Thursday, December 6, 2012

Perfect, Perfect, Perfect




Scripture


Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12 NASB)
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
(Philippians 3:13 NASB)
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:14 NASB)
Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;
(Philippians 3:15 NASB)
however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
(Philippians 3:16 NASB)

 

Observation


How we hate hearing the word perfect, because in our usage of the word -- we will never be perfect human beings. We make mistakes, we are too fat, we get mad at our spouses, etc. etc. But over and over again Paul uses the word "perfect" but always in a sentence where he says that we have to keep pressing on. How can you be perfect, and yet have to keep moving on toward something more?

Paul's understanding of perfection and the 21st Century western understanding of perfection are two radically different ideas. Paul's Jewish understanding of perfection was that the created vessel would fulfill the purpose for which it was created. For a human, to be made perfect was to have the image of God restored in you -- because that is the purpose for which you were created -- to be a reflection of Jesus Christ to the world. But what happens to a reflection when it gets closer to the object which it is reflecting? The image doesn't change, but the size of it does. Having been made perfect -- having been restored in the image of God, the perfect reflection of Jesus is evident in our lives, but this is just a part of the journey. Now, throughout the remainder of our lives, we, together with Paul, are to press on toward the goal which is Jesus Christ. I keep straining toward him, I keep seeking his face, I am continually turned in his direction and I keep pressing on. I do not move backward, I forget what is behind and my desire is ever only and always Jesus!

 

Application


How do we keep Jesus before us on a daily basis? This is the challenge of the Christian walk and it's why Paul was continually reminding his converts of the need of daily discipleship. We may turn toward Christ, but that is only the beginning. The Christian life is one of continual growth and we must be active participants in the journey. How do we do this? Through the practice of spiritual discipline. First and foremost is the practice of prayer. Prayer must be a daily feature of our lives and we need to ask God to help us become like Paul who prayed continually. How is that possible? By the development of an attitude of prayer in our hearts and lives. We are to be in constant contact and communication with the Lord! He is our guide and companion on a daily basis. How else do we grow in him? By reading the word on a regular basis. In this way we know how to live our lives.  We must read the very handbook created for this purpose. We are to take the word into our hands on a regular basis and ask God to reveal to us what we are to learn and how it is to shape us. We are called to fast as well, and finally, we are to be imitators of Christ. How did Jesus live out his life? How should we be living out our lives on a daily basis?

No, I don't like that word perfect because it conjures up the wrong picture in my mind, but Jesus IS perfect in all ways. For me to be perfect is for him to shine through me -- Jesus, the perfect One! Therefore it's not impossible to be made perfect in this lifetime. We are to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. We are to reflect Jesus, the perfect One, to this world that so desperately needs to see Jesus. And we are to never stop the spiritual journey -- we are to be ever growing and drawing closer to him. Gregory of Nyssa actually said that he thought it was a sin to NOT be growing spiritually. That is our calling, as God's people, to take responsibility to keep facing the right direction and keep climbing toward Jesus, The perfect One!

 

Prayer


Lord, may this be a day of drawing closer to you. Amen.

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