Beginning a new year is often a time when we make personal reassessments. We ask ourselves, do we have every aspect of our lives together? Are all of our relationships copasetic? Do we need to make the traditional New Year's resolutions or need to confess anything to the Lord?
None of us are even close to perfection. So what are we going to do about Jesus' statement in Matthew 5:48 "Therefore be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect"?
That statement is in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. The word, "perfect," means completeness, growth, mental and moral character. Those definitions could easily make us feel better about ourselves but actually, it's harder. Yes, I can honestly say I continually work at growing spiritually and becoming a more complete individual. But mental and moral character? Can any of us say we have that when you consider our hidden thought life? HELP!
Except . . .
Quick, let's look at how the "Father in heaven is perfect." The first example that comes to mind is David, the shepherd boy who became king. 1 Kings 15:5 says, "David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite."
Earlier, in verse 3, some translations call David's heart perfect. How can that be?
You know the story, because David humbled himself, confessed his sin and truly repented of what he'd done, God forgave him and exercised His perfection by looking at David as perfect.
The exception in David's life came about because he humbled himself and repented.
In Genesis 32:26 after Jacob wrestled with the angel all night, finally the angel told him to let him go. Jacob responded, "I will not let You go except You bless me." Jacob had obviously come to the end of his rope. He didn't want to be Jacob the deceiver, the conniver any more. He decided to take the chance and go back home even though he knew that his twin brother had wanted to kill him. His actions demonstrated how badly he wanted that blessing. And you know what? The Angel did bless him. Jacob was changed from supplanter/deceiver to Israel - the mighty God of Israel. Shortly thereafter he was granted peace with his brother, Esau, who had wanted to kill him for stealing the birthright.
God honored Jacob's plea for an exception because he was desperate and humble.
After God delivered the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage with signs, wonders and miracles, they should have had plenty of confidence in God to enable them to walk straight into the Promised Land. But they rebelled and complained over and over and over. Finally, in apparent exasperation, God told them, "The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness . . . . Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in" (Numbers 14:29-30). Scripture used the word "except" with reference to Caleb and Joshua in two other places - Number 26:65 and Numbers 32:12. So what can we learn from this?
If we want God to except us from the consequences of the culture around us, we must walk in obedience like Caleb and Joshua did.
In Judges 7 we read the story of Gideon and the Midianites. When Gideon walked into the Midianite camp, he overheard a man relaying a dream. A second man interpreted it by saying, "This is nothing else except the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel. For into his hand God has delivered Midian and all the army" (vs. 14).
When we push past our doubts and fears as Gideon did in order to walk in obedience to the Lord, even our enemies will understand who we are, whose we are, and what the outcome will be.
As we grow in the fear of the Lord and in our obedience, we learn the word of the Lord and His word becomes our word. Therefore, we have the authority of heaven even as Elijah the Tishbite had when he told Ahab, "As Jehovah, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except according to my word" (1 Kings 17:1).
Eventually, we are able to use the word, "except" ourselves as we grow in the authority God gives us. After all, "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours" (James 5:17).
So . . . . what's the conclusion of this study? Well . . . . I've never met a Christian who didn't want to be like David – a simple "nobody" who becomes a king. We all want to find favor in the eyes of the Lord. We all want to do something meaningful with our life. When we die, we want God to receive us saying, "Yeah, I know you messed up and you don't deserve to come into My heaven. . . . EXCEPT . . . .
Yes, I know we get that "except" because of the Blood of Jesus, but, if we're honest, we also want to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21, 25). So what can we do now to be able to hear those words? Look at what we've discovered here through the scriptures.
1. Humble ourselves before God – like David
2. Confess our sins – like David
3. Repent – like David
4. Recognize our desperate condition before man and God – like Jacob who became Israel
5. Walk in obedience – like Caleb and Joshua
6. Push past our doubt and fear – like Gideon
7. Deliver God's word when He gives it to us – like Elijah
8. Use the authority God has given us – like Elijah
Father God, in the Name of Jesus, please purify our hearts as we humbly confess our sins and turn away from them. We are desperate for You, God. So, by Your Spirit, please give us the get-up-and-go to obey your every word. We renounce our doubt and fear and say to You, we will deliver Your word when, where and however You direct, and we will not only use the authority You've given us, we will stay within the boundaries of that authority. Amen