Friday, June 17, 2011

The goal: perfect and complete

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 13:1-13

TO CHEW ON: "...And this also we pray, that you may be made complete....Finally brethren, farewell. Become complete... " 2 Corinthians 13:9b,11a NKJV

When I was a kid I took piano lessons. Several times during my piano lesson career, I signed up to take an exam. This involved becoming proficient in all the technical elements and learning several pieces at my grade level. For weeks, even months, my teacher and I worked at preparing me for this exam. Every week when I came for my lesson she would critique my scales and four-note chords, my Bach Invention and my Chopin waltz so I could strengthen each weakness. My goal for exam day was to impress the examiner with a performance that was as perfect and complete as I could make it.

Here Paul is urging the Corinthians to be "complete" as Christians.

["Complete (katartisis) means an improving, equipping, training, disciplining. It includes making the necessary adjustments and repairs. The related verb katartizo is used for the disciples mending their nets - Matthew 4:21" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1626.]

When Paul talks about "complete" what does he mean? What are we striving after to make us complete as disciples of Jesus? In piano I depended on my teacher to challenge and grow me toward the standard she knew was required to get a good score. In the Christian life, the package of completeness we are working toward is found in the Bible. (The word "complete" is used in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 where Paul describes how God's word is useful to us.)

Here are some verses that talk about completeness (also called "maturity"- NLT; "full restoration" - NIV;  "perfected" - Amplified, "in good repair" - Msg.). They give us a picture (though incomplete for sure) of what Paul is talking about and what we strive for:
  • Some have earned that label. Job was a man who had a reputation with both the devil and God as being "blameless" - Job 1:1.
  • Jesus linked being "perfect" with becoming detached from worldly possessions - Matthew 19:21.
  • Paul talked about love as the thing that would bind all the virtues together in perfect unity - Colossians 3:12-14.
  • James referred to how faith and works need to mesh, with works completing or making perfect one's profession of faith - James 2:22.
  • He also spoke of the ability to guard one's tongue as an evidence of the greater discipline of the "perfect man" - James 3:2.
  • John spoke of our love shown to one another as the evidence of God's loving being perfected in us - 1 John 4:12.

Fortunately we don't have to work on this alone. We too have a "piano teacher." God Himself promises to show us where we need to improve. Look

"I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward. So let those [of us] who are spiritually mature and full-grown have this mind and hold these convictions; and if in any respect you have a different attitude of mind, God will make that clear to you also" - Philippians 3:13-15 (Amplified)

Completeness is a great big goal that can seem discouragingly huge. But it has been my experience that God often handles my shortcomings like my piano teacher did — one at a time. That I can handle.

PRAYER: Dear God, the goal of completeness is a big, intimidating one. Thank You that You deal with me one issue at a time. Help me to be a teachable student today, sensitive and malleable to Your correction. Amen.

MORE: "Joy in the Journey" - Michael Card

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