Perfection can be a tricky thing. Typically, we love to use the old adage, “Well, God knows I’m not perfect.” But as Christians, should we be perfect? Is perfection even something that can be obtained? Does God care when I mess up? How does Jesus tie into this? Let’s discuss this because as followers of Christ, it is important to know what to expect from our walk.
God in all of His glory cannot look upon sin. He is righteous and pure and good and therefore cannot be associated with sin. As humans, we are born into it and are separated from God because of our sin. Since we are descendants of Adam, sin runs through us from birth. Adam and Eve had community with God, but that was destroyed when sin entered the world. The point is that God cannot tolerate sin, and we are sinners. So you may be asking: John Harmon, if I am born this way, how can I be perfect? Well, that’s the beauty of it. You can’t. Let me explain…
According to the Old Testament, you need a blood sacrifice to pay for your sins (Leviticus 17). Israelites completed this by offering lambs or goats to the Lord. But we do not do that today, so how does that work? Well, as many of you know, Jesus came to this earth to be our permanent sacrificial lamb so that no one should die but everyone should live in Christ (As Jesus noted himself, he fulfilled the law — John 3). Jesus is the only way to Heaven, and without the death on the cross and the resurrection three days later, we could not make it to heaven. He is the bridge. But that bears a few questions afterwards. The main one being, now that I am saved, can I live how I want to? Another, can I still sin and maybe lose my salvation?
1. Perfection is not obtainable aside from Christ.
When we receive Christ into our lives, we technically do become a perfect, new creation, meaning our sins are washed away (Hebrews 10), and we are no longer bound by our sin nature against our will. However, I don’t know about you but post-Gospel, I still messed up a lot. Ultimately, we should see growth over time. John says that we should “walk as Jesus walked.” And Jesus walked perfectly. You will never be completely perfect practically because only Jesus could be. Paul constantly talked about how if we could ever be perfect, that would give us something to boast about. That was a major issue for the Pharisees and people today. By admitting that you can’t be perfect, you are having to fully rely on Jesus. The Pharisees did not want to rely on Him. They saw themselves as righteous and stuck their nose up to everyone, when that is not what true righteousness is. There are many like that today. So when we mess up, it’s okay. God knows you can’t be perfect, that is why He did what He did.
As an athlete, I was very hard on myself, as well as my coaches and parents. I would practice to make myself perfect and when I messed up, I was taught not to blame anyone else, so I got down on myself a lot. Sometimes it was tough because it got me in a deeper slump, but I knew it was on me. No one else could take the blame. My coaches, whenever I would make a mistake, would yell and coach me, as expected. It only motivated me more to pursue being perfect. But obviously, I knew I would never have a complete, perfect season. It is just not possible. I think about Michael Jordan, the best basketball player in history (don’t come at me with your “LeBron” talk…), would even turn the ball over at times and miss plenty of shots and lose plenty of games. He was not perfect.
My dad gave me the best analogy, however. Joe Burrow (a young quarterback in the NFL) had just had an unreal game against the Baltimore Ravens not too long ago. He went 37-46 passing (80% completions), 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and 525 passing yards! For anyone that knows football, my man had a day! Those are MVP stats for a single game. But guess what, Joe Burrow still wasn’t perfect. Just like his game of football, you and I will never be completely perfect until our saved souls have left these earthly shells and stand before the Lord. So don’t beat yourself up too much when we do sin, because we will. But also, embrace the Spirit convicting you because that is good. The Spirit is from God and lets us know when we are out of line and how we should walk.
2. Climb the Mountain.
As believers, we are constantly trying to be like Jesus was– and he was perfect. God knows you won’t be perfect, but he is expecting you to be (1 John 2:6). He lived a perfect life on earth, so we need to follow His example. He did not just come to save, but also to guide and set an example. If we are not doing so, that is a problem. It is one thing to mess up honestly and repent, but it is another to say “okay, I am saved so I can live how I want to”. As Christians, we are held to a new standard than the rest of the world. We are different. That is how God wanted it to be. We should be trying to get 0.1% closer to the “top of the mountain.” Yes, it is a climb we will never finish. The beauty of it is that we do not need to finish it alone because Jesus brings us straight to the top.
Paul talks to the Church in Corinth and tells them at the Bema seat, there will be people who lose everything they thought they worked for, but barely escape the flames (1 Corinthians 3). In 2018, Clemson won the National Championship in football. They had one of the best defenses in the nation, including star lineman, Dexter Lawrence (who would later be drafted). This dude is 6’4” and weighs 342 pounds. But upon Clemson reaching the semifinals, he tested positive for illegal substances in his system, so he was kicked out of the playoffs. Despite losing such a key player, Clemson still won the championship over a good Alabama team. Now, Lawrence did not get the chance to compete with his teammates, but he still did receive the ring. How gut wrenching of a feeling to get an award and let your team down. You may be saved and will receive a crown, but man, I want to be able for God to say I played my part and fought the good fight. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to just sit on the sidelines.
Bottom line is that as good trees, we need to bear good fruit (Matthew 7). The proof that someone is a believer is the fruit that they produce. If your actions are not representing Christ and leading people towards Him, then why not? Ultimately throughout our lives we should see a progression over time in our sanctification. Christians live according to the Spirit, and if you are not doing so, or have no convictions to do so, it may be time to check that salvation card.
3. God’s love for the believer won’t fade.
This is the greatest thing I struggle to comprehend. My brain knows the truth, but my heart for some reason fights it. We are not saved by anything we could possibly do, but by the blood of Christ alone. When we sin, he despises it, but when we turn and repent from it, he rejoices! In Luke 15, Jesus describes the parable of the lost sheep/coin. “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
I scanned through that until it was pointed out to me. ‘In the presence of the angels’. The angels are not the ones rejoicing right here, but God is the one doing the celebrating. Our creator in Heaven loves us so much that there is a party in Heaven when we turn away from our sins. He looks upon us like a father who is proud of his son. That is my God. And praise Him for not turning His back to us, but instead loving us unconditionally and drawing us near.
We are not enemies of God when we have been saved, we are loved and nothing can change that.
Be perfect– Jesus was.
But even if you aren’t, Jesus saves. And he forgives.
And praise God for that.