Max Bowman - Perfection - Saginaw, Oregon Convention - 1998

First, I want to say how glad I am to be here. It has been 14 years since I was here before. Twenty-five years ago this month, I came here for the very first time and spoke for the very first time in a Friday evening Gospel Meeting. I launched forth and it's brought back lots of memories to come back now, precisely 25 years later. And it's caused me to do some self examination as well.

 

I'd like to speak a little bit about going on to perfection. Now perfection doesn't always mean flawless or without any error or flaw or any other blemish. We read in Hebrews 6:1 about the phrase "going on to perfection." It says, "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection." The margin says here 'full growth.' Full growth. Going on to full growth or another word would be maturity. Maturity. Perfection. We can actually think of it as fruit becoming mature. Immature fruit, or unripe fruit, would be imperfect. But here it speaks about going on to perfection.


In the familiar parable of the Sower and the Seed, it talks about the fruit that didn't get to perfection. That's in Luke 8:14. Those seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up, and it says that they were choked. It's like the cares of life and the pleasures of this life, and they bring "no fruit to perfection." In other words, it just doesn't become ripe, doesn't become complete, it doesn't come to maturity. We would like to go onto perfection, to completeness, to maturity, to bring forth ripe fruit. Now we don't have to wait until were just about ready to be taken from this life to have ripe fruit.


We look at the life of Jesus, and He had some ripe fruit in His life at every stage. There was completeness in His service. He wasn't immature in whatever place He was in because He was mature in the way of God. Even when He was a little child, He was mature and He sought His Father's business. Later as a carpenter, He was mature, and we know that He served God faithfully without any immaturity. We already heard there is a big difference between being childlike and being childish. Sometimes when I was a little child and behaved myself in a childish way, I would hear the expression, "Now just grow up." It was something I shouldn't have been doing, behaving in a childish way.

 

Now when we become mature, we move on to perfection. That doesn't mean we cease to be childlike. Jesus was always childlike. He never ceased to be childlike. He always had that dependency upon His Father. Even toward His last days, He said, "I can do nothing of Myself, I do always the things that please My Father." He was dependent upon His Father. I loved what we heard that He came when He was called, and He stayed in His place. He always obeyed the Father. We can move on to that stage as well.


There's a verse in Ephesians 4 that talks about Christ giving certain people to the church. Verse 12, "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ till we all come. In the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." A perfect man. Again the margin says, full grown. A full grown man. To the stature of Christ. Having a dimension that makes us like Jesus. Having a maturity in our service.


In thinking about fruit being immature, there's a certain tree in South America, and I know the term in Spanish but in English they would call the fruit something like the 'tree egg.' That fruit in its green state, it's immature state, is very toxic. In fact, if you eat it in that state, you would become ill, very ill. Probably a lot worse than eating green apples. Some of you young children have maybe eaten green apples and got a stomachache. But when that same fruit, the tree egg, becomes ripe, it's very healthy, very flavorful. I just wonder if the fruit in our lives that isn't sweet to others is fruit that is immature and hasn't gone on to perfection. And maybe it even gives a little discomfort to those who are partaking of it. And if God came down, and He does, and just samples the fruit of our life, the spiritual fruit I'm talking about now, what kind of a flavor would it have? Are we moving on to perfection, to ripeness, to sweetness, to maturity? Or are we still somewhat childish?

 

We heard in another convention about I Corinthians 13. It's the only time in the scripture we read the word "childish." This is a chapter we have all read many, many times, the chapter on love. Paul just said, "When I became as a man, I put away childish things." Above, in that chapter, it talks about a number of things that would be childish. I had never associated it in that way, but indeed we can just think of the opposite of charity, of that divine love, and really it's childishness.


In I Corinthians 13, it talks about suffering long. If we're impatient, that's childish. Part of charity is being kind. If we're unkind, we're just being childish. It talks about charity not being envious. If we envy, we're just being childish. It talks about not being puffed up. If we're puffed up, it's just because we're childish. We haven't gone on to maturity yet. Charity doesn't behave itself unseemly. Well, if we behave unseemly, we are just childish. A child does things that are unseemly, that's childish. It might throw a tantrum or demand its own way. In fact, it says, "Charity seeketh not her own." If we're just seeking our own will and way, it's just simply childish. And Paul just said so clearly, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." Now we want to continue always to be childlike, just like Jesus was. In fact, we want to become more childlike. And as we become more childlike we become more mature in the way of God. More dependent upon God, more submissive to God, more resigned to His perfect will for our lives.

 

I would like to speak about two things in particular being perfected in us. One is love and the other is praise. I would like to use as the basis for love being perfected the first Epistle of John. In that book, I John, we read the word love 45 times. And we read 3 different times about a measurement of love being perfected. Perfect love. And maybe we can measure ourselves a little bit today. We can take a little analysis of our perfection or our imperfection regarding love. In I John 4:17-18, it talks about perfect love. "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." It talks about perfect love having boldness, or confidence, in the day of judgment, without fear. That's one measurement we can have of our love for God, for His presence, for the day of judgment. If there is fear, it's because our love hasn't been made perfect.


Paul said in Timothy that there is a crown of righteousness waiting for all those who love Christ's appearing. He said, "It's not just for me." He said, "I've fought the good fight and henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, and not for me only, but for all those who love His appearing." How much do you think of Christ's appearing, His second coming, and how much do you love His appearing? Are we aware He could come perhaps before night falls today? Oh, we think, "He can't come today." But Jesus said He'll come at a time when we think not. That's when He's going to come. So if we think He's not coming today, He actually could. If we think He's not coming until the year 2000, He might come at the end of 1998 or He could come way beyond 2000. But He's coming at a time when we know not and when we think not, when we least expect Him; that's what He said. But we should be attentive unto His coming, and think of His appearing. When we think of His appearing, do we actually love His appearing, or is there fear and a lack of confidence? Now if there's fear, it's because love hasn't been made perfect. Isn't that what these verses say, "He that feareth is not made perfect in love."

 

I'd like to tell you a story about when I was a little boy. My father used to go away elk hunting. I was very close to my dad; it was just my brother and myself. He would bid us goodbye, load up the horses in the big truck, and he would drive away. And I felt very sad because my dad left. But I had hope he'd be coming back home again, but I didn't know when. So after a day or two I'd begin asking mother, "Mom, when is dad coming home?" And she'd say, "Well, he just left, yesterday or the day before, and it'll be awhile." Then in another day or two, "When's dad coming home?" She'd say, "It depends on the success of the elk hunt. He's not going to come home if he doesn't have any luck, until his time runs out at least, and we just don't know." So I would wait another little while and I would ask again, "Well, Mom, when is dad coming home?" And she'd say, "It could be any day now. It could be any day." I remember lying in bed one night, wondering when my dad was coming home. I was in bed and it was dark, but I was awake. We lived out in the country, and way in the distance, there were the lights of a vehicle. Way down the lane, I could see it shining through the barren branches of the tree and making shadows on my bedroom wall. And there were those branches dancing along the wall as the lights shined through it, and I was just kind of holding my breath wondering, "I wonder if that's dad." And then I could hear the gears shifting, and it sounded like the big truck. And sure enough, soon after that I heard the horses in the corral and the horses in the truck conversing, neighing with each other. By that time, I was out of bed and I ran out to the barnyard. There was my mother and brother with me and as soon as the truck pulled in and dad got out, and he stepped down. I ran to him and hugged his bearded face. There was no fear because I loved him.  I was eager for his return and I was loving his appearing. Now, I hadn't been a perfect little boy in his absence, and I'm certainly not yet, but there was just confidence because I knew that he loved me and he wasn't going to cease to love me and I wasn't going to cease to love him. Perfect love casts out fear. I hope there would be that kind of love in our hearts for Christ, for His appearing. There's a crown promised if we love His appearing. That's what we read in Timothy. Perfect love does cast out fear.

 

There are three events that could be quite fearful in our lives. The first is death, the second is Christ's second coming, and the third is actually what this verse speaks about, the judgment. But if there is that perfect love, that divine love, burning in our hearts, it will cast out fear. That's one way we can measure whether that fruit of love has become mature and ripe and sweet; if it has become perfect. Perfect love casts out fear. That's what this verse says.

 

Someone mentioned recently about loving the spirit of God and the feeling of God's closeness. Now just think of a convention meeting or one of the times in your life when you felt very, very close to God, when you felt God's spirit very real to your heart and God's presence very alive to you. Have you loved that feeling? If you have loved that feeling, that's how it's going to be at Christ's appearing, only more so. It's just wonderful to think of loving the presence and the spirit, the atmosphere, of heaven in our midst.

 

Last week, we were in Olympia convention and a little girl gave her testimony. She said, "I brought a girlfriend with me to convention," and she'd never been to convention before, and she came on these grounds and saw everything and she was in one meeting and she said, "I'm not comfortable here. I don't want to stay here." And she went home. She wasn't used to convention, it was totally foreign to her and she wasn't comfortable. I'm just so thankful to be comfortable in God's presence. There can be that confidence because of love. When we responded to His love and we want to love Him in return, perfect love casts out fear.

 

The second measurement of this perfect love is found a little further along in I John 4: 12, "No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us." So what does it say here? If we love one another. That's a measurement. Now we can see if our love has become perfect or not by our feelings one toward another. It says, "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us." His love is perfected if we have love one for another. The previous verses say, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." If God so loved us, we ought to love one another. When Jesus said, "A new commandment I give unto you, to love one another as I have loved you," He took self out of the picture. In the Old Law, the commandment was to love thy neighbor as thyself. So there was self in the picture. It was gauged a little bit upon your feelings toward yourself in comparison with your feelings to others around you. But Jesus took self out of the picture and He gave a supreme commandment, a new commandment. He said as God loved us and as Christ loved us, so ought we to love one another. I suppose in the Old Law, you could love your neighbor as yourself without divine love really being in the picture, at least perhaps to a degree. But we cannot love one another like Jesus loved us without divine love. It's God's love in us, that divine love dwelling within us that makes us love one another like Jesus loved us. Like Jesus loved us. And that is a measurement of the perfection or the ripeness of that fruit of love; if we love one another.


It speaks in this same chapter 4 about our relationship with others and loving them. Verses 20-21, "If a man say, 'I love God,' and hateth his brother, he is a liar for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, 'That he who loveth God love his brother, also.'" You can't say, "I love God" and not love your brother. Because if we do really love God, and that love is in our heart, then we'll be a part of a family that is knit together in love. The love of the brethren. It also speaks in chapter 3:14, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren. Our love is made perfect when we love one another.

 

As I said earlier, being here has brought me back to some beginnings. My first beginning was when I made my choice at 17. I turned 18 later that summer, and I took a trip with my parents. I made my choice in Idaho where I'm from, but we went way back to Ohio, where both my mom and dad were born and raised. They came out west before I was born. I was very new in the Faith and I was very eager to get to meetings in Ohio. I got a telephone number, and I was excited to find it wasn't very far from my grandmother's house. In fact, one of the ladies I met with that Sunday morning was an acquaintance of my grandmother. But you know what thrilled me even more than that was the love I felt in that meeting. Way back there in a new area and "herein is love made perfect, that we have love one to another." I felt a love for them and they certainly expressed and I felt their love for me. And it just reassured me that I've got something, I've passed from death unto life, and the love of God has gripped my heart. It's divine love, love from heaven, that's reached me. And I was so thankful.

 

It was kind of the same experience when I was ready to come out here to Saginaw 25 years ago. I'd never been to convention before except in Idaho and Wyoming, neither one too far from home. It was my lot to come out here and begin in this great ministry. And I wondered what it would be like, not just geographically, but concerning the people. I had some apprehensions, some reservations, and maybe my faith wasn't what it should have been. But it didn't take long and I felt the same love once again. When the list came out, people came up and they were so eager for me to come with my companion to their field. Again, I felt that same love. Herein is love made perfect, that we have love one to another. I can say the same thing was true over again when it was my privilege to leave this country and go to South America. Landing in Guayaquil in Equator and not knowing those people there, not even being able to really communicate with them because I didn't know much Spanish, but I could sense something. Again, I just felt I loved them and I felt their love toward me. It's God's work and it's wonderful that we're knit together in love, and we know we've passed from death unto life because we love the brethren. John said if we love one another, God dwells in us and His love is perfected in us. If we love one another. I'm so thankful that is our experience.

 

The third time in I John that it speaks about this love being perfected is in Chapter 2:5. This one is a little more difficult to measure. It says, "But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected hereby know we that we are in Him." So here's the measurement: whoso keepeth His word, in him is the love of God perfected. If we keep His word. You know what's a comfort to me? Jesus prayed to His Father in John 17 and He mentioned in verse 6 those disciples that had kept "Thy word." It says, "They have kept Thy word." We know that the first disciples erred, we know that they had to be corrected, we know they even had the wrong spirit at times, but Jesus was able to pray to His Father, "They've kept Thy word." Herein is our love made perfect as well. Verily in Him is the love of God perfected, if we keep His word. If we keep His word.


You know, there are two sides to love. There's the side of reward, benefits, but there's also the side of obligation. This verse makes it clear that if we keep His word, then the love of God is perfected in us. We can't really say, "I love God," and not attempt at least, with God's help, to keep His word. In John 14, Jesus made it very clear that He that loved Him would keep His word. John 14:23, "Jesus answered and said unto him, 'If a man love Me, he will keep My words and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make Our abode with him. He that loveth Me not keepeth not My sayings.'" So here's the measurement: If a man love Me, he will keep My words. And then it says, "My Father will love him." Verse 21 also says, "I will love him." So when there's a keeping of His word, that love relationship is growing. When love is reciprocal, it grows. When it's only one way or one-sided, it stagnates. Now God loves everyone in the world, but He'll love us more if we'll love Him.


Here's how we do it, one way love is perfected, and that is by keeping His word. Keeping his word. We've heard many wonderful words of counsel, of direction, of inspiration at this convention. And now the way that we can express our love to God is by keeping His word. And if we'll keep His word, He's going to love us all the more. That's what Jesus promised. "If a man love Me, he will keep My words and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make Our abode with him." A growing, loving relationship, loving more and more. He loves us more, when we love Him more. It says in I John 3:1, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God." What manner of love that we should be called the sons of God. God has love for everyone, but He has a special love for those that have become His sons, who have been born of His spirit, who have responded to His word, who keep His saying. He loves them as children. It's like those of you who are parents. You love the neighbor children, and if one would take a fall on the street, you would run out and put a band-aid on their knee. But there's a special love for your own flesh and blood, for your own children. Now God loves everyone, but there's a special love for those of His own spirit. If you love your own children because they're your own flesh and blood, God loves His children in a special way because they're His own heart and spirit! "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God."

 

There's another verse that thrills my heart, and it's back in John 17. It speaks here of God loving us just like He loved Jesus. God had so much love for His own Son, but then when we become His children, He loves us like He loves Jesus. This is found in verse 23, "I in them, and Thou in Me that they maybe made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me." Jesus prayed to His Father and said, ''As Thou hast loved them, Thou hast loved Me." In other words, in the same way that God loved His own dear son Jesus, He loves us who have become His children. It's wonderful to think of that love. It's ever growing as we keep His word.

 

I'd like to speak a little bit now about praise being perfected. In Matthew 21:16, it talks about praise being perfected in a special class of people. "'Hearest thou what these say?' And Jesus said unto them, 'Yea, have ye never read, "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, Thou hast perfected praise?"'" Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, Thou hast perfected praise. Here is praise becoming mature and complete and sweet and ripe out of the mouth of little ones. If we're big in our self, or if there is too much of self manifested, maybe the praise we give to God isn't really perfected. If we're still big in ourselves or if we're still seeking self-will, then we haven't fulfilled this verse. This verse says that praise is perfected out of the mouth of little ones.


I wonder if you little children have heard the story of the mouse and the elephant. They were good friends, and the mouse was on top of the elephant. They were going hither and yon, enjoying the journey together, conversing as they went, and they came to a bridge, As they walked across the bridge with the mouse on top of the elephant, the bridge shook. They got to the other side and the mouse said, "My, we made that bridge shake, didn't we?" Well, let me just ask you, how much did the mouse contribute to the shaking of the bridge? Sometimes when we praise, we praise ourselves, either consciously or subconsciously or subtly.


It is out of the mouth of little ones that praise is perfected. Paul was that way. He wrote, "By the grace of God, I am what I am." By the grace of God. It isn't because of anything in myself. He also wrote, "In me, there dwelleth no good thing." He realized it was by the grace of God that he was who he was. If we deny ourselves and become small in ourselves, we become one of these little ones and praise can be perfected in us.


Psalm 33:1 also speaks about praise. "Rejoice in the Lord, all ye righteous for praise is comely for the upright." Praise is comely, or fitting, - in Spanish it says, it's beautiful - for those who are upright to praise God. It's fitting for those who are upright to praise God. Down in Ecuador, we have quite a number of famous criminals, and you often see their pictures and names in the paper. What would happen, for example, if one of those famous villains began praising me and said, "Oh, that Max is a good fellow. He's my friend, he helps me, he always lifts me up if I'm down, and you can count on Max." Now how would I feel if this man who was far from upright was praising me? Do you get the picture? It says in this verse that praise is beautiful, it's fitting, for the upright.


Now, if we're doing things that aren't an honor to God's name, and yet we're trying to praise Him and say how great and wonderful God is, it's not very fitting. In fact, Jesus said of the Pharisees, "This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me." So if we speak about God and we praise God, there needs to be an uprightness that would be in harmony with our words. Otherwise, praising God could even be an offense to Him. It says in Proverbs that the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. The prayer of the upright is His delight, but the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination. We wouldn't want to sacrifice the sacrifice of praise and it become an abomination to God because we're offending Him on every hand. Praise, though, is comely, it's beautiful, it's fitting for those who are upright.

 

In Philippians 1:27, it says: "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ." The margin says, "Behave as citizens." Another version says, "Let your conduct be becoming to the gospel of Christ." Let your conduct be fitting, in other words, to the gospel of Christ. It is very important that we have a conduct that is becoming. We were disappointed to hear at another convention that a young man on his way to convention on a Sunday morning was going too fast. He was speeding. When he got to the comer, he ran off the road and wrecked his car. It was a new car, and that was very unfortunate, but even beyond that, it didn't leave a very good taste in the mouth of the neighbor. The neighbor man came out and was quite angry. Here were all these cars going by and some were going too fast, so fast that one ran off the road. That conduct was not becoming to the gospel of Christ. We would like to have a conduct that is becoming so if we do praise God, it'll be comely, it will be fitting.

 

A woman told me not long ago that her daughter was quite disappointed in the standard of some of the young men who attend the meetings, professing young men. I was very sorry to hear that and I don't know the details, but we would certainly like to pave a conduct that is becoming to the gospel of Christ. How sad it would be if some weren't drawn to the meetings because someone's conduct wasn't becoming. We like to have the kind of behavior, the kind of conduct, that is becoming, that is fitting. So that when we speak about God and we praise His name, it'll be fitting, it'll be becoming. It will be a delight to Him, and it will bring glory to His name and pleasure to His heart.

 

Maybe I could just mention a little bit from I Corinthians 11. This chapter isn't easy to speak from, and we don't hear it spoken about very often. I'd just like to say that my very first contact with someone walking in God's way was with a little girl in grade school that moved in when I was in the 5th grade. One of the first things my classmates and I discovered about this girl was that she didn't believe in cutting her hair. She believed in letting her hair grow long. That aroused some curiosity and maybe even some negative comments among some of us, but I never forgot it.


In I Corinthians 11:3-4 it says: "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head." If a man prays with his head covered, its dishonoring. In Ecuador and Peru where I've been laboring, they often wear hats. In one place where I was, 100 to 150 men would have their hats on, and when the meeting was ready to start, all hats came off because they realized that it was a dishonor to pray or to prophesy with their heads covered. And it was a simultaneous thing, all hats off. It was so much a part of their dress they actually left their hats on when they came into the meeting, but before the meeting started, all hats off. "Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head." Now if a woman prays with her head uncovered, it dishonors her head, "for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered."


It tells a little further down what is the covering for the woman. Verse 13, "Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?" Now we're talking about that word comely or fitting. "Is it fitting that a woman pray unto God uncovered?" Well, no, because up above it says that she's dishonoring her head if she prays with her head uncovered. And it says, "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her for her hair is given her for a covering." Now it's dishonor for a woman to pray with her head uncovered, and what's her covering? "Her hair is given her for a covering." "If a woman have long hair, it is a glory." I just might tell you that in Spanish where it says long hair it says simply for a woman to let her hair grow. It's to her honor for a woman to let her hair grow because her hair is a covering. And it's a dishonor for a man to let his hair grow. Does not even nature tell you it's a shame because a man should not pray with his head covered? These are just little things, but they're comely.


"Praise is comely to the upright." I might just add that in these verses that it talks about dishonoring your head. Now, what's the head of the woman? The man. What's the head of the man? Christ. So if a woman prays with her head uncovered, if she's not allowing her hair to be a covering for her, maybe she's dishonoring her own head, her husband, and maybe she's dishonoring the ultimate head, Christ. And if we men pray with our head covered, letting our hair grow or having a hat on, we're not only dishonoring our head but we're dishonoring Christ as well. We'd like to do that which is comely. "Praise is comely to the upright." It's fitting if we're upright. We can praise God even in these little things.

 

I'd like to mention just a couple more verses in closing. The first is in Psalms 119:164, "Seven times a day do I praise thee because of Thy righteous judgments." Verses 166-167, "Lord, I have hoped for Thy salvation, and done Thy commandments. My soul hath kept Thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly." Here in these verses, the two things we've been talking about are connected. Love and praise. "I love Thy commandments exceedingly, and I'm going to praise you seven times a day. Seven times a day do I praise Thee because of Thy righteous judgments." Wouldn't it be wonderful if those things were perfected in us. The love of God perfected, and praise perfected because we have become little in ourselves and are submitting to God's word, will, and way.


Finally, in Corinthians, the last part of II Corinthians 13:9, Paul just said, "And this also we wish, even your perfection." We wish your perfection. In Spanish it says, "We pray for your perfection." We pray that your fruit may become ripe, that you might go on to maturity, that you might please God in these things. And we pray for that. I pray that for myself and we pray that for you. That we might go on to this kind of perfection. Love that is made perfect and praise that is made perfect. And may this be so.