Summary: This message is the first in a series that deals with some of the difficult sayings of Jesus. This message examines Jesus' call to be perfect.
There are times when people including Christians say some very strange things. Often we hear someone say something that stops us in our tracks. For example, have you ever heard something that sounded so strange or outrageous that you asked yourself, “Did I really just hear that?” I really believe that Jesus often had this effect on people. Throughout the Gospels there are many times recorded that Jesus said things that more than likely left many of His listeners asking, “Jesus said what?” Over the next several weeks we will be looking at several of these hard sayings of Jesus. These will be words that will even cause us today to stop in our tracks. We are going to begin this series with Him telling us to “be perfect.” On the surface that sounds like a next to impossible request. Especially, when we look at our lives and see how far we are from reaching that standard. In fact, the Bible is constantly reminding us that we are not perfect. Statements such as, “There is no one righteous, no not even one,” serve as a stark reminder of this fact. So why would God ask us to do something that is impossible for us? To get a handle on what Jesus is saying we need to put the statement into its proper context. When we do this the statement will become much less outrageous and much easier to embrace. In fact, we might even say, “Wow! I just might be able to do that!” Today, as we examine closely these difficult words of Jesus, I believe that we will find some very timely truths that we can apply to our lives.
I. The first question we must answer is, “What exactly does Jesus mean by perfect?”
A. Bringing a difficult word into perspective.
1. The dictionary defines the word perfect this way, free from any flaw, faultless.
2. When we think of the word perfect this is usually the definition that comes to mind.
3. When you consider this common definition it is easy to conclude that Jesus is asking the impossible.
4. The Greek word translated perfect is the word teleios.
a. This word is commonly translated as “mature or full grown.”
b. The definition for this word is, “the state of being complete.”
5. When we start viewing the word “perfect” in this light it seems to be a little more doable.
B. This statement has to be viewed within the context of this whole section of Scripture.
1. Too many people are guilty of pulling out just one verse from a passage and building a whole doctrine around it.
2. The Bible was not originally divided into chapters and verses. In fact the Bible was written in paragraphs much like a letter.
3. When you study the preceding material in this passage you discover that what Jesus is talking about is for us to strive to display the character of God not just in our behavior but in our relationships.
4. While sinless perfection is beyond our reach. Living a Godly life is a Biblical concept that is very attainable.
5. In essence, our love for God must be so strong that we will be willing to bring every area of our lives under His Lordship.
6. Paul shed some light on this in his letter to the Ephesian believers.
7. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2—NIV 2011)
II. The second question we must answer is, “What exactly is Jesus expecting out of us?”
A. Perfection is not determined by obedience to a list of rules and regulations.
1. Jesus is showing that holiness is not about strict adherence to all the rules. It is about developing a heart that is totally devoted to Him.
2. Throughout this “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus repeatedly shows that the Law always points to the perfection and holiness of God. God is the ultimate standard.
3. Matthew’s concept of perfection has to do with imitating God’s love and behavior.
4. Although the Kingdom ethics that Jesus teaches in the “Sermon on the Mount” seem quite lofty and unattainable, they are essential to our identity as children of God.
5. Perhaps this is what Jesus is getting at, that we should display love and mercy without any strings attached just like the Father.
B. Jesus wants us to work to make our Heavenly Father’s character visible in our lives.
1. Jesus is not hinting that His followers have already achieved perfection but that we are striving to reach that goal by working daily to display His character in our lives.
2. It is really easy to look at the person next to us and say, I am much better than they are. Here Jesus removes the temptation to compare by showing that God is the standard by which our lives are to be measured.