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How Can We Be Perfect?

8 Nov

I love these “perfect” one-liners:ImPerfekt_Not

  • “No one is perfect – that’s why pencils have erasers.”
  • “I’m a nobody. Nobody is perfect. Therefore, I’m perfect.”
  • “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change OFTEN!” – Winston Churchill

I was thinking about Matthew 5:48, which tells us to be “perfect.”

Is that ever possible in this world?

Pastor Daniel Harrell wrote about his efforts – along with 19 members of his congregation – to spend 30 days “living Levitically.” He describes, in How to Be Perfect, their experiment to understand some of the biblical commands in the book of Leviticus. How would Jesus have obeyed this book? How can we, like our Lord, live perfectly for the Father?

Their ultimate goal was holiness, but in the process, they discovered their “overwhelming need for God’s grace” in order to obey the book’s precepts.

Paul said, in Galatians 3:24, the law was meant to be a guardian, watching over us until the Messiah came. (Some scholars say the word is “school master” or “tutor,” but too many envision a tutor-taskmaster with a big stick, trying to keep someone in line! The clearer translation of the word paidagógos is guardian or trainer.) In the ancient world, a legally-appointed paidagógos took care of a wealthy family’s children (until the children matured), guiding them toward maturity and helping them make wise moral choices.

Paul was saying the law was given to protect us until the Messiah would come to justify us by faith. Another function of the law was to show sinners their dreadful condition without the Savior. No one can keep the law well enough to be right with God (Galatians 3:11; Romans 3:10-12).

But it’s important to remember: The law was meant to be a servant, not a cruel taskmaster.

So the scriptures teach us, the law was put in charge of us to lead us to Christ. The Holy Spirit used the law to convict sinners and illustrate the need for Redeemer and the mercy of God. But after faith in Jesus comes – when we receive Him as our Savior and Lord – we are no longer in need of this special “guardian” (Galatians 3:25-26).

Harrell wrote: “… The Levitical month ended up not being about our ability to obey enough, but about our ability to trust God enough to live the life He’s determined to be the best life to live.”

How do we live a life “set apart” to God so it shows up every day? What in our lives points people to the Lord?

It is Christ in His resurrection power living in us, not the power of the law, that makes the difference (Galatians 2:19-20).

The conclusion of Harold’s book?

“By His grace we are saved. By His grace we obey. It’s the only way to be perfect.”

Being perfect is all about God’s grace. It’s about his gracious work in us …

  • giving us a Savior,
  • changing our hearts,
  • encouraging us to live righteous lives, and ultimately,
  • making us like His Son in Heaven.

Are you resting in the wonderful grace of God today? It’s the only way to become “perfect.”

– Dawn

Don’t Be a ‘Fakey-Fakey’

1 Feb

A rather pompous-looking deacon tried to impress upon his class of boys the importance of living a godly Christian life.

“Why do people call me a Christian?” the man asked.

After a moment’s pause, one youngster said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you.” *

Unfortunately, the world often has a right to call Christians hypocrites. People are watching us – what do they see? We might be able to cover up our inconsistencies for a while, but phoniness can pop out at the most unfortunate times.

If we love Christ, we need to demonstrate how he has changed us. There is no room for hiding behind inflated views of self.

If we fake our godliness in pride, how will the world see the power of the Gospel in us?

I remember a poor girl in elementary school. She always pushed her “better than” lifestyle, and tried to make the rest of us in the class look poor, ugly or stupid. In today’s vernacular, she was a first-class bully.

But one day, in something of an “Emperor’s New Clothes” moment, she was exposed for her hypocrisy. A classmate discovered she Hypocrisy_FakeyFakeydidn’t have wealthy parents as she’d claimed.

The girl was horrified as a classmate taunted her with a sing-song name that stuck: “You’re a Fakey-Fakey. You’re a Fakey-Fakey.”

It’s a name that I use for my own set of hypocrisies (and we all have them). When God’s Spirit points out an area of life where I’m not “walking the talk,” I look in the mirror and say, “Stop it! Don’t be a Fakey-Fakey!”

The Bible says a lot about hypocrisy (for example: Matthew 6:1, 5; 7:5; 15:7-9; Luke 16:15; James 1:22-25). We are especially cautioned not to have “the appearance of godliness” (2 Timothy 3:5) while we deny its power by our attitudes and actions. We are instructed to “put away” (cast off) hypocrisy (1 Peter 2:1) and live as faithful, true servants of God (Luke 6:46).

What does hypocrisy look like? People think they’re not phonies … but a heart-check might tell a different story.

Carl Laferton, Senor Editor at The Good Book Company, wrote an article titled, “Six Ways to Look Godly While Not Growing Your Faith in 2014.” Laferton said he battled six hypocrisy issues in 2013. Then he found six other issues. Intrigued by the title, and seeking some motivation for growth earlier this year, I read both articles.

Here, in summary, are Laferton’s points from both articles – 12 ways to look godly when you’re really not … ways to look godly while your faith is stunted. My comments are in parentheses.

  • Regularly go away for the weekend and go to a different church. (No accountability that way.)
  • Be too busy doing ministry to pray or read your Bible daily. (Busy… self-inflated ministry … undisciplined. Ugh.)
  • Think hard about how sermons apply to others. (And let them know.)
  • Talk to work colleagues and friends about church, but never about Christ. (Why risk offending people, right?)
  • Use family as an excuse for not committing to ministry; and use ministry as an excuse for not serving your family. (Escapism from a biblical, priority-focused life)
  • Buy Christian books and put them straight on your bookshelf. (Makes one look wise, but shelved books don’t change the heart.)
  • Multitask your Quiet Time. (A quick Bible read and prayer, then on to other pressing things: shopping list, vacation plans, whatever.)
  • Ask for prayer without praying yourself. (We delegate the prayer list without depending on God ourselves; and it’s a way to look humble.)
  • Confuse talking about application without actually doing it. (Wanting people to think we’re open to change and living truth, but we’re really not. Ouch! This one is the preacher/teacher/speaker/writer’s challenge!)
  • Only do ministries that are noticeable and enjoyable. (Laferton says when we enjoy service and getting noticed, it doesn’t feel like sacrifice. There’s a reason for that. We’re usually not sacrificing.)
  • Refuse to accept encouragement. (Don’t accept appreciation … you’ll sound “modest;” and the person will likely feel the need to praise you again. Laferton calls this “humility points.”)
  • Rearrange the Christian books on your bookshelves. (HA! Save some money and don’t buy new ones, but scatter the ones you bought last year around your house, Laferton says. Be sure they’re open so it looks like you’re actually reading them.)

Now granted, his points are bit sarcastic, though true – or maybe it’s just my comments. But didn’t you say “ouch” with me on one or more of them? OK, get real – many of them?

Seeing our hypocrisy is half the battle. God wants us to know the problem. And then, faith that God can change us, a desire to be like Jesus (pursuing growth in character) and resulting action (obedience) will give us victory in overcoming our phoniness.

What can you do to change so you won’t be a “Fakey-Fakey” this year?

* Humor adapted, http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/h/hypocrisy.htm

Graphic adapted from Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

– Dawn

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