Saturday, March 18, 2017

Dial Daily Bread: Character Perfection--Is It Possible?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Is it possible that sinners (like all of us) can overcome sin and become truly Christlike in character? Can "the righteousness of the law" (perfect obedience, perfect loyalty) ever be achieved in this life? The Bible quite clearly says: "all have sinned and fall short [present tense] of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). Our very nature is sinful; and even "saints" can't help showing that they are sinners. Nobody is perfect. So, is perfection of character just a dream?

The Bible insists on a Good News answer. God sent His beloved Son into the world on the special mission to "save His people from their sins," not in them (Matt. 1:21). Romans 8:3, 4 says that "He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us ..." The word "righteousness" used there means the righteous character of those who walk "according to the Spirit."

Hebrews 13:21 says that the Savior will "make you complete ["perfect," KJV] in every good work to do His will." And Revelation 14:1-5 describes a people at the close of time who "are without fault before the throne of God," who "follow the Lamb wherever He goes." Not part way, but totally. They will refuse "the mark of the beast" and will receive "the seal of God" (Rev. 13:16, 17; 7:1-4).

Are they fanatics or extremists? No! Jesus got in on the perfection debate Himself on the Good News side. He said: "Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). In saying so, He gives us the key to unlock the mystery. His context is learning to love like the Father loves, who sends His rain and sunshine on the just and on the unjust, who loves bad people, even His enemies. Jesus' idea of "perfection" is simple: learning to love like that!

John learned the idea from Him, for he also says that if you've learned to love like that, you "know God," you're "born of God," He "abides in" you, you have "His Spirit," and you yourself "dwell in God." Furthermore, you overcome fear (which goes along with sin), and you end up "perfect" (see 1 John 4:7-18).

True, you and I were born totally lacking such love (agape); but there's a filling station where the Holy Spirit "[pours it] out in our hearts" (Rom. 5:5). Or to change the metaphor, it's the simple matter of going to school to learn it, "the school of Christ," where the "student" must have been enrolled since kindergarten.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: November 12, 1999.
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