October 8, 2015

Can anyone be perfect?

Ezekiel 17:1–18:32, Revelation 7:9–8:13, Job 34:16–30, Matthew 5:43–48

Imagine a perfect woman. She is not only beautiful but does all things in exquisite perfection. Her home is flawless. Everything she does is done with charm and grace.

Now imagine her children being total brats. They track mud on the carpet, throw their food around, and backtalk her every chance they get. What does a perfect mother do with children who do not listen to her or obey her? Would she be perfect if she did not call for those same qualities in her family?

Those who criticize the Lord God of the Old Testament for His wrath concerning sin would be wise to consider His perfections. What should He do with the segment of creation that refuses to be what they were created to be? Does He ignore them? Does He give them a fatherly pat and excuse their rebellion? If He did, He could He be a perfect God?

Through the prophets, God spoke to his rebellious children. He said, “He despised the oath in breaking the covenant, and behold, he gave his hand and did all these things; he shall not escape . . . . As I live, surely it is my oath that he despised, and my covenant that he broke. I will return it upon his head. I will spread my net over him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon and enter into judgment with him there for the treachery he has committed against me. And all the pick of his troops shall fall by the sword, and the survivors shall be scattered to every wind, and you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken.” (Ezekiel 17:18–21)

Why does God care about whether we sin or not? Why can’t He leave us to live our own lives the way we want? The answer is that perfection is perfection. Anything that falls short cannot be part of it. Sinners must be separated from God and His kingdom, otherwise they would defile it.

This is why God says: “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die . . . . Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” (Ezekiel 18:20–23)

Even in the OT, faith in God is demonstrated by behavior. His children were not behaving well and God calls them to gain a new heart. He says, “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone . . . so turn, and live.” (Ezekiel 18:31–32)

Other than using it to accuse Job, Elihu warns sinners that they cannot hide from God either: “For his eyes are on the ways of a man, and he sees all his steps. There is no gloom or deep darkness where evildoers may hide themselves . . . . He strikes them for their wickedness in a place for all to see, because they turned aside from following him and had no regard for any of his ways.” (Job 34:21–22, 26–27)

We cannot become righteous by our own efforts. It is a gift from God when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, the ultimate Lamb of God. Only He can clothe us in His robe of righteousness. John saw this in a vision of heaven: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’  . . . . They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9–10, 13–14)

Those who are righteous live in a way that demonstrates the perfections of God. In Matthew 5, Jesus described this is how we ought to be: “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.” (Matthew 5:43–48)

Apart from Christ, I cannot be perfect. With Him, I can claim His perfection as God’s gift to me. Thank you, Jesus.

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