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Chapter 25. Achieving Perfection

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"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).

The business operations manager who requires perfection of employees, or the parent who requires perfection of their children, are usually considered unrealistic, overbearing, nit-pickers, etc. It isn't a popular concept in general, especially when a person thinks that something impossible is required of them.

On the other, perfection can be wonderful, such as finding your perfect match in a spouse, finding a perfectly qualified candidate for a job or perfectly following instructions when baking a cake.

Does God require perfection? The Biblical answer is clearly "Yes". Is He asking for something that is impossible? Of course not. God gives the power needed in order to accomplish any requirement. What exactly does the Bible mean when it refers to perfection. Let's look further into the meaning of the word "perfect".

English dictionaries have a long list of meanings associated with the word "perfect." Here are a few of them:
  • (a) excellent beyond practical or theoretical improvement,
  • (b) entirely without flaws or defects,
  • (c) to bring to completion,
  • (d) having all the essential parts present, or
  • (e) exactly fitting the need in a certain situation or for a certain purpose.
As the varying definitions reveal, there are many nuances to the word, and we need to get more specific by examining the Biblical context where the word is found, as well as the original Greek words.

Let's explore three of the concepts of perfection presented in the Bible.

1. Perfect in growth

The concept of perfection can be applied to the progress of spiritual growth. You can be perfectly in the path in which God wants you to be, as you journey towards a better place (spiritual maturity).

"The germination of the seed represents the beginning of spiritual life, and the development of the plant is a figure of the development of character. There can be no life without growth. The plant must either grow or die. As its growth is silent and imperceptible, but continuous, so is the growth of character. At every stage of development our life may be perfect; yet if God's purpose for us is fulfilled, there will be constant advancement" (Child Guidance 162.3).

You can be considered perfect at any stage of your spiritual growth and in right-standing with God as a result of faith. Remember from a previous chapter that faith is conviction or belief in something and acting according to it. Right-standing with God is made possible by Jesus as you live according to what you know is right (even if you do not yet know all that is right). You aren't required to do things that you do not know about. You aren't required to do things that you have no power to do. God only asks for reasonable service. It is completely logical and fair of God to simply ask you to learn about truth and then use God's power to implement the truth in your life. This is perfect obedience and being perfect in growth.

"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17).

"Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:22-23).

"For if we sin wilfully [voluntarily, willingly] after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" (Heb. 10:26).

"Our standing before God depends, not upon the amount of light we have received, but upon the use we make of what we have. Thus even the heathen who choose the right as far as they can distinguish it are in a more favorable condition than are those who have had great light, and profess to serve God, but who disregard the light, and by their daily life contradict their profession" (The Desire of Ages 239.2).

"It is through faith in Jesus Christ that the truth is accepted in the heart and the human agent is purified and cleansed. Jesus was "wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Is it possible to be healed, while knowingly committing sin?--No; it is genuine faith that says, I know that I have committed sin, but that Jesus has pardoned my sin; and hereafter I will resist temptation in and through His might. "Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." He has an abiding principle in the soul, that enables him to overcome temptation" (Sons & Daughters of God 297.3).

"If one who daily communes with God errs from the path, if he turns a moment from looking steadfastly unto Jesus, it is not because he sins willfully; for when he sees his mistake, he turns again, and fastens his eyes upon Jesus, and the fact that he has erred does not make him less dear to the heart of God. He knows that he has communion with the Saviour; and when reproved for his mistake in some matter of judgment, he does not walk sullenly, and complain of God, but turns the mistake into a victory" (The Faith I Live By 118.3).

If you seek out truth and implement what you learn, then what you do wrong is not being done willfully, intentionally or rebelliously. If you turn away from the wrong and do not deliberately practice sin, God justifies you while He completes your character.

The Greek tense in the text above (Heb. 10:26) indicate a deliberate act of going on to practice sin after learning the truth about it. It isn't referring to mistakes or errors, but rather, intentional acts of rebellion. If a person is living according to his conscience and doing the best he can with what he knows, even if the name of Christ or the Bible is unknown to him, Christ can justify and save him. This is good news! But, even if a person doesn't know that it is Christ who saves them, it is still a fact that if they are saved, Christ is the one who makes it possible and desires them to know Him.

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim. 2:4).

What if you know you are sinning? The assurance is there, Christ is ready to forgive. He awaits eagerly for you to return to Him for forgiveness and strength to overcome.

"The Lord will recognize every effort you make to reach His ideal for you. When you make failures, when you are betrayed into sin, do not feel that you cannot pray, that you are not worthy to come before the Lord. 'My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.' With outstretched arms He waits to welcome the prodigal. Go to Him, and tell Him about your mistakes and failures. Ask Him to strengthen you for fresh endeavor. He will never disappoint you, never abuse your confidence. Trial will come to you. Thus the Lord polishes the roughness from your character. Do not murmur. You make the trial harder by repining. Honor God by cheerful submission. Patiently endure the pressure. Even though a wrong is done you, keep the love of God in the heart" (Lift Him Up 299.5-6).

"How careful is the Lord Jesus to give no occasion for a soul to despair. How He fences about the soul from Satan's fierce attacks. If through manifold temptations we are surprised or deceived into sin, He does not turn from us and leave us to perish. No, no, that is not our Saviour.... He was tempted in all points like as we are; and having been tempted, He knows how to succor those who are tempted" (Our High Calling 49.2).

"There are those who have known the pardoning love of Christ and who really desire to be children of God, yet they realize that their character is imperfect, their life faulty, and they are ready to doubt whether their hearts have been renewed by the Holy Spirit. To such I would say, Do not draw back in despair. We shall often have to bow down and weep at the feet of Jesus because of our shortcomings and mistakes, but we are not to be discouraged. Even if we are overcome by the enemy, we are not cast off, not forsaken and rejected of God. No; Christ is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Reflecting Christ 123.4).

Complete in Him

Closely associated with being perfect in growth is being "complete in Him".

"And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power" (Colossians 2:10).

The Greek word translated to complete in the text above (Col. 2:10) is "playroo". The word "playroo" refers to the concept of being full. Look at how it is used in the following texts.

"And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled [playroo] with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18).

"Now the God of hope fill [playroo] you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost" (Romans 15:13).

"But my God shall supply [playroo] all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

"For all the law is fulfilled [playroo] in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Galatians 5:14).

Imagine a pitcher pouring water into a cup and filling it up. That is what God does when you accept Christ. He provides everything you lack. This is what instantly occurs during phase 2, conversion, when you are justified and given a new heart. Christ's righteous attributes appear on your account, where previously you had nothing good, and His Spirit fills your being. Thus, you are viewed as complete ("playroo") in Him.

"That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled [playroo] with all the fulness of God" (Ephesians 3:16-19).

"He is the wonderful Counselor, infinite in wisdom and strength; and if we will acknowledge the power of His Spirit, and submit to be molded by it, we shall stand complete in Him" (God's Amazing Grace 196.4).

"Of those who receive His grace and follow His example it will be written in the book of life, "Complete in Him--without spot or stain" (In Heavenly Places 7.4).

"To eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ is to receive Him as a personal Saviour, believing that He forgives our sins, and that we are complete in Him" (The Desire of Ages 389.3).

"Through co-operation with Christ they are complete in Him, and in their human weakness they are enabled to do the deeds of Omnipotence" (The Desire of Ages 827.3).

"Beholding the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, he finds the peace of Christ; for pardon is written against his name, and he accepts the Word of God, 'Ye are complete in Him' (Colossians 2:10)" (Faith and Works 108.1).

"...it is the desire of the Lord that from moment to moment we should abide in Him, and thus be complete in Him" (My Llife Today 15.2).

"Those who follow Christ, if they would become complete in Him, must keep their will surrendered to the will of God" (Our High Calling 107.4).

Because these English words (perfect, complete) are associated with various meanings and words, it is an important work to both examine meanings from the original Greek and Hebrew words, and consider the context in which the words appear. If not, confusion can arise because the same English word will appear to refer to a state enjoyed immediately upon acceptance of Christ, yet at the same time, it will appear to refer to a future state enjoyed only after growing as a Christian.

This first type of fullness/completion/perfection ("playroo"), when applied to the Christian life, generally relates to a state enjoyed immediately upon acceptance of Christ (though the word can be used in varying contexts). Yet that state continues as long as you continue to believe and obey Him, eventually resulting in spiritual maturity/completion/perfection ("teleios"). As such, "playroo" is not a state out of which you want to grow, because being in that state is what enables your character to be transformed as you spiritually mature and become "telios". Then, it can be said of you that you are "complete in Him," both in the "playroo" and the "teleios" sense of the word.

"Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect [telios] and complete [playroo] in all the will of God" (Colossians 4:12).

"Personal religion is revealed by the deportment, the words, and the actions. It causes growth, till at last perfection claims the commendation of the Lord, 'Ye are complete in Him' (Colossians 2:10)" (Mind, Character, and Personality Volume 1 27.1).

2. Perfectly mature ("teleios")

"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).

The Greek word translated to "perfect", in the text above (Matt. 5:48), is "teleios," and means to be of full age or complete. It means to have reached a goal, such as when completing training to become a dental professional, or to have turned 18 and become an adult. Other Bible texts shed more light on the concept.

"Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect [teleios] and complete in all the will of God" (Colossians 4:12).

To be "teleios", means to be completed, fully trained or supplied. You are equipped and ready to perform. Look at more examples in the texts below.

"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect [teleios] and entire [whole, complete], wanting nothing" (James 1:2-4).

"For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age [teleios], even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:13-14).

The perfection ("teleios") in these texts further clarifies that the goal is to reach full age, or to mature, having everything you need to function as an adult. This is not referring to your physical body, but to your spiritual life. The Old Testament also teaches this same concept. This type of perfection includes the following attributes.
  • a) The ability to understand God's Word, along with being able to discern between right and wrong (Heb. 5:13-14, 1 Cor. 2:6-16)
  • b) Control of your tongue/speech (James 3:2)
  • c) Following the will of God (Col. 4:12)
  • d) Obedience to God's law (1 Kings 8:61, 1 Chronicles 29:19)
  • e) Willingness (1 Chronicles 29:9, 28:9, 2 Chronicles 25:2)
  • f) Loving, sacrficing (Matt. 19:21, Heb. 13:21, 1 John 4:18)
  • g) Having a character like Christs (Eph. 4:13)
  • h) Tested and proved over time (James 1:2-4, 1 Pet. 5:10)
In other words, you grow up! You, the new creature, have been trained and have matured. The transformation of your character has been a success! God has equipped, taught and shown you how to live without harming yourself and others, and how to truly love.

Maturing spiritually

The Bible illustrates the concept of spiritual maturity, over and over again, through the analogy of a growing plant. There are stories of mismanaged vineyards, seeds being planted on various surfaces, trees flourishing by the river, wheat and tares being harvested, and many, many more. Use of the harvest theme is extensive and provides an excellent way to understand this concept of perfection or reaching spiritual maturity.

"The change of heart by which we become children of God is in the Bible spoken of as birth. Again, it is compared to the germination of the good seed sown by the husbandman. In like manner those who are just converted to Christ are, "as newborn babes," to "grow up" to the stature of men and women in Christ Jesus (1 Peter 2:2; Eph. 4:15). Or like the good seed sown in the field, they are to grow up and bring forth fruit. Isaiah says that they shall "be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified" (Isa. 61:3). So from natural life, illustrations are drawn, to help us better to understand the mysterious truths of spiritual life... In the matchless gift of His Son, God has encircled the whole world with an atmosphere of grace as real as the air which circulates around the globe. All who choose to breathe this life-giving atmosphere will live and grow up to the stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. As the flower turns to the sun, that the bright beams may aid in perfecting its beauty and symmetry, so should we turn to the Sun of Righteousness, that heaven's light may shine upon us, that our character may be developed into the likeness of Christ" (Lift Him Up 70.2-6).

"In the cultivation of the soil the thoughtful worker will find that treasures little dreamed of are opening up before him. No one can succeed in agriculture or gardening without attention to the laws involved. The special needs of every variety of plant must be studied. Different varieties require different soil and cultivation, and compliance with the laws governing each is the condition of success. The attention required in transplanting, that not even a root fiber shall be crowded or misplaced, the care of the young plants, the pruning and watering, the shielding from frost at night and sun by day, keeping out weeds, disease, and insect pests, the training and arranging, not only teach important lessons concerning the development of character, but the work itself is a means of development. In cultivating carefulness, patience, attention to detail, obedience to law, it imparts a most essential training. The constant contact with the mystery of life and the loveliness of nature, as well as the tenderness called forth in ministering to these beautiful objects of God's creation, tends to quicken the mind and refine and elevate the character; and the lessons taught prepare the worker to deal more successfully with other minds" (Education 111.3).

The list below outlines the concepts generally represented by various components of a vineyard or garden, the individuals involved, and each phase of the growing process. Many of these objects have already been mentioned in previous chapters, but we are now exploring the entire process and focusing in on the completion of the growing process.

1. Seed

The word of God is the seed (Mark 4:14).

"Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:11).

"Not by force of arms, not by violent interpositions, was the kingdom of God to prevail, but by the implanting of a new principle in the hearts of men. 'He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man.' Matt. 13:37. Christ had come, not as a king, but as a sower; not for the overthrow of kingdoms, but for the scattering of seed; not to point His followers to earthly triumphs and national greatness, but to a harvest to be gathered after patient toil and through losses and disappointments" (Christ's Object Lessons 35.1).

"The word of God is the seed. Every seed has in itself a germinating principle. In it the life of the plant is enfolded. So there is life in God's word. Christ says, "The words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life." John 6:63. "He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life." John 5:24. In every command and in every promise of the word of God is the power, the very life of God, by which the command may be fulfilled and the promise realized. He who by faith receives the word is receiving the very life and character of God" (Christ's Object Lessons 38.1).

Note that there are good seeds and bad seeds. This is illustrated in the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:18-23). A bad seed (i.e. falsehoods, evil ideas) can be nurtured and grown to maturity, instead of a good seed, if you so choose.
The source of seed
There has to be a harvest in order to obtain seeds for the next sowing. So, where does the first seed come from? The Bible reveals that the very first seed had to die in order to produce more seeds. That seed was Christ. His sacrifice, and the promise of His sacrifice, enabled many more seeds to be produced and planted. Christ's followers are also called to "die," by giving up their selfish goals, in order to become like Christ and be equipped to produce more seeds.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal" (John 12:24-25).

"So with all who bring forth fruit as workers together with Christ: self-love, self-interest, must perish; the life must be cast into the furrow of the world's need. But the law of self-sacrifice is the law of self-preservation. The husbandman preserves his grain by casting it away. So the life that will be preserved is the life that is freely given in service to God and man" (Education 110.3).

The Sower
Christ is the sower, and He also entrusts sowing to His people.

"Men prepare the soil and sow the seed, but it is the life from God that causes the seed to germinate" (The Desire of Ages 367.3).

Those who spread the gospel (sow seeds), must be patient.

"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain" (James 5:7).

2. Soil

The environment allowed to exist around the seed is the soil. It determines the fate of the seed, or in the case of successful germination, the fate of the plant.

"Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Matthew 13:18-23).

The soil is prepared and maintained through honest and diligent effort to keep and treasure the truth (seed) in the heart, to whole-heartedly develop strength from Christ only (roots), and to remove sins and old habits (weeds).

"A knowledge of the truth depends not so much upon strength of intellect as upon pureness of purpose, the simplicity of an earnest, dependent faith... Merely to hear or to read the word is not enough. He who desires to be profited by the Scriptures must meditate upon the truth that has been presented to him. By earnest attention and prayerful thought he must learn the meaning of the words of truth, and drink deep of the spirit of the holy oracles" (Christ's Object Lessons 59.3-5).

"The garden of the heart must be cultivated. The soil must be broken up by deep repentance for sin. Poisonous, Satanic plants must be uprooted. The soil once overgrown by thorns can be reclaimed only by diligent labor. So the evil tendencies of the natural heart can be overcome only by earnest effort in the name and strength of Jesus" (Christ's Object Lessons 56.2).

The soil of the heart

3. Germination

This step involves much mystery. We cannot see the moment when the seed germinates in another person. In fact, just like a seed can lay in the ground for months, the Word of God may not have immediate results. Also, when a seed does germinate, it takes varying time periods for it to take root and appear on the surface.

"The work of the sower is a work of faith. The mystery of the germination and growth of the seed he cannot understand, but he has confidence in the agencies by which God causes vegetation to flourish. He casts away the seed, expecting to gather it manyfold in an abundant harvest. So parents and teachers are to labor, expecting a harvest from the seed they sow (Child Guidance 501.3).

"In all your work you must do as the husbandman does in laboring for the fruits of the earth. Apparently he throws away the seed; but, buried in the soil, the seed germinates. The power of the living God gives it life and vitality, and there is seen 'first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.' Mark 4:28. Study this wonderful process" (Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students 252.4).

4. Sun/Rain/Air

The work of the Holy Spirit is likened to the elements of nature that God uses to germinate the seed and nurture His plants. These elements are the key to success. Seeds can be thrown all over the place, but without the working of the Holy Spirit, no truth would ever take hold in hearts.

"The plant grows by receiving that which God has provided to sustain its life. It sends down its roots into the earth. It drinks in the sunshine, the dew, and the rain. It receives the life-giving properties from the air. So the Christian is to grow by co-operating with the divine agencies. Feeling our helplessness, we are to improve all the opportunities granted us to gain a fuller experience. As the plant takes root in the soil, so we are to take deep root in Christ. As the plant receives the sunshine, the dew, and the rain, we are to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit. The work is to be done "not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." Zech. 4:6" (Christ's Object Lessons 66.1).

5. Seedling

After the seed germinates, it emerges from the soil and becomes a tender, delicate seedling. This is an exciting stage, but also a time to be extremely careful and gentle. The plant can easily break or give up. The Holy Spirit continues to be poured out abundantly during this stage so that strong roots and a sturdy stem can be formed.

New believers need to constantly be on guard against the errors and distractions Satan will place in their path. This is a time for fellow believers to stay close together to help and nurture those who are not yet firmly grounded.

"In the East the former rain falls at the sowing time. It is necessary in order that the seed may germinate. Under the influence of the fertilizing showers, the tender shoot springs up... The Lord employs these operations of nature to represent the work of the Holy Spirit" (The Faith I Live By 334.2).

6. Growth

If a plant stops growing, it will never produce ripe fruit.

"The germination of the seed represents the beginning of spiritual life, and the development of the plant is a figure of the development of character. There can be no life without growth. The plant must either grow or die. As its growth is silent and imperceptible, but continuous, so is the growth of character. At every stage of development our life may be perfect; yet if God's purpose for us is fulfilled, there will be constant advancement. {CG 162.3}

"You cannot stand still; you must either advance or retrograde. . . . Where there is spiritual health there is growth. The child of God grows up to the full stature of a man or woman in Christ. There is no limit to his improvement" (Sons and Daughters of God 334.5).

7. Fruit produced

When a plant gets a good start and continues to be nourished, it starts producing fruit. Buds are followed by blossoms and then small immature fruit develops. In the same way, a new believer becomes more firmly grounded in Christ's truths and receptive to the Holy Spirit's work, and starts producing good thoughts and actions.

"(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)" (Ephesians 5:9).

"For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth" (Colossians 1:5-6).

8. Ripeness

As the plant continues to grow in good soil and drink in the sunshine, rain and air, its small fruits begin to grow larger and fill out. Eventually, they reach their full size and ripen. A growing Christian's knowledge, loyalty and good traits of character (fruit) go through training and times of testing, to eventually become fully established. Christ's character is successfully reproduced.

"Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

The "fulness" of Christ indicates a completion or filling up. Christ's attributes are what fills a person up, in order to complete them or make them perfect. Here again, the concept of maturity is presented. The seed is successfully reproduced. The character of Christ is successfully reproduced. You are now complete and spiritually mature.

"As the dew and the rain are given first to cause the seed to germinate, and then to ripen the harvest, so the Holy Spirit is given to carry forward, from one stage to another, the process of spiritual growth. The ripening of the grain represents the completion of the work of God's grace in the soul. By the power of the Holy Spirit the moral image of God is to be perfected in the character. We are to be wholly transformed into the likeness of Christ" (Last Day Events 183.2).

9. Harvest

The harvest is ready when the seed that was sown reproduces itself. God's word, His principles of truth and His character, are reproduced in His followers. In the case of grain, one seed is multipled to become many. This illustrates the wide-spread influence that one person, who is reflecting Christ's character, can have on many other people.

The wheat develops "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." The object of the husbandman in the sowing of the seed and the culture of the growing plant is the production of grain. He desires bread for the hungry, and seed for future harvests. So the divine Husbandman looks for a harvest as the reward of His labor and sacrifice. Christ is seeking to reproduce Himself in the hearts of men; and He does this through those who believe in Him. The object of the Christian life is fruit bearing--the reproduction of Christ's character in the believer, that it may be reproduced in others. {COL 67.1}

"In the harvest the seed is multiplied. A single grain of wheat, increased by repeated sowings, would cover a whole land with golden sheaves. So widespread may be the influence of a single life, of even a single act" (Education 109.2).

The harvest occurs here on earth as God's people go out to share the gospel and gather more souls for God's kingdom. But, it sees its ultimate fulfillment at the second coming of Jesus when He returns to this earth. The parable of the tares (Matthew 13:24-43) shows a vivid glimpse into the future when this event occurs. The angels are the reapers (harvesters). They gather the tares (wicked) that the enemy (devil) sowed and burn them. The wheat is also gathered, but it is kept safe in the barn (Matt. 3:12).

"And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:30-31).

The harvest of the wicked

The time of harvest applies to both the wicked and righteous. Growth is a time of probation when you habituate to either wicked or righteous ways. You mature in your chosen mindset, lifestyle and beliefs, until the time comes when you are so settled that nothing can change your mind. It is then that the harvest is ready.

"But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full [complete, perfect, whole]" (Genesis 15:16).

"Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision" (Joel 3:13-14).

"...Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God" (Revelation 14:18-19).

"When the Lord has sufficiently tried them, if they do not yield to Him, He will withdraw His Holy Spirit. May the Lord grant that those who are deceived may make thorough work before probation closes" (Manuscript Releases Volume Sixteen - Nos. 1186-1235, page 113).

"Filling your cup"
When a wicked person reaches maturity it is also referred to as having a "full cup". If a person chooses to go against his conscience time after time, eventually his cup is full. He has made his choice and allowed his thoughts and habits to fully develop and mature according to selfish and false guidelines. Nothing would ever convince him to change his mind.

God strives long with each person. He does not give you up until all avenues of reaching you have been tried. He even protects the rebellious from death if there is hope of repentance.

"When you were in great physical suffering and there was no hope for you in human skill, the Lord pitied you and mercifully removed disease from you. Satan has sought to afflict and ruin you, and even to take your life; but your Saviour has shielded you again and again, lest you should be cut down when your heart was filled with a satanic frenzy, your tongue uttering words of bitterness and unbelief against the Bible and against the truth you once advocated. When Satan has clamored for you, claiming you as his own, Christ has repulsed your cruel and malignant foe with the words: 'I have not yet withdrawn My Spirit from him. He has two more steps to take before he will pass the boundary of My mercy and love. Souls are the purchase of My blood. The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; the Lord rebuke thee.' (Testimonies for the Church Volume 5 338.1).

"Holy angels were anxiously watching and waiting to drive back Satan's host. But it is not the work of good angels to control the minds of men against their will. If they yield to the enemy, and make no effort to resist him, then the angels of God can do but little more than hold in check the host of Satan, that they shall not destroy, until further light be given to those in peril, to move them to arouse and look to heaven for help. Jesus will not commission holy angels to extricate those who make no effort to help themselves" (Testimonies for the Church Volume 1 345.2).

"As long as there is hope, until they resist the Holy Spirit to their eternal ruin, men are guarded by heavenly intelligences" (Our High Calling 23.2).

As already discussed, the second type of perfection refers to a state enjoyed only after growing as a Christian for a period of time. From the analogy of the harvest, becoming perfect/complete ("teleios"), or spiritually mature, means to be firmly rooted and established in truth and good character. It means you have habitually shown acceptance of all the truths God has revealed to you. Your ripeness indicates that there is no longer anything that could convince you to change rulers. You are who you are. You do not want to ever change. Your character is set. Your character transformation is complete.

Claiming spiritually maturity

You do not know everything God has planned to reveal to you or how you may react in certain situations. Ongoing dependence on Christ as you partake of His divine nature, means a humbleness that precludes claiming to be mature or perfect (telios). Also, because of the infinite perfection of Christ, there is never a reason to cease seeking betterment. Christians never cease their quest to more fully reflect Christ's character.

"As you make advances in the Christian life, you will be constantly growing up into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. In your experience, you will be proving what is the length and breadth, the depth and height, of the love of God, which passeth knowledge. You will feel your unworthiness. You will have no disposition to claim perfection of character, but only to exalt the perfection of your Redeemer. The more thorough and rich your experience in the knowledge of Jesus, the more humble will be your views of self" (Sons and Daughters of God 334.2).

In addition, a good character results from a change in inclinations and habits. It is natural to do good things and you don't go about your life consciously thinking about all the good you are doing.

"A healthy man, who is able to attend to the vocations of life and who goes forth day after day to his labor with buoyant spirits and with a healthy current of blood flowing through his veins, does not call the attention of every one he meets to his soundness of body. Health and vigor are the natural conditions of his life, and therefore he is scarcely conscious that he is in the enjoyment of so rich a boon. Thus it is with the truly righteous man. He is unconscious of his goodness and piety. Religious principle has become the spring of his life and conduct, and it is just as natural for him to bear the fruits of the Spirit as for the fig tree to bear figs or for the rosebush to yield roses. His nature is so thoroughly imbued with love for God and his fellow men that he works the works of Christ with a willing heart. All who come within the sphere of his influence perceive the beauty and fragrance of his Christian life, while he himself is unconscious of it, for it is in harmony with his habits and inclinations. He prays for divine light, and loves to walk in that light. It is his meat and drink to do the will of his heavenly Father. His life is hid with Christ in God; yet he does not boast of this, nor seem conscious of it. God smiles upon the humble and lowly ones who follow closely in the footsteps of the Master." (The Sanctified Life 13.1-2).

Note that being "perfectly mature" does not mean you know exactly what to say and what to do in every situation. You may still hurt another person's feelings and make errors in judgment. But, these occurrences will not be intentional or the result of willing lack of care. Perfection, or the maturation of your spiritual life, means a fully transformed character. A perfect character means you have become an overcomer. Evil habits and selfishness do not control you anymore. Your thoughts, tendencies, habits and actions are shaped by the good principles, truth and love that have been assimilated into your mind. You do not intentionally, willfully or knowingly sin. Satan may always try to present you with new challenges, but when tempted, you ask God for strength and turn away from the sin. You are loyal to God and show it openly. You have chosen your ruler and nothing will change your mind.

An attainable goal

Scripture assures us that we can be perfectly mature and overcome sin just like Christ did while on this earth. This is done by intentional and repeated obedience. The character He developed in His humanity is to be perfectly reproduced in His people. His character is revealed in His law, which is the standard by which our characters are to be evaluated. Learning to keep His law naturally and habitually is the attainable goal of perfection on this earth ("telios").

"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Revelation 3:21).

"Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:8-9).

"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).

"Before the believer is held out the wonderful possibility of being like Christ, obedient to all the principles of the law" (God's Amazing Grace 217.3).

"We are to look at His life, study His character, and copy the pattern. What Christ was in His perfect humanity, we must be; for we must form characters for eternity" (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers 173.2).

"None need fail of attaining, in his sphere, to perfection of Christian character. By the sacrifice of Christ, provision has been made for the believer to receive all things that pertain to life and godliness. God calls upon us to reach the standard of perfection and places before us the example of Christ's character. In His humanity, perfected by a life of constant resistance of evil, the Saviour showed that through co-operation with Divinity, human beings may in this life attain to perfection of character. This is God's assurance to us that we, too, may obtain complete victory" (The Acts of the Apostles 531.2).

"In His teachings, Christ showed how far-reaching are the principles of the law spoken from Sinai. He made a living application of that law whose principles remain forever the great standard of righteousness--the standard by which all shall be judged in that great day when the judgment shall sit and the books shall be opened. He came to fulfill all righteousness, and as the head of humanity, to show man that he can do the same work, meeting every specification of the requirements of God. Through the measure of His grace furnished to the human agent, not one need miss heaven. Perfection of character is attainable by every one who strives for it. This is made the very foundation of the new covenant of the gospel. The law of Jehovah is the tree; the gospel is the fragrant blossoms and fruit which it bears" (Mind, Character, and Personality Volume 2 571.2).

"The standard by which to measure character is the royal law. The law is the sin detector. By the law is the knowledge of sin" (Selected Messages Book 3 169.1).

"We should raise no human standard whereby to measure character. We have seen enough of what men call perfection here below. God's holy law is the only thing by which we can determine whether we are keeping His way or not" (Selected Messages Book 1 315.1.

"But many say that Jesus was not like us, that He was not as we are in the world, that He was divine, and that we cannot overcome as He overcame. But Paul writes, 'Verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted' (Heb. 2:16-18)" (Selected Messages Book 3 197.3).

"Christ came to the earth, taking humanity and standing as man's representative, to show in the controversy with Satan that man, as God created him, connected with the Father and the Son, could obey every divine requirement" (ST June 9, 1898).

"In eternity we shall learn that which, if we had received the enlightenment that it was possible for us to obtain here, would have opened our understanding. And understanding means obedience to all God's commandments" (The Upward Look 103.2).

Though this state of maturity is attainable while living on this earth, it is not attained until you have lived your life on this earth. In other words, you have to complete your journey, in order to show the full end path of your journey. When you die (the first death of sleep), your probation closes, and the full story of your life can then be read. As Paul indicated, you need to finish the course.

"For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:6-7).

"Man may grow up into Christ, his living head. It is not the work of a moment, but that of a lifetime. By growing daily in the divine life, he will not attain to the full stature of a perfect man in Christ until his probation ceases. The growing is a continuous work. Men with fiery passions have a constant conflict with self; but the harder the battle, the more glorious will be the victory and the eternal reward" (Testimonies for the Church Volume 4, page 367).

For those who die prior to the second coming, their probation ceases when they die.

"Probation would be granted him in which, through a life of repentance and faith in the atonement of the Son of God, he might be redeemed from his transgression of the Father's law, and thus be elevated to a position where his efforts to keep His law could be accepted" (SR 46.3).

"We have no time to lose. We know not how soon our probation may close. At the longest, we have but a brief lifetime here, and we know not how soon the arrow of death may strike our hearts" (MH 454.2).

"The time of the probation of souls is coming to an end. From day to day the destiny of men is being sealed, and even from this congregation we know not how soon many shall close their eyes in death and be habited for the tomb" (1SM 189.3).

"They know not how soon their probation may close; yet they pass on from year to year with their business unsettled, and frequently their lives finally close without their having the use of their reason" (RY 103.1).

"Our heavenly Father has been very gracious to you. He has dealt tenderly with you. Sickness and disease came upon you when you were unprepared to die, for you had not perfected a Christian character and had not a moral fitness for heaven. Satan stood by your side to afflict and destroy, that you might be numbered with the transgressors. Fervent and effectual prayer prevailed in your behalf. Angels were sent to wait and watch about you, to guard and protect you from Satan's power and preserve your life. God has, in His matchless love, granted you another trial. Not because of any goodness or virtue in you but, because of His mercy, He has answered the prayers of faith. Your probation has been lengthened that you may have an opportunity to redeem the past, overcome the defects in your character, and show in your life that devotion to God which He claims from you. You have had emotions of gratitude, but you have not experienced that heartfelt thankfulness and becoming humility that should have been kindled by His unsurpassed love" (4T 215.3).

It is never too late, even if you are elderly.

"You now have precious hours of probation granted you to form a right character even at your advanced age. You now have a period allotted you in which to redeem the time. You cannot in your own strength put away your errors and wrongs; they have been increasing upon you for years, because you have not seen them in their hideousness and in the strength of God resolutely put them away. By living faith you must lay hold on an arm that is mighty to save. Humble your poor, proud, self-righteous heart before God; get low, very low, all broken in your sinfulness at His feet. Devote yourself to the work of preparation. Rest not until you can truly say: My Redeemer liveth, and, because He lives, I shall live also" (2T 88.1).

3. Infinite Perfection

The character that Christ developed in His humanity and proved on earth is to be reproduced in you. This is perfect obedience. Yet Christ is also fully divine. His divine-human character is infinite and will always be a pattern after which you can shape your life throughout eternity. Once your character is transformed to be brought into harmony with God's law and settled into that position, you have an immovable foundation upon which you can build throughout eternity. Learning how to do good in bigger and better ways is always possible. Christ's divine-human character will always be an inspiration.

"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory" 1 Tim. 3:16.

"Forever and ever, new views of the perfection and glory of Christ will appear" (The Upward Look 103.3).

"Was the human nature of the Son of Mary changed into the divine nature of the Son of God? No, the two natures were mysteriously blended in one person--the Man Christ Jesus. In Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. When Christ was crucified, it was His human nature that died. Deity did not sink and die; that would have been impossible. Christ, the Sinless One, will save every son and daughter of Adam who accepts the salvation proffered them, consenting to become the children of God... Who by searching can find out God to perfection? The Gospels set forth the character of Christ as infinitely perfect. I wish I could speak of this so that the whole world could hear the object of Christ's mission and work. Read and search the Scriptures, in which Christ is set forth as the divine object of our faith... The most gifted men on the earth could all find abundant employment, from now until the judgment, for all their God-given powers in exalting the character of Christ. But they would still fail to present Him as He is. The mysteries of redemption, embracing Christ's divine-human character, His incarnation, His atonement for sin, could employ the pens and the highest mental powers of the wisest men from now until Christ shall be revealed in the clouds of heaven in power and great glory. But though these men should seek with all their power to give a representation of Christ and His work, the representation would fall far short of the reality" (The Upward Look 260.2-4).

"The character of Christ is an infinitely perfect character, and He must be lifted up, He must be brought prominently into view, for He is the power, the might, the sanctification and righteousness of all who believe in Him" (Reflecting Christ 82.7).

"We are granted the privileges of school life in this world that we may obtain a fitness for the higher life--the highest grade in the highest school, where, under God, our studies will continue through the ceaseless ages of eternity" (Selected Messages Book One 245.2).

"It is your work to advance toward perfection, making constant improvement, until at last you are pronounced worthy to receive immortal life. And even then the work of progression will not cease, but will continue throughout eternity" (HP 186.6).

"The actual progress of the soul in virtue and divine knowledge is by the plan of addition--adding constantly the graces which Christ made an infinite sacrifice to bring within the reach of all. We are finite, but we are to have a sense of the infinite" (1MCP 94.3).

Summary

Definition:
Being Perfect: A state of living in faith and obedience (not willingly sinning) and thus filled with the Holy Spirit (1. perfect in growth), which results in spiritual maturity (an understanding of God's word, discernment between right and wrong, self-control, the ability to truly keep God's commandments, willingness and a loving heart) that is proven over the course of a lifetime (2. perfectly mature), and the continual patterning of the life after the infinite perfection of Christ for eternity.

The Dos and Don'ts of Claiming Perfection

Next Bible Term: Being Sealed
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