“You must be perfect,” Jesus said, “as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Wow!  For me, that statement by Jesus in Matthew 5:48 is an impossibility.

Yet, unconsciously, I try to achieve that goal – and constantly fail.  And I find my efforts discouraging.

So, why did Jesus make that statement in his great “Sermon on the Mount”?

I think he was telling the religious teachers of the time – and believers today – that self-effort will never get us anywhere.  Only God can be perfect and only He can help us.

The people Jesus was addressing were trying to live up to a religious legal system that was launched centuries earlier under the great Israelite leader and prophet Moses.  It had been modified with other laws in the intervening years.

As with me, people tried to invent ways of excusing their failures to live up to the legal requirements of their faith.

But Jesus told the people that their efforts to get around the Jewish law were fruitless.  Indeed, nothing short of perfection was acceptable to God.

Jesus was preparing the way for his sacrifice for the sins of his listeners – and for all people, me included.  He was the perfect man who paid the price for my sins and failures.

But, despite Christ’s sacrifice, I am still not perfect.  I still do many of the wrong things I used to do.

So, what changed when I put my faith in Jesus and what he did for me on the cross?

Well, I am learning that I am weak and virtually helpless.  That’s a positive step.

And I am learning the lesson that the apostle Paul taught throughout his letters to young Christians – I have to die to myself and let Christ live through me.

That’s a really hard lesson to learn.

Everything in me rises up in opposition to this truth.  I want my opinions, my comforts, my wants to come first in my life.

It’s a challenging goal, but it is achievable.  The apostle and countless believers over the centuries have shown the tremendous power of living a life given over to Christ.

Paul put this principle clearly and simply in these words in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

When I put my faith in Jesus, I died to my previous life and rose with him to a new life empowered by the Holy Spirit.  This is a matter of faith, recognizing that Christ’s power to live a life for God is now within me.

Yet, as long as I live on earth, I will never be free of temptation – the attempts by Satan and my natural longings to draw me away from God.

So, I am called to see myself in a new light – a beloved child of God completely dependent on him and his great power.

The Bible talks about fixing our eyes on Jesus as we run the race of life.

That is what God is asking of me – turning my eyes away from myself and towards him.


2 comments so far

  1. Madeline on

    Thank you for all your inspirational messages. I truly enjoy them all.

  2. Robert Douglas on

    Thank you, Madeline. You are very encouraging.

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