Thursday, 10 February 2011

Being Perfect?

I’ve been thinking a lot about perfection and being a new creation recently.  I heard John Crowder teach at the recent GloryFest event in Newport, Wales and have also read his book ‘Mystical Union’ which I can heartily recommend.  He is preaching a gospel of the finished work of the cross that, frankly, blew my socks off.  I’ve heard plenty of teaching over the last three or four years about us dying with Christ on the cross (two hands, one nail), the fact that our old self was buried in baptism and that it’s no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me and I’ve been very blessed, encouraged and strengthened in my faith by it.  But last year, at the last SloshFest in Barry, while John was speaking he told a story, in passing really, about his little girl arguing with the Sunday School teacher at a church they had gone to about how she’s perfect and the teacher saying she wasn’t.  It was a funny story and I liked it but when I tried to think of myself as perfect I found offence bubbling up within me.  How arrogant would I have to be to think I could be called perfect? I liked almost all of what John said but that had crossed a line, how could he or anyone claim to be ‘perfect’? It offended a religious mind-set, one I wasn’t even aware I had, I knew one day I would be perfect but to claim that I was already was absurd, possibly even blasphemous, wasn’t it?  This year at GloryFest John spoke several times and was his usual charismatic, energetic, entertaining and outrageous self but he spoke in much more detail about the finished work of the cross and he also talked about perfection and he goes into even more detail in his book.  I’m not going to try and summarise it all here, that would be futile, get the book or listen to the teaching or read Paul’s epistles over and over; but I do want to talk briefly about why I now believe I am made perfect and why I used such a pejorative term as ‘religious mind-set’.

I am perfect
Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Rom 6:1-3 says “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”

2 Corinthians 5:17 (AMP) says “Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!”

John 19:30 says “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ ”

Is there any sense from any of these passages that God has simply begun something in us at our salvation?  Is there any sense of a process that we now embark upon to rid ourselves of sin and make ourselves anew?  If keeping the law was enough, remaining sinless by our own effort, then Christ died for nothing.

If it’s true there are two possibilities and they are that (a) we are sinners and under Satan’s dominion or (b) we are saved and in Christ’s kingdom then how can we be partially saved?  How does a third, partially saved, version fit in with scripture? Paul is stating quite categorically that the old nature, our sinful fallen nature, is dead and gone and we now have a new nature, Christ living in us by His Holy Spirit!  If I am a temple of the Holy Spirit (holy meaning separate, set apart, pure, amongst other things) how can someone who is intrinsically separate from sin by His very nature dwell within someone who is still sinful?  In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came upon people from time to time to empower them in some gifting or authority but it was always temporary.  Now we are to ‘be continually filled’ with the Holy Spirit as he resides within us! We are in union, ingrafted, joined inextricably with Christ who is the very embodiment of the Father.  Would he, could he even, be joined with anything less than sinless perfection?  I don’t think so.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was an event outside of the realm of time, it has to be or it doesn’t work!  If Jesus’ death was contained within time’s restrictions then his sacrifice could only have been for those alive at the time he died and for those who had died earlier.  How could he die for those as yet unborn?  They didn’t yet exist so their sins hadn’t happened yet, let alone them hearing about Jesus and choosing to believe in Him!  So the sins He took upon himself and paid for were all the sins of all the people in the world.  Every sin I have ever committed and every sin I ever will commit!  In fact, according to the scriptures above, he not only paid the penalty for my sin he took the cause of it onto the cross and killed it there.  When we believe in Him, when the gift of Faith causes us to be able to believe in Jesus, the floodgates of God’s outrageous grace are opened and we enter in to the glorious freedom of the sons of God.

Here comes the obvious objection: “If all that’s true then how come I still sin then?” Have I sinned since I started to believe in the perfection of the finished work of the cross? Sadly, yes I have.

Now bear with me, this is where it gets tricky, and I’m not 100% certain I’ve got all this nailed down in my own head yet!  Maybe what we’re doing is we are muddling up nature and actions here.

Before I knew Jesus and believed in Him and his wonderful sacrifice I was a sinner.  I had a sinful nature and that nature expressed itself in my actions and thoughts and attitudes and desires.  I couldn’t help it.  I was a sinner – it’s who I was not what I did.  The sins did not make me a sinner; I was a sinner so therefore naturally I sinned. I had no choice in the matter! See Romans 7:15-24 for Paul’s take on this issue.  However now I have received this new creation life, my very nature is new.  The old sinful nature isn’t tied up and gagged but still struggling to be free with me having to keep re-tying the knots and re-fitting the gag, no it’s dead, properly dead, buried under the water of baptism and I am now living only because Christ lives in me!  I now have a new nature – that is who I am!  I choose not to sin because of my new nature…but should I sin this does not change my nature any more than stopping sinning, by following the law, could have changed my nature from a sinner to a saint!  What we do does NOT determine who we are – it’s the other way around.  The times I choose to sin are despite my new nature not because that new creation reality isn’t true.  That decision to sin, and let’s face it sinning by mistake is pretty rare if not impossible, was also dealt with 2,000 years ago on the cross.  And that’s why Paul says what he says in Rom 6:1-2.  This isn’t a licence to sin all we like; it’s a call to live in the fullness of the perfection we have already been given as a free gift.

Religious Mind-Set
The reason I used the rather pejorative term is because religion is all about our own efforts trying to close the gap between us and God.  If I don’t accept the gift of a sinless perfect new nature I am going to try, by my own effort, to close a gap between me and God. Once we understand that the gap that no longer exists, our mind-set should change to a grace mind-set rather than a religious one.  That’s why I called this way of thinking a ‘religious mind-set’, and surely we’re not treating the finished work of cross as insufficient are we?

You can agree with me or disagree with me, in the words of Catherine Tate’s ‘Lauren’ character “I ain’t bovvered!” I still love you and I hope you will still love me!


  1. I like that version of the gospel! Good word!

  2. I love this. Definately need to chew on it for a while, because the religious mindset is not an easy one to be free from I'm afraid. Love that there is no longer a gap btw us and God! Which means no stairs to climb, no levels to reach. I get that and LOVE it!! Great job explaining John's teaching.

  3. Hi, it's a very great blog.
    I could tell how much efforts you've taken on it.
    Keep doing!

  4. I finally found the time to read your blog on "Being Perfect". Thank you for sharing, it was very, very good. I just need to get this way down deep in my spirit. I either need to purchase John's book or read Paul's epistles.