Dear Church Family,
How many times have we heard these words as we were growing up, “I mean what I say!” when we were told something to do or not to do? Or, how many times have we spoken the same words to our children or grandchildren? Whether or not the words carried much weight or authority depended on how rigorously the consequences of not obeying were carried out, and the follow up of the parents.
I am convinced that when we read the words of Jesus from Scripture, or hear the urgings of His Holy Spirit, “He means what He says!” It is so tempting to interpret Jesus’ words and the words He gave the writers of Scripture to mean what we want them to mean, to stretch them to fit our moralist view, whatever it may be. But His words never change, and He means what He says.
Let’s take, for example, this teaching of Jesus that we can live a clean, pure life, that we can be holy like Him, and we can be perfect in our love for God and others. Did Jesus really mean we can live like Him in such a world that constantly pulls at our lives? Do we believe some of the things He says, yet discard those things we believe unattainable or not a good fit for our lifestyle and the culture of today? Sometimes we must be reminded that when Jesus tells us that we must be or not be a certain way, He gives us grace and strength to be successful.
In Matthew 5:48, Jesus tells us to “Be perfect, like your heavenly Father is perfect.” C.S. Lewis commenting on this verse reminds us that Jesus meant what He said. In his book Mere Christianity, and from the chapter entitled “Counting the Cost,” Lewis looks at what Jesus meant by being perfect in this way. “The only help I (Jesus) will give is help to become perfect. You may want something less; but I will give you nothing less.”
Many people come to Jesus to be forgiven of one particular sin which is ruling their lives. He may very well cure them of that habit or sinful behavior, but He does not want to stop there. Jesus sees other sins in that person’s life that keep Him from taking over completely a person’s life, behaviors that require complete surrender. The Holy Spirit will continue to pursue us, convicting, and causing unrest in our hearts. This is why Jesus said to “count the cost” before making the decision to follow Him. Jesus says, "Make no mistake, if you let me in, I am going to continue to work in you until I am satisfied that you are perfect. I will never rest, nor let you rest until you are restored into my image.”
C.S. Lewis uses an analogy from George MacDonald, nineteenth-century Scottish author and minister, to illustrate “counting the cost” of discipleship, the pursuit of God on our relationship, and the demand Jesus has on our complete surrender to Him.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. You invite God to come in to make some changes. At first, you can understand what He is doing. New plumbing, electrical wiring, fixing the leaks in the roof, maybe a fresh coat of paint inside and outside. These are things that you knew had to be done, so you were not surprised with God’s work on your house. But soon God begins to do things that make you uneasy. He digs up the foundation and replaces it with a stronger, longer- lasting support. God then adds a new addition to your house, several new rooms, maybe a garage and a wrap-around porch. God even begins working on the yard, putting in gardens and fences. All the time, you had thought that He would just do a little remodeling and you would be finished. You thought God could just do what is minimal and you would be ‘good enough,’ then He would just leave me alone!”
John Wesley defined “perfection” as “loving God with everything we have,” and “loving other people as we love ourselves.” Jesus would never ask us to do something that is impossible. Sanctification is a long process and can be very painful at times, but that’s the cross that we pick up when we follow Jesus. Nothing less. Jesus meant what He said.
Rev. Tim McConnell
Pastor of Congregational Care