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TEXT: Hebrews 10:14
SUBJECT: The Passion of Jesus Christ #16: Holy, Blameless, Perfect
Tonight we come to Chapter 15 in our study of John Piper's little book, The Passion of Jesus Christ. The word, 'passion' has more than one meaning, of course, but in this book, it stands for the suffering and death of our Lord. The book says hardly a word about what He suffered; it's all about why He suffered. If God had the power and the compassion to save His Son from an unjust death, why didn't He do it? What was He thinking in letting our Lord to go to the cross? Or, to put a finer point on it: in sending Him there?
A great deal can be said here, and Piper says quite a bit of it. In fifty short chapters, he looks at the cross from a variety of angles, all of which are good for us to think about and adore.
Why did Jesus Chris suffer and die? Tonight's chapter says,
To make us holy, blameless, and perfect.
The words, 'holy, blameless, and perfect' can be understood in two ways: relatively and absolutely.
When Peter calls the prophets, holy men of God, he doesn't means they were sinless. No one can read of lives of Abraham, Moses, David--and especially Jonah-without knowing they committed plenty of sins.
When Luke says Zacharias and Elisabeth walked in all the commandments and ordinances of God blamelessly he didn't mean they never broke the Law. If the Law commands anything, it commands belief, which is the very Law Zacharias broke just a few vcrses later.
When Moses said Noah was a just and perfect man in his generation, he doesn't mean 'perfect' in the sense that he could not have been better than he was. He could have been, for a chapter or two later, this 'perfect man' became drunk and made a fool of himself.
Thus, even though there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin, real men on earth can be holy, blameless, and perfect-in a relative way.
The words, 'holy, blameless and perfect' can also be taken absolutely, to describe men who are perfectly holy, with nothing to blame, and perfect without any sin whatsoever.
For which kind of holiness, blamelessness, and perfection did our Lord die?
Jesus Christ died to make you perfectly devoted to God, both negatively (without sin) and positively, (doing everything you ought to and being just the person God wants you to be).
This is what John Piper is getting at in our chapter, and what the Bible teaches. God commands us to be perfect and Jesus Christ provides what we need to be perfect.
If we were angels, we'd all shout, 'amen'! Of course this is what God wants and what the Lord died to give us. But we are not angels, and the doctrine makes us rather uncomfortable. We're certainly not perfect, and most of the time, we don't even want to be.
Piper picks up on this,
One of the greatest heartaches in the Christian life is the slowness of our change. We hear the summons of God to love Him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. But do we ever rise to that affection and devotion? We cry out regularly with the Apostle Paul, 'Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?' We groan even as we take fresh resolves: 'Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me His own (Philippians 3:12).
The Christian life is full of tension-we're torn between what we are now and what we used to be. Or, maybe a better way of saying it, we're torn between what we are now and what we will be. In either event, however, we're torn, double-minded is the word James uses. If you feel this way, welcome to the club: we all do!
This means the Christian life is and will be a struggle. A struggle between God and the devil-and not just outside of you, but more painfully, the fight is also inside of you. If the fight were outside of you only, you might get a break now and then. But how do you get away from yourself?
Twenty years ago, a man could go on vacation and get away from the office. But no more! Now, he's got to carry his cell phone, and as long as he has that, he's still at the office-even if he's lying on the beach in Tahiti! Sin is kind of like that cell phone. Go off to a quiet place to pray or read the Bible or meditate on God's love, and the devil starts calling, and never gives up.
Is there any hope of real holiness in this life? Yes there is. Because, in a mysterious way, the most sinful Christian is already holy, blameless, and perfect. Harking back to the verse I just read (Philippians 3:12), Piper says,
This very statement is the key to endurance and joy. 'Christ Jesus has made me His own'. All my reaching and yearning and striving is not to belong to Christ (which has already happened), but to complete what is lacking in my likeness to Him.
In other words, we can grow in holiness, blamelessness, and perfection in this life because, we're in full union with Christ, which means we are already perfectly holy, perfectly blameless, and perfectly perfect!
Piper next goes on to the verse that I read at the start of the sermon, Hebrews 10:14,
For by a single offering, He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
One of the greatest sources of joy and endurance for the Christian is knowing that, in the imperfection of our progress, we have already been perfected-and that is owing to the suffering and death of Christ. This is amazing! In the same sentence he says we are 'being sanctified' and we are already 'perfected'. Being sanctified means that we are imperfect and in process. We are becoming holy-but not yet fully holy. And it is precisely these-and only these-who are already perfected. The joyful encouragement here is that the evidence of our perfection before God is not our experienced perfection, but our experienced progress. The good news is that being on the way means we have arrived.
Piper has said a number of striking things here, things that border on poetry, in places. But to put in more plainly: Growing in grace means we are justified and already as acceptable to God as Jesus Christ is! In other words, the believer knows he is perfect before God-not because his life is perfect-but because it's better than it used to be-not much better, maybe, but still, better. Getting better means you're already perfect!
One of the truest and most important sentences in Piper's book is also one of the hardest to explain. Speaking of believers, he says,
We should become what we are.
If we are 'holy, blameless, and perfect' in Christ, we should strive to be holy, blameless, and perfect in the world. Not to become holy, but because we are holy. Not so God will love us, but because He loves us. Not to get into Christ, but because we are in Christ.
What does a holy, blameless, and perfect life look like? It looks like love. Loving God means obedience to His known will. Loving others looks like putting them ahead of yourself.
This is what it means to become what we are. It may be mysterious, but it's also true: the more we change for the better, the more we become like ourselves. For years, the Prodigal Son lived in sin, and then, what happened? He came to himself and went home to his father. The riotous life he chose wasn't his true life, but a false life-a life his friends foisted on him, maybe, or his pride or lusts. In his true life, he was the son of a loving father. And you are too. And so, turn away from your old selfish ways and become what you really are.
Piper completes the chapter with a reminder of why we are what we are.
The basis for all this? The suffering of Christ. It secures our perfection so firmly that is already now a reality. Therefore, we fight against our sin not to become perfect, but because we are perfect. The death of Jesus is the key to battling our imperfections on the firm foundation of our perfection.
What did Jesus Christ do for you? He died for you. But what does His death do for you? Old heretics (and new) said 'It set an example'. As far as it goes, that's true, but it doesn't go nearly far enough. Titus 2:14 says,
He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and purify for Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
His death breaks the power of sin and replaces it with the power to do good. Not 'potentially', but actually. He doesn't make them possible, He makes them sure.
Meditating on this gives me hope when I fall into sin and the strength to repent and move on. Not to earn God's favor, but because I already have it.
All and only because of what Christ did for me and you too.
Don't be discouraged. If Christ died, you're already holy and you'll grow in holiness.
Don't be presumptuous. If Christ died to make you holy, He wants you to strive for holiness. Being sure of my wife's love, won't make me a worse husband, but a better one. Knowing the Lord died for me won't make me a worse Christian, but a better one.
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