by Pastor Bob Miller
We have been focusing on this BEING EXPERIENCE of being a Christian which results from the fact that Christ has come to dwell within us. Paul said in his letter to the Colossians, “Christ in us, our hope of glory.” There is this great mystery that has taken place where Christ Himself brings all that He is, and He comes to dwell within us. He did not come to simply show us the way. He said, “I am the Way.” He came to BE the way to us. He did come merely to give us LIFE! He is the LIFE…and when we have Him we have life! We talked about this Life – as being much more than just getting up in the morning and doing our time here on earth. Jesus described this life as that of having ETERNAL LIFE! It Is a life that is full and complete. It is what flows out of our BEING in relationship with Jesus!
Life is the by-product of the presence of Jesus “being” in you. Therefore our experience as Christians is described as the presence of God – working and living inside of us…A Christian is not one who “does” but one who “has!”
This morning I want to continue to look at this BEING experience… and I want to begin by sharing with you a startling statement regarding this STATE OF BEING in which we are called to live into. It is found in Matthew 5:48. We really don’t know what to do with this statement. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus says, “Be perfect” and then He goes on to say that this perfection is to be like that of our Father who is in Heaven. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The standard is Godlikeness!
Wow! There are two things about this that we just can’t get away from. The first is that Jesus is the speaker. The One whom we confess to be our Savior and Lord…The One who is full of Grace - is the one who calls us to this high standard! If it was someone else – then I might think: Well, he made a mistake, he is exaggerating to make a point! But this is Jesus!
We’ve got to pay attention.
Secondly – there is that word “PERFECT” which stares us straight in the face. We cringe at that word! “It puts up such a HIGH STANDARD…that it is impossible for us to attain too and so we conclude that it must mean something else.
Of course, we want to rationalize…we know we shall be like Him when we get to heaven…and so we write his statement off as that which we will one day realize when we get to heaven and then, that’s when I shall be perfect!
But that isn’t what Jesus says! He says: “BE” – that is a “present tense” state of existence. He isn’t pointing down the road…this is NOT something you are to strive for or to attain at the end of your journey. This is a description of what a CHRISTIAN ‘IS.’ It is what He is calling us to in the Here and now…not in the “sweet by and by.”
We might rationalize: ““If the standard is being like God, then no one can arrive. It would mean that as Christians we have been given a standard that is so far out of our reach that we would be living with a constant guilt complex and doomed to constant failure. We would tend to throw up our hands in despair, declaring, “What’s the use.”
But Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. He knew that we could not make it, on our own….and so that is why He came! And He spoke to us of His indwelling Spirit, whom He would send who would “be perfection” within us! Alone we could never “Be Perfect”…but with Christ living in us it becomes possible. Jesus is not only the Standard of the Law, but He is the Keeper of that standard within us.
Only Jesus was Perfect. Only Jesus lived without sin. Only Jesus was able to live that kind of life. But yet He says, “You be perfect as your Heavenly Father is Perfect.” He is our pattern for living!
Now, Jesus’ statement in verse 48 is the climax of a whole section of teaching which began in verse 17. In verse 17 Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."
Jesus starts by telling us that He has come to fulfill the law of Moses! He relates to us that the law or (standard) of God has not been done away with. He has not come to tear them down or do away with them. Rather the Law of God is fulfilled in Him. This means that Jesus has taken the entire Old Testament law and wrapped it up into a package called “HIMSELF.” He lives out God’s standard.
In Leviticus 19:2, when the Lord is giving the law to Moses, he says, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.’” God then gave Moses a list of laws on what it looks like to be holy! He concludes by saying in verse 37, “Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am the Lord.”
“Be ye holy…for I am holy” came from our Heavenly Father in the very beginning! Jesus hasn’t changed God’s call. He has come to fulfill it….and reveal what HOLINESS or PERFECTION truly looks like when it is lived out. He says, “If you want to know how to live, you must live as I live.”
His total life must be your total life. His manner of living must be yours.
The standard is Jesus.
(I don’t know about you…but I like to choose who to measure my righteousness against…in doing so, I can get comfortable - I see a person, and I compare myself to them…and I think: “I’m not half-bad! -I don’t do half the things they do!”…and so we measure our righteousness by the standard of our world! But our standard is not man – it is God! That is what Jesus is saying)
Now in fulfilling the law and bringing it into Himself, Jesus does two things. First He intensifies it, making it more binding than it ever was in the Old Testament and SECOND, He internalizes it... That is, Jesus drove the law (standard) into our inward parts.
In the Old Testament the emphasis of the law was outward obedience; now it is an inward motive. The Old Testament law emphasized our external actions. Now the fulfilled law concerns itself with the internal purity which resides in a person’s heart. For it is the heart which controls our actions.
Note that Jesus did not instruct us to do perfect things…. Instead, His instruction was to “BE PERFECT.” There is a vast difference between the two. This perfection is a “Being” state. The call is: “be perfect” not “perform perfectly” There is a vast difference between DOING AND BEING… To do is simply legalistic conformity to a set pattern, but to be is an inward compulsion of motivation - from which flows the actions of what is REALLY at work inside that person.
TO DO demands only rote action, but TO BE is the challenge of proper attitudes behind the action.
To Do is simply the absence of a wrong deed, but TO BE is the aggressive action of a burning heart.
TO DO is nothing but duty, but TO BE is “love shared.” This is the call of Christ on our life. We must not settle for the absence of wrong…rather we must actually BE WHAT WE HAVE BECOME!
We could, with much effort and diligence, keep the laws of God but still find ourselves far away from the heart of God! The Pharisees spent their lives trying to do just that. But they found themselves far from the center of God’s heart. Outwardly they looked good – inwardly they were “dead.”
Jesus then starts off by giving us 6 examples – I believe they were trouble spots where we’ve become comfortable – “doing” but not “being.” The first example he spoke about was in verse 21 where he says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ People were patting themselves on the back saying: “Well, I’ve never done that…so I’m good”. Yet in their relationships, they are holding grudges and working to destroy and put-down one another. They held hatred in their hearts…and so Jesus says: “I tell you are not even to think evil in your heartless you break the law.” This is the PERFECTION He is calling us to.…It flows out of our heart and our attitude. Being PERFECT is having God’s heart implanted in our being…so that what flows out of our life is the very actions that would flow out of the heart of God.
And Jesus is the fulfillment of that law. And so when we allow His Spirit to fill us and work through us, we become what He has made us to be! What He wants us to do is to totally surrender ourselves to Him and allow Him to keep His law through us. Holiness is not achieved in terms of quantity of outward activities; rather it is a quality of inward life which begins in our inward state of “being”!
Moses in his experience with a burning bush learned a valuable lesson. As he approached the bush, a voice spoke out to him, instructing him to remove his shoes due to the holiness of the ground.
No doubt Moses wondered at such a statement. He’d been over that same ground many times before. It was just “ground like any other ground.” But suddenly it was holy! The reason was the presence of God. When God got on the scene, holiness was a result, even in the ground. Holiness is a derived experience. The ground got its holiness from the “being” presence of God.
This is precisely what Jesus is trying to tell us. Being perfect will come because He has fulfilled the law and He has come to indwell us. PERFECTION COMES FROM ALLOWING CHRIST TO BE WHAT HE WANTS TO BE WITHIN US.
Our responsibility is surrender to Him… allowing Him to fulfill the heart of the law in and through our lives.
As we surrender to Him – He then is able to live through us – so that from within our heart will flow the will, the desire, and the power to be like Him!
Now don’t be surprised by the fact that as you live this surrendered life – that it becomes evident to you – from within your being that you are not loving as Jesus would love…that you are harboring hatred…that you’ve been proud of “Keeping the Law”…but at the level of your attitude you harbor unforgiveness. It is at these points that we ARE CALLED TO SURRENDER and to let Jesus change our heart and to be our perfection. You say – how do we do that?
In the same way that Moses was called to take off his sandals for He was on holy ground…. So we do the same! Taking off his sandals was a sign of reverence and respect. But it was also a sign of surrender. Without his shoes…in the desert…Moses wasn’t going anywhere. He was at the mercy of God. This is about “being” in His presence…
When we see that our heart or attitude is not lined up with Gods…take off your shoes and let him cleanse and fill you. He will then produce the proper action!
Be Perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect!