Perfection: The Goal of Life

We have just finished going through the idea of “law” in general and the Ten Commandments specifically. We see that God has expectations of us. This leads to one of the most critical question of all? What exactly does God expect of us especially now that we in vital covenant relationship with Him? Well, it is very simply said; perfection! God told Abraham in a critical juncture in the Old Testament, “Walk before me and be perfect” (Heb. tāmîm, Gen. 17:1). Likewise Jesus told His disciples in a critical place in the New Testament, “Be therefore perfect (Gk. téleios) as your father who is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

At present we will not explain what perfection is because it takes a whole lot of theological background and rethinking for us to get back to the biblical idea of perfection. However, two things are certain. First, it does not mean “mature.” Perfection is a radical idea, and our English word “mature” is too lame an idea to carry all of the theological freight necessary for the Hebrew tāmîm and the Greek téleios, let alone motivate someone to high ideals. Second, perfection as a radical idea must be the goal of any soul that aspires to God; without a goal, we surely will not get anywhere! This is a true maxim for any accomplishment in this life, and it is true for spiritual things as well. You tell me, look around you. What do you see? Do you see Christians in general living like Jesus did? There really can be no other reason for this other than they do not have a clear goal fixed in their mind and heart, and are therefore aimless.

There are a number of reasons why many good Christians will not even allow a discussion on perfection, or if they do they quickly reduce the whole idea down to “mature” like a number of prominent translations do. There are doctrines that many hold on to for dear life which are very true to some extent, but when made exclusive to the detriment of other doctrines, become perverted. One of these is the doctrine of “total depravity.” The actual term is not biblical, and it is not intellectually, anthropologically, or biblically honest to hold to it. Usually it is used in this way; we fallen sinners cannot think or do anything without the taint of sin, and certainly cannot think or do anything that can save our souls before a holy God. I certainly agree with this statement, but fervently believe that the term “total depravity” simply doesn’t accurately describe the complexity of humanity before God.

In our next post we will go into more detail on this doctrine of total depravity. For now, I will merely say that to hold it like I did for many years blocked the window of self understanding. I gave lip service to the truth that we are, though fallen, made in the image of God without really thinking about what it means to be made in the image of God as a sinful person. I found it impossible to grasp the true biblical doctrine of perfection when benighted with the doctrine of total depravity. This will take some time to develop.

Finally, let’s prayerful ponder the idea proposed above; that without a spiritual goal, a clearly defined goal that we can grasp with heart and soul, we will not grow, or only grow haphazardly. This goal is explicitly stated in Scripture in various and key places in the Bible. We are to aspire to perfection.

The opening line of the Evening Prayer (Compline) in the Anglican Breviary is “May the Lord Almighty grant us a night of quietude and perfection at the end of all our days.” The end of the day parallels the end of our life; when we pray this evening prayer every night it allows us to assess our day, and look to the end of our life’s journey with the amazing and wonderful desire to be perfect before God. But what this means takes time to unwrap.

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