September 20, 2013

Be perfect as God is perfect?

It has been said that true discipleship means I should always be involved in life in such a way that what I do cannot be explained by any other reason except that it happens by the power of God.

Elihu said to Job, “How great is God—beyond our understanding….” (Job 36:26) The average person doesn’t understand His power. To them, prayer is a puzzle. To them, successfully rebuking rising flood waters in the name of Jesus (as some did in the High River flood) is a puzzle, never mind that the name of Jesus has such power.

To them, a changed life is also a puzzle for they cannot imagine people being transformed. Without faith in Jesus Christ, the human mind cannot see that He is God the Son, God appearing in human flesh that we might know Him personally and in that knowing, begin to understand the greatness of God. Such knowledge is beyond mere human comprehension.

However, Christians can also be stopped in their tracks by the ideals of the Christian life, ideals that appear beyond us. When Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), the disciples may have shook their heads and stroked their beards in total bewilderment. How can this be? How can I be perfect like God is perfect? This command makes me shake my head.

Yet in context, Jesus was talking about being generous to all. As Oswald Chambers puts it, my natural life has affinities; some people I like and others not so much. However, I must never let those likes and dislikes rule my Christian life. If I walk in the light as God is in the light, then He will give me communion with people for whom I have no natural affinity. That is a puzzle but in Christ, also a possibility.

Notice Jesus does not lift up other people as an example of this, but God Himself. I am to live in such a way that my attitude toward others is the attitude God has shown toward me.

Oh my, I have been forgiven much! He has given me grace beyond all expectations, generous love that makes me weep for joy. When Chambers says I am to be “therefore perfect” then this is the perfection he means.
He also says that God will give me ample opportunities in actual life to prove whether I am perfect as my Father in heaven is perfect. That is, to be a disciple means that I deliberately identify myself with God’s interests in other people, that I love others as He has loved me, and I will get many opportunities to do so.

It is only because the Holy Spirit has transformed my life that I can display His characteristics in my life, not merely good human qualities, nor merely my own efforts to try to be godly. This means the supernatural can make godlikeness happen in me through His grace and power. This works out in daily life and cannot be explained by anything else except that God is doing it.

Today’s regular devotional reading adds to this call to perfection with a call to courage and sacrifice. Loving others requires both. As I bow in humility before the Lord, He offers me a new capacity for life. Like the saints of old, this capacity makes possible the conquering of kingdoms, the application of justice. They gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of flames. Their weakness was turned to strength, they became powerful in battle, and they loved the unlovely in the great courage God gave them.

What is true of this courage is true also of sacrifice. For them, it was not a showy and fanatical sacrifice, but spiritual discipline, self-renunciation, the esteeming of others better than one’s self. Such suppression of self is practical stuff, not barren sentiment, and it is wholly unexplainable.

Besides making a true disciple of Christ into someone who lives like God in love and courage, His power can make a Christian like God in another way; we can be a puzzle like He is, unknown and unknowable. If I live in utter obedience, then those around me will not be able to figure out what makes me tick.

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