This article continues my series on spiritual disciplines titled “Why Men Need Discipline.” Today’s article is called “Discipline Makes the Impossible Possible” and speaks to the continuing development of the Christian into a person who is “perfect” as our “heavenly Father is perfect.”
Did You Say: “Be Perfect”?
Sometimes I am disturbed by what Scripture says. An example is contained in Matthew 5:48 where we are commanded to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Really? Be perfect? That appears quite impossible. I know I am not perfect. Far from it. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not perfect. And neither are you. So, why would God issue this seemingly impossible command to us? (It is a “command” and not a “suggestion” by the way).
Well, I know that God is perfectly just, meaning that He is perfectly fair to us. So, I can know that God would not require something of me, or from me, that would be impossible for me to attain. Therefore, it is only logical that “being perfect” must be possible. And, more than that, not only must it be possible for me to achieve, it also must be GOOD FOR ME! (see Matthew 7:9-11)
The good news for us is that God doesn’t leave this “possible impossible” task to us to attain on our own. Quite the contrary.
We are Perfect because of Imputed Righteousness
The Bible tells us that when we repent of our sin and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, that God considers us righteous in his sight. This means that even though we aren’t “really” holy, God chooses on His own to declare us holy. Essentially, for our benefit, God “pretends” that we are completely righteous because Jesus has “covered” our unrighteousness with his sacrificed blood. That’s the only way true relationship with a completely holy God can exist – if He chooses not to count our unholiness against us. It’s imputed righteousness that “gets us into heaven.”
That’s the first way that the “impossible becomes possible” – just because God says so!
We are becoming Perfect because of Imparted Righteousness
It is not so difficult to accept that God can look past our transgressions and determine on His own that we are righteous (i.e., perfect) in His sight. God is merciful. God is full of grace. However, it is hard to accept that we are also being made perfect; that in this life that we can live a perfectly holy and righteous life. But that’s also what the Bible teaches.
In 2 Peter 1:4, we are told that we are “partakers of the divine nature.” What that means is that over time, through our circumstances, our choices, God’s leading, and our decisions, that we become more and more holy. We become more righteous as we are transformed into the likeness of Christ. Our daily lives here on earth actually change from unholiness to slightly less unholiness to slightly less unholiness and on and on.
This takes training and it takes time. Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, participating in worship, learning self-control, seeking wisdom and patience and goodness and kindness, and allowing love to be evident in our actions slowly (and not so slowly at times) mold us into people who reflect Christ and are permanently changed. This is referred to as “imparted righteousness” meaning that God is “imparting” (or “giving to us”) righteousness.
This training is not easy. It takes the discipline of making the right choices daily. It means sacrificing what we may naturally desire in exchange for what God desires. It means being obedient to the Word even if we don’t feel like it and even when we don’t fully understand it. It means learning from failure. It means conforming our attitudes, our minds, our hearts and our actions to the Word of God and His ways, more and more every day. It’s imparted righteousness that makes us better disciples and ambassadors for God’s work here on earth.
The Bottom Line
God gives us the ability to “work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12). As we “train” ourselves by engaging in spiritual disciplines, regularly and in increasing measure over time, we do just that – we work out the unholiness that wants to control us, and allow God to work in the holiness that He wants to control us.
Hopefully, you’ve been reviewing the various spiritual disciplines that I outlined previously and have been identifying which of those could use some improvement in your own life. If not, I suggest that you review them now.
It is now time to make a specific plan of action. What is your plan for Bible study? What is your plan for quiet devotion time? What is your plan for prayer? Where are you going to serve the Lord this week? Make a decision to implement these into your life right now in specific, detailed ways.