True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.
A commentary on John Wesley's A Plain Account of Christian Perfection
By: Frank L. Hoffman
Jesus said, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
(Wesley's writings are in bold)
As we begin this next section of the 19th part of John Wesley's A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, let us consider the question, "Is anything greater than perfection?" The dictionaries most definitely agree on the fact that the word, perfection, means the ultimate that can be achieved. Thus, there is nothing greater than perfection. I would also conclude that Jesus understood the meaning of perfection this same way when He said, "...you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." This is why I found the next question posed to John Wesley so curious.
"Question. How shall we avoid setting perfection too high or too low?
It sounds like the person who posed this question is trying to find a way of "lowering the bar" to a point where his sins would no longer be considered sinful. It is a question that seems to originate in deceit, but let's read how Wesley answered the question:
"Answer. By keeping to the Bible, and setting it just as high as the Scripture does. It is nothing higher and nothing lower than this—the pure love of God and man; the loving God with all our heart and soul, and our neighbor as ourselves. It is love governing heart and life, running through all our tempers, words, and actions.
In his answer, John Wesley may be saying, in a round about way, that perfection stands by itself at the top and cannot exist at a lower level, because it then would no longer be perfection. The way he words his answer seems more like a way of appeasing his critics rather than a precise statement of the facts. Unfortunately, his answer leaves the door open.
Wesley is absolutely correct when he defines perfection as Godly love, and the fact that such love should guide all our thoughts and actions. However, I disagree that there is "nothing lower than this." There is always something lower than perfection, a fact that all of us should know and acknowledge, because we all fall into that category. Nevertheless, we are to always seek to become perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. I find it also strangely curious that John Wesley never comes right out and addresses the fact that there is never anything higher than perfection, and thus it can never be set below the ultimate that can be achieved, because as we said above, that is the definition of perfection. And because of this, the Methodist Church has all but totally rejected John Wesley's teachings on Christian Perfection.
Let's go back and think about why someone, or even the Church as a whole, would want to pretend that perfection can occupy some middle ground. The people who attended this conference, where this question was asked, were clergy and church leaders. There was, and still is, a "pride" in their office, and the laity look to these people for spiritual guidance. So, whatever these leaders do is considered to be an acceptable way of living. Thus, if the church would officially lower the standards of Christian perfection, then the clergy's and leaders' lives would seem to be closer to being perfect. And this is exactly what has happened in the Church today. The truth is being called a lie, and the lie is being taught as the truth.
There were several things the congregations said they liked about my manner of teaching. That:
I always included myself as a member of the congregation. It was never "you" or "me." It was always "us" or "we."
I was never afraid to admit, as Paul says in Romans 3:23, "for all have fallen short of the glory of God," but at the same time, we are not to accept this fallen state as being acceptable.
I always encouraged each of us to seek a more perfect way before God.
This should be a minimum standard for church leaders and clergy; and if that becomes the goal, then the Church will once again seek, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10), and do everything in their power to help make it come true.
There is nothing greater than heavenly perfection!