True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth
By: Frank L. Hoffman
Jesus said, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)
Chapter 19 F - Are We to Speak of Our Perfection?
(Wesley's writings are in bold)
As we enter this sixth section of the nineteenth part of John Wesley's A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, we see that the attendees at the conference are still asking questions that seem to be trying to find ways around having to accept the fact that we are to seek Christian perfection. Now, to be fair to those who attended that conference in 1759, their attitude was no different from that of the vast majority of modern day clergy who are afraid to admit that they are imperfect and need to seek God's heavenly perfection, just as their congregants need to do.
I personally believe that the first step in seeking Christian perfection is our open admission that we are imperfect and need to mature in God's perfect love for the glory of God. We should leave out the details, as that could sound like we are boasting of our sinful nature. However, the very fact that we admit that we are seeking to become perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect is a form of speaking of our perfection.
With this in mind, let's look at the following question posed at the conference:
"Question. Suppose one had attained to this, would you advise him to speak of it?
"Answer. At first, perhaps, he would scarce be able to refrain, the fire would be so hot within him; his desire to declare the loving kindness of the Lord carrying him away like a torrent. But afterward he might, and then it would be advisable not to speak of it to them that know not God (it is most likely it would only provoke them to contradict and blaspheme), nor to others, without some particular reason, without some good in view. And then he should have especial care to avoid all appearance of boasting; to speak with the deepest humility and reverence, giving all the glory to God.
The question that is asked is presented in a way that limits the speaking of our Christian perfection until people have already achieved it, a state which Wesley openly admits we will never fully reach upon this corrupted earth. Instead of repeating his position on the matter, Wesley wisely answers what appears to be a mocking question in a way that seems to chastise this person for not even trying to seek God's heavenly perfection. In his answer, Wesley also ties together our being born again with our desire to both seek and speak of our Christian perfection.
I also believe that one of the "particular reasons" for speaking about Christian perfection, upon which Wesley doesn't elaborate, is for the encouragement of others, which is the purpose of my commentary. To do otherwise would be un-Christian. This un-Christian interpretation seems to be borne out in the asking of the next question:
"Question. But would it not be better to be entirely silent, not to speak of it at all?
By not speaking of Christian perfection at all, we may avoid the appearance of boasting, but we also totally miss the opportunity of encouraging others to glorify God through their changed and perfecting lives. Note how John Wesley wisely answers the question:
"Answer. By silence he might avoid many crosses, which will naturally and necessarily ensue, if he simply declare, even among believers, what God has wrought in his soul. If, therefore, such a one were to confer with flesh and blood, he would be entirely silent. But this could not be done with a clear conscience; for undoubtedly he ought to speak. Men do not light a candle to put it under a bushel; much less does the all-wise God. He does not raise such a monument of his power and love to hide it from all mankind. Rather, he intends it as a general blessing to those who are simple of heart. He designs thereby not barely the happiness of that individual person but the animating and encouraging others to follow after the same blessing. His will is 'that many shall see it' and rejoice, 'and put their trust in the Lord.' Nor does anything under heaven more quicken the desires of those who are justified than to converse with those whom they believe to have experienced a still higher salvation. This places that salvation full in their view, and increases their hunger and thirst after it—an advantage which must have been entirely lost had the person so saved buried himself in silence.
In his answer, Wesley refers to Matthew 5:14-16...
14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;
15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Unfortunately, I have encountered more negative witnessing in the churches than positive affirmations and encouragement to seek God's heavenly perfection. This is when clergy boast of their imperfections and encourage others to follow in their footsteps. One example of this would be a "sport hunting" pastor, who speaks of his exploits and encourages others to follow him in his killing. Yet James 3:1 says, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment." It stands to reason that a pastor teaching about the joys of killing is treading on spiritually dangerous ground.
A Jewish rabbi would never do this, because a rabbi properly understands that the Bible teaches us that we are not to take pleasure in the death or suffering of any living being. Pastors absolutely know that the Scriptures teach us that there will be no death in heaven (Revelation 21:4). Thus to knowingly take a life is to counter the very prayer that Jesus taught us (Matthew 6:10), that God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Furthermore, for a person to knowingly kill another living being, he or she must harden their heart toward the feelings of that being.
In my opinion, those who fight against our seeking Christian perfection are those who selfishly don't want to change their lifestyle for the better. If people don't seek God's heavenly will, but rather seek to live in and perpetuate the corrupted state of this earth, they are not worshiping our Father in heaven, but the devil who rules the earth (Ephesians 2:2), (Hebrews 2:14), (1 John 3:8).
The prophet Isaiah reached out in the Spirit of God and saw the perfection of God reestablished in the Peaceable Kingdom, and he wrote (Isaiah 11:6-9 NASV):
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the kid,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze;
Their young will lie down together;
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.
© 2001-2003 - The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation. All rights reserved. May be copied only for personal use or by not for profit organizations to promote compassionate and responsible living. All copied and reprinted material must contain proper credits and web site link www.all-creatures.org .
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Should We Fear Speaking of Our Perfection? |
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