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Day 22 – Strive to Be Perfected in Christ

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
~ Moroni 10:32 ~

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
~ Titus 2:11-14 ~

… coming unto Christ and being perfected in Him places perfection within the eternal journey of our spirit and body—in essence, the eternal journey of our soul (see D&C 88:15). Becoming perfect results from our journey through physical life, death, and resurrection, when all things are restored “to their proper and perfect frame” (Alma 40:23). It includes the process of spiritual birth, which brings “a mighty change” to our hearts and dispositions (Mosiah 5:2). It reflects our lifelong refinement through Christlike service and obedience to the Savior’s commandments and our covenants. And it recognizes the perfecting relationship between the living and the dead (see D&C 128:18).
~ Elder Gerrit W. Wong of the Seventy – Becoming Perfect in Christ ~

Going forward with faith and purpose (Exodus 14:13-15) means we are committed to becoming perfect in Christ. This does not mean that we are not going to make mistakes. It does not mean that we will not fall short. It does not mean we are going to be able to overcome all temptations that come upon us. No, becoming perfect in Jesus Christ means we strive to become more like him in our thoughts, in our hearts, in our minds, and in our attitudes. It is a transformative process of spiritual growth and maturation. It merely means we are to become complete because of the work of the infinite atonement that is given unto us by the grace of our Heavenly Father.

Our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness ought to become our plan of happiness. It is this plan that was prepared from the foundation of the world (Mosiah 4:6-7) where we are able to experience liberty and freedom through repentance, grow in our experiences and knowledge, learn from our choices and mistakes, and develop a resilient faith in Christ.

This spiritual and transformative growth gives us the motivation and commitment we need to endure to the end. To persevere with faith and commitment to the covenants we make with our Heavenly Father.

Elder Wong shares this with us:

Fully accepting our Savior’s Atonement can increase our faith and give us courage to let go of constraining expectations that we are somehow required to be or to make things perfect. Black-and-white thinking says everything is either absolutely perfect or hopelessly flawed. But we can gratefully accept, as God’s sons and daughters, that we are His greatest handiwork (see Psalm 8:3–6Hebrews 2:7), even though we are still a work in progress.

He also observes:

In the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior commands us: “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The Greek word for perfect can be translated as “complete, finished, fully developed” (in Matthew 5:48, footnote b). Our Savior asks us to become complete, finished, fully developed—to be perfected in the virtues and attributes He and our Father in Heaven exemplify.

This does not mean we become perfectionists that lead toward unrealistic expectations and demands on our part. Nor does it give us a healthy path toward spiritual growth and maturation. Instead, it leads us to look more toward the eternal glory and possibilities of us becoming more and more like our Savior. In doing so, we become more and more like our Heavenly Father.

Allan D. Rau writes the following in the Religious Educator:

While the reach of the Atonement may extend into the lives of all people, the extent to which we personally experience the Atonement is dependent upon our willingness to receive Christ. While he stands at the door and knocks, we must choose to let him in (see Revelation 3:20). And how do we let him in? By making and keeping sacred gospel covenants. In fact, the degree to which we access the blessings of the Atonement is directly related to our willingness to participate in the ordinances of salvation and the associated covenants. Significantly, in the word teleios we find a nuanced reference to covenants. John Welch, quoting John I. Durham, has written that Matthew’s usage of teleios does not denote “the perfect ethical personality,” but rather employs “‘the Old Testament sense of the wholeness of consecration to God.’ It tends towards the meaning of ‘living up to an agreement or a covenant.’” Moreover, in Greek religious literature, teleios describes a “person who has become fully initiated in the rituals of a religion.” Welch continues: “The word is used in Heb. 5:14–6:1 to distinguish between the initial teachings and the full instruction. Generally in the epistle to the Hebrews, the term follows a ‘special use’ of Hellenistic Judaism, with the word teleioo meaning ‘to put someone in the position in which he can come, or stand, before God.’ Early Christians continued to use this word in this way in connection with their sacraments and ordinances.”

“Be Ye Therefore Perfect”: Beyond the Perfectionist Paradigm – Religious Educator Vol. 12 No. 3, 2011

He also observes that by making and keeping covenants we are given increased access to the redeeming power of the Atonement. He further explains that those who do are those disciples who not only “retain a remission of [their] sins” (Mosiah 4:12, 26) but have their very natures changed (Mosiah 5:1-8). This leads to Christ sealing us as his and we obtain an everlasting salvation (Mosiah 5:15). This is the reason the Apostle Paul taught that we shall become heirs and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

Another way of understanding this is see it as the process of sanctification. And when we look up the term Sanctification, we find that it means:

  • The process of becoming free from sin, pure, clean, and holy through the atonement of Jesus Christ (Moses 6:59-60).
  • Sanctified through the offering of Jesus Christ’s body (Hebrews 10:10)
  • Sanctified because of Christ’s suffering and shedding of his blood (Hebrews 13:12)
  • We are sanctified and our garments shall be washed white through the Blood of the Lamb (Alma 13:10-12)
  • Sanctification comes to those who yield their hearts unto God (Helaman 3:33-35)
  • Sanctification comes by our repentance and the reception of the Holy Spirit (3 Nephi 27:20)
  • Sanctification comes through the Grace of Jesus Christ and is just and true (D&C 20:31)
  • Through the process of sanctification our minds become single to God (D&C 88:68)

Therefore, sanctification begins with the atonement of Jesus Christ and the remission of sins that occur at Baptism. It is the first covenant we make with our Heavenly Father. It is also the covenant we renew weekly by attending church and partake of the sacrament. Second, we are sanctified because of the power and authority of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit are we purified, guided, comforted, and taught. Third, we are sanctified through our own personal righteousness by faithfully disciplining ourselves to prayer and fasting, reading and studying the scriptures, applying those scriptures to our own lives, seeking after personal revelation, growing in faith, truth, and love as our testimony increases, maintaining a spirit of humility and yield ourselves over to God’s divine will.

The Refining Fire

400 years prior to the ministry of Jesus Christ, the Prophet Malachi delivered a somber message:

But who may abide the day of his Coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiners fire, and like fullers soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify … and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness

Malachi 3:2-3

The purpose of a refiner’s fire is to take ore and purge out all impurities through a process of refining. This is done with both fire and water. The ore is heated up and shaped into a metal object. It is thrust into the water. And it is a process repeated until the metal that is cleansed and purged. Here, the Prophet Malachi uses such imagery and symbolism that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we shall be purged and cleansed of all impurities and natural undesirable elements. This is accomplished by first entering into the waters of baptism for the remission of our sins and then being refined by the power and authority of the Holy Spirit.

And this is where the Apostle teaches us that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). This is where faith comes into play. Since we are united in purpose and will with our Heavenly Father, through the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ, we are being refined through the process of the Holy Spirit and utilization of our own moral agency.

W. Ralph Pew gives us greater insight in this statement:

To remain faithful throughout our mortal lives demands that we challenge the natural man within us and declare spiritual war on the physical elements of mortality. The struggle to put off or purge the natural man from our hearts and souls is the second phase of the process of sanctification and can be characterized as spiritualizing our temporal body. The Holy Ghost as the sanctifier (3 Nephi 27:20) is endowed with the divine capacity to engage our souls in this spirit of reformation. Through the righteous exercise of our agency and the purifying power of the Holy Ghost, we learn to yield to the will of the Father voluntarily and without compulsion. Learning this process of submission through a lifetime of choices and actions harmonious with the will of God leads to our spiritual purification.

“Yield your hearts to God” – the Process of Sanctification, The Book of Mormon: Helaman Through 3 Nephi 8, According to Thy Word

Pew shares three aspects of how the Holy Ghost facilitates the sanctification process within our hearts:

  1. Directing us in making right choices
  2. Motivates us toward repentance
  3. Our Comforter, Light, and Special Witness

He further shares that by recognizing the comparison between metallurgical refinement and spiritual purification, combined with understanding the fundamental role of the Holy Ghost in the sanctification process, provides us the background for consideration of the practical reality of refining our lives by surrendering the desires of our hearts to God. In doing so, according to Pew, our yielding to God provides the following blessings:

  • Our desires and intentions will be made pure
  • Transforms us, as we conform to the will of God, to emulate His attributes and manifesting spiritual Godlike characteristics within our own hearts, mind, and soul (becoming complete and like Christ)
  • We grow in complete and full humility and faith where our souls are filled with joy and consolation because of our righteous choices and spiritual disciplines

Pew further expounds his thoughts:

Prayer, fasting, humility, and faith contribute to the process of sanctification. Meaningful and consistent private prayer serves to remind us that we are indeed children of God and on his errand. Fasting is a tangible physical experience, subordinating the appetites of the flesh to the still small voice of the Spirit. Humility nurtures within our souls the critical recognition of and appreciation for the truth that God has created us, and from the beginning has preserved us from day to day, and lends us breath to live, move and act according to our own wills (Mosiah 2:21). Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is power, this vital source of divine energy operates among the children of humankind to move mountains, render charitable service, and soften hearts. Each of these key words and principles mentioned by Mormon in Helaman 3:35 focuses the mortal mind on the fact that as the heavens are higher than the earth so God, in his exalted sphere, is elevated above humanity (Isa 55:8–9) and that to return to his presence in a clean and sanctified condition requires that we yield our wills to his will and our desires to his desire.

All of which is accomplished through the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ and by and through the grace of our Heavenly Father. There is no other way except we place our faith, our trust, and our hope in Christ and become born again (John 3:1-21).

And in James E. Faust’s message in April 1979 General Conference – he shares:

Here then is a great truth. In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a refiner’s fire, and the insignificant and the unimportant in our lives can melt away like dross and make our faith bright, intact, and strong. In this way the divine image can be mirrored from the soul. It is part of the purging toll exacted of some to become acquainted with God. In the agonies of life, we seem to listen better to the faint, godly whisperings of the Divine Shepherd.

The Refiners Fire

This great truth expresses the simplistic meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are being refined to where those impurities are revealed and purged from us. And it is the reason we are described as a new creation in scripture. The temptations we face. The adversity and sorrow we experience – all to refine and purge us of our carnality that is at enmity with God.

The Crucified Life and the Cost of Discipleship

A sad reality is that many today hold to a doctrine of cheap grace. A doctrine of easy believism that requires minimal sacrifice and cost. It is the idea and philosophy that we are totally depraved and undeserving of meriting any grace and favor with God. It is based on that if our Heavenly Father so chooses us to be redeemed, we are then pricked in our hearts and quickened by his spirit. It is a doctrine and belief that nothing we do of our selves grants us access to heavenly blessings and rewards. And it further teaches that our Heavenly Father chooses to draw us unto Christ so that we are made righteous and pure in Christ alone.

Such teachings and doctrines pervert the teachings of Jesus, pervert and twist the teachings of the Apostle Paul, and forgo any direction to present self as living sacrifices before our Heavenly Father. And, thus, when it comes to talk about being made perfect and Christ-like – the typical response is a declaration of preaching heresy, false gospel, and a doctrine of works-based righteousness that somehow perverts and distorts the grace of God.

Furthermore, such dangerous thought and teaching that has permeated through much of Christianity today falls short of the deeper and enriching teachings of Holy Writ. It denies the heart of Christian fellowship, discipleship, spiritual discipline, and spiritual growth. They may teach and speak on the nature and purpose of sanctification – however, it is all God and not man. That it is God who sanctifies us through the Holy Spirit and not anything man is capable or empowered to do of his own moral agency. Man’s righteous choice already predetermined by God.

Fortunately, the Restored Gospel has revealed to each of us that we are to be actively engaged in living out a crucified life. That is the whole process of sanctification and becoming perfect in Christ. Today, many are not willing to pay the cost of associated with the victorious Christian life (A. W. Tozer, The Crucified Life, p. 24). Furthermore, as we have previously mentioned, erroneously, many have been taught and believe that the Christian life is a free ride that eventually ends in heaven. After all, Jesus paid it all (Ibid).

What is the crucified life? It is a life that recognizes who Christ is. It is a life where one takes necessary action because of this revelation of who Christ is. A crucified life is one that is a personal journey we each take where our ultimate desire and goal is to see Christ face to face and be part of the Heavenly Jerusalem. And it happens when we recognize that this is not something we are able to do of our own accord. It is something we do because of the strength we receive through Christ.

The crucified life is not one where we are content on merely being. No. The Crucified life is where we doing those things we are called to do. A life we consecrate and sanctify daily to do the will of our Heavenly Father. And it is a life that we actively seek to mirror after the example of the Savior.

Unfortunately, many rather stay in the pews of being rather than take up their cross and deny themselves daily to follow after Christ (Luke 9:23). Many rather attempt to find their lives rather than lose their lives for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Luke 9:24).

Much like the Israelites. Our Heavenly Father remembered his covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He called forth Moses to bring about the salvation and redemption of the Children of Israel and led them out into the wilderness. And the first step in the refining fire was for them to stand still, see the salvation of the Lord, and to hold their peace in order to go forward with faith and purpose. The cost to them was great. The cost of the plan of salvation to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life is that of Jesus Christ. The cost of our discipleship is to crucify ourselves daily, to be refined, purged of all carnality and vain imaginations through faithful obedience to the principle ordinances of the Gospel.

Key Point

We are called and invited to come unto Christ. To follow Him. To be perfected through the infinite atonement of Christ. All because of our Heavenly Father’s plan and purpose for our own lives. His desire is for us to experience joy. Not the joy of this world but the joy of being refined, purged, and cleansed to stand in holiness and righteousness. Being made complete in all attributes. To become like Christ. To become like our Heavenly Father and have the blessings and inheritances of all that is part of the Heavenly Jerusalem – which is the Celestial Glory and Kingdom.

Meditate and Ponder

Are you struggling with your faith? Do you find yourself to be more comfortable in being rather than doing? What fear, anxieties, and worries are there that prevent you from stepping out and becoming a doer? A person who is living a crucified life where you are being refined, purified, cleansed, and made complete and whole through Christ’s infinite atonement? What spiritual disciplines are you struggling with today? As we strive to ask, seek, and knock, our Heavenly Father will answer, provide, and open all doors of possibilities for us to experience a joy that surpasses all understanding. He will give us a comfort and peace this world is not capable of offering. All we need to do is sacrifice ourselves on the altar and yield all that we are unto Him so that we may be made perfect in the image and likeness of Christ – who is in the express image and likeness of our Heavenly Father (Hebrews 1:3).