A comment I continually come across goes something along the lines of the following:
Taken from an OurChurch.com forum discussing the pro's and con's of a virtual Church or the local physical Church. Name withheld Says: June 6th, 2006 at 12:38 pm. "There is no such thing as a perfect local church because churches are made up of imperfect people. Rather than bashing churches for their imperfections, how about we acknowledge that all churches have flaws and move back to the question of whether its important for Christians to be a part of a local church, flaws and all, in this virtual age."
Seems innocent enough...simply making an observation...right? So why does it disturb me so? I've heard it all my life in various forms and applications... "nobody's perfect; we all make mistakes;" some even quote scripture to support our imperfect condition as in "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." I am certainly not perfect, so who am I to throw stones? Yet I cannot escape this churning in my spirit...something is very wrong with this thinking, with this assumption, with this casual acceptance that has overshadowed the mindset of the entire Christian world. So what does the Word of God have to say about perfection?
Genesis 17:1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
Abraham, the Father of faith, had an encounter with God where God introduced Himself and then said...walk before me, and be thou perfect.
Leviticus 20:7,8 Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God. And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you.
How many of us have a clear understanding of Sanctification? How are we to sanctify ourselves, as the Lord God commanded us, when we don't even know what it means? The early Church we so want to emulate knew. And be ye holy?! Does that sound like it is optional to you?
Sanctify: H6942 A primitive root; to be (causatively make, pronounce or observe as) clean (ceremonially or morally): - appoint, bid, consecrate, dedicate, defile, hallow, (be, keep) holy (-er, place), keep, prepare, proclaim, purify, sanctify (-ied one, self), X wholly.
There are an awful lot in the scriptures concerning perfection, and the requirements of God. Those who have taken the time to study the saints of the past, that walked in the power of God and were instrumental in the great revivals of years gone by, know that they believed in and taught Sanctification and Holiness unto the Lord. It is only an unknown to this, the last generation. If we believe, then is it not our responsibility to study God's Word to us and learn what His requirements are?
Even the world in its darkness is talking about Armageddon and the second coming of Christ. The last great battle between good and evil is in the back of everyone's mind, whether they voice it or not. More and more we are discovering, that if we bear the banner of Christian, we will be asked what we believe is coming and why we believe what we do.
Deuteronomy 32:3,4 Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
1Kings 8:61 Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.
Proverbs 11:4 Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death. The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness. The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness.
Consider these three verses. "For all his ways are judgment"..."Just and right is he." We would benefit greatly from seeking to Know God, and coming to an understanding of HIS ways. "Let your heart therefore be perfect with the Lord." Could we still be misunderstanding? Could the trials that we face be part of God's judgment, sent by Him to our lives, in order to bring our hearts into perfection? Notice that the perfection is not perfect as the world judges, but as God sees into the hearts of men. Our righteousness is all that will deliver us from (spiritual) death.
For those who have an aversion to all the unpleasantness of the Old Testament, look at what Jesus has to say about perfection.
Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Sounds very much like what God said to Abraham, does it not?
Matthew 19:21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
Luke 6:40 The disciple is not above his master: that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Luke 8:14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
John 17:23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
The early apostles were very much aware; from Peter:
1Peter 1:16 Because it is written, The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them.
1Peter 5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.
James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
James 1:16,17 Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
James 1:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
James 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
James 3:2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.
1John 4:17,18 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
Why did the Apostle Paul write this to the Church in Philippi? Philippians 2:12,13 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Philippians 3:14,15 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
Galatians: 3:3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
If we could not be perfect, then why is there such emphasis being placed on our entering into perfection? Is it possible that this generation has been too quick to accept that we will never be perfect in this life?
What we are talking about is what God considers and regards as perfect... not man's standard. Man will set an ideal that is unattainable, in an attempt to absolve himself of the requirement to strive to reach it.
God is talking first and foremost about our heart condition: our beliefs, our attitudes, our willingness to obey Him. Man will try to become perfect according to his perceptions of perfection. We have an unprecedented focus today on the outer man; our appearance; superficial images. All the while forgetting that God sees the heart, He knows all of our thoughts, our true spiritual state.
2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 13:9-11 For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection. Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction. Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
The movers and shakers in the early Church had far different expectations from the expectations of the modern believer. Their focus was on knowing and obeying God; not on their outer appearance. Do you honestly imagine that when Paul and Peter crossed paths they boasted to one another about how many people had heard them speak or what supernatural manifestation God performed through them? Is it possible then, that our vision is off center? Paul gloried in his lack, his sufferings, his persecutions,
Hebrews 6:1,2 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
We would be hard pressed to find a Church or assembly in the modern world where they fully comprehend and embrace this verse. Few can even comprehend that there is more! Let us go on unto perfection ...what is that?
I spent many years in Church, and we were one of the best Churches in town, at least in our eyes. But we never went on past repeatedly, over and over, serving the same meals. We never graduated beyond the continuous relaying of the principles of the doctrine of Christ. It is small wonder that the Church is not growing, that the members are not walking in the power and authority of Christ. We never graduated beyond the milk, but remained forever in an infantile state. We never got beyond the "laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment." We were content to remain in the familiar, the accepted. Is it any wonder that Pastors are worn out? That it is necessary to bring in Missionaries, Evangelists, music groups, anything to get some diversity, some new life, some excitement back in the meetings? Revivals were more effective in convicting those who were falling away, than in sweeping new converts into the Church. Our membership never doubled, or tripled, or was even noticeably bigger afterwards. If we got one or two more regular attendee's, we felt like we had accomplished great things. There seemed to be a spiritual plateau that once attained, no further progress occurred, nor was deemed necessary. I will never forget how at the age of 17, I had been in Church all of my life, and yet I had a burning hunger for more of God. I went to the Pastor's wife, and asked her what I should do. She seemed puzzled by my question, and told me "Cathy, your saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, that's all there is, you should be helping the younger ones to get to where you are." She had no comprehension of there being anything more than what the Church was offering...no understanding of what I was even talking about. God put that hunger within, because there was so much more that He desires to bring us into. We are called to Know Him, not just about Him.
2 Timothy 3:16,17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Hebrews 2:10,11 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
Hebrews 5:8,9 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
Hebrews 9:9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
Hebrews 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
We reach a point where if we don't go on, if we don't respond to the drawing of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, if we listen to men and reject the Spirit's voice, we will stagnate. We will fall short of the mark, we will miss out on what God has prepared for us...not just in the world to come, but right here and now in this life. How many are valiantly pursuing dead works, because that is all that they know to do? How many are judging by the outer appearance, rather than seeing with the eyes of the spirit, the people in their lives and the situations they find themselves in? How many are actually fighting against and resisting the very thing that they need to go through, if they would grow up in Christ?
Hebrews 10:14-16 For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
Hebrews 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
Hebrews 12:23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
Hebrews 13:21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
We may be well versed in our Church's doctrinal statement. We may be living exemplary lives compared to those around us, according to the standards of the world. But are we just men made perfect? Is what we are doing wellpleasing in his sight?
Do we believe? Do we understand that it is in our hearts where this transforming work must first take place? I hope that after reading this, you will no longer be content to sit back and say, "well, nobody's perfect." We are all called to be perfect, before our God!
Did the religious leaders of the synagogue recognize Christ? No, they saw him as a threat to their very livelihood and power over the people. The same thing is going to be repeated in our lifetime. This is the last generation. Jesus is coming back to judge His Church, to claim His Bride, and she will be spotless, without blemish. Even now a separating work is taking place. Our standard of measurement is the Lord Jesus Christ, not any man. We are pilgrims and strangers in this world. Our citizenry is not of the United States of America, it is heavenly places. We are commanded to follow Christ, no one else. If we are not walking in a personal relationship with God, we will fall in the dark days ahead.
God told Abram, "walk before me, and be thou perfect." Did that mean Abraham never made a mistake from that point on? No, he made plenty, but his heart remained steadfast to follow God, to walk in obedience to what God told him, even when it seemed ludicrous. The Bible states that when God told Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son, Abraham laughed. Gen 17:17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? We need to know that God has no limitations. We need to believe His Word to us over and beyond our reasoning mind. God said, "walk before me, and be thou perfect." and He never rescinded the commandment.