The Road to Perfection
F.F. Chong—London, UK
Human nature is generally fallible
and susceptible to external influence. Try as we might, whether we are an
ordained minister or just a believer, achieving Christ-like perfection
sometimes seems to be an impossible dream. Worse, we live in a world where
corruption is the norm. Waning spiritual sobriety then exposes us to a spectrum
of allurements, making it doubly hard for us to attain spiritual perfection.
Despite such gloomy prospects,
Christ offers us the most uplifting promises. We are told that as Christians we
can become perfect. We are reassured that with God’s help, the impossible will
be made possible. The road to perfection, though long, can be completed—not by
puny human strength or will, but by yielding completely to the Spirit for
empowerment and by following His word. Above all else, we must constantly long
for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Based on this
premise, we strive toward perfection.
The Law of God is the foundation on
which we build ourselves unto perfection. In particular, Deuteronomy 10:12
points to the very means to help us attain perfection: to fear God, love Him,
walk in His ways, and serve Him with all our heart and soul. Revisiting and
understanding the elements in this Mosaic instruction will serve as the
signposts on our road to perfection.
Fear of God
In the book of Proverbs, we are
told that the fear of God leads us away from evil (Prov 3:7b). The Hebrew word
for “fear” (yare) has also been translated
as “revere” which we generally associate with a deep respect and awe. As
humans, we are wont to pay little heed to people we do not respect. In
contrast, we often seek to draw near to and emulate those whom we admire.
Clearly then, when reverence for God is a natural part of our lives, we will gradually
move towards perfection and away from evil because God and evil are two
opposing forces that cannot coexist in our hearts. Loving one means hating the
other. If we allow evil to gain a foothold in our lives, it will erode godly
reverence and eventually destroy our spiritual life.
To protect our hearts from evil,
we first need to understand why we should fear God. God is our Savior. He saved
us from this world of corruption. He has given us all things pertaining to life
and godliness, enabling us to be partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:3–4).
Since He has paid the heaviest of prices and traded His life for ours, it is
only natural and necessary for us to revere this Master of our lives. Fearing Him
is our duty (Eccl 12:13). Yet if sin dominates us, our lives, which were meant
to be kept in Him, would be detached from His (Col 3:1–3).
Fearing God also means that we do
not compromise God’s principles. Only then can the fear of God reign supreme in
our lives and truly help us to know and understand Him (Prov 1:7; 9:10).
Knowing God, in turn, will help us navigate through this life. In this way, we
build ourselves upon the foundation of the truth to become perfect.
The word for love (aheb) is associated with affection. Everyone enjoys
being the recipient of heart-warming affection. It is also fairly easy to give
our affection to a person we can see. However, to love the Lord whom we cannot
see may be difficult; and constitutes an even greater challenge when we cannot
perceive His presence in our lives. While we may say we love the Lord, but at
the most critical point, it is moot unless we can actually manifest this love.
In the Old Testament, the house of Jacob, in their ignorance, practiced
idolatry because they could neither see the Lord nor experience His help in
time of trials. In contrast, the saints in persecution manifested a very
different and unique love for Jesus whom they had never seen before (1 Pet
1:8). The depth of their love for God was unshaken by the severity of the trial
in which they were.
How can we build up such a strong
love for our Lord? The central message of God’s word is that whatever God does
is for our good (Ps 136), although it may be difficult sometimes to accept His
word because it contradicts our stubborn will. However, faith can do wonders.
Practicing His word by faith unlocks the power contained within, filling our
heart with His love and great understanding.
Some find the word of God
restrictive. But those who love God see His kind intention embedded in His
word. Similarly, a young person often finds it difficult to perceive the loving
intention underpinning parental control over him or her. However, one grown
into maturity understands that deep love is the underlying reason for parental
guardianship. Thus, for us who know God, abiding in His word is the most
concrete expression of love for the Lord. If we do so without any hesitation,
but with sincere submission to His will, we will find that His yoke is easy (Mt
11:30). In short, when we resolve to love God, we are actually working towards
in His Way
God’s way is the best way. This is
not a mere theory or slogan. It is a way of life and the only way to be blessed
in the Lord (Ps 1:1–2; 128:1b). But as always, it is much easier said than
done. Sometimes, we may even find it suffocating to walk in God’s way because
our obstinate human nature with its natural tendency to sin wages a constant
campaign to turn us against God.
So how can we wholeheartedly walk
in God’s way? Prophet and apostle alike give us the same answer—we must reorder
our lives completely and purge ourselves from all corruption (Jas 1:21; 1 Pet
2:1). There are two ways that purging can be done. First, we can initiate it
ourselves. James 4:7–10 provides us with useful and very practical pointers –
cleansing our hands (i.e., abandoning our past vile habits and conduct);
purifying our hearts (i.e., turning our minds back to God); humbling ourselves
(i.e., acknowledging that we cannot overcome our weaknesses on our own and thus
relying on Him). Then, when we have purged ourselves of hypocrisy, envy, and
all evil speaking, out of our clean heart and steadfast spirit (Ps 51:10) will
flow sincerity and uprightness, incessant thanksgiving to God for all that He
gives and words of grace to everyone in all circumstances.
Second, on occasions that our Lord
recognizes the need for us to be purged before we do, He puts us through
trials. Trials enable us to grow to know the Lord and ourselves better. Pushed
to the end of our road, we realize that God is the only One we can rely on. In
the midst of our suffering, we are compelled to take a careful and honest look
at ourselves. When we do that, we shall be able to identify the many blemishes
that continue to separate us from our Holy God. Once identified, we humbly ask
for His mercy and forgiveness, as well as the strength to overcome these
weaknesses. This is not unlike emerging
from the great tribulation with our robes washed clean in His blood (Rev 7:14).
We become perfect in the eyes of God by the grace of His forgiveness. This is
most precious of all.
Walking in God’s way requires
great trust. Although we acknowledge the need for purging, there are times we
are not quite able to see why we have to suffer. We are not the first and
certainly will not be the last to struggle and doubt (Ps 73:2–4; 77:1–3; Hab
1:1–3). Indeed, adversities are particularly unbearable when the solution we
long for is not forthcoming although we have asked for wisdom from the Lord.
This seriously tests our determination to follow the Lord’s way. Through these
times, we must cling on to God’s promises that He knows what we are going
through and that He intends it for our good. Paul is a sterling exemplar to us
in such a situation (cf. 2 Cor 12:7–10).
Wholehearted Service to God
Serving God is a grace that none
is worthy to receive. Those who have come to this realization humbly declare
that God granted them the great privilege to serve Him out of His mercy (Rom
12:1; 2 Cor 4:1; Eph 3:8). Serving God goes beyond the physical aspect of
executing the assigned tasks. Our characters are revealed in the course of
rendering service to God. Pride and jealousy – the dark aspects of human nature
– easily surface when the heart and motivation to serve are not right before
How should we serve God? Besides
putting in our best effort, serving God wholeheartedly must include the
willingness to correct ourselves before God and others. This is particularly
important for those who occupy leadership positions in the church as they are
under the scrutiny of the whole church. Since every human errs prior to
reaching perfection, it becomes a stiff challenge for us to recognize when we
have erred, and be willing to humbly confess our errors and imperfections.
Though extremely hurtful to the ego, it is nevertheless a requisite step to be
taken if we are to spiritually benefit and grow.
Most importantly, serving God is
preparing ourselves to see the face of our Master, Jesus Christ (Lk 12:40). We
tend to slack in the pursuit of perfection when accountability is not demanded.
Knowing that we shall be called to account for our service to Him will make us
give the highest priority to preparing ourselves according to His will (cf. Lk
12:46–48). Accountability in service impels us to right ourselves from wrongs
and do all things for God and God alone.
To strive towards perfection is a
lifelong endeavor encompassing every conceivable facet of our existence.
Although perfection may appear to be a goal beyond human reach, it becomes
attainable if we abide in Christ, rely on the power of the Spirit and earnestly
We must make a conscientious
effort to fear Him, knowing that He is our Savior. The wisdom to keep ourselves
from falling into temptation comes from knowing His word and having a heart of
reverence for Him.
God’s love for us is revealed in
His word. Being able to understand His word thoroughly puts us in good stead to
perfect ourselves in pleasing and loving Him in return. Unquestionably,
pleasing Him by walking in His way will be challenging, especially when things
do not go our way and may even seem to work against us. In such situations,
absolute trust in God is imperative. Afflictions should not turn us away from
God, but should instead guide us to examine ourselves and consequently to
change our ways. If we have examined ourselves but still cannot at the moment
understand why we are being afflicted, let us still count it all as joy for His
grace is sufficient always.
It is important to remember that
fearing and loving God are not options on a checklist to be picked; they are
inseparable. Our hearts are right before God when we keep His commandments not
only because we fear punishment, but because we love and respect Him deeply.
Righting our hearts before God will also make our service to Him acceptable.
This in turn prepares us for the coming of Christ,
enabling us to confidently and joyfully give an account of our service to Him.