The View From Here

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The Pursuit of Perfection - Philippians 3

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There is no such thing as a perfect church.  Some laughingly quip, “If you find one don’t join it… you might ruin it.”  Followers of Jesus come to understand that perfection rests not in individual believers or in any group, but in Jesus Christ himself.  At the same time, Christians are supposed to pursue righteousness--perfection.  How is this done?

Paul lived a life in pursuit of perfection.  He had quite the resume and reputation.  While Paul was on his own road, he encountered Jesus Christ, and his pursuit changed.  In his letter to the Church in Philippi, Paul passionately said he put no confidence in personal achievement or ability.  Paul directed all his effort to “know” Christ, to “gain” Christ, and to be “found in Him.”  Paul understood perfection comes not by following rules, but by believing in Jesus.  The pursuit and posture of Paul’s life continued to be perfection, but he did not chase after his own perfection.  Paul chased after Jesus Christ, understanding that as he followed Jesus, Jesus would perfect him.  Paul’s new pursuit took him in the footsteps of Jesus.

The perfect church is not one with perfect people, but with people being perfected as they follow Jesus.  Perfection will come, but not in this life.  Looking for perfection or the perfect church here on this earth is looking for the wrong stuff.  Paul describes the Christian life as a pursuit, an eager expectation.  It is a bit of a wait. 

So, while you wait, what are you doing?  Consider the posture and pursuit of Paul.  Can you describe your wait here on earth as an eager expectation?  He did not spend his time nitpicking his own faults or those of the church, rather he looked for Christ with his mind, heart and with his actions.  He saw himself “in Christ.”  The challenge for us now is to take a test.  We do this as individuals and as a church.  “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves.  Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test” (2 Cor. 13:5).  Take a good look and see who is in control of your life.   Every day is a good day to turn from selfishness, pride, coveting, anger, jealousy and the desire to control everything and everyone around you.  It is called surrender.  It is perfectly done by turning to Jesus.  You may have turned to Jesus once.  Great, you are forever His!  Now you get to keep turning to Him (Rom. 13:14).  Lean forward and pursue!

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Who got paid off?

He owed nothing but paid him off anyway.  Jesus said he came to give his life—a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  The word “ransom” is just one way the Bible describes what Jesus did when he died on the cross.  We quickly understand that we were the ones Jesus ransomed, but have you stopped to think who got the payoff?  Who was holding us hostage?  Did someone benefit from the ransom that was paid? And why didn’t God just send in the heavenly SWAT team? 

The idea that a ransom was paid, as Jesus stated it, reaches back into the Old Testament.  We quickly think of hostages, but the imagery from Exodus is of slavery.  God delivered his people from the burden and bondage of the Egyptians with his power and mighty judgments (Ex. 6:6).  This becomes a picture of God redeeming his people from sin’s slavery. 

Some are wrong in thinking the ransom was paid to Satan.  Satan actually has no part in this transaction.  Satan did want something from Jesus.  Satan offered the world to Jesus, if Jesus would worship him (Luke 4:5-8).  Of course, Jesus wasn’t about to give Satan anything but a stiff rebuke.

The idea that a ransom was paid points not “to whom” it was paid, but rather points to the “high price” that was paid.  So, wondering “who got paid off” is probably the wrong question.  Mark 10:45 should astonish us.  Jesus stated that he came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as the price for our release from slavery.  The ransom paid points to Jesus.

So what happened when Jesus paid this ransom?  Redemption.  Those who are redeemed are freed from sin (Romans 5:18; 6:6; 8:1-4; 1 Pet. 2:24), the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13), condemnation (Rom. 8:1), the Mosaic Code (Rom. 7:1-5; 1 Cor. 9:20-21; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14-23) and spiritual (demonic) powers of darkness (Col 1:13-17).

There is now nothing holding you back from the throne of God, if you trust in the gift that has been given: Jesus Christ.  A ransom had to be paid.  A perfectly loving God offers forgiveness, and a God of justice makes sure that the penalty is paid.  God, who “so loved the world,” provided Jesus Christ to be the bridge.  Jesus, the ransom-payer, becomes the mediator between God and man.  He took on your sin, became the curse, was condemned in your place, fulfilled the Mosaic code and destroyed the grip Satan, sin and death had over you.  If you are in Christ, you are truly free.  The one who benefits from the ransom paid can be you.

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