One lie we have faced more than others in our journey has been Christians saying that we cannot be perfect. Dutiful, well-meaning, believers use this lie to excuse themselves and cover their lack of spiritual growth in faith. Sometimes it is pride, sometimes it is discouragement, but whatever the reason, these believers have fallen for the lie that we cannot be perfect. Today, we will debunk that untruth and show you the secret of how to be perfect with one simple trick.
The command to be perfect
Before we dig into how to be perfect, we need to understand why the perfection of God in us is important for every believer. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus gave us the explicit instruction that He expects every believer to be perfect as God, our Father, is perfect. Here is the verse in the King James Version.
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in Heaven is perfect.”
Since this is a direct command from our Lord, it must mean that such a lofty goal is not only possible, but necessary for everyone who calls on His name. So why do so many fall for the lie that it is not possible for any Christian to become perfect? The answer lies in our ‘self’ nature.
But falling into the ditch
When we see this verse in Scripture, and our ‘self’ nature is intact, we will interpret the verse this way. “You must work and strive to achieve perfection in this life by doing everything perfectly”. This is a tall order for any human being and, of course, no person can reach such a lofty goal. However, a prideful attitude to this verse can lead a person to adulterate Jesus’ intended meaning. Those that do this will fall into the trap of works righteousness where they believe God will accept them through their own ‘self’-led efforts at creating perfection.
Those that realize the folly of this error may go in the opposite direction. Seeing they cannot be perfect by their own efforts these people end up believing that ‘no one can be perfect’. These believers believe only sinlessness is perfection and since sinful humans can never be sinless they assume this verse is untrue. However, if we believe this word of Jesus to be untrue or impossible, isn’t that the same as calling Jesus a liar?
The real meaning behind Matthew 5:48
Maybe it isn’t the Scripture that is wrong, but our ‘self’-led interpretation and understanding of what Jesus is saying. If we look deeper into the Bible, we can find other verses and translations that give us more depth of understanding for what God is communicating. Let us begin by looking at Matthew 5:48 in the Amplified Classic edition and see what the translators drew from the original texts as to what Jesus was referring to when He calls us to be perfect.
Notice how the emphasis has changed from something we do to something we become; spiritual maturity in godliness and character. This is vastly different from the ‘self’-led doing many assume Jesus is talking about. How about we look at the father of faith, Abraham, and see how God called him to be perfect?
Abraham was called to be perfect
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, I am the Almighty God; walk and live habitually before Me and be perfect (blameless, wholehearted, complete).” Genesis 17:1 AMPC
After a major test of faith, offering his son Isaac in sacrifice, God calls Abraham to live habitually in a place of wholehearted perfection before Him. Note that God connects walking and living habitually before Him as a part of being perfect. In this verse, the translators clearly see the word ‘perfect’ as a state of completion or wholeness. This idea of perfection as being whole is very important in learning how to be perfect. Let us look at one more verse that will help us understand this truth even better.
The rich young ruler was called to be perfect
“Jesus answered him, If you would be perfect [that is, have that spiritual maturity which accompanies self-sacrificing character], go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; and come, be My disciple [side with My party and follow Me].” Matthew 19:21
In this verse Jesus was speaking to the rich young ruler who had asked Him what he lacked. Jesus’ answer to his question clearly indicates that He saw perfection as a state of spiritual maturity, which accompanies a ‘self’-sacrificing character. Jesus then points the man to the direct steps he needed to take in order to arrive at that state of perfection before Him. This involved giving up all the man had and becoming His disciple.
In looking at these verses, it is clear God does not look at perfection as something we do, but something we become. Up to this point in our quest to understand how to be perfect, we can see we are looking at Matthew 5:48 from the eyes of earth and ‘self’. What if we change that and look at this verse from the perspective of heaven?
Like the rich young ruler, we recognize that as a sinful person we have lack. Within our being is a parasite, called ‘self’, which has eaten away at our insides and left us far from the state of perfection Jesus calls us to. The problem is ‘self’ cannot make up for the lack that it created. In order to fill this empty void, we need another source, one other than ‘self’ in order to become perfect. The source we need is God Himself.
God IS perfect
Now, because Jesus told us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, that must mean God has no lack. However, we cannot define perfection as a lack of something. This definition would be the opposite of the meaning we saw in Genesis 17:1. No, the perfection of God comes not from what He lacks, but the whole of who He is; the harmony of character God has within Himself.
God is complete and balanced in every aspect of His character, lacking nothing, and, therefore, is perfect.
Seeing that God is indeed perfect, then the answer to our problem is a matter of allowing His perfection to be in us thus filling our own lack. But how does this happen? Our solution to this dilemma is the same as the one Jesus gave to the rich young ruler. The simple trick of how to be perfect is to give up your ‘self’ nature and live as His disciple.
Surrender of 'self'
If we take up this challenge in a way the rich young ruler did not, we will find the following happening. As we give our ‘self’ nature in surrender to Jesus, it will create a vacuum in our soul. The space our ‘self’ once occupied is vacated so a new tenant can enter. This new tenant is none other than Jesus Himself, complete as the perfect Son of God. The perfection He brings will be God’s alone, not our ‘self’ led attempts at perfection.
By allowing Jesus to fully occupy who we are, we will grow into spiritual maturity and the perfection of the Father, flowing through Jesus, will flow through us as well. By allowing this process to happen, we fulfill Matthew 5:48, not by ‘self’-led doing, but by surrendering our ‘self’ to God.