Perfection

Perfection

Scripture: John 17:15-23, John 15:4-5, 1 John 2:6
Our society is mixed up and full of confusion, apostasy, and degrading morals. Is religion still relevant? Can we live sinless lives and be in the world but not of the world? Only as we abide in Christ can we hope to make it. Though all have sinned, we can have hope for deliverance.
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The popular news magazines are beginning to say that the American tax payer is not only fed-up, but he's angry at the frustrating problems which keep multiplying and proliferating. Crime in the street has become a national disgrace. And what could be said about the sex revolution, pornography, the credibility gap, the dictatorial labor hierarchy, and the unbelievable maneuvering of the courts to protect the criminal?

If you are bewildered by it all, friends, welcome to the club. Millions of others stand mute with wonder at what they see happening in this great land of ours. Add to it all the ridiculous apostasy of organized religion and the cup of confusion is completely filled up. A survey of young preachers, recently graduated from the Seminary, reveals that only a small, small percent feel that there is any relevance in religion. They discount the idea of personal regeneration and seem dedicated to social reform or revolution.

With theologians and religious teachers so mixed-up and skeptical, what hope is there for the poor layman who is just hungry for the Bread of Life. He wants to know how to be a Christian and serve the Lord. He wrestles with the problems of temptation and how to live a clean, pure life in a world of impurity and sin. What about that, friends? Can we hope to live in this degenerate age without sinning? What does God require of us? What is necessary in order to be saved? I think the answer is found in the prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17:15, 17, 23. "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." Now the Lord here in His prayer to His Father made several propositions. First of all He says, "I know my disciples must stay here, so I pray that you will protect them in the world. Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth." He goes on to say, "I in them and thou in me."

"That thou wouldest keep them in the world." I think of a ship. A ship is all right in the water, just as long as the water does not get into the ship. If the water gets into the ship, down it goes. The ship is dependent on the water to go, to make progress, but if the water gets into the ship, the ship is good for nothing anymore. Here we are. We find ourselves in the world. We must be in the world to accomplish the work that God would have us to do, "I don't pray that you take them out of the world, but Father, keep them in the world, do not let the world get into them or they won't be fit for the kingdom of heaven." This is the whole principle on which the Christian life is based: That the whole Bible is true and that it is the only rule of faith.

I read from John 15:4, 5: "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." Now here Christ is making them a proposition. He is telling them something that He wants them to remember afterward. He said, "You have to have your whole life buried in me." If you try to be a Christian otherwise you are doomed to failure. The roots of the vine are planted in the ground. You go along and snip off some of these branches and leave them lying there severed from the true vine, and they soon wither and die. So it is with the Christian life. You cannot make it on your own, no matter how strong you may be or how hard you may try. It is impossible except you abide in Him. The Bible says that no man has lived without sin. When a man gets to the place where he is like an embalmed mummy and says that he never sins anymore, he is desperately in need of a Savior.

Then should we say, "Well then, we can't help it, we're born in sin. There's nothing we can do about it. There's no use trying"? Even Paul couldn't say that he had never sinned. He felt the war of sin waging in his life, but he knew where he could find hope for deliverance. Christ holds out a proposition to us. He says, "If ye abide in me you'll grow." If we are cut off we will die. I think of a man who decides in his heart that he will overcome something. He is a good moral man but he feels that he should get over some things. He feels that religion is a little effeminate for him so he will try it on his own. He is a good man and has a strong will power. He attacks certain sins in his life, and that is where one man after another has fallen, he is strong and he thinks he can stop anything. He does not have any great sin to overcome, and surely these little ones he can overcome in his own strength. But when he tries to stop some of the things that he has been doing, he finds that he cannot stop. It is not so easy as he thought it was and he is ashamed. He thought he could do it without accepting Christ, and he finds that he is a slave. It takes someone stronger than the strongest man to overcome some of the tiniest sins.

Then I see another man who does not have any backbone, he does not seem to have any character, all the odds are against him. But he gets a vision of Christ, and he says, "If I will surrender all to Jesus, if I will lay all on the altar of sacrifice, I can overcome through Him." And that man whom we thought was a weakling, is strong, and no matter how hard the winds may blow, you can't shake him. "My strength is made perfect through weakness." He becomes stronger than the strongest man because his feet are planted on the Rock. One says, "I'll do it by myself," and he fails. The other says, "I'll give myself to the Lord," and he wins. Why? Because his hope is based upon the text that says, "I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me." We can break any habit, we can overcome any obstacle that may come in our pathway, if we do it through Him. But how is it done? Are we made perfect in an instant of time?

People often come along and say, "Yes, but I don't think that what you do will save you." I agree. I don't think that what you do will save you either, but I know that what you refuse to do will condemn you and make you a lost man. People would throw cold water on those who try to serve the Lord, they say, "Oh that isn't going to save you." That is all true, but refusing to obey and do what the Savior has commanded will cause you to lose eternal life. We call them sins of omission. A little boy once defined sins of omission by saying, "They are acts that we should have committed and didn't." One thing we must ever bear in mind is that we will be held responsible for what we know we should do and didn't. What we do won't save us, but what we refuse to do will cause our destruction.

1 John 2:6: "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." That's fair enough? When John wrote this letter he said, "If people want to come to Jesus and want Him to save them, the least they can do is to walk as He walked." We ought to be willing to do the same things that Jesus did. We are trying to find salvation for our own souls and surely we ought not to say that the path that He walked in order to save us is too hard. If He was willing to walk it for our sake, ought we not to be willing to walk as He walked in order that we might find salvation and eternal life? I reach my hand toward heaven and say, "Lord, I can't walk the path alone. Here is my hand, take it and help me."

My friends, while you are climbing along the Christian pathway, God will continually open new light to you, as long as you do not refuse light that He has already given. If you find new light in God's Word, follow it. If more light comes, let it shine on you. I don't think that I know all the Bible that I am going to find out. There are times, if we are determined to walk as He walked, that we will come to things which are not convenient to follow; they are not what we have been used to doing; we have to start pruning, and it's painful to prune from our lives. Walk as He walked! That's all this Christian experience is.

Now comes the question. Can a person be sure that he is ready for salvation? You can be sure that you would be saved if the Lord should call you right now, if you are living up to all the light you have.

Here we are. We are walking along with Christ. We are making progress. Then someone comes along and points out something that we're doing that we shouldn't be doing; or something that we should be doing that we aren't. We hate to have to change our old ways, but we say, "Lord, I've decided to follow you and I'm going to walk as you walked." As long as we keep on going with the Lord, we are saved. But then I come along a little further and I see something else. I never saw that before ... but I can't change my mind so soon. I just never was brought up that way, and I think I just can't change. Why, friends, it isn't a question of changing your minds or not as you choose. It is a question of either changing your mind or changing the Bible. If God could have changed the Bible He would not have sent Christ to die, and if God could not change the Bible to save His Son, how do you think He can change it to save you? You cannot change the Bible, it has come down through the Dark Ages, through the Reformation; it has suffered persecution and still it is unchanged. Why should anyone think to change it? If you refuse to accept that light that has been given you, you can go no further spiritually from that time on, and you are lost, unless you change! Salvation consists in walking in the light that you have and accepting all the light that He sheds on your way as you travel on from earth to heaven. That is what Enoch did. He could not understand all that he read and saw, but he said, "Lord, you're walking that way and I'll walk with you", a wonderful picture of cooperation between heaven and earth.

Matthew 5:48 says, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Oh, what a request! If Christ had even said, "Be perfect as I am perfect," but He said, "Be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect." The devil comes along and points out that verse and says, "It's too hard. Can you do that? Why take chances on losing everything? Why not enjoy this life? You'll never be able to be perfect enough to go to heaven anyway. Why try?" So many people stumble over the suggestions from Satan.

I see a dandelion growing in the spring. I examine it. I see it is a perfect dandelion. That dandelion is a perfect creation of God. Then I go into the giant Redwood forest. I see a great tree. I look at it and I say, What a perfect specimen, absolutely perfect! But that giant tree is in no wise more perfect than that dandelion. That little plant is just as perfect as that giant Redwood.

Another way to look at it is this: Here is the great copy book, and here is the life of Christ. I try to make my copy just like His. As long as I keep my copy the same as the copy that He has given, He will accept it. I thank God for that. We are to be as perfect in our sphere as God is in His. Peter pictured it as a ladder; Enoch as a walk.

I want to read you a text from Moffat's translation. Luke 6:40, "A scholar is not above his teacher; but if he is perfectly trained, he will be like his teacher." Isn't that a beautiful text? He is not above his teacher, but if he is perfectly trained he will be like his teacher. My little boy used to bring his arithmetic home and it was written in scrawly letters and figures; it looked as bad as mine used to look. You had to strain a little to see what it was and yet written at the top was 100%. Why did he get 100% when I could hardly even read it? Oh, the teacher didn't look at the writing when he graded arithmetic. The answers were correct. Does that mean then that my little boy knew all there was to know about arithmetic and higher mathematics? Why no. But he had a perfect paper so the teacher marked it 100%. So it is, my friends, with Christ. He rates us perfect if we are following all the light we know. It may sometimes look bad to others who know more, but if we are doing each day what He has pointed out to us, He marks it perfect. Growing! That is the thing. What if the child would say, "Well, now teacher I am sorry, but I have my own method. I think it will eventually get me to the same place and I would rather do it in my own way." What would the teacher think? What must God think as He see so many choosing their own ways?

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