Saturday, October 12, 2019

Christian Perfection

John Wesley
One of my favorite preachers from modern Church history is John Wesley, an English minister who served the Lord during the eighteenth century. He is so well-known that there is no need for much of an introduction. I've been enjoying a book that contains excerpts from his personal journals, which I highly recommend. It is called The Heart of John Wesley's Journal by Percy Livingstone Parker and John Wesley.

Wesley was highly criticized by many people for his message on Christian perfection, and he met with much opposition over it. In fact, he was often verbally and physically assaulted by various mobs and individuals, when he attempted to preach anywhere. In one of his journal entries, he explained what he actually taught about perfection and wondered how anyone, Christian or not, could have any problem with his doctrine if they understood what he meant by it.

Here is how Wesley explained it:

"By Christian perfection, I mean (1) loving God with all our heart. Do you object to this? I mean (2) a heart and life all devoted to God. Do you desire less? I mean (3) regaining the whole image of God. What objection to this? I mean (4) having all the mind that was in Christ. Is this going too far? I mean (5) walking uniformly as Christ walked. And this surely no Christian will object to. If anyone means anything more or anything else by perfection, I have no Concern with it. But if this is wrong, yet what need of this heat about it, this violence, I had almost said, fury of opposition, carried so far as even not to lay out anything with this man, or that woman, who professes it?"

To summarize his five points, they were as follows:

Loving God with All Our Heart
Perfection means loving God with all our heart. Jesus said that this is the greatest commandment: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment."(Mat 22:37-38). As Wesley asked, "Do you object to this?"

A Heart And Life All Devoted To God
Perfection means having a heart and life fully devoted to God. Hanani the seer said in Scripture, "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him." (2 Chr 16:9a)

Jesus said, "So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions." (Luk 14:33, NASB)

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it." (Luk 9:23-24, NASB)

The apostle Paul said, "I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord." (1Co 7:35)

As Wesley asked, "Do you desire less?"

Regaining The Whole Image Of God
Perfection means having the whole image of God in you restored. God originally created man in His own image. Scripture says, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Gen 1:27). But sin marred the image of God. Yet when any man comes to Christ, the Lord begins to restore the image of God in him. It's true that old things have passed away and all things have become new (2 Cor 5:17). However, there is an ongoing process of transformation that each follower of Christ goes through. Paul said, "And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2Co 3:18).

As Wesley asked, "What objection [do you have] to this?"

Having All The Mind That Was In Christ
Perfection means having all the mind that was in Christ. The apostle Paul wrote, "For, 'Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ." (1Co 2:16).  

He also wrote: 

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Php 2:5-11).

Pray that God will give you the mind, the emotions, the attitude, and the humility of Christ. As Wesley asked, "Is this going too far?"

Walking Uniformly As Christ Walked
Perfection is walking consistently as Jesus walked. The apostle John wrote: "Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did." (1Jn 2:6)

The apostle Peter was in agreement with this when he wrote: "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.' " (1Pe 2:21-22).

Who can find anything wrong with teaching that we should walk as Jesus walked and follow in His steps? As Wesley said, "Surely no Christian will object to this."

See my article Following in His Steps.

Closing Words
Our Lord has taught us to "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Mat 5:48). Obviously he would not command us to do something that was impossible for us. We know that apart from Christ we can do nothing (Jn 15:5), but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil 4:13). For with God all things are possible (Mt 19:26).

Having learned from Wesley himself what he meant by Christian perfection, and then having discovered the solid Scriptural basis for it, I (like him) really don't see how anyone could disagree with this teaching. It's straight out of the Bible. If anyone means anything more or anything else by perfection than what has been explained in this post, I have no concern with it.

Wesley was honest to admit with the apostle Paul that he had not yet attained to perfection (Phil 3:12). But he used to say that we should not simply expect to attain to perfection only once we have died and gone to heaven, but we should live our lives expecting to be made perfect by the Lord at any hour. Indeed, this is a wonderful thought for all those who -- like Wesley -- are aiming for perfection and desire to attain to it in this lifetime. I hope you will take such a view as well.

Attribution notice: Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible NIV, copyright Zondervan, used by permission. Other Scriptures where noted are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB), copyright The Lockman Foundation, used by permission. Quote from Wesley's journal taken from The Heart of John Wesley's Journal by Percy Livingstone Parker, (Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2008), 379-380.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, please also see the following: Aim for PerfectionFollowing in His StepsWalking in the Perfect Will of GodCalled to be BlamelessThe Four Tallest Homes in HeavenThe Cost of DiscipleshipThe Obedience of FaithAsk for the Ancient Paths, Holy Living in a Perverted World, and Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven. You may find the Main Directory for this blog at Home, and you may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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