1 Kings 15
There is a lot of controversy in Christian circles over the issue of obedience to the law, sanctification, perfection, etc. Some people say that perfect obedience to God’s law is required for salvation. Others say that the law was nailed to the cross with Jesus, so there is no law to keep. Still others say that Jesus kept the law perfectly so we wouldn’t have to. He keeps it for us. To be blunt, I think they’re all wrong.
Did you notice this verse in 1 Kings 15? "Although he did not remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life." (vs 14) That’s an odd little verse, isn’t it? "High places" refer to shrines or places of worship that were set up on hills or mountains, usually in order to worship pagan gods. That’s why a proper rendering of Psalm 121 reads like this:
"I lift up my eyes to the hills—
does my help come from there?
No! My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!" (vs 1-2)
Whoever wrote that Psalm was intending to draw a distinction between the "help" that was sought after in the hills and our true help—which comes from the Creator God. So when it says that Asa did not remove the high places, it means he left places of worship to pagan gods intact in Israel.
So why, then, would it go on to say that although he did not remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord? How could his heart be fully committed when he neglected to root out all pagan worship? This was very perplexing to me at first, but I think it can provide a glimpse into how God views obedience, sanctification, and perfection.
Let me break here for a minute long enough to say this: When my daughter was a toddler, she didn't do very much. In comparison with an adult's life, she couldn't do a whole lot. She could only say a couple of words. She couldn't dress herself. She couldn't fix her own meals. She couldn't provide for herself. She couldn't solve a basic math problem. She was totally dependent on her dad and me for everything she had.
Was she perfect? Why, yes she was! She was just as perfect at that her stage of development as she is now at seven years old, even though there is still a lot she can't do. But if she is willing, she will eventually learn to do all the things she can’t do right now. How about a watermelon seed? Is it perfect? Why, yes it is!
It’s not yet a watermelon, but given the conditions for growth without hindrance, it will become one. We need not wait until it’s a fully-grown watermelon to call it perfect.The same is true for our sanctification. It could be said of Asa that his heart was fully committed to the Lord because he was not willfully obstructing his own spiritual growth. Even though he left some of the high places intact during his reign, it’s obvious that he had what God is looking for—willingness.
When God has our willingness, what will be impossible for Him to accomplish? Absolutely nothing! In that way, then, we are like the watermelon seed or the toddler or the seven-year-old. We are perfect now, even if we can’t dress ourselves yet. If my heart is open to God, I’m a perfect law-keeper right now, even if there are still "high places" in my life that God needs to address. As long as we don’t put obstacles in God’s way, He can carry out the spiritual developmental process within us in His way and in His time. His work is always perfect, so if we put our willingness on His side, there is nothing He can’t accomplish.
On the flip side, if we are unwilling, what will God be able to accomplish in us? Not much of anything. God won’t ultimately force us to do anything. He won’t force us to cooperate with Him. So if we are unwilling, if we continually resist His Spirit’s work in us, there will come a point where He’ll just have to leave us stuck where we are.
When our heart’s door is open to God, He can and will change anything in us that needs to be changed. But the one thing He can’t do is make us willing. Today, let’s take that lesson from Asa and—no matter what we do or leave undone—make sure our heart is fully committed to the Lord.