Monday, July 9, 2012

Sinless Perfection

Perfection?  One word and one word only.  Jesus.


There is a doctrine that has been going around for decades, perhaps even centuries, that has set people up to beat themselves to a pulp when they fail... which they always do.

It's called the doctrine of sinless perfection.

Basically this doctrine says that if we are in Christ and filled with the Spirit, it's possible to live as sinless a life as Jesus did. The basis for this argument is that Jesus laid aside His God-hood, His divine attributes, in order to be fully human, and that He therefore had no advantage over us in fighting temptation, did it by the power of the Holy Spirit, just the same way He got the power to do all those miracles.  

Hm.  As alluring as that statement might be, I think that a few people might be deceiving themselves. It says in 1 John chapter 1 that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. And the apostle Paul (arguably one of the holiest men who ever lived except for Jesus) struggled with sin all the time. He said he kept sinning even though he didn't want to, and kept "not doing the right thing" even though he desired it so much! Yet he told the Ephesians to keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit, and told the Corinthians that he spoke in tongues (prayed under the direction of the Holy Spirit) more than all of them. 

The truth is, Jesus did have a slight (okay, a big) advantage over us ... in that He was not born with a "sin nature" - that is, a natural tendency to sin (aka "the curse").  Which is not to say that He wasn't tempted; He was!!! BIG time!!! But He had the same choice Adam did, before the Fall of man.  He didn't understand what it was like TO COMMIT sin - even though (on the cross) He BECAME sin, and felt the guilt and the shame of it down through the ages (every possible sin, past, present and future).  If we believe that Jesus didn't sin because He was filled with the Holy Spirit - then what happened the first 30 years of His life before He was filled at His baptism? Are we then to conclude that He DID sin because He wasn't filled with the Spirit? if so - He was not the perfect sacrifice, and His death was in vain!  

But if He didn't sin during that 30-year period - perhaps it's because ... oh maybe it might have been that (you know) "in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:9).  

Now - that said - because of what He did on the cross, if we accept it as being for us personally, we are made just as righteous as Jesus, by God ... POSITIONALLY.  God no longer sees our sin, but chooses to look at Jesus, who is our life, who is our righteousness. 

Being filled with (controlled by) the Holy Spirit is the only way that we could possibly begin to live (as Jesus promised) an abundant life, to be fully alive, in other words.  And included in that is most likely a marked reduction of that S-word because we're listening to His direction on a moment-by-moment basis.  It's marvelous.  It's glorious - if we live in that every single second of our lives.

Yet to believe that we - by being filled with the Spirit on a consistent basis - are capable of never sinning? Not once?  Perfection in the everyday happenings and routines of our lives? In our thoughts? in our MOTIVES?  Seriously?  

I'm not saying we aren't to try; this is not a cop-out to justify not trying!  On the contrary - I'm saying that we so much NEED to be filled with the Spirit, in conscious contact with God.  What I AM saying is that WHEN we sin - and we WILL ... God has made provision for that in our position in Christ as believers and all we need to do is agree with Him that we've messed up - and move on! No self-recriminations, no shame-fests, just "Yeah God, I loused it up this time. What I did was wrong. Please forgive me and re-fill me with Yourself. Thank You so much for Your grace!" And that's ALL.

Mike Warnke said quite a few years back, in one of his performances, something like this:  "I could say it in a really theological, hermeneutic way that would confuse most people and perhaps impress them at the same time - but I won't.  Instead, I'll just say it like this - Minus Crud Is COOL."  

Understanding the depths of grace inspires gratitude, and births a burning desire in us to be filled with God's presence as much and as often as possible (and um, that doesn't have to wait until we get to church to happen - it can be anywhere, anytime! - just saying.) The overflow of that infilling is so incredible - but let's not give ourselves more credit than we deserve, or beat ourselves up when we don't achieve perfection.  The most we can be is honest, open, and willing. The process of 'sanctification' is just that - a process.  We can take absolutely NO credit for any progress we make.

It's all Him.

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