is perfect? Surely Jesus was making a mistake. Maybe Matthew misinterpreted what He had actually said.
God had actually given the same instruction to Abraham many years before Jesus had even been born. So, two different times, God gets this message across to us: Be ye perfect (Gen. 1:17, Matt. 5:48). God does not waste words. I usually see God as One so busy that He doesn’t have the time to just talk the way that we humans do.
So, we know that God takes this perfection thing serious. He means it. He longs to see us perfect. Hard to believe? It shouldn’t be. God never makes a demand on you that you’ll be unable to respond to. If God says, “Jump,” then believe that you can jump. He has put inside you something that can make you jump. I think that’s where we must start from in our walk: believing that we can become perfect.
My list of flaws is endless. I’m exceedingly sinful. I am the biggest failure upon the face on the earth. I can’t even sustain a relationship. I’ve lost so many friends simply because I talk too much. My anger has gotten me in trouble so many times. I’m 30 already, can anything change? Can this perfection that Jesus talks of ever become a reality in my life? My life is too much of a mess for me to even say the word.
How then on Earth can I become perfect? Okay, I believe that perfection can be attained, but how? How can this weak person ever become as strong as a lion? How will perfection come? Should I fast more and eat less? Should I pray more? Is there some magical formula that somehow make men perfect?
I think we need to understand what perfection means before moving on. In God’s eye, when is a man perfect? The answer is simple: when that corn that springs forth looks exactly like that which died.
Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over.
Jn. 12:24 [MSG]
So, He expects us to look just like the corn that died in order to bring us into the Kingdom. Paul wrote in His letter to the Roman church, “God knew what He was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of His Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity He restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in Him. After God made that decision of what His children should be like, He followed it up by calling people by name.” (Rom. 8:29-30, MSG)
So, everyone does not have their own individual standard with which he/she measures his/her perfection. There is one standard: Jesus Christ. So, perfection for us today means that we look exactly like Jesus. Tough? Difficult? Impossible? Look for any word that connotes impossibility. But God never places any demand that we’ll be unable to respond to. Jesus told us to be perfect because we can and not because we can’t!
Clive Staples Lewis, Christian apologist and popular author who lived last century, wrote in his book Mere Christianity the best explanation that I’ve ever read on the subject.
That is why He warned people to “count the cost” before becoming Christians. “Make no mistake,” He says, “if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand I am going to see this job through.
Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect — until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.”
So, it’s not about whether or not you can work out your way and be perfect on your own. He’s ready to work in you. So long as you yield your members unto righteousness, you’ll be perfect. As long as you remain patient while He works in you, you’ll be perfect. Perfection becomes a thing of surrender and not of struggle.
But watch out! He’ll prune the unnecessary things from your life. He’ll strip you of some pleasurable things. You’ll lose your comfort. You might even cry so much. Surgery is never pleasant, and that’s why doctors use anaesthesia for their patients. The Holy Spirit will work so tirelessly in you and with you (it’s a partnership) until you look just like the grain of wheat that died.
So, perfection is attainable. Don’t let anyone ever tell you something different. If God said so, then it is so.