Most Christians get this central point of Christianity, at least all Christians of His True Church: That it is by God’s Grace, through the sacrificial, atoning Blood of Jesus Christ that we are saved, and that not of ourselves. But, like so many things, even as we have been discussing over the past few weeks, things like religious freedom, so many people, so many Christians, accept the theory, in theory or as theory, but shrug off the reality of the application of that theory to their lives. As a result, in practical terms, most Christians go through their earthly lives with just an occasional spraying of the Blood of Jesus, instead of regular, through, deep washings!
Let me explain what the source of that attitude is: it comes from confusion over the concept of perfection, Think back to Abraham: In Genesis 17:1-4(KJV), when God covenanted with Abram and changed his name to Abraham, there are two concepts which get un-remembered — either glossed over of forgotten – by most Christians. This passage says, “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, ‘I am the Almighty God; walk before Me and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply them exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, ‘As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.’”
The first of this concepts which Christians often find so difficult to hold on to is the concept of perfection, and the second of these concepts is the concept of covenant. And for Christians, these concepts are integrated and go to the very core of the meaning of being a Christian. In the absence of covenant we cannot even aspire to perfection, much less attain it, and in the absence of perfection Christians often believe themselves failures and live in shame and guilt.
But first about the notion of perfection. NKJV translates this word from Genesis 17: 1, as “blameless”. The Hebrew word used here is variously translated as perfect, blameless, upright and sincere, etc.
In the New Testament, we also encounter the word “perfect”, which from the Greek, as studied by Professor Vines, means “having reached its end”, “finished”, “complete”, “fully grown” [Note the passage from our Ministry of the Holy Spirit today, in Mark 4: 26-29 NKJV (“And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should grout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself, first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” – “fully grown”)], “mature”, as being the result of a “work of patience”, of “attaining the very presence of God”, “right ordering and arrangement”, it implies a “path of progress” with “a close relationship of character and destiny”, of “conviction of God’s purpose in a person”.
And, second, about the notion of covenant. Covenant is an honor commitment to be bound unto another to do certain things or to live a certain way. Not only is it in the Old Testament, especially regarding Abraham, but in the New Testament, in Luke 1: 68-75 NKJV, in the first part of the prophesy of Zacharias for his son John the Baptist, we find this prophetic description of the role of Jesus in fulfilling God’s covenant with Abraham, and the role of believers in that same covenant: “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our father Abraham: to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.”
What we take away from this is that our covenant relationship with God defines our destiny, our course in life. How we pursue that destiny, our pursuit of “perfection” is determined by our character – hence the integration of destiny and character, as Professor Vines put it. Also, this morning, we need to talk about what washing has to do with covenant and perfection, about character and destiny.
Ephesians 2:8 NKJV, and others, make it clear that it is not by our selves, not by our so-called Innate Goodness, not by our own works, that we attain salvation. Salvation is by God’s grace, because of His mercy, through the atoning, sacrificial Blood of Jesus, who paid the price of atonement for our sins. But, even with salvation, we cannot attain the holiness and righteousness prophesied by Zacharias on our own. Paul explains to the Christians at Corinth, in II Corinthians 7: 1 NKJV, that holiness is something which is perfected as we cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, in the fear of God.
We have an interesting, but merely-apparent conflict in living in the fear of God and in living without fear. How does that happen? Let’s see, if we have salvation, we have access, Hebrews 4: 16, to the throne of God, with boldness, and if we have boldness, we have overcome our fear of God. Yet, when we are cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, we see our sin, and we have fear of God as we are contemplating what it would be not to get that fixed, but we are called to go boldly, without fear, to get God’s help to fix it. Got it??
But God has told us always to “count the cost”, Luke 14:28- 30 NKJV, because He wants us to finish what we start. We should have, and if we have not yet, we should now, “count the cost” of being a Christian. That cost comes in being no longer conformed to this world, but in breaking the attitudes and habits of conformation to the world, so that we become conformed to God’s eternal kingdom. This Scripture in Luke 14: 28-30 NKJV reads, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it – lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” So, when by the Blood of Jesus and God’s mercy, we have salvation, that is the foundation of our building, and going up vertically with our tower is our work of patience as we perfect holiness. And that is where we have to be committed to the cost. Jesus is able; are we willing? Because that cost is in a reformation of our lives, as we are no longer conformed to this world.
We call that new, reformed conformation to be holiness, righteousness, and blamelessness. This process, which Professor Vines called a work of patience, is where we see God’s presence and purpose brought fully about in our lives – finished, and
completed – in our attitudes and habits, requires that we make choices, of our free will, beyond the initial choice of salvation, and going on into that work of patience leading to perfection.
But, like we said at the beginning today, so many Christians bounce into this notion of perfection and back away, in confusion or a failure of will. The failure of will is a breach of covenant, and by this teaching today, the Lord wants to give us Divine knowledge and understanding so that none of us will be confused or double-minded about this notion of perfection.
We start to destroy the confusion about perfection with this passage, Matthew 6: 18 NKJV, with Jesus preaching and saying, “. . . your Father who sees in secret. . . .” Since God sees us in our secret places, He knows – He really knows – so that to Him we have no secrets. You have to figure this out, believe and accept it as a premise for your life: your Father knows your secrets – before, during and after them. Nothing is hidden from Him.
And with that knowledge, at His instruction, the Holy Spirit, who lives in you as a Christian (II Corinthians 6: 16 NKJV), to bring you conviction (John 16: 8) about sin, righteousness and judgment. The question becomes what you will do about that conviction when the Holy Spirit brings it to you. Will you repent? Will you change your attitudes of heart (perhaps of covetousness and lust, which is a form of covetousness, all of which are forms of selfishness); will you change your habits of sin? It boils down to how much you fear and love God. Zacharias said it right, “to remember His holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our father Abraham: to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.”
Matthew 10: 29-31 NKJV reminds us that Jesus preached and taught that not one little sparrow (and you could buy two for a penny) falls to the ground apart from God’s will, and therefore not without His knowledge. Indeed, Jesus said here, “. . . the very hairs of your head are numbered. Do not fear therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.”
The way God works with us is that He uses his big X-Ray machine, his big CAT-SCAN machine, his perfect, penetrating vision to know our secrets, and He, who is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), wants to use that knowledge, to share it with us to bring us to complete healing, to complete washing, by the Blood of Jesus, into blamelessness/perfection.
This process, as C.S. Lewis has explained (A Year With C. S. Lewis, the July 9th reading, by HarperOne, 2003), it is like going to the dentist. You have a tooth ache and you want just that one problem fixed, but as the dentist probes around, and today with X- Rays, etc., looks around, he often says, “Yes, I see the problem you want me to fix, but I also see some other areas of decay in your teeth that I want to fix.” Then, we have a choice to make: are we going to deny the Great Physician, by our choices, the privilege to fix those other areas of decay right now, along with the one we are willing to give over to Him to fix? Or, are we going to try to hold back those other areas of decay in our lives and say, “No, God, I want to hold on to that sin, that decay, and I don’t want you to fix it – maybe another day, another year, another decade. But I am not willing to reform all of me just yet.”
But, while God will respect our free choice to continue to live with and in our decay, our sin, He hates it, because He hates sin and decay. So what does He doe? That Holy Spirit of His keeps nagging us, keeps speaking Truth to us, keeps bringing us conviction regarding sin, righteousness and judgment. God is relentless, persistent, because He wants to give us the full treatment of His love and mercy, the fullest healing. He wants us fully washed, whenever necessary, in the cleansing Blood of Jesus, not just sprayed with a little bit of that Blood from time to time while we resist the full washing, the full cleansing. That’s what He wants, to wash us fully in the Blood of Jesus. So, we are encouraged by this passage in Hebrews 10: 18-23 NKJV, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
As John wrote in Revelation 1:5, we want to know Jesus fully, and we want Him to wash us fully, as John wrote, “. . . Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . . .”
So, let us go patiently, but fervently, like we talked about in our Ministry of the Holy Spirit time today, to run to Jesus and fall at His feet, in our covenant relationship with God, as we seek perfection, as we seek to be blameless, in the Blood of Christ,
before God – upright and sincere, with God’s purpose in our lives being fully fulfilled! Let us do the work of ridding ourselves of all filthiness of spirit and flesh, let’s get the full treatment from God and get rid of all the sin and decay that He sees. Then, the prayer of Paul and Epaphras might be fulfilled and answered in each one of us, Colossians 4:12 NKJV, that we may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. To do this, to stand perfect and complete in all the will of God, you must get the full washing, and regularly so, in the Blood of Jesus, not just an occasional spraying of the dirt, decay and sin you are occasionally willing to give up. You were bought with a price, the Blood of Jesus, and you are not your own, so, go willingly in your covenant walk of life with God, and be His bondservant, like Paul, and give up all the dirt, decay and sin that the Holy Spirit brings you conviction about. Intend to live your life strong, in running that race, and to finish the race still running strongly, so you, too, may stand “perfect and complete in all the will of God”.
God bless you and amen+