Summary: Part 5 in 5-week series Getting Free, this message asks and answers the question, "What did Jesus mean when he said we are to "be perfect?"


Sermon Five: On Being Perfect

Wildwind Community Church

David K. Flowers

March 16, 2008

Matthew 5:48 (NIV)

48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

As we close out our series on making a full commitment of our lives to God – a series I’ve titled Getting Free – I figured what better time to drop this bomb on you.

Matthew 5:48 (NIV)

48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I don’t think there’s anything in the Bible more unsettling than this for those of us who desire to live God-honoring lives. Now wouldn’t it be great if we could just skip this? I mean, both in church and in our personal lives? We could just read the Gospel of Matthew and skip over that verse so we didn’t have to give serious consideration to what it means. And maybe as a pastor I could just neglect to ever teach on it. After all, the Bible is huge – there’s so much to talk about – other than this! I could preach sermons at this church the rest of my life and never touch on it. It’s only one verse, why does it matter?

My friends, I think it matters precisely because of how much we’d rather not look at it. It matters because of how impossible it seems. It matters because Jesus said it. It matters because it can’t be done.

Or can it? I ask you, would Jesus tell us to do something that simply could not be done? Let’s think about this:

Matthew 5:28 (NIV)

28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matthew 5:32 (NIV)

32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress…

Matthew 5:39 (NIV)

39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matthew 5:44 (NIV)

44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)

14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 5:21-22 (NLT)

21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’

22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

Matthew 7:5 (NLT)

5 …get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

It’s time we do some reckoning here this morning. Let’s start with the fact that a lot of what Jesus told us to do is, in a sense, impossible. Don’t lust? Don’t divorce? Don’t resist people who are hurting you? Love your enemies? Forgive? Don’t worry? Don’t be angry? Don’t point out the shortcomings of others?

C’mon. How much of this can be done? Let’s get more personal. Let’s make a checklist… Mentally mark off which ones you regularly do, struggle not to do, or have done.

• Lust

• Divorce

• Hurt people who are hurting you

(physically or emotionally)

• Wish harm/bad things for enemies

• Harbor grudges/refuse to forgive

• Worry

• Get angry

• Find fault in others

And that’s not even an exhaustive list! These are just a few of the things Jesus said. So as we first pull out our chairs and sit down at the table to have this discussion about perfection, we realize that this seemingly impossible command of Jesus to be perfect fits perfectly well into the other commands he gave. I have made this point before when preaching on this topic.

So what do we do with this? I mean, if the things Jesus said really are impossible, then what are we doing here? I’m serious about that. If there’s no way that the things Jesus said can be done, why do we come to church? Why do we pray? Why do we follow Jesus at all? If Jesus is the kind of person who gave us impossible commands to follow, then why would we have any interest in following him, wherever he may be going?

It’s no wonder the church has so little power in our country today. We don’t worship a God who can deliver on his promises. We don’t worship a God who can empower us to do what he asks us to do. Instead we worship a God who has given us lists of ridiculously hard things to do, recruited us into his cause, and now simply watches us as we struggle and bumble along.

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