Trying to be Perfect
Have you ever tried to be perfect? How about be perfect at something? Like: I’m going to be a perfect father or I’m going to be a perfect employee. We start off strong and excited. This energy carries us for a while; a day, a week, a month. And then it happens. We make a mistake. Our perfection falls to pieces and our spirit is shattered.
It’s no wonder then, when we read Matthew 5:48, that we kindly disregard Jesus’ words. We think, “Jesus may have been perfect but I certainly can’t be. He must have meant something else.” And we breeze through some more of Jesus’ life changing teachings. Then we hit Matthew 19:21-22. We can all relate with this guy. He’s happily serving God and enjoying life when he meets the suddenly famous Jesus. He simply wants to confirm with Jesus that he is doing all the right stuff to enter eternal life. No doubt he’s expecting Jesus’ response to be that nothing further is required. And he’s right…until Jesus says, “If you would be perfect…” Go ahead. Read Matthew 19:21-22 again. Here we get our first glimpse into perfection.
Do and Follow
To ‘be perfect’ is more than just what we do. It also involves following Jesus. And here we begin to see the glorious shift from a self-centered perfectionism to a God-centered perfection! This has beautiful implications.
- Not our power: In Philippians 3:12 we see a great example of perfection as a lifestyle combined with dependence on God’s grace and mercy. Paul admits, along with us, that he’s not perfect. Here we pause and silently thank Paul for relieving us from thinking that we can be perfect. But in the same breath he tells the reader that he continues to strive for it. Here we pause and tell Paul that this is unnecessary and impossible. But Paul continues the thought through to the glorious end: Jesus is the only one who can make us perfect. We finish the verse with a renewed gladness. Perfection isn’t all about me! I play my part but God makes it possible and gives me strength.
- Moving: Perfection is not about jumping from the ground to the top of a building. It takes steps. Level 1 is the perfect Level 1, but it fails to be Level 2. And so we must see that our perfection comes in stages. Jesus meets us where we are and perfects us as we seek Him.
Not convinced? Take a look at James 1:2-4. This passage is full of growth. We don’t enter the Christian faith and stay the same. We are redeemed in a moment but sanctified over our lifetime! So every trouble and test is an opportunity for growth.
- Perfection in love: E. Stanley Jones shares this great story in “Growing Spiritually.”
“…a father had been absent for a long time, and when he returned, his little boy was so happy he could scarcely contain himself. He wanted to show his love, so he asked: “Daddy, can’t I do something for you?” The father asked him to bring a glass of water. The little fellow went pell-mell across the room, poured some of the water into the glass and some on the table, grabbed the glass, and put his two little dirty fingers inside the glass as he held it. And when the father took it from him, there were two little muddy streams trickling down on the inside of the glass. The father turned the glass around and drank every bit of it. The boy stood there rubbing his hands on his jacket saying, “Daddy, can’t I do something else for you?” His love was perfect, but the manifestation of that love was imperfect.”
We don’t begin loving when we are perfect and the Father loves us perfectly even in our imperfection!
Do and Follow
And so we return to do and follow with a new lens. We see that we most assuredly have a part in our own progressive perfection. We must pray. We must resist the enemy. We must read the Word. But we realize that perfection is only available in Jesus. He makes it possible as we DO the steps of FOLLOWING Him, putting Him first every day.
Steps to Perfection
- Pray. Ask God to open your eyes to the perfection of Christ. Ask Him to reveal areas of imperfection, while never forgetting that He sees you in love.
- Write. Where are you in your sanctification progress? Where were you a year ago? What areas did God reveal in prayer that you can measure over time? Write it and see the progress!
- Choose. Jeremiah 29:11. We all know it. But we may miss the word CHOOSE. It’s a choice that we make daily. To not choose to follow God is a choice in the opposite direction.