Summary: What did Jesus mean when He called us to be perfect?
A Supremely Baptist Excuse: “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.”
This is something that we love saying and we mean it as a way to emphasize that there is no way to earn your way to heaven. That is absolutely true – salvation can only come by grace through faith.
Too often, though, we emphasize this truth without balancing it with other key spiritual truths (which we’ll get to in a minute). The result is that we act like we can use grace as an excuse for staying in our sins.
“I know I can’t do any better – I’m just a sinner saved by grace.”
“I’m nowhere near perfect – I’m just a sinner saved by grace.”
“God will forgive me doing that – after all I’m just a sinner saved by grace.”
“I’m not perfect, just forgiven.”
Really?! Is that all we are – forgiven? We’re not called to anything higher than being forgiven? I can sympathize with the need to maintain some humility and not act like we’re all-that-and-a bag-of-chips, but there’s got to be something beyond being “just forgiven.”
With that mindset, when we encounter a verse like verse 48, we presume that the task before us is impossible.
“How in the world could I ever be perfect the way God is perfect?”
We don’t know what Jesus meant, but it’s obviously something so ridiculously impossible that we really don’t need to worry with it.
So we go back to using grace as a justification for living in our sins because obviously what God is asking of us here is not humanly possible.
The Big Point Of The Sermon On The Mount: Jesus has not come to excuse our low behavior, but to open the door to something higher.
- Matthew 5:17-20, 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43.
There is a difference between forgiving sin and excusing sin.
When we excuse something, we’re effectively saying, “It wasn’t a big deal – don’t worry about it.” Conversely, when you forgive someone for something, the act of forgiving them says, “What you did was wrong and it hurt me, but I’m forgiving the offense.”
Jesus doesn’t excuse sin. He doesn’t look at our sin with a wink and say, “It’s not a big deal – don’t worry about it.”
Jesus forgives sin. He acknowledges that what we did was wrong, was an offense to Him, was sufficient to separate us from God, but through His death He is able to say that He forgives our sin.
As you look at the verses listed in your sermon outline, what we’ve already gone over in the Sermon on the Mount has a consistent pattern: raising the standard.
Over and over He says, “You’ve heard it said, but I say to you” and then shares something that is more challenging.
So, whatever Jesus is up to, it’s not an attempt to excuse our sin. We’re being drawn higher.
So, then, what is the goal He’s drawing us upward toward?
The Goal: He became like us so that we can become like Him.
- Matthew 5:48.
The goal of Jesus dying and being resurrected is not us being able to sin without guilt.
The straightforward goal of what Jesus did is that we would be able to become like Him. This is true not only for eternity, but also for this life.
He became like us – He put on flesh and walked the dirty roads of this earth. He ate and slept and cried and bled. He did that because it was the only way to save us. He did that because it was the only way to rescue us.
He did that so that we could become like Him.
a. This is true in the sense of getting rid of our sin that stemmed from the Fall.
b. This is also true in the sense of our lives bringing glory to Him because of the difference between where we were and where Christ has brought us.
Is that a goal that’s appealing to you?
The truth is that for too many Christians the answer is “No.” They admire Jesus. They think He did some interesting stuff. They appreciate His sacrifice on the cross. But they don’t necessarily really want to become like Him.
Here I don’t mean that they find it unattainable (though that may be true also). I mean that they don’t find His life attractive. They don’t find the way He lived to be worth emulating. They don’t find His lifestyle to be the best of all lives.
When you speak to American Christians about what they long for, you’ll hear answers about happiness, family, wealth, and success. Rarely will you hear that they want to become like Christ.
We’re tainted by our culture and find it difficult to see beyond what it says is important.