“And to the spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb 12:23). Some time ago these words found in the book of Hebrews caught my attention. As I meditated upon this phrase and began a more in-depth study, I was challenged and inspired in my own Christian walk. It is my desire to share these inspirations with others.
Consider the two thoughts expressed in this phrase: “just men” and “made perfect.” What constitutes a just man? Who is a just man? Let your mind travel with me. The idea of being “just men” carries the thought of a person that is honorable, fair, morally upright, an all-good person, the best society can produce. “Just men” might even describe the manner in which we would desire to be thought of, but the words “made perfect” add a deeper dimension. We should not be satisfied to be simply a “just man” when God is asking for more than that. Be perfect. He will provide the grace and strength that we need. The word “perfect,” as it is used here, means carried through to completion in every detail, lacking in no respect, whole, and of supreme moral excellence.
The Bible provides examples of men of whom God said were perfect before Him. They are worthy of our consideration. The earliest example is found in Genesis 6:8-9. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” Another example is Job. The very first verse in the book of Job introduces him with these words, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God and eschewed evil.” God described Asa’s condition in His declaration; “Nevertheless Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord all his days” (1Ki 15:14b).
The Call to Perfection…
The call to perfection comes to us from Almighty God, our Heavenly Father. As children, our Father desires that we grow and become more like Himself.
As we consider this calling, let us look at the account of the rich young ruler. Here was a morally upright young man. He knew how to say “no” to his flesh and sinful inclinations. Society would say he was a “just man”. The Bible record would suggest that he still felt a need in his life. Mark 10:21 says, “Then Jesus beholding him loved him.” Christ will always acknowledge the sincere heart as it comes to Him in openness and humility. However; His love will never prevent Him from revealing an area of personal need to us. Matthew 19:21 reads, “Jesus said unto him, if thou wilt be perfect.” In the remainder of this verse, Jesus sets forth the conditions for perfection. Even though some of the applications might be different, the principles are valid in our day. First, we are to give up any earthly thing that is taking preeminence in our life. Second, we are to minister to those with material needs. These may include money, time, food, or clothing. Combined with this is the need to minister to those with spiritual needs. This work will require that we are willing to listen to another’s struggles, share words of encouragement, pray for others, and tell others about the Lord. Third, we are to live as disciples of Christ in everyday life. In this account, the young ruler went away sorrowful. Christ had revealed the way of eternal life to him, but he considered the cost too great.
How often does this happen in our lives? We sense a need. Something is lacking in our heart and life. We take it to Jesus in sincerity, asking Him what He wants us to change. But when he shows us what it is, we are unwilling to give up and make the required change. As it was with the rich young ruler, so will it be for us. Our quest for perfection and Christian victory will end abruptly, unless we are willing to submit ourselves and do what Christ is asking.
Another call to perfection comes to us from Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48). The comparison here is not man to man, but man to God. How can the believer ever attain this divine injunction? If it were not for Christ in our life, and the in filling power of the Holy Spirit, our most valiant efforts would be hopelessly inadequate and futile. Thank God, He has made a way! God also called His Old Testament servants to a life of perfection. “The Lord appeared unto Abram and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect” (Gen 17:1). From this verse we understand that God’s holiness and His requirements for man’s holiness have not changed and never will.
There is still another call to perfection. This instance found in Revelation 3:1-2 comes to us as a warning. beginning in verse one Jesus says, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.” God sees and knows our heart’s true condition. We can fool man, but we will never deceive God. He knows our motives; he sees our inner deficiencies. He warns us of the eternal consequences. While this reality may strike fear in the heart, it does not need to. Let us hasten to consider…
How can I be perfect?
The first and most important step in our quest for perfection is salvation. Everyone must come to the foot of the cross; believing and accepting Christ’s atoning blood for their sin. Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.” Without this step the strongest efforts of the human will are in vain.
Another step towards perfection is taken when we heed the direction of godly parents. Consider what David had to share with his son, Solomon. “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever” (1Ch 28:9). God, in His wisdom, established the family unit for the benefit of every rising generation. As children need to learn to take direction before they can effectively give it to their children, we all need to learn obedience before we can ask it of those under our authority. Christ was an example of this principle while here on earth (Luke 2:51).
The course to perfection will affect our walk every day and touch every area of our lives. It requires that we walk close to God on a day to day basis. Perfection extends beyond morning or evening devotions, and brings us into contact with God, moment by moment, all day long. When the tempter entices, or the pressures of life press in on every side, my response indicates whether I’m walking with God or walking in the flesh. “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Gen 5:24). We ask the question, how can I walk with God in my generation as Enoch did in his? One way is by complete obedience to God’s Word. 1 John 2:5 says, “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby we know that we are in him.” Another is allowing the power of God in our lives to help us control our tongue. “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body” (Jas 3:2).
Our daily walk with God will also result in a love for one another. There are many references to this in the Scriptures. Jesus commands that we love others. John wrote on the subject. Paul instructs us in Colossians 3:14 that, “above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” Our love for one another will result in a care and concern for others. Through intercessory prayer we can bring others before the throne of God’s grace. If we have noticed an area of weakness or failure in a friend or brother’s life, we can beseech God’s power in their life to help them grow to perfection. As we grow in our daily walk with God, we will also grow in our trust and dependence on Him. David acknowledges this reality in Psalm 18:32. “It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.” David understood that perfection was a result of God’s power in his life and not his own. Today, as we walk with God, we too can experience the power of God working in our own heart and life, leading us onward, forward toward perfection, and more like Himself.
The Rewards of Perfection
The rewards will be worth the trials of the battle. The sweat, toil, and tears of the race will fade and disappear when we step into the presence of the One who has saved us and called us one of His own. The Bible holds many promises for the man whose heart is perfect. “Then the people rejoiced… because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy” (1Ch 29:9a). Here the promised reward is joy. There is joy in our hearts, joy in Christian service, and joy for others also as they observe our walk with God. parents and church leaders especially, rejoice to hear that their children walk in truth.
Another reward that God has promised to those who have been made perfect is His help. Help in the day-today struggles, trials, and temptations that we face. Help when it seems we have no more strength to go on. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards Him” (2Ch 16:9). It is a wonderful blessing to know that God is with us. In our weakness and humanity, we begin to wonder if God is present and why He allows us to suffer or face times of great difficulty. No matter what our situation is, we can rest in the promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us. A precious verse from Job 8:20 reads, “Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will He help the evildoers.” This verse assures us of His continued presence in our lives. The Apostle Paul’s challenge to the brethren at Corinth was “Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.”
Peace is another promised reward to the person who is endeavoring to walk as God would have him walk. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.” (Psalm 37:37) peace is possibly one of the most sought after desires of man. Too often it proves to be an elusive objective. True peace comes only through surrender to God and to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Does your heart know the peace of God, or are you still searching for it? Are you hoping it is just around the next bend in the road? peace, either you have it or you don’t. There is no middle ground.
Is God’s peace resting on your pursuit of perfection?
When our time on this earth is over, what will the pages of history record? Will it say of us, “Here is a just man made perfect by his God”? Or will it only say, “He was a just man”? Our influence on others and the rising generation will reflect our level of commitment. Consider for a moment the lives and influences of Abraham and Lot. While Abraham lived in communion with God and willingly obeyed His direction, Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom. What do our lives reveal to those we come in contact with? Am I wholeheartedly living for God? Is my life marked by willing obedience, or am I just riding along not wanting to do more than is required of me? How many of us desire to leave a legacy of faith as Abraham did, but try to do it with the commitment of Lot? It did not work back then and neither will it today.
You may be a saved person yourself, only to mourn in your later years because of wayward posterity that will not heed your words of warnings, even mocking your entreaties to live a life after God. Let us remember that the path we walk today, and the decisions we make now, will influence our future and impact the future of many other never-dying souls either for heaven or hell.
“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Php 3:12-15).