If you want to be PERFECT (5/1/12)


Many times in churches today the lesson of what Jesus was teaching is missed…..as literalism gives way to a legalistic interpretation which results in God’s people being put under a burden which they cannot keep….and then ending up being crippled with guilt and condemnation.

John 6:63

63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.    NKJV

The flesh which Jesus addresses is the ‘religious flesh’ ….that which looks at what Jesus says and turns it into a burden rather than a truth which sets us free and which gives us ‘life’.

2 Cor 3:4-6

5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit ; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.    NKJV

Matt 11:28-30

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."      NKJV

If what is taught leaves you burdened rather than at REST, you have not heard the Spirit …but a man teaching the Law or works of the ‘flesh’


Now in this context let us look at the 'Rich Young Man' who Jesus asked if he wanted to be perfect.....

(the key God gave me to understanding this incident is 'Let scripture interpret scripture'. The subject of this passage of scripture is adressed in many places which confirm that mankind could not earn their righteousness by their own works (i.e. 'riches')... but only by faith in the work of God for us)

The context is about what is required of people under the Law of Moses (vs 3, 7, 8, 17, 18-19, 28) in order to be saved (vs16)

Matt 19:16-26

16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"

The rich young man saw Jesus as ‘good’…but could not see that he was God. Religion had blinded him to the fact that true righteousness can only come through faith in God....and not man's works. He was asking ‘what shall I do’ as though he could earn salvation. This is still true today amongst typical Jews (and a good many religious groups) who CANNOT see that we are saved by FAITH and not works.

Rom 9:30-32 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.   32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.    NKJV

Rom 10:2-3
3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.   NKJV 

17 So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.

This harks back to the Garden of Eden ...where Satan got man to doubt God's goodness ...and to seek to do things his own way rather than just simply TRUSTING God and His love for them.

Jesus takes the young man on a journey….to show him that he as a Jew cannot keep the Law and thereby earn salvation. He first hints at where to look for the answer to his question ... ie the revelation that Jesus himself was GOD! The way to God is not for us to seek to build our own 'tower of Babel'...or religious wealth and way to heaven. It is to recognise God's love and gracious provision for us....and simply walk HIS Way (2 Cor 11:3) and follow JESUS (John 14:6)

18 He said to Him, "Which ones?"

Herein lies the problem.....the Law was a composite whole of 613 laws ....and in order to be righteous a Jew has to keep ALL of them...fully and all the time! (Deut 28:1)

Jesus said, "'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 19 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" 

Jesus chooses the easy ones….most religious people keep some of the Law….and think that they are better than others who don’t keep any of it. Had Jesus added ‘thou shalt not covet’ he would have trapped him (Rom 7:7-12) But the Law being a composite whole means that if you fail to obey one small part fully and you will be guilty of all of it (Gal 3:10, James 2:10, Deut 28:15) and this was what had left the young man with a sense of ‘guilt’ and condemnation (Heb 10:1-4)

20 The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?"

The young man knew that all his efforts to adhere to the Law had not brought him rest...(Rom 3:19, Heb 4:9-10)...or peace with God ...(Rom 5:1)....He was stuck on the 'religious treadmill'.

Gal 2:16
16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.   NKJV


21 Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." 

Jesus knew what the young man was seeking....it was a KNOWLEDGE of his right standing with God. BUT the problem was that under the Law there was no one who ever lived righteously other than Jesus. The Law brought condemnation as ALL sinned.

For us in the New Testament, we do not find our righteousness in the works that we do...but by faith in the work that Christ HAS DONE for us. The rich young man was seeking in the WRONG place to obtain it. He was looking to himself for his OWN righteousness by works...rather than the righteousness of GOD. The righteousness of God which comes as a GIFT.

Brethren, today we do not do religious works to get saved ..we need to get to know JESUS. Following Him is the only way of salvation. The only assurance is found in Christ...Heb 10:22, Rom 5:1

The key to understand this passage is to ask yourself these questions..."Is Jesus teaching that the only way the young man could become perfect under the Law was to become an ascetic who lives in poverty?" ... "Is Jesus saying that all who want to be followers today under the new covenant of grace must also give away ALL their material possessions as an essential action or work PRIOR to salvation?"  OR ... is Jesus seeking to direct the young man to a different source ...."the salvation and perfection that Jesus ALONE would and now has provided for all His followers?"

Jesus uses the physical situation to explain a spiritual truth. In order to find what he was looking for the young man would first have to lay aside his own religious self righteousnesses which he regarded as his spiritual riches that he himself had earned through his life ...ie "all these things I have kept from my youth"... and then to follow Jesus and rely only on Him for the gift of salvation.

22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Jesus wanted the young man to 'come, follow me' ...ie enter a relationship with God rather than focussing on 'doing religion'.

This is where the young man makes his mistake....he could not let go of what He was relying on and put his trust in Jesus only ...and 'he went away sorrowful'.

Following Jesus requires a change...he needed to let go of his self reliance and put his FAITH in Jesus. The young man wanted to DO something extra himself which would get him 'across the line'. As long as he felt he did not need Jesus, he would not find salvation either.

Had the young man reached out to Jesus He would then have shown him that he could NEVER achieve perfection by his own work…but only ever by FAITH in Christ’s PERFECT work for him could he secure eternal life. (Heb 10:10 & 14)

23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 

Religion uses this scripture literally and suggests to people that they need to give their money away if they want to be saved (and today usually this is to ‘be 'given to God’ rather than the poor!) Could this be because many of those who preach this have their hands out purporting to be God’s authorized recipients ... in place of the poor?

(It is interesting to note that worldwide in the western world few preachers live to this standard themselves…..Have you ever wondered why?

Simply because they themselves KNOW that this was not what Jesus was teaching. Many rich people do get saved....the way is NOT by their works, including their charitable works (1 Cor 13:3)....it is by FAITH alone in the work of Jesus for us. We do not decide to become disciples....GOD reaches out to us and REVEALS His Son to us)

The 'riches' which Jesus is warning about ....those that make it almost impossible to be saved....are those which bring us to the place that we do not seek to truly 'know' God. Those that make us 'content' in a life without a direct and personal relationship with God. For Jews their riches were the fact that they thought they were holy because they were Israelites who kept the Law....and believed that in their 'religion' they had "all they needed" (Rom 10:3). Yet their own scriptures are full of illustrations of men who 'walked with God'... and heard His voice?

25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?"

Even Jesus' own disciples did not understand what he was saying!...Does everyone, who has anything, have to give it all away to the poor in order to 'be saved'....or ... 'enter the kingdom of heaven'?

Some will quote the following verse...

Luke 14:33  'So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple'. ..... Have you realised yet that you cannot just decide to be a disciple and 'do' this....but that salvation is a work that Jesus has done for each of us? ...one He by His grace reveals to us!

It is again important to note that worldwide very few preachers who preach that believers should 'give it all away' actually live to this standard themselves.  

Jesus NOW explains what he means (this explanation is recorded only in Mark’s gospel)…it is something I have never heard from a single pulpit in over 35 years of being a christian

Mark 10:23-25 (NKJV...or KJV)

But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God

Now brethren, ask yourself this question   “What riches was the young man trusting in?” The Old Testament warns the Jews of this in many places such as Deut 7:7-8, Deut 8:18, Psalm 62:10. The problem comes when Israel took her eyes off of the BLESSOR and sought only the 'blessing'.

The record of this interaction reveals that the ruler was trusting in his adherence to the Law…his self righteousness. (Rom 10:2-4) These were the same 'riches' which Jesus warns the Laoidicean 'religious' church about in Rev 3:17-21...they too thought they were 'rich'.

Have you ever experienced how difficult it is to reach some 'religious church people' with the gospel? I sat in a pew for most of my first 20 years totally convinced that my church affilliation and religious observations made me 'righteous'...this was despite the fact that I had never been born again. I had never had a life changing encounter with the living God! 

Jesus wanted to bring the young man to the place which Paul described in Phil 3:2-9……or which the old hymn  “Nothing in my hands I bring  ... (none of my own riches) ... Simply to thy cross I cling” defines so well.

26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."      NKJV

IS Jesus not saying that it is IMPOSSIBLE for us to do that which is necessary to be saved?...But that GOD would do (and HAS DONE in Christ) all that is necessary to save and perfect those who follow Jesus?

When we have an encounter with God....one in which he reveals His love for us, as expressed in Christ’s sacrifice for us, then we CAN be saved ... and be a disciple.

This is confirmed in the passage which precedes and sets the context for the above incident

Mark 10:13-16 and Mat 19:13-15 and Luke 18:16-17

Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.  14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.  15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it."  16 And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.    NKJV

Children do not say "I have earned the right to be your child'...they simply come to God in faith and say "DADDY" with hands stretched out.

Brethren the way we get saved is to RECEIVE it in faith....by coming to JESUS ….with the simple trust of a child! (John 1:12-13)


This context is also confirmed in Luke 18:9 which precedes this event where 'some trusted in themselves that they were righteous'

Jesus here points out that righteousness is a gift to those who ask for it...because they know they need it...not something we earn by our works.

Luke 18:14
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.    NKJV


It is NOT obtained by our works of the Law...or of the 'religious flesh' …..or even our ‘worldly successes'....or even our acts of charity. ANYTHING we rely on other than Jesus' work for us, will stop us from being saved. We will not be saved because of our 'religious affilliations'....or our religious activities.

(Certainly the temporal pursuit of worldly  riches today can also blind us to the value of living this life with an eternal perspective....and result in us being 'unproductive' Mark 4:18-19....but this does NOT effect our position before God. Jesus points out that 'the cares of this world' are just as likely to produce the same result)


Ps 52:7-8

7 "Here is the man who did not make God his strength,
But trusted in the abundance of his riches,
And strengthened himself in his wickedness."

8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;
I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.     NKJV


Brethren the KEY is to let GOD be your strength. King David was extremely wealthy....but he walked in an intimate relationship with God. So did the 'father of our faith'...Abraham. The love of God for us and the fact that we become HIS children is our real wealth.


Paul explained what God required of rich people who want to be saved in his epistle to Timothy. This does not involve 'giving it all away to the poor'...let alone to the 'church'. Faith in God rather than faith in our own abilities is what is required! God does not call people to 'asceticism'....that is equally a work of the 'religious flesh'.

1 Tim 6:17-18

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.    

18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.  NKJV

 Encouragement toAnything oAnything other than the completed work of Jesus for us on the cross CANNOT be relied on. Encouragement towards generosity as an expression of LOVE ...ie freely giving is the goal....but this is not a cause of salvation but a RESPONSE to it! 


Now lets go back to the requirement for us to be perfect….how do we achieve this today?

Is asceticism a requirement for all believers ..... or is this also a manifestation of the 'work of the religious flesh'?


There is only one way to be perfect before God


Heb 10:14-18

14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Our perfection is achieved by faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ for us!

15 But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,

16 "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,"   17 then He adds, "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."   18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.   NKJV

The proof that we have seen our perfection is the absence of GUILT...this is clarified in Hebrews 10:1-3….when we no longer see ourselves as sinners but as saints! If God doesn’t see our sin, why should we keep dwelling on it?

1 Cor 1:30

30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption

Jesus is our righteousness and santification

 Matt 5:48

48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.    NKJV

In the New Covenant this is a promise which God Himself provides for us….rather than a command we are to strive for!

Luke 6:40

40 The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.    KJVanother prom 

Another promise for believers

John 17:22-23

22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:  23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one,    …   NKJV

Our perfection is in our status as being ‘ONE with Christ’…it is ‘done’ for us!

Phil 3:15-16

15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.  16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.     KJV 

Col 1:27-29

27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.    NKJV

Col 4:12…..always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.    NKJV

Eph 4:11-14

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;    NKJV

The role of a teacher or a pastor is to show you what Christ has achieved for you in the atonement….and who you now are in Him!

Gal 3:1-3

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?   NKJV

This is the mistake many 'religious' people today still make….they try to ‘perfect themselves’….by behaving better and obeying “laws”. This brethren, is the religious flesh at work!...we need to be in faith relying on God's work rather than our own works.

Phil 1:3-6 …   I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;    NKJV

Heb 7:19
19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.    NKJV 

Heb 11:40

40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.    NKJV

Heb 12:22-24

2 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.    NKJV

1 Peter 5:10

10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.   KJV

1 John 4:17-19

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.    NKJV

In God’s eyes we ARE perfected….it is HIS LOVE that has achieved this result! And NOT our works!

John 3:16-17
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.     NKJV 

Col 1:21-23

21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight —  23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister   NKJV

Brethren the only requirement is that we stay in ‘faith’…and don’t fall back into ‘works’

1 Thess 3:12-13    And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, 13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.    NKJV

Brethren, all God wants us to do is to LOVE one another…and let Him work on us!

Gal 5:3-6  And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor un-circumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.     NKJV

Brethren do not ‘fall from grace’….stay in 'faith'....stay humble and love others because you know how much He loves you….and what HE has made you to be!

This is all we have to do to retain our perfection! 


Perfection is not something we achieve which makes us 'usable' to God.....faith alone in HIS completed work is the key!

Acts 3:12-16
"Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. 14 But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. 16 And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.   NKJV

Gal 3:5

5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?     NKJV

2 Cor 5:20-21

20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.    NKJV

Our  perfection....and our salvation is a walk of faith in the work of God on our behalf.

Phil 2:12-13
.....work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. NKJV


Have you found your perfection and rest in Him yet?....or are you still working to get there?