7 Characteristics of a Perfect Church, Part 3: The Great Dilemma
Life is full of dilemmas. From childhood on, every human struggle we face requires a decision on our part. What to do, when to act, where to go, how to be and why bother?
If you’re a parent, you’ve probably told your children to be good more times than you remember. But the truth is children don’t know how to be good. That is, without a lot of wisdom, patience and direction from loving parents.
The same is true for God’s children. His command to be holy runs throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, God commands Abraham to walk before him and lead a blameless life. (Genesis 17:1) That’s a tall order, isn’t it? Surely God wouldn’t set Abraham up to fail, would He?
in Leviticus 20:7-8, God instructs the Israelites to be holy. “Keep my decrees and follow them.” That alone was a dilemma. God knew His children couldn’t obey His laws on their own. So, what did He do? He included a promise explaining His position and His plan. “I am the Lord, who makes you holy.”
We’re told in Genesis 15:6 God counted Abraham righteous because of his faith. The Lord kept His promise to the Israelites based on His righteousness, not theirs. (Joshua 21:45) And He worked in their hearts through His righteousness, according to their faith and by the work of His Spirit.
When they strayed, out of His compassion God gave His Spirit to instruct, sustain and forgive His children. Not just once, but time after time. (Nehemiah 9:7-28)
The Israelites rebelled against God many times. The Lord disciplined them heavily and often. But according to Joshua 21;45, God never rescinded His promises to His children. Every one was fulfilled.
Wise parents don’t make promises to their children they can’t keep. Nor does God. He loves us and wants us to grow in our faith, not stumble over it or shrink from it. Therefore, whether inferred or explicit, imbedded in every command from God’s Word is a promise from His heart. Seemingly impossible commands are merely God’s tools to stretch our faith to fit His promises.
What does all this have to do with the seven characteristics of a perfect church? The God of the Old Testament is the same God we serve today. The difference is that God’s church today believes the Messiah has already come in the person of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
God’s desire for us today is the same as it’s always been. That His children love, honor and obey Him by faith. And His commands and promises are as valid for us today as they were in the O.T.
In II Corinthians 13:9-14, Paul admonishes the Corinthians to aim for perfection. And then, he prays for the perfection of the church. If Paul didn’t believe God could or would answer his prayer, why did he bother to pray at all? (I Peter 1:15-16)
Yes, life is full of dilemmas needing our attention. But the great dilemma is how can we learn to be holy when we’re more inclined to go our own way? In the next post, we’ll concentrate on how to aim for perfection God’s way.
Meanwhile, how has God worked in your life to grow your faith?