In Genesis 17 God said to Abraham “Walk before me, and be blameless.” If that’s not enough, Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Are you serious? Blameless and perfect? What does this mean to me? Is God dangling the proverbial carrot in front of us, all the while knowing we can never measure up, or is there some way for us to fulfill these over-the-top demands?
I think most would agree the God of the Bible is a perfect God, right? And the Bible tells us Jesus was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). So, a blameless, perfect God telling us to be blameless and perfect seems to be valid, right? The problem then isn’t on God’s side, it’s on ours. What are we going to do then?
If you think about it, this perfect God gave us the Ten commandments and they essentially are telling us the same thing. When the commandment says, “Do not lie, or bear false witness, it means not even one! When it says, “Do not commit adultery, and Jesus said, “don’t even lust in your heart”, it means what it says. It’s the same with the rest: don’t murder, covet and so on. So for those of us who are honest with ourselves we eventually come to the conclusion that left to ourselves, we’re doomed. It may seem odd to some but that’s the conclusion God intends. Left to ourselves we have absolutely no hope of being blameless and perfect, yet the command still stands.
This is why God Himself came here in the flesh. John told us, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). You see the perfect God became the perfect man, in order to live the perfect life, die the perfect death, to perfect all who receive Him. According to Hebrews 10:14 “By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” Did you catch that? He (God in the flesh) gave Himself as an offering for sin once and for all in order to fulfill His own demands on humanity.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he declares “those of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death.” He then goes a bit further saying, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). After establishing that we have died to sin he goes on to declare we have also died to the Law (Romans 7:4).
After discovering we have been crucified with Christ, died to sin and died to the Law, Paul then drops another big revelation on us. In Romans 8 he tells us the Law couldn’t do the job anyway because we simply couldn’t obey. He said, “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-5). Did you catch that? What we couldn’t do, “God did.” So what God has done is moved into us, by way of His Spirit, and He now lives out the blameless, perfect life He requires of us. Once we see that we have been crucified with Christ and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us, we will begin to walk in the very blameless perfection He demands.
Jesus Himself said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The key here is nothing. As long as we are attempting to live the Christian life, as if independent of Christ, we are doomed to feelings of condemnation and failure, which is as it should be. The Gospel means “good news” and the good news is Christ in you, is the hope of glory! (Colossians 1:27). Paul said, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete (perfect) in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). So you see perfection is possible, but only to those who are in the perfect one who is Christ. This is why the Bible admonishes us to walk in the Spirit rather than the flesh. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8).
The teaching of the Word of God is really for the desperate you know. Going to the jail to lead a Bible study has truly opened my eyes to see how only those that have come to recognize their need for the Spirit of God will continue to show up. All others will lose interest and fall away. For me, after being born again, I couldn’t get enough of what God had for me, and even now some seventeen years later it seems I have the same desire.
No matter how many times I have taught through the first eight chapters of Romans, I never tire of it. It really is the heart of the Apostle Paul’s teaching and if you are ever enlightened to what his message really is you will start to understand the rest of what he wrote as well. My friend Brian Coatney once said, “It’s all dipped in the same solution.” I thought that was an appropriate way of putting it since it all boils down to Paul’s revelation of the mystery of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
It seems God’s plan all along has been to inhabit his people. He started out living with man in a Garden, moved into a tent and from there a more permanent structure called a Temple. Then something entirely new happened. He came in the form of a man and dwelt on this very earth as a man in the flesh. In the gospel of John we read, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Wow! God himself moved into a human body and lived among his creation.
Of course as the time drew near for Jesus to go to the cross he told his disciples, “It is better for you that I go away because if I don’t I cannot send the comforter.” He then dropped this bombshell on them. He said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth…He abides with you and will be in you.” There it is! Jesus himself promised the Spirit would live in the believer forever. He then went on to say, “In that day you will know that I am in My Father and you in me, and I in you.” Oh my! Did you catch that? Jesus promised us the comforter includes the Father, Son and Spirit living in us. I suppose that’s what it means to be fulfilled or in other words filled full.
As you read through Paul’s writings you will discover this promise Jesus made to live in his believers took place after he was crucified, buried and raised back to life again. At the celebration of Pentecost the Spirit came in like a rushing wind and from then on God has been dwelling in his people. In fact Paul tells us, “We are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God and they shall be my people.”
Since coming to understand this to be the whole message God is trying to get across to us throughout his Word, I am always excited to share it with others. This news of “Christ in us, the hope of glory” opens the doors for everyone at all times in any place. This tells me we don’t have to be of any certain race, political status, geographical location, education level, male or female, young or old in order to receive all of what God has for us. The reason is because what God has for us is his One and only Son and that’s it. He doesn’t offer us his Son plus other things. We either receive Christ, by way of the Spirit, or we will find ourselves continuing in some form of law keeping, religious ritual or tradition which carries no weight at all with God.
Of course there are many, many facets to what being the temple of the Holy Spirit means, but coming to understand God himself has taken up residence within you is the starting point. We no longer have need of anyone to teach us, because we have the teacher of teachers living within. We no longer have to go to a priest to speak to God on our behalf, because we have become a priest of God with Jesus himself as our High Priest. We don’t have to sacrifice animals in order to cover our sins, because Jesus Christ, and him crucified, settled the trouble between God and man once and for all.
One of the men in the study group at the jail had tears running down both of his cheeks as he told us how God has a way of cleansing your soul. He talked about how being in jail forces you to look to God because you don’t have anywhere else to look. All of your own resources have gone and when all you’ve got is God you begin to cry out to him. He showed a bit of sorrow over the many on the outside that don’t have time for God. He understood, in a way most don’t, that we are all in desperate need of God but it seems we tend to try everything else before coming to Christ. He finished by saying, “God just waits on us, knowing He’s what we need but he also knows we have to come to the place where we see our need before we will honestly seek him.”
The best part is, not only is he waiting, he is always present…even in jail.