Monday, 27 August 2012
PERFECTION VS. EXCELLENCE
Jesus taught us we are to be perfect but Paul tells us he has not attained perfection. How do we reconcile these two differing views? Who do we follow?
Jesus taught: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
The Greek word ‘perfect’ found in Matthew 5:48 is ‘telios’ which means ‘brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness’.
The word ‘finisher’ found in Hebrews 12:2 is also from the same Greek word:
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and finisher (perfecter) of faith” (Hebrews12: 2).
We know Jesus is perfect and perfection is a desirable goal for the believer.
But is it possible to attain perfection?
The greatest apostle who ever lived, Paul, has this to say:
“I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done” (Philippians 3:12-14).
However, it does not mean that we are to throw in the towel and cease striving for excellence.
In fact, we should view the Christian life as a race in which discipline and perseverance are required – just as Paul pummeled his body (brought it under subjection) in order to win the race:
“I don’t run without a goal. And I don’t box by beating my fists in the air. I keep my body under control and make it my slave, so I won’t lose out after telling the good news to others” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).
To advance towards perfection, we need to have strong grounding in God’s word so that we can live by it:
“But you must never stop looking at the perfect law that sets you free. God will bless you in everything you do, if you listen and obey, and don’t just hear and forget” (James 1:25).
More than just milk, we need to take meat because “solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14).
We also need the other members of the body with the five-fold ministry gifts to build us up till we “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
Sometimes God uses trials and suffering as tools to perfect us:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
Finally we must recognise the role of the Holy Spirit in our spiritual transformation. Head knowledge of the Word is not enough:
“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18-19).
These days when we are so used to instant noodles and coffee (especially three-in-one), we are apt to think that we can achieve “instant sainthood”.
But just as the conquest of the Promised Land was achieved gradually and progressively, so too will be our journey towards perfection. In fact, it is a life-long process.
Let’s strive for excellence though we will not attain perfection this side of eternity.