Maybe we should start with what God doesn’t require from you: flawlessness. The biblical word “perfect” (Greek, teleios) means complete, whole, mature, brought to a finished end or goal.
When Jesus said to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mat. 5:48), he didn’t mean flawless, absolutely sinless, and error-free. The sooner you divorce this mind-set and all that goes with it, the sooner you escape Babylon’s cup of toxic, spiritual adulteries.
God simply wants you to be like Him. Or, more accurately, more like Him than you already are. Even as a sinner, you’re created in His image, having more in common with Him than anything else in creation. The goal is to restore that to full completion.
So the first step to becoming more like God is to love, admire, and want His qualities. You can’t pursue what you don’t want, or what you don’t see as possible and worth pursuing. Therefore, “Love God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul” isn’t God’s demand to satisfy His ego or meet a divine need. It’s His visionary spark to jump-start meeting your needs.
God wants you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually sound, whole, complete, and mature. What does that mean? It means you can love yourself and others. Love your neighbors, including enemies, as yourself. That’s what a clean spirit, “cured” and healthy, looks like.
Obviously, not many are pursuing this. It’s precisely the narrow gate that leads to life, yet so few find (Mat. 7:14). Even Christians consider it optional or impossible, certainly not a priority. But these two commands (love God, love self and neighbor) are the foundational, core purpose for you, me, and the whole world. It’s God’s priority.
Why? What’s The Point?
God wants ruler-servants who can be trusted with dominion, who rule and serve safely and responsibly in His kingdom. That’s your place with God. He wants to increasingly trust you even with enemies. That’s where you fit with Him, the place Jesus “prepares” for you and wants you to go.
Unfortunately, the majority of evangelical leaders today teach a different purpose. First, they present a “problem”: God is too pure and holy to relate to you in your human condition. He can’t stand the presence of sin and flaw. Yet He loves you dearly. He must therefore solve your sin-problem to be near you. That solution is Jesus, or, more commonly, his death on the cross that buys forgiveness for incurable, ongoing wickedness.
So they insert Jesus between you and God. There’s a drop of truth here, so I can understand how this model flourishes even though it’s not quite correct. Jesus is the Mediator, the Holy Advocate, the Savior who abolished spiritual death on our behalf.
But he doesn’t stand between you and God. Your relationship to Him is uniquely yours—direct, pure, unfettered, and unobstructed. The Son’s relationship with the Father is uniquely his, established long before you came along. His doesn’t substitute for yours. Jesus’ role isn’t to relate to God for you or instead of you.
If it were, Father and Son could celebrate eternity all by Themselves. You’d be left essentially stuck with yourself—full of sin and blemish from which God must distance Himself, precisely the “problem” described three paragraphs ago. Jesus becomes little more than a protective layer between your sinful self and God’s flawless Self.
What’s Wrong With That?
This solution assumes a false premise: that God can’t stand the presence of sin (and therefore, you). But that isn’t the problem. The problem is that sin can’t stand the presence of God. It can’t love Him or truly want to be like Him. It distances itself from Him. It divorces Him, hides from Him, inserts layers between itself and Him. It doesn’t go away; it just buries itself deep down and festers like cancer.
If you try to put faith in a mixed message that says God loves you unconditionally, but can’t tolerate your presence without some kind of sin barrier, God’s love won’t seem real to you, and certainly not unconditional. It won’t sink deep enough to produce conviction. Then you won’t be able to love God mutually and begin repair with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul.
So incompetence and “I’m just a sinner saved by grace” are the mantras of modern Christians (including me for forty years). Sinful habits remain deeply ingrained and very few pursue Christ-like character and love because, in this model, Christ’s mission is simply to cover sin and remove guilt (forgive).
Couldn’t an intelligent, all-knowing God come up with a comprehensive solution that doesn’t leave people mired in sin begging forgiveness, doesn’t make Jesus’ blood his only value, and gets to the heart of real human need?
Yes! God’s solution is freedom from sin’s control through partnership with Jesus in a shared vision of kingdom power and love. Even now, God shares that glory throughout the physical and spiritual universe, including Earth—your country, your city, your neighborhood, your house. It can all be restored in His present kingdom at hand.
When Does This Start?
Today, rather than tomorrow, because it’s already underway. It’s only a matter of joining God in His ongoing restoration plan. That’s the start of personal repair, salvation. The goal is for humanity to come full circle, one life at a time, back to the beginning: shared dominion with God.
It requires transformation, restructuring, and lots of practice—precisely the process of completion, maturity, and wholeness of being. Perfection.
The life you’re living now is your practice arena, a starter kingdom, so to speak. God gave you say-so—dominion and charge—over how that life is lived. You get to bring that life into God’s kingdom. This includes your choices of career, relationships, recreation, finances, where to live—your entire life-style.
So instead of throwing that say-so away in misguided attempts to deny yourself, understand that God wants to trust you with it. By grace, it’s your responsibility to learn how to rule and serve intelligently. Safely, soundly, lovingly.
Whoever can be trusted with little can be trusted with more. Seek first the kingdom and everything will be added as you gain strength and wisdom. (Luk. 16:10, Mat. 6:33) It’s not that you’ll never sin again. It’s that you sin less and less, and forgiveness is less necessary.
As I said last week, this doesn’t happen to you. God won’t do it for you while you sit helpless on the sidelines. You get to participate. You get to practice and not pay for mistakes with your immortal life since Jesus secured this advantage for you.
So Where Does Faith Fit In?
A fellow Christian blogger makes a great observation that I couldn’t have said better:
One of the unfortunate afflictions of the average Christian is that the average Christian is very concerned with the simple binary heaven/hell choice without any concern for the much wider body of Jesus’ teachings.
Surely if Jesus were mostly concerned with the sort of minimal belief statements with which so many of us are concerned, then he would have focused more on those and less on ‘filler’ like the Sermon on the Mount, the Good Samaritan, the Sheep and the Goats, and all the other stuff that he spent his time talking about.” (Read his entire article here.)
Faith behaves as if something were true. Vision and understanding spark faith, which becomes behavior. In turn, behavior strengthens faith already there (but can’t create it).
Above all, faith should show you the way to love. Rather than be an average Christian, you can live as a personal apprentice—a disciple—to Jesus. You get to learn all he has to offer on abundant life and eternal training in rulership and servanthood. The bulk of that is found in his Sermon on the Mount; and what he says is true. You can take it to the spiritual bank.
Salvation is new life with God and freedom from sin’s control. Forgiveness is to salvation what birth is to life—related, but not identical. So God wants you enthusiastically involved in your own mental, spiritual, and physical well-being.
You must be involved or it isn’t authentic; and even what little you have will be taken (Mat. 13:12). Then, in a sort of kingdom karma that measures back, you’ll sit helpless on the sidelines while Christ and his followers reign in the ages to come.