Start Fighting From Perfection
On last week’s blog, I ventured into a subject that many of us struggle with on a daily basis, a lethal behavior that leads to doubt, destruction, and defeat: fighting for perfection.
In that post, we unpacked how feeling the need to do more, and to be more, in order to earn God’s grace and people’s acceptance, is the opposite of God’s intention for your life.
When we shift all the focus onto our actions, we tie ourselves down and miss out on the pure, loving grace that God offers us, no strings attached.
God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but he does call us to become perfect.
Perfection, in and of itself, isn’t wrong (It’s the exact opposite, in fact). It’s all about how you pursue it.
Friends, I hope you take encouragement today as we discuss what pursuing perfection in Christ (the right way) looks like.
Fighting for Perfection
In last week’s post, I talked all about what happens when we fight for perfection, but did you know there is another pursuit that’s just as deadly?
In the church today, there are two extreme Christian tribes: Those who gravitate towards the law and fight for perfection, and those who lean towards grace and fight against perfection.
Like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, legalistic Christians can be judgmental, closed-minded, and hypocritical in their treatment of both their fellow Christians and non-believers.
Their pursuit of perfectionism consumes them, blinding them to God’s grace and the negative consequences of their disparaging actions.
Why is legalism so dangerous?
As you begin to judge yourself and your relationship with God based solely on your actions, it is all too easy to project those same judgments onto everyone around you rather than loving and serving them as God commands us to.
More than anything, legalism negates our Savior’s perfect sacrifice on the cross, suggesting that our access to his grace hinges on our behavior. (It doesn’t!)
When we try to save ourselves rather than resting in the perfect and complete work of Christ, we are doomed to fail. And those feelings of failure are pretty devastating.
Fighting Against Perfection
Just as legalistic Christians disregard grace in favor of the law, the grace-givers, as I call them, toss aside the law altogether.
Ironically, both groups’ issues stem from the same place: that people, all people, are imperfect.
The law-leaners pride themselves on their good behavior and dole out judgment to everyone who doesn’t adhere to their standards.
When they do that, they miss the big picture: that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
In other words, his standards are not our standards. His ways are perfect, and because we are fallen imperfect people, we can never live up to them.
Praise God in his goodness that we don’t have to! Because of his death and resurrection, we are free from the weight of the law.
But that place of freedom is where many Christians are led astray.
Growing up in church, I was mesmerized by all the perfect people around me, donning their Sunday best and flawlessly following Jesus (or so I thought).
I wanted to be like them. I needed to.
But as I grew older and more astute, their perfect facades began to crack.
Affairs, addictions, and abuse aren’t restricted to the secular world. When those and other sins emerge in the church, hurt and confusion ensue.
If you have witnessed condemnation in the church, or you have been mistreated by other Christians yourself, the grace-givers’ mantras are probably medicine to your hurting heart.
They remind you that you don’t have to be perfect. Your flaws are a part of you, and you are perfect in God’s eyes. God didn’t come to save perfect people. Just be yourself.
Friends, these statements aren’t wrong. But there is a fine line between freedom and justification. Don’t miss it!
Grace and the Law
If your whole pursuit is focused on shutting down law-leaning Christians, you are missing out on your calling in Christ: a call towards perfection.
Grace is freely given and it doesn’t change just because you slip and make a mistake, but true acceptance of God’s grace is marked by conviction, transformation, and progress.
The danger arises when you start to justify your sinful behavior with the sentiments above.
You can either use God’s grace to your advantage, allowing it to transform you, or you can take advantage of it, counting grace as a license to act however you like.
That grace so freely given came at the highest cost imaginable, and we take Christ’s sacrifice for granted when we seek to justify a free-for-all lifestyle rather than growing in Christ.
Jesus himself is pretty clear in defining the relationship between grace and the law, telling us in Matthew 5 verses 17 and following, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them… Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
If grace was the fulfillment of the law, and both the law and grace are essential to following Christ, how do we merge the two?
Fighting from Perfection
Fighting for perfection is problematic. Fighting against it is equally flawed.
But time and time again, God tells us we are called to pursue perfection. 1 Peter 1:15 urges, “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
That verse within a verse gives a clear call to pursue holiness, challenging us to model our lives after our perfect Savior.
So how do we properly pursue perfection in light of the Word of God? By fighting from it.
From Perfection, To Perfection
Simply put, we would not be able to grasp the full magnitude of our sin if it wasn’t for the law.
As Christ reminds us in Matthew 5, he came to fulfill the law in a way that no amount of sacrifices or good deeds ever could.
We need the law to come to the realization of how imperfect and in desperate need of redemption we are.
To fight from perfection is to take hold of the truth from Hebrews 10:14 I mentioned last week: “It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people...”
If you are in Christ, your salvation is rooted in impenetrable ground.
You can now pursue holiness as a result of his perfect work on the cross — not to earn grace, not to gain acceptance, and not to be revered by your church, but solely to become more like him.
“By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process.”
He did everything. Period.
Jesus is perfection embodied, and when you turn your eyes to him and seek to become more like him, you are pursuing perfection as God intended.
Christ is both the means and the end of our proper pursuit of perfection.
A Perfect Match
Christ’s perfect work on the cross married the law to grace, and that union made it possible for us to pursue holiness without fear of condemnation, with grace allowing us to fail and grow.
We complicate the process of sanctification whenever we take our gaze off Christ and turn it towards ourselves and the people around us.
With every word Christ uttered on this earth, each person he healed, and every lesson he taught, he displayed an all-inclusive form of grace.
His forgiveness wasn’t restricted to only the Gentiles, or only the religious — he beckoned to both camps, calling us all to a holy pursuit grounded in grace.
Where do you fall in your pursuit of perfection? Are you the woman I described last week, burned out and striving to love Jesus more than your perfection?
Maybe it’s advanced a step further, and your lofty expectations extend to the people around you.
Or perhaps you’re so angered by the legalism you see in the church that you spend all your time condemning your law-leaning brothers and sisters in Christ.
Either way, you are tacking an addendum to God’s perfect plan and reinstating the condemnation Christ died to overthrow.
No matter what your church’s sign says, we are all members of the same Church, and rather than tear each other and ourselves down, we’re called to lovingly build one another up.
You aren’t perfect and neither am I, so let’s focus on pursuing Christ and becoming more like him, fighting from the blood-bought perfection we have in Jesus.
Grow in grace!