(2 Corinthians 7:1)
Many times I have written that the purpose of the Christian faith is aimed at making believers perfect. In Christ we have the ability to become perfect, and we are told by Jesus Christ that we MUST become perfect if we are to stand before God.
Jesus made tis comment as one of the teachings in the sermon on the mount, saying, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) Perfection was not indicated as a suggestion for us. He did not say it would be nice if we could be perfect. Jesus told us clearly that you MUST be perfect.
So given that this was a command of the Lord, we need to seek and find the way that this can be done. We are fortunate that the work of perfection is not ours alone, but we still need to seek how this is to be done in Jesus Christ, and to understand what this perfection is. The verse in 2 Corinthians 7:1 gives us some clues.
Becoming Perfect in Body
In this verse we see that there are two levels of perfection that are essential if we are to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. We have to learn to become perfect in body and spirit.
To be perfect in body does not mean that we need to have the body of an Adonis or a Venus. If that were the case there would be very, very few people who could achieve bodily perfection. It’s a bit like fashion designers who create clothing only to suit super-models. The only people who will ever look like a super-model are the super-models. Real people do not look like that!
Becoming perfect in body then is something different to physical perfection. To be perfect in body is about changing your behaviour and how you act in all situations. It is about rejecting the things that are sin or will lead to sinful ways. It is about rejecting the addictive behaviours that lead to destructive tendencies that include things like gambling, drunkenness, party spirit, carousing, lustfulness and the like.
Becoming perfect in body is to be cleansed of all such actions and behaviours and replacing them with temperance, self-control, and strength. This is what Paul is referring to when he wrote in this verse about cleansing ourselves from every defilement of body.
Becoming Perfect in Spirit
Becoming perfect in spirit is more difficult again because it goes to the core of who we are.
Many people in the world have successfully overcome some of the defilements of the body where they have been able to reject bodily addictions through sheer force of will. If we look at recovering alcoholics or those who once were dependant on drugs, it is sheer force of will that enables them to turn their live around. And many do this without coming to Christ, although even in the Twelve Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous one of the key steps is to recognise there is a power greater than yourself.
But it is virtually impossible to become perfect in spirit without the hand of Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit in your life.
No person is able to perfect themselves in the sight of God without Jesus Christ. No person can even fully understand what perfection looks like in the eyes of God unless and until they come to Christ, because it is only through Christ that the perfection of the Father is revealed to mankind.
Becoming perfect in the spirit is about overcoming your thoughts. All of your thinking must be perfect, for it is in the spirit of each person that the true essence of who we are exists.
It is in our spirit that “we are.” We are literally a spirit, clothed in a fleshly body. The fleshly body ages and dies, going back to the ground from which it was created, but the spirit of every person continues on until the Final Judgement when God will determine who lives and who dies. The Final Judgement is when God will consider the lives of every person upon this earth and determine who will continue on into eternity with Him and who will die never to live again. Mankind suffers the first death being the death of the flesh in this world, but this second death after the final judgement is the death of the spirit.
How Do We Become Perfect
So the important quest now in this life is trying to find out how we become perfect in body and spirit, and thankfully we do not have to do this alone. God has established the pathway to perfection through Jesus Christ. It works (very briefly) like this.
- We accept Jesus through faith and repent of our sins.
- We are baptised into Jesus’ death and by faith believe we have truly died with Him, taking His death as our own.
- Through faith in our baptism we believe we are set free from sin and set free from the law.
- God gives us the free gift of righteousness by faith through grace when we believe the above
- We have hands laid on us to receive the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues.
- We use the power of the Holy Spirit to walk in the Spirit any time thoughts, desires, lusts or temptations come to overwhelm us.
- Walking in the Spirit takes every thought captive and destroys the evil thoughts
- As we progress and learn in Christ Jesus, walking in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit transforms us by degrees into the image of Christ
- We learn to walk in love as God’s love is poured into us through the Holy Spirit and so we slowly become perfect in Christ
And any time we fall or fail during our walk, because God has given us the free gift of righteousness by faith, and He never takes it back, He overlooks our errors as we walk in repentance to cleanse ourselves of every defilement of body and spirit.
It is not something that will happen overnight, although there is a form of perfection that DOES happen in an instant. When God gives us the free gift of righteousness by faith, He is in fact saying to you, “You are now perfect in my sight through believing in Jesus Christ.” We actually receive perfection through faith when we believe, because if you are righteous, then you are perfect.
But this perfection is only by faith and not by fact. The description above is the process for becoming perfect by fact, and it is a long journey. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring us into perfection by fact and it may take this whole lifetime and longer until we receive it.
The reason God gives us perfection by faith is because He will not have sinners in His presence. The Bible tells us we are separated from God by sin. So in order for God to help mankind to be reconciled to Him, He had to establish a means by which He was prepared to help man become perfect.
That process is what we call grace, where God overlooks all our blemishes, even while we are still learning, growing, stumbling and falling. It is by grace that He gives us perfection by faith through the free gift of righteousness by faith so that when we believe, He is prepared to step in and bring us to salvation.
This is the process of becoming perfect in Jesus Christ. It takes us beyond the perfect we receive by faith and leads us forward so we become perfect in fact, not by our will, strength or power, but by the power of God in His grace.
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