The Problem with “Instant” Perfection

false-holiness

When I was a newly born believer, I was so shocked that God did not instantly make me a perfect Christian. There was still this albatross around my neck called “the flesh,” even after experiencing the love and closeness of Christ in my life and even His healing miracles. Why didn’t He just do the “Tinker Bell” thing with His magic wand and make me an instant “super Christian’? I soon learned that the Christian life is a life chastened by trials and that God’s work of bringing forth His Son in us is a lifelong process.

Over the years I have asked Him why He chose this slow agonizing way to bring forth Christ in us. He has shown me that because of our Adamic roots, we have to learn obedience to the Father by the things that we suffer, often the consequences of doing it wrong. Even Christ chose to come in the form of a lowly servant.  We reason, “but wouldn’t God have made Him more useful for His purposes if He had come with the power of a Roman Emperor or High Priest?” No, He forsook that kind of power to show us that a man born of a woman in the lowest social position can overcome everything that is of Adam and learn obedience to the Father through suffering.

So why is it that God does not make us like the angels, perfectly obedient to Him? The answer can be found here in this description of Satan:

You are the anointed cherub that covers; and I have set you so: you were upon the holy mountain of God… You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, till iniquity was found in you… you have sinned: therefore I will cast you as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy you, O covering cherub… Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you have corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor: I will cast you to the ground, I will lay you before kings, that they may behold you. (Ezek 28:14-17, KJ2000)

How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, who did weaken the nations! For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the farthest sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet you shall be brought down to sheol, to the sides of the pit. (Isa 14:12-15, KJ2000)

If one of God’s perfectly created beings could be corrupted by his own beauty and wisdom, how much more we who have been born in the likeness of sinful Adam?

God has chosen to bring forth upon the earth–the very domain of Satan–a Son who was first a helpless baby and then a man who had “no form or beauty that any man should desire Him” (see Isaiah 53:2-3). He was the proto-type of many sons and daughters He would bring into full glory by overcoming trials and weakness through faith in His Son.

This life of weakness and living death, dear saints, is for one purpose—so we learn that except for the grace and mercy of God working in us, we would be our own worst devil, capable of the worst sins and pride. God has already lost a third of the angels to this delusion of worshiping their own greatness and perfection and He is making sure that we have the mind of Christ and not Lucifer in His kingdom. He is working by making us weak, humbling us so that we rightly assess our old natures, despise them, and call on Him to do whatever it takes to bring forth the spiritual maturity of His very own Son in us. He wants an unconditional surrender to His perfect will and for us to abide in His wonderful love. We love Him because He first loved us and gave everything He had to save us from ourselves.

So What Is “Perfect” for Us When it Comes to Fellowship?

As I was mulling this over this morning, it became evident that our idea of perfection and God’s idea of perfection are not be the same. Jesus was made perfectly obedient through the things that He suffered. He was also made perfect in love while surrounded by doubters, sinners and twelve disciples who often didn’t get what He was teaching them. To one of them He had to say, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” In all honesty, they ALL desired the things of the typical Jewish male — for Messiah to come and set up a worldly kingdom with them in charge — not so different from another one who said, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God [the angels and the people of God]: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation”? Some of us have come across that delusion, first in bad church leadership, and finally having to admit that it was in us!

No, dear saints, God uses our imperfection and humanity so that our “iron” sharpens another saint’s “iron” and we call out for Him to form His perfectly forbearing love in our hearts. God puts us with other people (even in marriage) who are not perfect, but that have been made “perfect” in their imperfections to be used by His power to change us! Even Jesus cried out, “Oh you of such little faith. How long must I suffer you?”

In God’s wonderful plan He has been able to turn the tables on Satan by using our flesh to humble us and work forgiveness in our hearts for others just like us. Like Joseph said to his brothers when they came before him in Egypt, “But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.”

Body life in the body of Christ is not something perfect in our way of thinking, but it is perfect in His if we live in close enough proximity to one another and dwell together in transparency. Fellowship is designed to bring us into His perfection as we work through our own imperfections and those of our fellow saints. John wrote:

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:7-9, ESV2011)

Dear saints, may we look upon the imperfections in one another and see the hand of God working. It is easy to find fault with one another, but it is best to look for those things that are “…true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things… and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Phil 4:8-9, KJ2000)

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We Are Saved by His Grace!

sun-and-cloudsBut you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
(1 Peter 2:9 RSVA)

The longer I live (I am over 70 now) the more I see that walking by faith is totally a gift from God. This gift is called “the faith of Jesus Christ.” Paul wrote,

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith OF Jesus Christ, even we have believed in [grk. eis – INTO] Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith OF Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16 KJV – emphasis added)

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but rubbish, that I may win [gain] Christ, And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith OF Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: (Philippians 3:8-9 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Did you see that? The faith of Christ is the righteousness of God! How does one get Jesus’ faith and become righteous? Jesus told the Jews:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. (John 6:44-45 RSVA)

Yes, our heavenly Father teaches us as He draws us with His Spirit. We also know that God rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11 RSVA)

Even we who are evil by nature can come to our righteous Father and ask Him for the faith we need. God is the originator of everything good, and all things were made by Christ, including the faith by which be believe. Paul wrote,

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether [they be] thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1:16-17 KJV)

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, has made us alive together with Christ, (BY GRACE you are saved;)” (Ephesians 2:4-5 KJ2000 – Emphasis added)

“For BY GRACE are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJ2000 – Emphasis added)

And James wrote:

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. (James 1:16-18 RSVA)

It might seem like I am splitting hairs here, but saving faith is not of us! It does not come by us listening to a carefully devised sermon designed to play on our emotions, either. It is by the will and the grace of the Father that we are saved. He places the faith of Christ in us by the power of His grace. This might come as a shock to many of you, but we are not saved by reciting some magical incantation called a “sinner’s prayer.” Show me anywhere in the Bible where anyone prayed a sinner’s prayer! Jesus is the Bridegroom and He is the one who chooses His bride, not the other way around. Paul wrote about his own salvation experience as follows:

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: (Galatians 1:15-16 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Who caused Paul to be born? GOD!

Who called Paul by His grace? GOD!

Who revealed His Son IN (not to) Paul? GOD!

Who chose Paul’s calling? GOD!

His grace moving upon and in us is where our faith to believe into Christ and Christ in us to do the Father’s will comes from and not by anything we can generate within ourselves or by the persuasions of men, either. Paul wrote:

And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:3-5 RSVA – emphasis added)

Dear saint, is it any wonder that the church of today so resembles the world and is so powerless? Today’s ministers most often rely on their own power and wisdom (or that of another in a pulpit commentary) to do God’s work. Very few portray weakness or fear in the face of the faithful; instead they polish their skills of Greek oratory and homiletics and strut their stuff on Sunday morning. Millions have come to the marriage feast of the Lamb wearing their own garments, not the wedding garment of Christ who is their Covering! They say; “I got saved by Billy Graham!” “I answered an altar call given by Pastor Wonderful!” “I said a sinner’s prayer in 1972!” Sorry folks, salvation is not at all about all those extra-biblical things the church so proudly points to today! And it most certainly is not about innate “goodness” that “we chose Jesus.”

“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” and while we are yet sinners God moves on us with His breath of Life and gives us the life of Christ. It is by His empowering grace that we believe and totally trust in Jesus to be Christ in us. We trust in Him alone to do those works that Father has ordained from the foundation of the world for us to walk in.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 KJ2000 emphasis added)

What is left for us to do? If the “us” in us is the old un-crucified Adam, there is one answer: “Die!” If our “us” is “Christ in us the hope of glory,” we have one thing to do, and that is rest (See Hebrews 4:9-11) while He does the works through us. This is summed up in Paul’s words, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

One more thought. Where do the love of God and the Spirit come in with this dynamic we call resting in Christ? Paul wrote,

“For we through the Spirit [the empowerment of His grace] wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which works through love.” (Galatians 5:5-6 KJ2000 Emphasis added)

Through the Spirit who abides in us we wait! We don’t run out and try to earn our salvation or keep ourselves saved by doing good works. As we wait upon and have confidence in Christ in whom we live, He moves on us and in us with His love. From that love, the works we are to do become evident, and are empowered by His grace. We are birthed by the Father in Christ, and because of this, “in Him we live and move and have our being…for we are His offspring” (See Acts 17:28).

“…observe, again, that the phrase ‘Rejoice in the Lord’ has a deeper meaning than we sometimes attach to it. We are accustomed to speak of rejoicing in a thing or a person, which, or who, is thereby represented as being the occasion or the object of our gladness. And though that is true, in reference to our Lord, it is not the whole sweep and depth of the Apostle’s meaning here. He is employing that phrase, ‘in the Lord,’ in the profound and comprehensive sense in which it generally appears in his letters, and especially in those almost contemporaneous with this Epistle to the Philippians. I need only refer you, in passing, without quoting passages, to the continual use of that phrase in the nearly contemporaneous letter to the Ephesians, in which you will find that ‘in Christ Jesus’ is the signature stamped upon all the gifts of God, and upon all the possible blessings of the Christian life. ‘In Him’ we have the inheritance; in Him we obtain redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins; in Him we are ‘blessed with all spiritual blessings.’ And the deepest description of the essential characteristic of a Christian life is, to Paul, that it is a life in Christ.” ~ Alexander MacLaren – http://biblehub.com/commentaries/maclaren/philippians/4.htm

It is His grace moving upon us, His faith within us we rest in, His love that moves us to act and His Spirit that empowers us—and never are any of these things of ourselves, but only are they ours as we abide IN and have put on Christ. What a great salvation our Father in His love for us has given us, that we should be called the children of God (See 1 John 3:1). Amen.

The Greatest in God’s Kingdom

Washing feet

 

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded… When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:3-17 RSVA)

I just read a blog posted by a sister that has been learning what true greatness is in the kingdom of Heaven… Not what you might think! It is cleaning toilets and scrubbing floors. Yes, learning that the greatest in the Father’s kingdom will be the slave of all (Mark 10:43-46 RSV), THIS is true leadership… leading by Christ’s example, not that of Church hierarchy today. God has done the same thing in my life, made me a willing servant to all, but where it really shows up (or not) is in my own home, serving the one who knows me best, my wife.

God started me out serving my brothers and sister by fixing broken toilets and replacing the old nasty ones with new ones and roto-rooting out sewer pipes for months on end as part of a street ministry to hippie kids that got saved and were being put-up in old broken down houses that needed a lot of fixing (my job). I was not paid a thing other than the wonderful experience of being around God’s kids and being loved by them. Mind you, before God changed my heart I was a red-neck hippie hater, but He chose THIS way to work Christ deep into me (he chooses the foolish things to confound the wise and the week to confound the mighty. I did this kind work among these people for over six years in the early ’70′s).

Many years later my wife and I were serving in a church as the janitors and during a crowded “worship conference” they put on, some guy went in the men’s room and did a big nasty in the toilet and plugged it up and then flushed it twice more for good measure so that the brown chunks were floating over the bowl and out of the bathroom and down the hall toward the auditorium. The pastor came and grabbed me and said, “Here! Clean that up!” Well, I started in on mopping it up and wringing the mop out by hand in a bucket and got it beat back into the bathroom when I stopped, heart broken, and said to my wife who was standing guard to keep people from walking in it, “Dot, I was doing this same thing over twenty years ago! Nothing has changed!” To this she replied, “Oh, yes it has! YOU have changed!” Right then the presence of the Lord came down over me like I was standing under a waterfall of love! It was one of the most memorable moments of my life.