Are you going onto perfection?

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 Matthew 5:38-48 February 20, 2011
Before I was ordained an Elder in the United Methodist Church, one series of questions I was asked was:
1. Are you going on to perfection?
2. Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?
3. Are you earnestly striving after it? (2008 Book of Discipline, ¶336 (United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville: 2008), p. 246)

My answer to each of those questions was, ‘Yes.” What was I thinking? We can’t be perfect. There is no perfect person in this world. And I say to you, than what are we doing as Christians who happen to be United Methodists? We United Methodists use several methods to live out God’s holy call on our lives. These methods are the means to which we know God and reflect his glory in this world.

John Wesley wrote that, “our doctrines are three, that of repentance, of faith, and of holiness. The first is the porch, the second is the door, and the third is religion itself.”( F. Belton Joyner Jr., Being Methodist in the Bible Belt, (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville: 2004), p. 3) In other words, repentance gets us to the porch of religion; faith is the door into the house; and holiness is our religion. That is holiness is our way of life as we live in the grace of God. God starts us on the road to being holy, being perfect. And Jesus shows us the way to live.

A. God is holy (Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18)
1. He speaks to the whole congregation of Israel
2. We shall be holy
3. We get to be holy by loving our neighbors
a. Leave/give food to the poor & the alien (v. 9-10)
b. Buy what you need/want, be honest, use words wisely (v. 11-12)
c. Be honest with your neighbor, act honorably to the deaf & blind (v. 13-14)
d. Seek justice for all (v. 15-16)
e. Love your neighbor as yourself (v. 17-18)
4. God has taken us from captivity to sin. We have repented of our ways and we are facing God’s way of living. This way of living, being holy, involves our entire lives. As God has loved towards us, then we love him, and those around us, in the same way. To stress the importance of God’s way, Jesus taught and lived the way to live.

B. Jesus shows us the way to live (Matthew 5:38-48)
1. Turn the other cheek; give your cloak and coat; go the second mile; give to everyone who begs of you (v. 38-41)
2. Love your enemies (v. 42-47)
3. Be perfect as God is perfect (v. 48)
4. John Wesley – perfection
a. Not free from ignorance, freedom from error, freedom from infirmities, or freedom from temptations
b. Perfect as not to commit sin (John Wesley, “Christian Perfection,” Albert Outler,  John Wesley, p. 254-271)
c. Perfect love/entire sanctification/holy (John Wesley, “The Scripture Way of Salvation,” Albert Outler, John Wesley, p. 275)

d. Means of Grace – public worship, private & family prayer, The Lord’s Supper, reading & studying Scripture, fasting – We open ourselves to God
5. We can be holy/perfect! God wants us to be this way. He uses every means possible to get us to that point. We experience his grace through being justified and sanctified. Through this process, no matter how long or short it is, we become perfect in love. Some of us might even become perfect in this life to not even commit sin!

Are you going on to perfection? This question is not only for United Methodist Elders. This question helps each Christian understand how total our devotion to God is.

Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life? What else would we want out of life?

Are you earnestly striving after it? If you are, then how is God’s grace working in your life so that you totally love God and love your neighbor, even your enemies, as yourself?

We can be perfect – in love, and maybe even from sin, in this life.

Let’s pray: God, you want me to love you completely and to love my neighbors, and to even love my enemies. Your grace has gotten me to this point. I want to work with you on me so that I can be perfect in love. As I grow closer to you, show me, by the power of your Holy Spirit, how to live without sin. In the Name of Jesus the Christ I pray. Amen.

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