Here at Two Journeys Ministry, we are committed to moving every Christian on to Christlike maturity in this life by the ministry of the Word of God. This is exactly what Ephesians 4:11-15 commands pastors and teachers to do; this is the goal of all Christian ministry. But there is a very important distinction we must make: Christian maturity is attainable in this life; perfection is not. Maturity moves toward perfection but cannot attain it while indwelling sin remains. Therefore, the gap between Christian maturity and perfection is actually immeasurable, even infinite! While we live there will always be a massive difference between us and the perfect Son of God. We will always have cause to lament indwelling sin, saying with Paul (the most mature Christian who has ever lived), “I do not understand what I do. The very thing I hate, I do; while what I want to do I do not do” (Romans. 7:15).
Jesus implied that Christian maturity is attainable in this life when he said, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained is like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Fully trained = mature. That is possible. Perfection is not possible while we live in this world.
"There will always be room for us to grow, room to repent, room to develop, room to venture out boldly in some new arena of sanctification. If we rest on any laurels of Christian growth, we will soon lapse back into pride and begin to backslide."
Why is this distinction between Christian maturity and perfection so important? More than anything, it enables us to worship Christ. We come to realize that Christ’s moral and spiritual perfection soars infinitely above the heads of even the most mature Christian so that Christ will be magnified as he deserves. In addition, this distinction is important so that we will never stop running our race toward Christlikeness while we live in this world. There will always be room for us to grow, room to repent, room to develop, room to venture out boldly in some new arena of sanctification. If we rest on any laurels of Christian growth, we will soon lapse back into pride and begin to backslide.
Now Christian maturity is strongly related to Christlike perfection. 2 Corinthians 13:11 tells us to “aim for perfection.” And Matthew 5:48 commands us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Every day, the Holy Spirit rouses us and points us to perfection in Christ. He spurs us on to growth in aiming for that standard. He never accepts overt embracing of imperfection (sin) in any respect. Like the North Star, it is a powerful form of navigation. But while we aim for perfection, it is vital to realize we cannot attain it while we live in these mortal bodies in a sin-saturated world.
Yet, bless God! We are guaranteed to attain perfection in the next world! We will “shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father” (Matthew 13:48). We are predestined to be perfectly conformed to Christ when God is done glorifying us at the resurrection. So, rejoice in that while you lament the gaps between your present Christian maturity and the Christlike perfection you conceive of in scripture.