Perfection Involves Christlikeness Of Character
“Our conversation is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).A traveler in China asked a native if he had ever read the Gospel. “No,” was the answer, “but I have seen it. I have seen a man who was the terror of the neighborhood with his curses and his violent temper. He was an opium smoker, a criminal and as dangerous as a wild beast. But the religion of Jesus made him gentle and good, and he has left off opium. No, I have not read the gospel, but I have seen it and it is good.” Ghandi, the great Indian leader, when speaking to Charles F. Andrews, an American missionary, said, “The trouble with you Americans is that you start doing before being.”
The purpose in this message is to dwell briefly on some expressions in the Bible respecting Christlikeness of character showing the purpose of God in this condition, namely, to reveal His Character unto the world. Mr. Wesley in defining holiness speaks of it as “the habitual disposition of soul.” True Christians do more good by what they are than by what they say or do. “I want to write a book,” said some person to Sir Walter Scott. “No,” Sir Walter replied, “be a book that is greater.”
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Christlikeness Through Perfection Illustrated By Citizenship
Moffat’s translation has it thus, “The colony of heaven.” Weymouth translates the text, “We are free citizens of heaven,” and (he continues) “we are looking for the coming from heaven of a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Citizens of heaven represent heaven; colonies represent the empire to which they belong. They reproduce all the features of the great empire, and labor for its extension. Moreover, the empire is always ready with all its resources to defend every member of its colonies.
People with perfect love properly represent the heavenly empire. Their manner of living reveals the fact that they are the “free citizens of heaven” “colonies of heaven” (Phil. 3:20).
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Christlikeness Through Perfection Illustrated By Witnesses
“Ye shall be witnesses unto me” (Acts 1:8). Witnesses are to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This brings a serious responsibility on both ministry and laity. The word “witness” from the Greek literally means “martyrs.” This suggests the idea of sacrifice.
Christians are witnesses by what they say and also by what they are. They preach the gospel by a cry, a proclamation, from the Hebrew, “gerial,” and the Greek, “Kerugnia”; but they preach by their lives, if they are good preachers. They preach by being. That is the thought. “Ye shall be.”
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Christlikeness Through Perfection Illustrated By Husbandry And Building
“Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building” (I Cor. 3:9).
The first expression refers to farming. Ye are God’s farms. If so, then let Him work His farm, and raise a good crop of fruit, the fruit of the Spirit. The second expression refers to building. Then let Him supervise as the great Master Builder; let Him clean, decorate, and dwell within.
A similar thought is expressed by Peter when he speaks of “a spiritual house,” made up of “lively stones,” save that here God’s people are the stones, different in size and capacity, perhaps, but all needed, and ready to fit in anywhere (I Peter 2:5.)
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Christlikeness Through Perfection Illustrated By A Preservative
“Ye are the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5: I 3). “Salt of the earth, to preserve the world from putrefaction and destruction” (Clarke).
“With all thy offerings thou shalt offer salt” (Lev. 2:13). “Salt,” says Adam Clarke, “was the opposite to leaven, for it preserved from putrefaction and corruption and signified purity and preserving fidelity that were necessary in the worship of God. Everything was seasoned with it, to signify purity and perfection that should be extended through every part of the divine service and through the hearts and lives of God’s worshippers. It was Called the salt of the covenant of God, because as salt is incorruptible so was the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the patriarchs, relative to the redemption of the world by the incarnation and death of Jesus Christ.”
Salt has a wonderful buoyancy. It is easier to swim in salt water than in fresh. The saints are lifters, supporters in time of need. When souls are ready to sink, they help to keep them from going under.
The saints are to preserve the world from corruption. This they do by the purity of their lives. It was said of the early church that “great grace was upon them all.” They had grace which could be seen. “They saw the grace of God and were glad.”
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Christlikeness Through Perfection Illustrated By Light
“Ye are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). The “phos,” radiance, of the world ye are. Christ is the great source as the Light of the world; His followers the reflectors of that Light. If the reflectors, however, are covered by carnal cobwebs, the great Light is dimmed. They need cleansing, and they need to be kept clean, if Christ, the Light of the world, would be seen. They are the light of the world only as He shines through their personalities, and His life is manifested in their mortal bodies.
Ye are, then, God’s advertisements. The question is, What kind of advertisements are you? One has written:
“What you are speaks so loud That the world can’t hear what you say; They are looking at your walk, not listening to your talk They’re judging from your actions every day. Don’t believe you’ll deceive By claiming what you’ve never known; They’ll accept what they see and know you to be, They’ll judge from your life alone.”
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Christlikeness Through Perfection Illustrated By Workmanship
The word “workmanship” is from the Greek, “Poiema,” poems; literally, “His poems ye are” (Eph. 2:10). Ye are God’s sacred songs. The question is, What kind of song are you, especially when things are dark, and the way seems hard?
A similar thought may be gleaned from “adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Titus 2:10). The idea is, that Christians should make the doctrine beautiful by their lives, or as one has expressed it, they should put music to the words, and play.
“There is a little sentence worth its weight in gold; Easy to remember, easy to be told; Changing into blessing every curse we meet, Turning hell to heaven. This is all — keep sweet.”
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Christlikeness Through Perfection Illustrated By Epistles
“Ye are the epistles of Christ, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God; not in tables of stone, but in the fleshy tables of the heart” (II Cor. 3:3).
Christians are living epistles. The world reads them more than it reads the written word of God. There should be carefulness to give the world a clear reading. In order to do this, they will have to avoid blots, omissions, and such like. Be sure to make the reading clear.
“Christ has no hands but our hands, To do His work today; He has no feet but our feet; to lead Men in his way. He has no tongue but our tongues, To tell men how he died; He has no help but our help To bring them to His side.
“We are the only Bible the careless World will read, We are the sinner’s Gospel; We are the scoffer’s creed. We are the Lord’s last message, Given in deed and word, What if the type be crooked? What if the print be blurred?
“What if our hands are busy with Other work than His? What if our feet are walking Where sin’s allurement is? What if our tongues are saying Things His lips would spurn. How can we hope to help Him, Or hasten His return?”
“Make me humble, O my Saviour, That I may receive Thy grace; Purge me from my sins and failures, In my heart Thine image trace.
“Write Thyself upon me, Jesus, So that all who see may read– Read of Thee, and see Thy Spirit In the life I daily lead.
“Let my life be an epistle, Known and read of every man: As men read me may they see Thee, And accept Thy saving plan.”
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Christlikeness Through Perfection Illustrated By Fragrance
“A sweet savour of Christ” (II Cor. 2:15). “A fragrance of Christ” (Weymouth); literally, “Of Christ a sweet perfume ye are to God.”
An ungodly man said of a sainted bishop, “If I had stayed another day in his presence I am afraid I would have to become a Christian; his spirit was so pure, so attractive, and so beautiful.” A poor down-and-out met a man in whose face he saw hope. “O man,” he exclaimed, “with heaven in your face, won’t you help me?” The man thus addressed was a great benevolent character and he did help the poor fellow.
A young lady was engaged in a certain hotel. She purposed to say nothing about religion, though it was the joy of her heart to speak of her loving Saviour; but, under the circumstances, thought it would be better to keep quiet, and just live before them. After three days, the proprietor called her into his office and said, “I am sorry to inform you that we cannot keep you longer.” “Why? What have I done?” she asked. “Nothing,” he replied, “your presence disturbs our patrons. They say they will not come if you remain.” Her holy presence was a constant rebuke to them.
A sweet perfume of this kind is what this old world needs, and it is God’s will concerning His saints. The Lord help us!
There is moral omnipotence in perfect love thus lived. “Argument may be resisted; persuasion and entreaty may be scorned; the thrilling appeals and monitions of the pulpit, set forth with all vigor and logic and all aglow with eloquence may be evaded or disregarded; but the exhibition of exalted piety has a might which nothing can withstand; it is truth embodied; it is the gospel burning in the hearts, beaming from the eyes, breathing from the lips and preaching in the lives of its votaries. No sophistry can elude it; no conscience can ward it off. No bosom wears a mail [armor] that can brave the energy of its attack. It speaks in all languages, in all climes and to all phases of our nature. It is universal, invincible and clad in immortal panoply, goes on from victory to victory.”
The glorious life of Biblical perfection must include, if it is retained and developed in new possessions and accomplishments, a daily denial of self, a daily keeping the body under, and daily yielding of one’s members as instruments of righteousness unto God, a daily loyalty to God in all things, a daily appropriating of God’s promises, a daily feasting on the Word in order for the Word to abide in the heart, a daily communion with Christ in order to abide in Him, a daily shining for Him; for without such the second crisis will be of little avail. Perfection is not a state of stagnation. It is rather a state of holy movement, a state of aggressiveness in God and for God.
People in the possession and enjoyment of this wonderful grace of Biblical Perfection will exalt Christ Jesus and His wonderful provision for the soul. They will testify of His sanctifying grace, of a clean heart. They may testify to the fact that the love of God in them has been made perfect. They will not tell of their being perfect. Others will tell what they see and do not see in them.
In conclusion, it is God’s plan to convince the world through His people: “And the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, said the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes” (Ezek. 36:23).
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1 The Idea of Perfection in Christian Theology, by R. Newton Flew, M.A., D.D. (Oxon), Oxford
2 Aids to Reflection, XII,c.
3 Dr. W. E. Sancster, in a Review of the More Excellent Way, by Prof. Turner, Free Methodist,
June 16, 1953.
4 New Testament Holiness, by Thomas Cook, pp. 57, 58.
5 Ralston’s Elements of Divinity, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, New York, Nashville.
6 Minutes of Early Methodist Conferences.
7 Christian Perfection, by John Wesley.
8 Scriptural Sanctification, by the author, p.35.
9 Daniel Steele, Mile-Stone Papers, pp. 44-49.
10 Love Enthroned, by Daniel Steele, p. 104.
11 The Epistles of Paul, by Conybeare and Howson; Marshall, Morgan & Scott, London, England.
12 Peerless Christ, by the author, chapter 12.
13 Humanity and God, p.7: Hodder & Stoughton, London, England.
14 Mile-Stone Papers, by Dr. Daniel Steele, p. 79.
15 John Wesley, Christian Perfection.
16 John Wesley’s Works, Vol. VI, p. 500.
17 The Call to Christian Perfection, by Samuel Chadwick, pp. 11, 12: Beacon Hill Press, Kansas
18 Christian Perfection, Rev. J. Wesley.
19 Commentary, by Dr. A. Clarke.
20 Commentary, by Dr. A. Clarke.
21 Notes on New Testament, by J. Wesley.
22 See Dr. Adam Clarke’s comment on this passage.
23 Humanity and God, by Dr. Samuel Chadwick, pp. 315, 316.
24 See our book, Scriptural Sanctification, pp. 23-30.
25 Scriptural Sanctification, p. 67.
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