How Can I Be Perfect?
One of the most daunting statements of our Savior was made as part of His sermon on the mount. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. This statement concludes His exhortation on loving your enemy.
Be perfect? How can I do that? I’m far from perfect, and the closer I get to God and His glory, the more obvious that becomes. Especially in the “love your enemy” department! Taken out of the context of the Gospel as a whole, this statement could easily lead one to give up the Christian faith as an impossibility. If I try to live the Christian life in solitude and in my own power, it is impossible, indeed. But that is not what we are called to do.
Talking with His disciples about how one can enter the kingdom of heaven, “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” Matthew 19:26. We cannot be perfect on our own, but when we are washed clean by the blood of the lamb we become perfect in God’s eyes. Paul wrote, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Galatians 3:26-27.
But still, how can it be that I can be perfect? I am weak and fail daily to live up to the standard God sets before us. In writing to the Corinthian church, Paul spoke of his own struggle and the response of our Lord:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
So I am not perfect and my will is weak. But Christ is strong and it is by His strength and grace alone that each day I move closer and closer to perfection. Because it is by His power, I take no credit and He is glorified. I seek His strength each day in prayer. As the British poet William Cowper (1731–1800) wrote in his “Exhortation to Prayer” (1779):
What various hindrances we meet
In coming to a mercy–seat?
Yet who that knows the worth of prayer,
But wishes to be often there.
Prayer makes the darkened cloud withdraw,
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw;
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings every blessing from above.
Restraining prayer, we cease to fight;
Prayer makes the christian’s armor bright;
And Satan trembles, when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.
While Moses stood with arms spread wide,
Success was found on Israel’s side;
But when through weariness they failed,
That moment Amalek prevailed.
Have you no words? ah, think again,
Words flow apace when you complain;
And fill your fellow–creature’s ear
With the sad tale of all your care.
Were half the breath thus vainly spent,
To heav’n in supplication sent;
Your cheerful song would oft’ner be,
Hear what the LORD has done for me.
What has the Lord done for me? He has made me perfect in His sight. He has given me wisdom, faith, grace, and love. He has taken my weakness and filled me with His strength through the power of His Holy Spirit. He continues to refine me in the fires of life to burn out the impurities and imperfections in me so that He might see His own reflection in my very soul.
Are you weak and less than perfect? That’s okay. God will do for you what He has done for me. But He does His best work when you come before Him humbly on your knees, boasting about your own weakness, asking that He fill you with His strength.
I’ve gone over this one back and forth and back and forth… this is DEEP!!!! I’ve been trying to digest what you posted. I’m still coming to terms with the simple reality of it all.
The last couple of days I’ve seen a theme across some blogs… When we see ourselves through His eyes, a whole new world opens up.
I heard a pastor ask his congregation if they could go for a whole day without sinning. Most said ‘no’ … He said it was because we believed the lies of the enemy even though Christ has called us to holiness. I never thought of that before and have been mulling over it. I don’t think your post is coincidental at all.
With blessings and gratitude,
Ann, What an encouraging comment! This is why I post – to help people think and grow, to share what God has impressed on my heart. I wrote another post on this topic a while back with a bit different focus, but I thought you might like it. It’s called Simultaneously Saint and Sinner. Peace, Linda
Thank you, Linda. That was a good read.
Alison, Thanks for stopping by. Glad you liked it. Peace, Linda
I think the enemy loves to see us get all caught up in not being perfect, to discourage us from even going to Jesus. But He came for all us imperfect people. So glad He’s big enough to handle it all!
Today . .I was late for something . . .again! One of my weaknesses . . .being late! My oldest calls me time dysfunctional. She’s right! Time to go to Jesus . . .
God bless you! deb
Deb, He did come for us unperfect people, didn’t He! What a blessing. 🙂 Peace, Linda
Amen Linda! Something I need to be reminded of on a regular basis. Blessings!
Thanks Eden. Me too! Peace, Linda