Jesus commands his followers to be perfect:
Matthew 5:48 King James Version (KJV)
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
However, can Christians be perfect? The Bible itself says everyone has sin:
1 John 1:8 King James Version (KJV)
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
And all have come short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:23 King James Version (KJV)
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Did Jesus set us an impossible task? Actually he did: Humans cannot be perfect. So, what’s the meaning of Matthew 5:48? Jesus uses the word “be”, which means stay perfect. Christians do not strive for perfection with our own strength to make ourselves like Christ: We put on the perfection of Christ. Here:
Romans 13:14 King James Version (KJV)
14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
When we put on the righteousness of Christ, we naturally set aside the desires of the flesh. We are “perfect” by logical extension of being in Christ and not through our own efforts at self-discipline and striving for perfection. We abandon fleshly things by living in Christ. Here:
John 15:4-5 King James Version (KJV)
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
How do we live in Christ? We deny the flesh and crucify the desires of our flesh:
Matthew 16:24-25 King James Version (KJV)
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
Isn’t this just semantics? Isn’t living in Christ the same as striving to be perfect? There is a difference according to the Bible:
Galatians 5:24-25 King James Version (KJV)
24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Those of us who are still struggling to fight off TV and mainstream music, are not walking in the Spirit (because the Spirit of God does not desire fleshly things). We have the righteousness of Christ only when we walk in the Spirit of God. This is the meaning of this passage:
Romans 8:1-14 King James Version (KJV)
8 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
Pursue the things of the Spirit of God and you will naturally avoid the things of the flesh.