Bless the Lord

Matthew 5: 48

Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

What a crazy thing for Jesus to say! Has he met me? Jesus had many crazy things to say. Having been brought up hearing many of his statements, we are somewhat less shocked, but imagine being in a crowd hearing him make that statement for the first time. Even equating us in any way with the heavenly Father was heresy.

How about this one, verse 22, “You have heard . . . You shall not commit murder . . . but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty.” Jesus even said condemning another as a fool was enough to warrant punishment in fiery hell. What do you think of that? Can you imagine seeing Jesus publicly deliver this message? He also said that a man who looks at a woman with lust in his heart is guilty of adultery.

Jesus came teaching a different way. The people of his time did not know what to do with him. I wonder if we have caught up to his teachings any better than they. The ideas are outlandish. The key, though, is that Jesus did not teach willpower. He did not attempt to alter people’s actions as much as he wanted to alter their hearts. You see in the example of adultery and murder that there were no guilty acts. Jesus was speaking about the condition of one’s heart. He isn’t teaching us today about governing our actions. Instead, Jesus is talking about being one with the Father in our spirit selves. If our hearts are perfect towards God, sin will not be a problem. There will be no murder, but that isn’t the big point, I don’t believe, that Jesus is making.

He wants our hearts to be perfect towards God. He was showing humanity a new way to live. No longer was humankind to be bound to a set of laws, religiously following the words and admonitions. Instead, Jesus called people into a relationship with God the Father. Even his continued reference to God Almighty, as Father, irked many. In these passages, Jesus taught that what is in a person’s heart is more important than their rigorous adherence to laws and principles. Even if one had the willpower to refrain from temptation, their heart could still be corrupt. Jesus came teaching for us to join our hearts to God. He wants us to get our hearts right, to clean up the inside and as we do, he would have us draw nearer and nearer to our Father.

Perhaps this does not sound like radical teaching today. Still, we may be challenged to live with our hearts open before God, our lives intertwined with Him. I hope this passage encourages you to draw closer to Yahweh with the passion of your heart. When we go before Him do you think He will weigh our actions, our righteous deeds or will He instead weigh our hearts. Will He look to see His fingerprints throughout our lives and an invitation from us for Him to live within the very fabric of our spirits? I think Father will not be that impressed with our deeds, whether evil or good for our good deeds weigh very little and even our “sins” are not weighty in His eyes for they are absorbed in the blood of the one who is worthy. Our hearts, however, that is the one thing that He has no control over. I believe He will judge how willing we were and are to give our hearts to Him, how willing we are to invest our love in trusting Him and believing in Him. He will see whether we longed for Him or if we only held down a pew.

Let this be a word of encouragement. You do not have to be the most learned theologian. You do not need to be able to quote Bible passages. When you stand before God, you will be able to give Him the one thing that He values most, your love.

I am Perfect

Matthew 5: 48

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I bet you have heard or read this verse before. What does it mean to you? Do you know who said it? These are words from Jesus? So here is the question we must first deal with. Did he mean that we are to be perfect now, here on earth, or is this mandate reserved for heaven?

A lot of folks will argue that this only pertains to our life in heaven. I would argue that makes no sense. First of all, Jesus was not preaching to a group of heavenly residents. He was preaching to a worldly group. Second, what would be the point of preaching this message here on the earth if he meant for it to apply in heaven. Further, why wouldn’t he say, “Someday, when you have ascended to heaven who will have to work on being perfect because your Father in heaven is perfect.” He had the opportunity to clarify himself if he meant to describe heaven. Also, look at the context of all the words around this sentence. This is taken from the Sermon on the Mount. Would you argue that the Sermon on the Mount is about life in heaven? Of course not. Therefore, we must take this verse exactly how Jesus meant it and deal with it, but this is what we often do with difficult passages. We find ways to explain them away.

I tell you that you have the ability to be perfect now. It is a choice but here is the secret, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing,” (John 15: 5). Jesus is perfect. Wouldn’t you agree? So, as long as we are in him, operating through him, obeying him, we too can be perfect. Of ourselves, yes, we have no hope. These are more than words though. There is a big difference in Christians who try hard and those who have given themselves completely over to Christ. This latter group seeks to hear Christ in every step of their day and they hearken unto the Holy Spirit. It isn’t a Sunday prayer. It is a daily pursuit. It is a devotion and dedication which is realized in every waking moment. And when any of us allows ourselves, truly, to be led by the Spirit of God and allows our lives to be hidden in Christ, then there is perfection, in him. In those moments of clarity, we are without blemish, just as he is.

Our goal, then, is not in seeking perfection but in seeking the perfect one. There is a calling to all Christians to abide in him 100 percent just as he lived in perfect union with the Father. “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you,” (John 14: 20). This life in Christ is Jesus’ wish for us but it does not come from a once uttered salvation prayer. You cannot even get it by going to church for twenty years, never missing a Sunday. As Jesus spoke these words to his disciples, he was pointing them to the deeper life. He was showing them that though they were about to be parted from him in the flesh, they could live integrated with him, the Father and the Holy Spirit. He told them the Holy Spirit was come and would lead them into all truth. Jesus is the way, he told us that, but the Spirit is like those guys on street corners holding the big signs directing shoppers to sales. The Spirit is the one who leads us and teaches us. He will teach you to live completely immersed in the Father and Son when you seek Him.

This is today’s Christianity. We are in the days when going to church even a couple of times a week isn’t enough. We need to bury our lives in Christ. Each breath is delivered by God’s Spirit. Jesus is calling us to be perfect by living completely in him. You can do it. You can be perfect, and I tell you that you are perfect because the perfect one lives in you and you in him. We have to stay in him though and that is our challenge.

Think about what you think it means to truly be in Christ. Remove all the religion for a moment and strip it down to the basics. What does it mean to be “in Christ” and how do accomplish it? I can tell you this, it has a whole lot less to do with what we do and a lot more of what we allow him to do in us. I say to you that this is the key to end time faith. This is the sweet spot and our hiding place. We need to know what it means and how to get there. Be perfect because Jesus told you to. Be in the perfect one.

Put on Jesus

Matthew 5: 48

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

How many sermons have you heard on this verse? Not many I’ll wager. No, we are too busy confessing that we are “just old sinners saved by grace.” Well, let’s get a new revelation and a new confession today. Jesus said we are to be perfect in the image of our heavenly Father.

I will tell you for a start that when some ministers come across a difficult bit of scripture like this they begin to get all theological and come up with amazing theories about what that scripture means. Perhaps I am just not as intellectual as they but I suggest that we start with taking the word at face value. Words mean what they mean. Jesus used he words he meant to use when he said be perfect and just because we are theologically challenged does not suggest that they do not mean what even a child could read and understand. I think sometimes we can be too smart for our own good. Jesus thought so too because he said we must become like children. In fact he said that if we would see the kingdom of heaven we must become like children (Matthew 19: 3). So, today’s verse really is quite simple. You are to be perfect. Let’s not confuse it with a lot of theoretical gibberish. 

Since Jesus told us to be perfect he must have known a way for us to accomplish it. I would suggest that THE WAY is Jesus (John 14: 6). Paul told us to shuck off our old selves and put on the new self which is Christ Jesus: “In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4: 22 – 24). There you go. It really isn’t at all complicated. Put on Jesus as your robe of holiness, righteousness and truth. 

Now, I said it isn’t complicated but I did not say it was easy. We love to hang onto our old selves. We enshrine the “old man” on the throne of our hearts. We were taught, “It’s every man for himself” and “You’ve got to grab all you can get.” Those are heathen values; not Godly values. We are told to die to self and live through Jesus considering other people’s needs as more important than our own but what an internal revolution that takes. We must begin by choosing to lay down our lives for our Messiah. Once we do, then we can take up Christ. We put on the perfect like donning the majestic robes of the King. As long as we stay in the perfect, we are perfect. This is our mandate. This is the commandment. “Live in Me” (John 15: 4 God’s Word Translation). 

We weren’t commanded to TRY to be perfect. We are commanded to BE perfect. In the famous words of Yoda from Star Wars, “There is no try. There is only do.” So change your self-image if need be. Please change your confession if you are still calling yourself a sinner and then change your clothes. Put on the robes of the righteous one, the perfect one. Put on Jesus.