Summary: Dealing with the paradox of "being perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect".
Living Beyond The Ordinary 9-17-06
Series: Building Blocks of Paradox Matt. 5:43-48
Intro. This morning we’re going to begin a brand new series based on the paradoxes of scripture. Now a paradox is basically a statement that seems to be impossible, contradictory, unacceptable or even ridiculous, but it’s true. If you’ve been in the church for any length of time then I’m sure you’ve encountered some of these paradoxical statements. For instance, what did Jesus mean when he said, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first”? Hummm! What about the time he told his disciples, “if you try to keep your life you’ll lose it, but if you give your life away, you’ll actually save it”? Do you remember what Jesus said when the rich young ruler turned away? “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God”.
What we want you to realize is that these paradoxical statements are important for us to understand because they become the building blocks of our faith. Jesus didn’t say these things just to be cool. NO! He had a distinct purpose for using these paradoxes. Jesus knew that if we understood and embraced these paradoxes then God’s people would be empowered to live beyond the ordinary. Let me show you why that makes sense. When the God of all heaven and heaven takes up residence in your life, shouldn’t you be a different person than you were before you knew God? Of course you should! That’s exactly what the bible says – if you are a xian then you are a new creation, all the old stuff is gone and a new life has begun.
Now part of the new life that’s promised to every believer is described in the paradox we’re going to look at this morning. It’s found in Matt. 5:48, which just happens to be the very heart and soul of the Sermon on the Mt. If we had time to study this whole chapter then we’d see that Jesus has been building towards this climatic statement about what it means to belong to the Kingdom of God. Now here’s the kicker – not only are we supposed to live beyond the ordinary, but according to v.48 says we’re supposed to be perfect even as our heavenly father is perfect. Perfection has become a relative term in our culture. We say things like, “Well, compared to him…I’m perfect!” We think about our own lives in these terms, “at least I’m not a murderer, I don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, I don’t steal things, I try to honor my parents and I don’t lie…very often.” According to that standard…I’m pretty good. But that’s not the standard Jesus gives us. He says we must measure up to perfection and the only way to do that is by living beyond the ordinary.
What exactly does Jesus mean when he says we’re supposed to be perfect? The OT concept of perfection came out of the sacrificial system. When a godly family offered an animal sacrifice it had to be w/o spot, blemish or defect. When that kind of sacrifice was offered it was called perfect. In the NT the word perfection is much more positive. It is the word “teleios” which means complete, fully equipped or mature. So when you put the Old and New Testament concepts together you get a standard that calls for a person to be w/o blemish and lacking in nothing. Eph.4:13 uses this word to talk about the church. Paul says, “we should be unified in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son, so that we will be MATURE/PERFECT and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.”
When Jesus calls us to be perfect, he means we’ve supposed to live beyond the ordinary. Here’s the bottom line, as a believer your life is supposed to be different from those who are still living far from God. And if it isn’t, then there’s something is wrong. Now before we go on let me make sure we’re all on the same page concerning perfection. Jesus is NOT saying that you have to be morally perfect, w/o sin before you can enter the Kingdom of God. If that were true, then none of us would ever stand a chance. What this paradox is designed to do is show us how utterly helpless we are at attaining perfection in our own strength. Our only hope for perfection is if God does something in us to change us and that’s exactly what the salvation experience is all about…the old life is gone and a new life has begun.
Another problem with paradoxes is fact that we often take them out of the context in which they were spoken. If you just took this one verse, ripped it out of context and applied to every person you know, then how many of us would make it to heaven? NONE, because none of us is perfect! So let’s put it back into its original context and see what Jesus was talking about.