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How Perfect Are Christians Supposed To Be?

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 nasb

Today’s verse has been a hard one for me. “Be perfect…” Yeah, right. Like I can be perfect for even one minute. Unfortunately, it’s not happening. As I prepared for today’s session, I discovered a freeing bit of truth. My idea of perfect was skewed. I expected a kind of perfect justice, one in which I would never sin and would do everything exactly correctly according to the way God does it. My body would never fail. Evil thoughts would never enter my mind. Wrong actions would not proceed from my heart to my hands. It wasn’t my reality and it never will be.

I was wrong.

Question:Does God expect us to be sinless this side of heaven?

​No. But He expects us to try.

The word translated as “perfect” is teleios (1) and comes from a root word meaning “to set out for a definite point or goal.” It indicates one who is complete in both virtue and integrity, mature. In a way, we strive for perfection by imitating the characteristics of God.
Every commentator I reviewed agreed on one thing. The example of perfection we should follow is that of God’s perfect love.
Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, built to this point by introducing the characteristics of the Kingdom of God. He presented it not from the perspective of the Jewish leaders of the time but from the perspective of God. It’s a “this is how it should look” explanation and a model to which believers should adhere.
Let’s take a few moments to review Jesus’ plan for His followers as outlined in Matthew 5.

Characteristics of the Kingdom of God:
Attributes of Kingdom Citizens:
(Matthew 5:3-12)
They are blessed or happy, not because their circumstances are perfect but despite their circumstances. A “saved” person is:

  • poor in spirit and free of pride
  • mourning over sin but comforted by repentance
  • meek/gentle
  • deeply passionate about personal righteousness, not about personal “rights”
  • exhibits mercy in action
  • pure in heart and eager to remain pure
  • peacemakers
  • persecuted (they rejoice even in persecution)

Function of Kingdom Citizens:
(Matthew 5:13-16)

  • Salt (preservative/restraint for society)
  • Light (illumination of God in a dark and perishing world)

Standards of Kingdom in comparison to Mosaic Law:
(Matthew 5:17-37)
Sins of the heart (thoughts, desires) and sins of the hand (words, action) are both sin.
Anger = murder
lust = adultery
covetousness = stealing
oaths = blasphemy

Question: Is anger and the root of bitterness it creates optional for believers? Is hate? Lust?

No. Jesus does not offer us the option of keeping a few favorite sins. We cannot continue as baby believers, coddling sin and immaturity, if we want to be like Jesus. Hate, anger, lust, coveting, oaths and any other of our favorite sins are not options for citizens of the Kingdom of God. We must choose both freedom and holiness.

Perfection in the Kingdom:
(Matthew 5:38-48)
The Kingdom standard is two-fold and includes love and forgiveness. They replace hatred and retaliation in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

God gives rain and sunshine to the just and the unjust. He allows gladness of heart for all. God’s perfect love extends to His enemies, so we don’t get a pass with our enemies, either. are to not only love our enemies but do good to them.

In Matthew 5, the idea of perfection does not mean sinlessness. Clearly, kingdom citizens hunger and thus for righteousness. (Matthew 5:6) There’s no need to hunger and thirst for what you already have but for what is lacking. Instead, perfection follows a description of God’s perfect love and it is for that level of perfection we must strive. Perfect love is the second slap, the extra mile. It is grace and mercy in action.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, (Ephesians 5:1,2) tells us we are to imitate the love of God so that our lifestyle is that of sacrificial love. He goes on to say we are not to behave as the world behaves but to learn what is pleasing to God (Ephesians 5:10) and do it.

There’s a problem though. Even trying to act in a manner pleasing to God can be a challenge, can’t it? Praise God, there’s hope. He not only understands the difficulties of our frail flesh, He made provision by giving us the Holy Spirit to help us live with God’s perfect love. We will only achieve perfection in Heaven but, with our Helper to convict and direct us, we can make a good start.

Spend time today asking God to shine His light on an area of unconfessed, un-repented, and un-relinquished sin in your life. Confess the sin and commit to allowing Him to root it out. Take every thought captive concerning the sin and take action to remove it from your life.

1. “G5046 – teleios – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (NASB).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 19 May, 2020. https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5046&t=NASB
2. “G5056 – telos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (NASB).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 19 May, 2020. https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5056&t=NASB