Oh and PS … be perfect.

I always feel bad for dancers when it comes time to hear from the judges.

There they stand, sweaty and breathing heavy. They poured their heart and soul out on the stage and the camera zooms in slowly as they anxiously await their judgement. After a lifetime of preparation, countless hours in a studio and more bloody blisters than any of us will ever have, there’s always a chance they’ll hear, “It just didn’t do it for me. You know? It just didn’t connect.” 

There is technical merit in dance, but unless you make dancers wear motion trackers and allow their fate to be determined by Macbook Pros, judgement is as emotional and subjective as it is technical. One man’s 8.6 is another woman’s 9.2.

One of the most intimidating verses in all of scripture (for me) is when in His sermon on the Mount, Jesus asks for a perfect 10 from all of us. He says,

“…be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48

No artistic merit for your effort. Perfection, not progress. Thanks for coming out.

Now, to give you context, the sermon on the mount is Jesus retelling God’s law as per the Mosaic pattern. [1] Jesus dials the law to 11 so the listeners will recognize their need for God’s grace. His intent isn’t that after hearing the standard is a perfect 10, the listeners will promptly reply “no prob” and go off to do it. Quick history lesson: Israel had been saying “no prob” to God’s law for generations and then running off to not do it. [2] No. Jesus wants the listeners to sit in the implications of needing to be a 10 before they do anything. He’s showing how great their sin is and how great their need for a Saviour is. He exposes those who think they’re pulling off God’s law with externals, by drawing everyone’s attention to the internals.

This call for perfection requires trust, rest & satisfaction in God. Without this rest, our hearts will never actually desire to keep God’s law. Our old nature wants to love ourselves most, [3] which was Jesus’ criticism to the religious crowd. They were leveraging the people they were supposed to be loving: God & neighbour. More often than I’d care to admit, my inner Pharisee rears his ugly head. I’m disinterested in your needs if I’m constantly focused on my needs. I can’t love you when I love myself most, but I manage to sin by loving myself most, daily, in some way.

As you work your way through Matthew 5 you find that in summary, we need to be perfectly gracious, forgiving, pure, faithful, trustworthy and loving. Perfect 10’s. This is because living this way reflects God who is all those things, and Himself, a perfect 10. As Jesus expounds on what being “salt & light” looks like, that’s what it amounts to.

At this point in the chapter, we find ourselves swallowing hard – which I imagine is what the listeners did on the hillside that day. If I were there, I probably would have pretended my youngest child needed to go relieve themselves so I could escape the sermon.

Good news.

God’s law says “do” and His gospel says “done”. Christ announced in verse 17 that He came to provide everything that God required – for you.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” – Matthew 5:17

This doesn’t mean that you are no longer required to keep the commands in Matthew 5 perfectly. That’s God’s law. It means that Christ fulfilled these requirements perfectly and bore your judgement for not keeping them perfectly. That’s God’s gospel. As you remember and rest in the implications of God’s amazing grace, His Spirit reforms your heart to desire to keep His law. [4]

God requires perfection from you because He is perfect.
God provided perfection for you because He’s gracious.
God works in you to desire His perfection because He’s faithful.

May you love God, love your neighbour & desire to live to the glory of the One who saved you.

Press on,

Paul

LISTEN TO “THE ONE WHERE JESUS SAID ‘BE PERFECT'” HERE.

 [1] Note the pattern of the giving of the law is found in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Christ follows this pattern. Also note Matthew’s intent in how he structures his gospel: Moses life is threatened at birth and is raised in Egypt. Christ’s life is threatened at birth and his parents flee to Egypt. Moses & Israel are baptized at the Red Sea. Christ is baptized at the Jordan. Moses is in the wilderness and Israel is disobedient. Christ is led into the wilderness to be tempted and is perfectly obedient. Moses delivers the law on a mountain. Jesus delivers the sermon on the mount. Matthew’s intent is to reveal Christ as the greater Moses: not only a lawgiver, but the one who perfectly fulfills the law.

[2] Exodus 19:8, Deuteronomy 5:27,  Joshua 24:24, Jeremiah 42:6

[3] Galatians 5:16-22

[4] “Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom He has sent.”- John 6:29

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