BEING PERFECTED IN CHRIST
(*scripture references are largely not given in this piece of writing) I recommend Bible Gateway for finding them.)
It is hoped that you will glean from this page post, latching on to perhaps a sentence or a paragraph, relaxing about the fact that you may not take it all in at once.
The Old Testament, it is commonly accepted among Christians, is known as a ‘shadow’ of the new.
There is the Old ‘Agreement’, and now as New ‘Agreement’ Christians we are no longer under the ‘Old’ Agreement.
There is much we could say about this.
When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us – the greatest revelation known to man took place in the Person of The Lord Jesus Christ. (He is the Word that came to earth).
God Incarnate. The Saviour of the world. The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The Lamb of God sacrificed once for all, and not, as in the old agreement, each year.
The implications for mankind of this great sacrifice of the Son of God are phenomenal. To be forgiven, whilst another takes our deserved punishment.
The Sinless sacrificed for the sinful. So many things to be said, things too tremendous to exhaust. ‘What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did…’
The law of the Old Agreement could not make anything perfect. But the bringing in of a better (New Testament) hope did. Through this hope we draw near to God, by a new and living way that the New Testament has afforded us through all that Jesus came to do and – did accomplish.
In simple terms the law of the Old Testament, could only expose the problem, with all it’s ‘you shall nots’, but it did not provide the solution of how not to do the ‘shall nots’.
Then the day came when the son of God died to provide the Glorious answer, and means of deliverance for man, in his lost state.
It is an absolutely certain truth that Jehovah, God Almighty, The Only Living and True God, and His Son The Lord Jesus Christ are perfect, sinless, holy, harmless and undefiled.
And the law of the Old Testament exposes the fact that we are most definitely neither sinless, holy or harmless.
In the New Testament we – (our sins having been exposed to us with the old ‘searchlight’) – are still nevertheless called to ‘perfecting holiness in the fear of God’.
The imperfections of both Christian and non-Christian alike, are obvious. We blatantly fall short of God’s Glorious, sinless nature.
It seems like an impossibility, that anyone can even begin to live up to, or reach the standard of Jesus, in thought, word or deed. We are doomed to continuous failure.
‘There is none good, no not one, for all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.’ But the glorious ‘New Agreement’ gospel of Jesus Christ is the message that tells us we can be forgiven, and we can live victorious Christian lives free from sins dictatorship.
In this address I’m chiefly concerned with speaking to Christians.
I must try to restrict myself to the area of – God changing us. It is hoped that especially in the area of our sinfulness, we might understand how God goes about perfecting us, and making us more like His Son – for it is an ongoing process, that we can help or hinder God, from accomplishing in our lives.
One of the great difficulties we must face is ‘The Preacher Problem’. Who is going to preach to us, and tell us how to live and not to live? After all how can anyone other than someone sinless themselves, be properly equipped to expose the sins of others and give also an example of how to live in perfection (maturity)?
Because we know of the prevalent hypocrisy of the so called ‘religious’ who can’t wait to judge others and condemn them out of hand. Who then can we listen to? How can the guilty preach to the guilty? The blind leading the blind and both falling into the ditch.
Also it is a fact that as soon as someone mentions that we are to be blamed, or points out our faults and sins, we immediately retort : ‘Well what about yourself ?’ ‘You are one to talk’ ‘People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’ and so on.
So no one has the right to speak, who is not perfect themselves. In fact Jesus was first in line to speak out against the sins of the Religious leaders of the day, as He exposed their hypocrisy. ‘The holier than thou’ attitude of ‘I thank you I’m not (sinful) like other men’, was way up the list of things that Jesus spoke out against – first.
But here we must pause for a ‘conversely’ and say – it isn’t man’s idea to preach, it is God’s idea. God has ordained it. He has ordained that through the foolishness (to many) of preaching He would save those who believe. So who are we going to get to preach, when no one qualifies as perfect?
The answer is – Jesus must preach again!
He went to be with His Father, so that in God’s perfect timing, The Holy Spirit would be sent to continue the work that Jesus had begun, thus, The Holy Spirit was sent into the world to convince us of sin, the righteousness of God, and judgement to come. He was sent to give us Revelation, and show us the Truth. No one else can do this like Him.
Paul the Apostle says : ‘since you desire proof of God speaking in me…’
Here he reveals, that God speaks in (and through him). That’s Gods idea.
God has decided to use (imperfect – or ‘being perfected’ man…) to speak His words. In order that the Holy Spirit can take those words and give man Revelation of His Life, His Truth, His Will, His Love, His Forgiveness, and His many many other attributes.
Paul called himself ‘the chief of sinners’. He encountered Jesus supernaturally on the Damascus road.
From that day, having received Christ and His acceptance and forgiveness he then started on the pathway of being perfected. He was not perfect in outlived perfection, and we shall not be, until that which is perfect is come. (which is the second coming of Christ)
But Paul obtained mercy from The Lord, and was found faithful, and God spoke through him on many occasions.
We must know and accept of course, that Christ has done a perfect work on the cross. And regarding our salvation has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
Regarding salvation – He has made us perfectly acceptable so that every true Christian can have the peace and assurance that if they died tonight – they would live with Christ forever.
That is the power of Christ’s perfect work on the cross.
However the verse (quoted below) goes on to talk about Christians being also sanctified (set apart) this refers to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives whereby the very sinless nature of Christ takes over from our lower nature and we learn to perfect holiness, manifest in thought, word and deed.
So that what sins we still indulge in today – we don’t tomorrow. That’s being matured – that’s being perfected. That’s growing up into Christ in all things.
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
It should be added then, that although as Christians it is God-ordained that we be perfected, the paradox is – we are perfect now. Perfect in the sense that we are found ‘in Christ’ who is perfect.
So great, is the work of Christ on the cross, that despite our imperfections which are many, we (sinful) can have a relationship with Jesus (sinless) because of the blood shed for our acceptance and the enablement of the Holy Spirit.
This is based totally on Christ giving us acceptance as a gift. Salvation is a gift, not of works lest any man should boast. He sees us as perfect, even though we do not live continuously perfect lives.
We are if you like, permanently, positionally accepted as perfect in Christ. When something is encased out of sight in a shell or container, we cannot see it, and cannot comment on its imperfection.
If the shell or container is perfect, we can only see perfection. When God the Father – the Judge of all the earth, looks into the heart and spirit of the Christian He sees His Son Jesus, He sees the Perfect One, therefore we find acceptance with God through Our Lord Jesus Christ.
When He looks at me He sees, (through my acceptance of His Son), a perfect man – complete in Christ, simply because He cannot see my sin, it is covered by The Blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross.
However we are called to no longer sin, and if any one sins after becoming a Christian, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the righteous. He forgives and restores us in His Great Love when we show by sinning that sin does indeed so easily beset us.
The most important thing for the Christian, still in this ‘body of death’ that we live in – is not to grieve or quench the Holy Spirit in our lives.
So we conform not to an outward law, but an inward love-relationship, and law of liberty. The law of the Spirit of Life…sets me free from the law of sin and death, thus I am enabled to be like Christ, as He renews me in the sprit of my mind.
Because of our relationship, our fellowship, communion, and communication with our Lord, Saviour, Master, Brother, Friend, confidant, we do not wish to hurt or offend the Wonderful Son of God.
He is the one who sticks closer than a brother. It is Christ in us the hope of Glory. They that are joined to Christ are one spirit.
Now the outworking of, and the perfecting of, my walk with God begins. I have found acceptance through the finished work of the cross, now The Holy Spirit works in me both to will and to do of His good pleasure, in perfecting me, and causing me to live like Jesus.
As Jesus was in the world, so I also am to be. That is I am to walk, talk and do as He did. That’s a tall order for a man still living in an earthbound body, but increase in Christlikeness takes place as He replaces our mind with His – through the Word of God, The Bible, The Scriptures.
So perfection is given as a gift through relationship and lived out perfection begins by the renewing work of the Holy Spirit in the Christians mind and spirit so that all that Jesus has done for us is demonstrated practically as we walk in obedience and fellowship with Him, day by day.
The purpose of preaching then, is that when you as a Christian preach to me, and I listen, I must look for the Revelation of God’s voice to me directly from God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Even though I may see things in your life that are imperfect, I nevertheless must listen to hear God as He uses what you say. Of course not everything you or I say, will be used in that way. ‘Never man spoke like this man’ Jesus Christ.
But I am open to what you have to say in the belief that the Holy Spirit will use it to bring change to my understanding, and enable me to walk closer with Jesus. It is also quite a challenge to maintain my walk with God in order to hear Him witness or confirm what you might be saying as you preach the scriptures to me.
There are of course various stages of spiritual perfection. There are different degrees of Christlikeness, different stages of growth as a Christian. All these are brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s heart. It is in our hearts, spirits and minds that the character of Jesus is formed, and lived out through us, interrupted periodically by our sinful nature raising its ugly head again.
Again, no one ever spoke like the man Christ Jesus. He spoke with Authority, and not as the religious leaders of the day. Simply because he carried the authority of one – perfect in love, truth, holiness and sinlessness.
The amount of authority in a Christian’s life is directly related to his/her depth of being ‘perfected in holiness’. There are no short cuts to spiritual maturity.
If as a Christian you are like me. You will mourn over your slowness of heart to be obedient, to God’s working in your life. We are so slow of heart to believe. So slow to obey. Time and time again, Jesus through the working of the Holy Spirit, has to give me more unmerited favour, He forgives me seventy-times seven. If it were not so, I could not survive as I come before Him in prayer to ask forgiveness – yet again!
So imperfect Christians, can be used and indeed, it is ordained of God, that they should preach and teach.
Though the responsibility is heavy, and we are humbled, by our own imperfections, yet we cannot shrink from proclamation of the truth of God, imperfect though we are.
If all of us look to God, and His word to be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, – and we stay with this. Then we shall grow in the Grace and knowledge of our Saviour.
In many places in scripture we read of God’s preachers. And indeed the Holy Spirit who wrote the Word of God, has chosen Apostles, and has taken them to a place in The Holy Spirit where their imperfections were ‘suspended’ in an awesome way, and God Himself illuminated and inspired their minds to reveal His pure word.
No one will be used to write God’s word on a par with scripture ever again on this earth.
To recap and move on – we find acceptance with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The blood of Jesus Christ shows us that Christ (The Anointed One), came in the flesh and died on the cross. God the Father and The Holy Spirit raised Him from the dead. The day of Pentecost came (Acts chapter 2), and the Holy Spirit indwelt each truly believing follower of Christ.
Though He is the HOLY Spirit, yet He dwells with unholy men, because they have turned and asked for forgiveness and the Holy Spirit sees the blood of Jesus Christ covering their sin and imperfection.
All this makes fellowship with God and other Christians possible. It is the only way such fellowship can be made possible. There is no other ground for fellowship other than the finished work of Christ.
But Christians still sin – right?
That brother or sister in the church who keeps aggravating you by their behaviour, they need some perfecting do thy not?
You try to tell them, but they excuse their behaviour by referring to the fact that you too have imperfections. Which if it is true, leaves both of you at a standstill.
It is a fact that in certain situations of conflict, where you try to point out the faults of your brother or sister, they are unable to hear you properly because of their growth level.
Rather like a child who wont listen to the parent, and who thinks they know better. You try to point something out regarding a fault they have, but they can’t hear you.
(Even if you have removed the beam from your own eye first…)
Who is going to preach to them – as you too are imperfect ?
Jesus will have to do it.
But it is true that Jesus very often could not be heard by those He preached to. They hardened their minds and hearts against what He said.
So sometimes progress will not be made. We may need to walk away.
How complicated this can become, when people get into ‘tit for tat’ encounters in the Body of Christ, before long they are tearing each other apart. And non-Christians look on in bewilderment and disdain.
The church is being perfected in its daily walk, and outworking of its relationship with the Head of the church, Jesus Christ.
It will always be in a state of ‘being perfected’ in its walk. The churches spoken to in the book of Revelation are an example of the church being still with fault, and needing perfected in its daily walk in remaining areas.
We experience the work of the Holy Spirit speaking the word of God to us, to open our understanding and replace it with God’s understanding, knowledge and wisdom to the end that we increasingly live more like Jesus.
You have noticed we have a long way to go – right ?
It is not the purpose of this article to look at the inter-relating of Christians, so I shall move on to the work of God in our individual hearts.
If God can increase in us, and He can bring us to greater depth ‘vertically’ we have a better chance of perfecting our ‘horizontal’ relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In Numbers chapter 33 and verse 52, we read of the children of Israel moving into the promised land, and they are being exhorted to do some things.
We said at the beginning of this piece, that the Old Testament was a shadow cast – as it were – by the New. So that we can look to the shadow to draw parallels with the truth of the New.
The Promised Land represents the life we, as New Testament Christians now have in Christ. That is, all the promises of Christ to us, can be said Yes and Amen to!
Promised Land – result of promises. Eternal Life – result of what Jesus has promised.
All the blessings promised in this new land can be a ‘type’ of all the blessings we now enjoy as our personal relationship with Jesus increases in intimacy, in, through, and by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit wants to be so one with us that He allows us to sense (spiritually), exactly how He feels/thinks about everything we need to know.
We are called to ‘walk in The Holy Spirit’. We are meant to ‘live in The Holy Spirit’. It is the Holy Spirit who takes of Jesus and reveals it unto us. It is the Holy Spirit who literally works inside us. It is the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus who gives us spiritual gifts. It is The Holy Spirit who produces the fruits of The Holy Spirit, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, kindness and so on.
It is the Holy Spirit who reveals the truth. He sets us free to worship God. We could go on extolling the virtues of the Third Person of the Godhead, sent by the Father because of what the Son did – to us to enable us – to walk in holiness, and more and more perfectly as the day of our departure from this world approaches.
Our perfection is directly the result of our ability to learn how to walk intimately with Jesus, by the help of The Holy Spirit.
Likewise our imperfection and return to sin is the result of our failure to live in close fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
In Numbers 33/5 the Israelites are exhorted to ‘DRIVE OUT’ ‘ALL the inhabitants of the land’. When driving out their enemies, if their enemies flee, they will not be harmed. Cowardly as this would seem, it nevertheless is a given option. All traces of the religion, lifestyle, and idol worship occultism was to be removed and destroyed.
The parallel in the new testament for us, is of course, the removal and destruction of our sinful ways, failures and imperfections. And this also relates to the ‘renouncing of the hidden things of darkness’. Referring to the sins of the flesh, and the workings of demonic spirits.
ALL is the operative word here in this verse. It speaks of the removal of committed sin. It speaks of the removal of things in our lives that do not glorify Christ. It speaks of habits that we indulge in to the grieving of The Holy Spirit and the quenching of the same.
There are times in a Christian’s life when the oppression of the devil needs to be ‘driven out or away’, and many have written on this subject from their experiences in deliverance.
When a person becomes a Christian through faith in Christ, they leave their sins at the cross and enter into newness of life with Jesus. They enter ‘The Promised Land’, only it isn’t a new land, but a new relationship with God. Old things pass away and behold all things become new because of the encounter they have had with Jesus, through the salvation experience.
However many times not everything is ‘driven out’, and the residue of old sinful habits remain, and can be returned to.
Some of these things are immediately obvious, others far from obvious, they are hidden away in our psyche, and we still blindly walk by the same rule of sin.
In verse 55 of chapter 33 we read ‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall harass (vex) you in the land where you dwell’
When Jesus went into the temple He drove out the moneychangers with a Holy and righteous zeal for the house of His Father, the place of prayer and reverential awe of God.
In the New testament, no longer does God dwell in temples made with hands. But rather He indwells each believing Christian.
We are the temples of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus still wants to ‘drive out’ anything that does not allow us to live in close prayerful fellowship with His Father.
We are called to co-operate with Him in the next thing He wants to deal with in our lives.
We are co-workers together with Christ. And that co-working must begin with responding to His working in us first.
We shall always have childish behaviour to lose (when I became a man I put away childish things). God is willing to point these things out when we just don’t see them.
He does correct but never condemns.
By faith we accept His ways above our own and surrender more fully to the Holy Spirit.
Much could be added on this subject – but for this page-post, it is time to stop.
Blessings to all those who seek to please the Only Living and True God through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.