Is it all right to aim for perfection?
Take a look at what Jesus said while teaching on a mountainside:
How can we, in our humanness, “be perfect … as [our] heavenly Father is perfect”?
Why would Jesus tell humans—fallen, mistake-filled humans—to be perfect, like our Father in heaven? He was giving us a goal to aim toward. We are to aim for perfection.
But what if we fail? What if we stumble and fall flat on our faces?
Believe me when I say you are not alone in doing such a thing. I’ll be the first one to tell you I make mistakes. I am a faulty human who oftentimes messes up way more than I get things right. How, then, is my goal still perfection? How can I dream of presenting God a clean slate when I reach heaven?
Take a look at Romans 3:22-25 (NIV).
“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. …”
To understand this verse a bit better, let’s look at what the dictionary says about “atonement.” Atone means “to make amends, to make up for some error or deficiency.” Does that not describe the human condition? We are walking errors and deficiencies. We mess up all the time. How do we atone, or make up for, those errors and deficiencies? Go back to the center of those verses I just quoted. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” which means every single one of us has messed up at some point in our lives. There’s not one of us who has lived a sin-free life.
Take a look at the next part. This is the part that reveals how we find atonement for our mistakes, our sins. “And are justified freely by his grace”—that’s God’s grace—“through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” So there’s nothing we can do to atone for our own mistakes. Nothing. Not one thing.
The atonement we’re looking for comes from one source, and that’s God’s grace, which was given to us through what? Through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ. He took our place up on that cross when He died for our sins. He died to atone for the mistakes we would all make. He died for you. He died for me. He died for every person in every generation.
Does it get more humbling than that?
Why would Jesus suffer cruel torments on this earth, when He did nothing wrong, and then die in our place? Why would He take on the heavy burden, the extreme weight of everyone’s mistakes and pay the price we should all have to pay ourselves?
Because He loves us.
That’s it. He loves us.
It’s really that simple, folks. Jesus died to atone for our mistakes, to make up for them, because he loves us. Isn’t that beautiful?
Look with me now at Ephesians 5:2 (NIV).
“… just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Why would Jesus Christ need to become a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God for us? Because of those human mistakes we all make. Because we mess up. We stumble and fall flat on our faces. But Jesus gave Himself up for us. He sacrificed Himself for us to atone for our mistakes.
Do you think that was pleasing to God? Look again: “a fragrant offering and sacrifice.” Fragrant means “having a pleasing smell.” So if fragrant means having a pleasing smell and if Jesus became a fragrant offering, then Jesus’s sacrifice for our sins, or mistakes, was an offering that had a pleasing smell to God. It pleased Him. Why did Jesus sacrificing Himself for us please God? Because it bought us back. Jesus brought us back to God by paying the price for our sins.
If Jesus paid the price for our sins, then aiming for perfection is not too far out of reach. It doesn’t mean we get a free pass to do whatever we want. That would make a mockery out of Jesus’s sacrifice. But, you may wonder, if we don’t get a free pass, how can we reach perfection? We’re still going to make mistakes because we’re human.
The thing is, though, that because of Jesus’s sacrifice, there is now a free gift of forgiveness and grace waiting for us when we repent of our sins.
Here’s how I understand repentance:
Every time I make a mistake (or later realize that I have made one), I drop down to my knees and ask God right then and there to forgive me. I ask Him to wipe my slate clean and give me a fresh start.
But I don’t stop there. That’s just the first step.
Once I receive that free gift of forgiveness, I stand up and turn my back on that sinful act. I turn my back on my mistakes, my bad behavior. Tell me, if I’m turning my back on sins and mistakes, what am I looking at? I’m not looking at that sin anymore because I turned my back on it. What am I looking at? When I turn my back on sin, I am purposely turning toward God and the new way in which He wants me to walk.
He doesn’t want me to continue to walk in my old ways, making the same mistakes I made yesterday. Or the ones I made today, for that matter. No, He wants me to purposely choose to step into new patterns, new habits.
By repenting from my sins and choosing to live under God’s grace, aiming for perfection becomes way more possible. I can turn a clean slate in to God when I reach heaven. And you can too.
By choosing a whole new way of life to replace our old, sinful one. By choosing to live in a way that imitates God.
How do we do that? Live a life that imitates God?
Tune in next week to find out.
Readers, are you aiming for perfection? When you fail, do you beat yourself up about it? Or do you seek God’s forgiveness and ask Him to wipe your slate clean? How have you learned from your mistakes lately?
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