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Monday: Perfection — 15 Comments

  1. "Good enough to be saved" That is the wrong way round!
    Why do we wanted to be "saved"?
    To be saved is first to be forgiven for our sins and then to be made righteous. 1John 1:9
    Jesus said if you think you are already good then you don't need to be saved.
    Only those who are not good need to be saved. Obviously we are all not good in our own right. Only Jesus can change our hearts to be good.

    The other side of the question - if Jesus came next week would we be saved? If we have submitted ourselves to Him then we will be saved because His righteousness covers us and makes us "good" in the Father's eyes.

  2. The answer to the question of being “good enough to be saved” is probably easy for most Bible-believing Christians. We are not. However there is another open question of ‘fitness for Heaven.’

    We are generally our own obstacles in terms of fitness, failing to allow the perfecting work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. While we may receive direct impressions, often the Spirit speaks through the Bible, inspiration, ministers, brethren, or even the unbeliever. And in order for the completing work to be done in us we need to listen.

    It seems unselfishly noble to think of those who would be well served by sermons and counsel we hear; and to an extent this is so. However we ought also to look for what God may be saying to us in the messages which seem tailored for others. This requires openness to counsel and a willingness to acknowledge our deficiencies.

    If we are unprepared to confess our obvious faults and admit the shortcomings we are yet to recognize except by a word through an unlikely agent of the Holy Spirit, then we present a barrier to perfection and completion (James 1:4).

    It does not matter how much good we are praised for or we think we have done, but rather the purifying work which Christ longs to do by His Spirit in our life (James 1:21). Those who are very active or know a lot of the word (truth) are to be especially guarded; for being right may be easily confused with being pure in heart (Matthew 5:8). God wishes to save souls and so He uses our ministry effort in spite of our imperfections and mistakes (1 Corinthians 9:27), but He also desires to restore His image in us in order to be truly reunited with us.

    O that we might give Him a chance, today (Hebrews 3:15).

  3. There may be some who have attained to perfect Christlike character like Enoch, Elijah, and maybe others who have not been written about. Just because we don't talk about our perfect character doesn't mean that it is not possible in the Spirit of Christ to attain to such. In fact we are told that God will perfect His character in His children before He comes again. This may be the way the gospel is preached in verity to the whole world--by these children with God's character.

    Shall we "watch and pray" that we don't fall into temptation so that the character of Christ can be perfected in us?

  4. Hugh, your question about “fitness for Heaven” is probably something we need to think about more than we do. A question in my mind concerning this is, was the thief on the cross “fit for Heaven?” For surely Christ promised him that he would be there and I don’t think Jesus was just blowing a lot of hot air in making that promise in spite of the fact that just prior to him being nailed to a cross he was a gruff, nasty, person who was bad enough to deserve crucifixion which was reserved only for the worst of criminals.

    Were people like Martin Luther ‘fit for heaven’ even though he obviously did many things that we certainly wouldn’t do today? A couple of observations from this old man:

    First, if we confess our sins and accept Jesus and in 10 minutes we die in a car wreck I think we would still be in Heaven because our hearts were in the right place even though we weren’t fit on the outside concerning works.

    Secondly, that happens because justification is the process that saves us; it must be because sanctification can’t deal with past sins and besides we will never be absolutely perfect in the strictest sense of the word anyway because no one in the entire Bible ever was. There is only one that is really perfect and He is in Heaven – the one we need follow and try to emulate. Justification is a process that is a declaration that considers us perfect the minute we have faith to accept Christ as our personal savior and that to me is 99% of the whole deal. The rest as far as I am concerned has to do with a willingness to conform.

    In my opinion this question of perfection and perfectionism has been a real headache for the church from the beginning of the Christian era. Paul had to deal with it, the Catholics have had their time wrestling with the issue as did the Protestants after them and now the Adventists are having their fun in trying to come to grips with the whole thing. Further, we will be dealing with it again in a week or two where I will have a lot more to say about it.

    • Tyler,
      This topic does require some understanding/thought.

      No one can count himself or herself as permanently sinless; for even after 100 years of being sinless the next moment he or she may sin. Nevertheless it is a denial of the power of God to say being sinless is impossible (Jude 1:24). Our model, Jesus did it. Did He have an advantage unavailable to us? If so, what exactly?

      That noted, the perfection we need to be most concerned about is one of attitude, or as you say, “willingness to conform.” The reason people may be saved though dying at different stages of development, including immediately after accepting Christ, is God considers direction more than stage of growth. Stage matters to the extent we have opportunity, in which case with the right attitude God takes care of it.

      God judges perfection of walk based on trajectory, and not on arrival, as Jesus’ righteousness first provides for a new start and then makes up for all deficiencies on the journey. The critical point is complete surrender to Christ, an unswerving attitude of submission to the Creator (This is built into the Three Angels' Messages). All who are fit for Heaven will possess this, and it does not matter how long they live or their level of doctrinal understanding.

      Character is measured by tendency.

      • Hugh, I had to think about what you said for more than a day because something didn't seem altogether right. It isn't what you said as such, I think what you said can easily be backed up in the Bible. After all Jesus was perfect and He didn't have anything that is not available to you or I. I also agree about what you said concerning trajectory. Yes, it is the general direction we are going in that is the basis of judgment and yes, we need to put self aside. Those things are scriptural imperatives.

        What bothered me without realizing it was the fact that you never get around to answering the questions I posed in the beginning of my comment. What about the thief on the cross, was he perfect at the time of death and will the promise of Jesus be fulfilled in spite of his condition? The Bible is clear that we are to strive to be Christ like, to put ourselves aside. But where is the focus? It is on Jesus not us. We are changed by beholding him (2 Cor 3:18) and through the promises given to us (2 Pet 1:4). There is no way we can change ourselves as Jeremiah said, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil" (Jer. 13:23 NKJV) and as Paul said of himself, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find" (Rom. 7:18 NKJV).

        You see Hugh, that is the real problem. Jesus never sinned and because of that He never had a propensity to sin, that is, a bent to sin but that is not the case with you and I. We are sinners at the very depth of our hearts. He was the second Adam who stood in the place of Adam before he sinned and the life of Christ demonstrated that Adam didn't have to sin, it was Adam's free choice to do so in a perfect environment. But that is not where we stand.

        As I have stated before, I go with the definition of sin found in 1 Jn 3:4 that says, "sin is lawlessness" (NKJV). It is the state of being without the principle of law in one's life - a rejection of law and rebellion against it. Even though Paul had trouble doing what he knew he should do he was lawful within himself and therefore considered sinless by way of justification, the declaration of God. He didn't trash law and attempted to order his life according to the principals of Heaven and follow the Spirit's guidance but his nature constantly got in the way to the point that he cried out, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God-- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 7:24 - Rom 8:1 NKJV). That is the war we have with our inherited nature and the only thing that is going to save us is faith in God and His grace to save a sinner like me. That is what saved the thief on the cross - it wasn't how good he was at the moment but rather that he accepted the promise of salvation and decided to turn the focus of his life around and be lawful rather than in the state of lawlessness.

        All of that is why we need justification far more than we need sanctification and why Paul spent his time arguing the necessity of the free gift. While we strive to do good through the Spirit we are nevertheless saved because of a promise "not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:9 NKJV).

  5. Never in my spiritual journey can I claim to be 'good enough' to be saved. One thing I can tell you though, I can always claim the righteousness of Christ as I believe and surrender to Him. His life, love and word can be trusted to be my covering no matter if I live or when I die.

    Belonging to Christ I can claim the promise that 'If I live, I live for the Lord; and if I die, I die for the Lord. So, whether I live or die, I belong to the Lord.' Romans 14:8.

    This is my comfort, this is where my confidence comes from. I thank God, my 'righteousness' doesn't have to come from me.

    • Yes, we can trust in God for our salvation. He is the source of all true righteousness in us and will perfect His righteousness in us as He promised.

      Just think. If I went to heaven in that perfect environment, there would be no devil there, but if I were there with selfishness motivating me how unhappy I would be and what a mess I would make of heaven. God would not force me to think right or do right so I would be on my own and have to live eternally in that selfishness unless I gave it up and let God's Spirit motivate me instead.

      If I give up now to His motivation how nice will it be to have "heaven" on Earth now, in my heart. And what a wonderful preparation that would be for living in heaven with others who also have given up their selfishness and accepted the motivation of God's Love as their motivation for all their life and have the character God promises us. It is our choice that allows God to do this.

  6. I agree with the other comments and these texts below support my belief:
    Rom 6:22 tells us the main thing about being slaves to God is that our sins are forgiven and at the end we will be given eternal life, however there is a current fringe benefit, God makes us holy.
    Rev 22:11 actually there are 4 different types of people at the close of probation:
    1) Those who have ignored or rejected God – unrighteous
    2) Those who are evil
    3) Those who are righteous – those who have accepted Jesus but have not had the opportunity to be transformed
    4) Those who have accepted Jesus and allowed Him to transform them into His likeness

    Rom 6:22 But now, being made free from sin, and having become slaves to God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end everlasting life.
    Rev 22:11 He that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still: and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him do righteousness still: and he that is holy, let him be made holy still.

  7. Let's go back to 1899 and read these words by Franklin Belden.

    Look upon Jesus, sinless is He;
    Father, impute His life unto me.
    My life of scarlet, my sin and woe,
    Cover with His life, whiter than snow.

    Cover with His life, whiter than snow;
    Fullness of His life then shall I know;
    My life of scarlet, my sin and woe,
    Cover with His life, whiter than snow.

    Deep are the wounds transgression has made;
    Red are the stains; my soul is afraid.
    O to be covered, Jesus, with Thee,
    Safe from the law that now judgeth me!

    Longing the joy of pardon to know;
    Jesus holds out a robe white as snow;
    “Lord, I accept it! leaving my own,
    Gladly I wear Thy pure life alone.”

    Reconciled by His death for my sin,
    Justified by His life pure and clean,
    Sanctified by obeying His Word,
    Glorified when returneth my Lord.

  8. It seems to me that the epistle of James can be overloaded with theologies of perfection and perfectionism, as a vast amount of books have been written on this topic. Reading through the chapters I get the impression that James is making a certain point over against those who overemphacized faith to such a degree that faith seemed to hang up in the air without even touching the ground of every day life. Genuine faith, he points out, is faith visible in action, which is perfection in action (James 2:14-17). Faith without action is imperfection. It seems that James is addressing those who were separating faith from works, misunderstanding the issue of relationship between faith and works.

    James also is pointing out that every perfect gift comes from heaven (James 1:17) which in context also includes willingness and performance of perfect action in the above sense. He is not claiming sinless perfection. Looking into the perfect law of freedom we are aware of our sin (James 1:25). The foundation of such relative perfection, he is further pointing out, is a new birth as a new creation compared with the qualtity of firstfruits (James 1:18). The confronting question being: What do we do with such perfect heavenly gift built on that grace foundation?

    Looking at the epistle from this viewpoint, it seems that James is preparing the way for reformation, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

    Winfried Stolpmann


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