We face so much pressure — within ourselves and from others — to be perfect. To never make a mistake. To know all the answers. To always make the right decision. Even in areas where there is not a right or wrong choice. Or areas where we have no experience. This pressure can be immobilizing. And we struggle with guilt and shame over our wrong choices. Does God expect us to be perfect — is that far more life? The Bible says:
For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14, NIV)
According to this verse, when we seek perfection we are working for something Christ has already attained for us! Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and return from the dead paid the penalty for our sin. Those who accept Christ become perfect in God’s eyes; He sees us wrapped in Christ’s righteousness. Being perfect means we are forgiven. We don’t have to work to be perfect, it is a gift that God offers us!
But this does not automatically make us sinless. In addition to being made perfect, God wants us to be made holy. Once we are in Christ, our position with God is secure despite the many wrongs we commit. But these wrongs do have negative impact on us; they keep us from reflecting His flawless moral virtue. God wants us to keep growing in understanding and living out His holiness so we become more like Him. Not because that earns us His favor, but because it reflects the new creation we become in Him. And because being holy is living far more life.
God knows we will spend the rest of our lives on earth growing in holiness. In the process of becoming holy, God allows us to be perfectly imperfect. He knows we are sometimes fooled by Satan, our past experiences, and the hurts we bear; they lie to us about what is best and convince us that holiness is not possible or not a worthwhile pursuit. God is not surprised by our sins and mistakes. He is patient with us and does not judge or criticize us when we are slow to recognize our sin. He sees each person’s heart and knows who is loving and following Him to the best of their ability. (He also knows when His children have rebellious hearts and still loves and forgives them.) He clearly sees who we were before we joined His family, who we are today, and who we become in the future. He knows being perfectly imperfect is simply part of our individualized holiness journey.
As God’s obedient children, never again shape your lives by the desires that you followed when you didn’t know better. Instead, shape your lives to become like the Holy One who called you. (I Peter 1:14-15, TPT)
Before we come to Christ, we pursue counterfeit perfection. We believe that doing the right thing — performing perfectly — leads to the acceptance, security, and significance we desire. We think perfection protects us from pain and leads to a satisfying life. But no matter how hard we try, we can’t be perfect. So we work harder. And fall short again. By depending on ourselves and our own efforts, this vicious cycle actually leads us away from the perfection God offers us through Christ. Away from far more life.
When God comes to live inside of us, He gives us a new desire: holiness. We understand that acceptance, security and significance come from Him, not our performance. We want to BE the right person, not just DO the right thing. We want to be like God in our actions, thoughts, beliefs, and values. We desire to know God and His perspective. Pursuing holiness gives us courage to examine our motives and admit when we are wrong; we don’t have to hide behind a perfect image to feel acceptable. We act from love rather than fear or obligation. But we don’t always get it right; we resort to old patterns of thinking and acting more often than we would like. But this does not bring condemnation; instead we are free to be perfectly imperfect. Not because we are happy about our sin, but because sin does not define us. We know God loves us unconditionally. And we know He gives us the desire and power to overcome our sin and live far more life.
How do we grow in holiness? I think it boils down to 5 steps:
- We discover who God is by studying His word.
- We are alert to areas where our thoughts and actions do not reflect His character.
- We prayerfully search our heart to uncover the beliefs which motivate our unholy thoughts and actions.
- We seek truth from His word to replace our false beliefs with His beliefs.
- We enjoy the benefit of this new step of holiness as we rest in God’s unconditional love!
As we make pursuing holiness a lifestyle, we are free to be perfectly imperfect without being stuck in sinful habits. And we live far more life with each step of the journey!
How have you been pursuing counterfeit perfection?
How do you feel about being perfectly imperfect?
If you have accepted Christ, how have your desires changed? What were your desires before? What are they now?
Do the steps to growing holiness look helpful or intimidating?
(If you have questions about them or want support on your journey, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso