Forthright Magazine

The ideal is real

In the continuing effort to free the office of files and papers, another pile was dispatched to the trash bin last Saturday. One item saved, for now, from being pitched was an old outline about Jesus from Luke 19. It’s so old it was done on a typewriter.

The title of the outline is, “The Ideal Is Real.” The text, Luke 19.28-44. The three points are that Jesus has and will give to us:

1. The capacity to pursue (will) 19.28-40
2. The capacity to weep (emotion) 19.41
3. The capacity to see (mind) 19.42-44

One of the final points is this: “The best, the ideal, the real, is found in a close walk with Jesus.” (You can see a photo of it here.)

The title caught my eye because these days the concept of the ideal is being used to justify non-obedience. I heard it nearly 40 years ago from a Baptist leader. Now it’s being used by our own people to release others from the necessity of obeying everything that Jesus has commanded, Mt 28.20.

This sentiment is even in print. Here’s the essence of the argument: The New Testament gives us the ideal of God’s plan. But we can never attain it. God’s mercy will cover what you find to be difficult to obey. Are you living in an adulterous marriage? Does God’s word seem hard to apply in this case or in other situations? Relax! He gives us the ideal. Count on God to be merciful.

Doesn’t this sound comforting?

Except that this appeal is a concept totally foreign to the Bible. The word “ideal” doesn’t appear in Scripture. The Sermon on the Mount is no illusory dream. Obedience should be complete. Mercy will not change what God has said he will do, nor the conditions of forgiveness.

What is offered here is what one author called cheap grace. It softens the cost of following Christ. It allows sin to remain ensconced in the heart. It turns the sacrifice of Christ into a licence for selfishness.

Rather than an unattainable ideal, Jesus brings us real life, real holiness, real experience in walking in the light. We can be like him. We can follow him. We can obey him. In doing so, we can glorify God and show others the way.

The ideal, indeed, is real.



J. Randal Matheny
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