Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Elements of Teleios

You are to be teleios, as your Heavenly Father is teleios.
Matthew 5.48

[Note: I ended the last entry with a request for comments.  Since I received none, I’ll make this article brief on the assumption that (so far) none are interesting in pursuing teleios.  My first attempt at this article was pretty long and would've been annoying to those who aren't interested.  So here’s the abbreviated version.  Eventually I’ll put more on the website.] 

After a mountain bike ride one afternoon I turned on the news to see that a biker had been killed by a mountain lion.  He was attacked and partially consumed in the same park as me, and at the same time I was there.  Later that day a woman was attacked by the same lion.  Her friend and two others fought off the lion and saved her life, but she was badly mauled.  So … should I quit riding my bike?  No – the truth is that the benefits of riding far outweigh the risks.  So I continue to ride, but take reasonable precautions.  Lions, coyotes, bobcats and rattlesnakes are facts of life, but of course the biggest danger is just from falling.  I ride on neither recklessly nor in fear.  

Mountain biking is fun, it’s outdoors in the wilderness, and it’s a lot safer than riding on the roads where drivers kill and injure way more bicyclists than lions ever will.  But most folks who want to exercise and get in health will never start.  Many others will start and fizzle out, or get distracted or lose interest or get discouraged when it gets hard. 

Our spiritual walk is like this.  Spiritually most “Christians” are sedentary gluttons who are deep in spiritual “debt” because they keep spending what they don’t have.  Some are fearful and some are reckless, but few indeed are those who take reasonable precautions and press on with a patient smile. 
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  But resist him, firm in faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.  1 Peter 5:8-9
Notice that Peter did not say we should be afraid of (or angry with) Satan.  Rather, our response to this should be that we should be sober-minded, diligent, firm in faith and to resist.  It’s true – Satan is prowling around and trying to consume us. But we are called to be strong; strong enough to rescue others from lions like David (1 Samuel 17.34-37). 

Jesus’ last words are found in Matthew 24 and 25.  Modern Christians love to debate stuff about the second coming found here, but Jesus’ real message was simple: get ready and stay ready.  The whole point was to motivate us to prepare ourselves for our Lord’s return or our own death, whichever comes first.  For as long as we are stuck in this world, we can use our time wisely or foolishly.  We can be weak or strong, we can love or we can be selfish.  But know this: your capacity to love will always be limited by your strength, ability, and preparation. 

The teleios person is the one who is ready, alert and diligent.  She is the one who makes God smile.  He is the one who doubles his talents.  Their lamps are lit and they have plenty of oil left over in case the groom is late.  They look out for their fellow sheep, and expand the flock.  

But none of us starts out this way!  We must go into some training to become "ready" to become teleios, mature and strong.  Or - we can kick back and produce nothing of eternal value (no fruit), run out of oil, bury our talents, and eventually become lion food.  If the bible is true and God is real - this is not speculation.  It's fact.  

Becoming “ready” or teleios is very much like training for athletics.  Certain areas of our lives require attention.  Some of these things will be easy for you, and others will be hard.  Using the athletic metaphor, here are the things we need to work on:

  • Motive = love
  • Strength/Power = Faith
  • Endurance = Hope
  • Balance = Living Well
  • Toughness = Indestructible
  • Flexibility = adaptable, teachable … keep smiling

Motive = Love 

Christ-love compels us … because we are convinced that … he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. (2 Corinthians 5:14-16)
World class athletes all love what they do or they couldn't see it through.  Similarly, our single-minded focus is to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.  To be considerate, to heal, to rescue, to teach … these are all activities that reflect love. 

Strength/Power = Faith

 “Faith is the victory that overcomes” (1 John 5.4)  
The less faith you have the less you will be able do for God.  It’s the muscle that enables our love - not money or time or knowledge ... it's faith!  The stronger we get, the more we can love.  How do we get stronger, how do we build faith?  Exercise, diet and rest in the right measures.  Let me be clear: just as faith without love is nothing but noise, so love without faith is nothing.  A mother may love her children, but if she lacks the strength to take action on their behalf, her love is a mere frustration. 

Endurance = Hope

 “Let’s lay aside every encumbrance (and the sin which so easily entangles us) and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  (Hebrews 12:1)  
Endurance is necessary because we all want to quit from time to time.  This desire to quit (or go back to Egypt) comes from many sources.  Distractions and disasters are big ones, but also for many it’s just about complacency.  But the cure is the same: hope.  Satan wants to you to believe things are hopeless so you’ll quit.  But God offers endless hope – even to eternity.  If you hold on to our the hope, you’ll be able to endure to the end. 
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering (for He who promised is faithful) Hebrews 10:23

Balance = Living Well

Don’t be excessively righteous and don’t be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? Don’t be excessively wicked and don’t be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them. Ecclesiastes 7:16-18
Following Jesus is a life of extremes; complete self-sacrifice with eternal consequences.  But it is important to remember that whereas God is omnipotent, we are not.  We need rest, we need fun, and we’re commanded to work (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 & 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).  Learn to balance your life and enjoy God’s generosity so you don’t burn out.  Work hard, play hard and never be lacking in zeal (Romans 12.11). God does not want robots - he wants zealots.  Balance your life and you can sustain your zeal without becoming a machine.  Find a job you can enjoy, a person to share life with, and a few hobbies that put a smile on your face and help you interact with the world.  The strongest fighter can be defeated if you can get him off balance.     

Toughness = Indestructible

 “Remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.”Hebrews 10:32-34
You hurt my feelings, you meanie!  

The original audience of the letter we call “Hebrews” had endured lots of suffering.  And how had they responded to it?  They “accepted joyfully” these hardships and kept on serving.  Most Christians today are spiritual wimps, sissies, pansies … pick your insult; Paul called them “babies.”  The slightest hardship today makes “Christians” burst into tears just as if we had no God at all.  Complaining, whining and bickering are all accepted as normal, and we are always expected to “be nice” as if God’s people are called to be so fragile that even the tiniest insult is cause for tears.  There is much suffering in this world, but  if you’re honest from the heart you must admit that you should be able to take a lot more than you can.  I'm not suggesting that it's a sin to be a wimp - it's just a sin to STAY one!  Accept the fragile and be compassionate, but for goodness sake don't let them stay that way. Don’t be such a little girl – we are warriors of the Most High God – we are called to be His “mighty men,” and so whimpering is unseemly and embarrassing.   Toughen up so you can be a rescuer of the weak instead of a persistent victim.  How easily can someone “hurt your feelings”?  There’s the measure of your wimp-meter.  Jesus was tough and sensitive – learn to be like Him. 

Flexibility = adaptable, teachable … keep smiling

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:4-7)
Athletes stretch, warm-up and loosen up before a competition.  The US Marines have an oft-repeated expression: “adapt, improvise, overcome.”  Disciples are called to be like this, too.  Satan uses strategies designed to upset us, but we need to be flexible, teachable and adaptable.  it’s impossible to prepare for everything, so we must be ready to make changes when necessary – and do so with a smile.  Getting tense or afraid … will make us prone to injury and/or cause us to choke in the moment when we most need to be ready to adapt. 


Yes, believe it or not … this has been the short version.  Some of us struggle with parts of this, but find other things easy.  But all of us needs to be deliberate, intentional and focused in our pursuit of teleios.  It’s an oft-repeated theme in the New Testament, and it’s a disaster that we chase after following rules and religious leaders, but neglect the simple and straight forward assignment to grow into the image of Jesus – strong, loving, compassionate and fruitful. 

Remember that Satan really is a hungry lion, and he’s looking to devour you and everyone you know and love.  He really is our only enemy – all others are merely his pawns.  If you truly love God and your neighbor, then it’s time to get serious about your training so you and your loved ones don’t have to be Satan’s victims.  You can do this with God’s help – but you gotta try (“make every effort” – 2 Peter 1.5).  Will you be his victim, will you survive, or will you become a survivor who rescues others? 

If you’re interested in really pursuing this, let me know, and also work with your group, or find someone to join you in this quest.  It’s crazy hard to do this alone, believe me.  But the promise of teleios is glorious! 

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:29-30


  1. This entry is very motivating. Makes me take a step back and examine my heart, I am such a baby, I whimper when things get tough as if there is no God at all. Makes me remember to watch out for the hungry lion looking for any little thing to bring me down or be distracted, I want to survive and rescue others!!

    1. Cool! I'm so happy when someone is motivated! That's just the best.

      Now as for your confession that you're a "baby" and "wimpy," do yourself a favor: change the way you see yourself. Disciples growing to be teleios will be something better, stronger and more faithful as each week, month and year pass. So give yourself a break if you're a wimpy kindergartner now ... but plan to grow out of it! Learn to say things like, "I was" or "I have been" like this ... but soon I'll grow out of it.

      God bless you as you grow ... be persistent. I will be praying for you.