“You therefore must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
I am not perfect. I make mistakes on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. But I think that I have accepted this reality of my sinfulness and imperfection to the point that I no longer strive after holiness. This reality makes me lazy against my sin. Anyone else?
I don’t think I have ever heard a sermon preached on this verse. When was the last time I discussed strategies on how to kill sin in my life? Have I just accepted the fact that I am a sinner, and not a saint as well? Have I given up the fight, the daily, hourly struggle for holiness?
I started reading John Owen’s “The Mortification of Sin” again, and I have been reminded of the importance of this fight. He writes:
“Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you….When we realize a constant enemy of the soul abides within us, what diligence and watchfulness we should have! How woeful is the sloth and negligence then of so many who live blind and asleep to this reality of sin. There is an exceeding efficacy and power in the indwelling sin of believers, for it constantly inclines itself towards evil. We need to be awake, then, if our hearts would know the ways of God. Our enemy is not only upon us, as it was with Samson, but it is also in us….The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.”
Many Christians are uncomfortable with this idea because it seems to make my salvation contingent upon my perfection. No, this is not the case. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. At the same time, Jesus and the Bible are exceedingly clear:
Matthew 26:41: “”Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Matthew 18:8-9:”If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.”
James 1:12: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
James 4:7: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Hebrews 2:18: “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”
1 Timothy 6:11-12: “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
Daniel 11:32: “By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.”
Consider how Jesus resisted the Devil in the wilderness in Matthew 4. He said “No,” He quoted the Bible (because He had studied and memorized it!), and He told the Devil to flee. Satan is smart. He knows we desire comfort, wealth, power and fame. As Christians, we need to be ready for Satan’s lies. This means that we know the truth! This means we must memorize God’s promises of sufficiency, provision, fulfillment and holiness.
Consider what a liar and a fraud Satan is. He will come at you with all the promises he can muster, tempting you, luring you, enticing you. “This will satisfy. This will make you happy. Oh, how amazing this will be!”And then the second you give into temptation, he will turn on you, condemn you, call you a terrible Christian. This two-faced enemy must be fought and must not be trusted.
When you and I have encountered the living God, His salvation and love and power, when we are washed with pure water, named His sons and daughters, given a new name and a new heart, and given the gift of the Holy Spirit who lives inside us, we begin to WANT holiness.
Let’s obey what we know to be true: Be perfect, pursue holiness, trust Jesus, flee the devil, resist sin.
Let it be so.