“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, CSB)
There are some folks out there that will tell you: “Jesus was a great moral teacher who came to show us how to treat each other better. All we need from Jesus is his Sermon on the Mount.”
While I agree that Jesus was a great moral teacher –I wonder if those folks have actually read the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus sets some pretty high standards for us. Moses’ Law was a pretty high standard and Jesus ups the ante on it! And, in case you miss Jesus’ ethical demands, or try to find loopholes around them, you’re still stuck with this statement: “Be perfect…”
Perfection?! We know we can’t be perfect. We also know there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. We know that the Holy Spirit is in the sometimes painfully slow process of sanctifying us and conforming us into the image of Christ. But wherever we are on that spectrum, being like God remains our goal.
However, if you’re trying to reach that goal on your own – with your own efforts – trying to earn God’s favor or pay your own way into heaven – trying to be “good enough” or even “better than that guy” you’ll never make it.
Remember Nicodemus from John 3? You won’t find a more upstanding and outstanding man than he. And yet Jesus’ instruction to him was the same he might give a murderer, adulterer, liar, or braggart: “Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”” (John 3:3, CSB)
What does it take to be a Kingdom citizen? Not a better you, but a new you. A redeemed you. A born again you with a fresh new start.
This is the topic of Sunday’s sermon “Living from the Inside Out.” I hope you’ll join us!