Perfection. It is a goal many strive toward. We strive toward it because we are uncomfortable with our faults and shortcomings. We want our minds to be perfect. We want our bodies to be perfect. We want our jobs, our churches, our families, our very lives to be perfect.
As a result, we find ourselves stressing instead of resting.
I want to talk today about the perfection of Love and Grace. And I want to start by talking about what is perhaps the most abused passage of scripture concerning perfection:
Matthew 5:48 (ESV) You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
This verse is frequently used as a yardstick for measuring holiness by behavior. After all, God is perfect and Christ is in you, therefore you should be perfect in all your thought, speech, and action. But, as is common, this abuse comes from improper context. So, let’s look at it in full context:
Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV) “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The context here is love. Love is the Nature of God; it is what saved us. John 3:16 tells us about God’s ridiculous, scandalous, over-the-top, unconditional Love that he has for us. He dispenses this to us by His Grace, which is His Character. Grace is not only the unmerited favor of God but it is also the unlimited power of God. And contrary to popular belief, Grace does not merely allow you to endure (2 Corinthians 12:9) but empowers you to overcome:
1 John 5:4-5 (ESV) 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
How do Love and Grace empower us to overcome? By the perfecting of our spirits. When we are born of God and become Christ-conscious, our spirits become just like Jesus’! The same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us. In this regard, the spirit part of our being becomes perfect, just as God is perfect. By faith, we appropriate (take possession of) God’s unconditional
Love and Grace to empower our lives and to demonstrate it’s wonder to the world!
One important thing to note, here, is that Jesus isn’t telling us to be — or that we can be— perfect in our own strength. Through many examples, Jesus clearly shows us that we desperately need a savior. In fact, he puts this in no uncertain terms in John 15:5:
John 15:5 (ESV) I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Because Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) and we abide in Him, in Him we live move and have our being (Acts 17:28). He has seated us in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). And we cannot be seated in the presence of a perfect, holy God unless we, ourselves are made perfect and holy!
Jesus has perfected us through His perfect sacrifice. He took His Perfect Deity and His Perfect Humanity and laid it on a human instrument of torture that came to represent the vertical relationship we are to have with our Heavenly Father and the horizontal relationship we are to have with all mankind. Hebrews 10:10 tells us that we are sanctified (cleansed, set apart, made holy) by Jesus’ sacrifice. Hebrews 10:14 goes on to say that He has perfected us for all time!
How do we know that this is certain? How can we know that we are perfected? Paul wrote it thusly:
1 Corinthians 13 (ESV) 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Love never ends. God has loved us throughout eternity. He has sent the perfection of His unconditional Love and Grace in the Person of Jesus Christ to displace the imperfect partiality of the law. The law gave fear and dread but Love and Grace give power and a sound mind:
2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV) for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
When all is said and done, everything else will pass away but love will endure because God is Love!
1 John 4:7-21 (ESV) 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
God’s Love and Grace is both unconditional and perfect. And He’s given it to us to perfect us so that we may reflect Him. And we best reflect Him by resting in Him.
© 2016 – Derrick Day (www.derrickday.com)