Sunday, January 22, 2017

Imperfect Progress

No one is perfect. One look at our world (and ourselves) is full proof of that. But the way people respond to that fact varies greatly. Some say that since we will never be perfect there is no need to try. Others make perfection their absolute, immovable standard and will not accept anyone who falls short. But what is right?

The Bible says:

Romans 3:23 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
But it also says:

Matthew 5:48 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

How do we reconcile these two ideas?

As Philippians says:

Philippians 1:6 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

While we are not perfect, Christ has given us the ability and power to change. We do not have to stay imperfect.

Romans 12:2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Philippians 3:12-13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead

Nor should we stay as we are or be satisfied with imperfection. Rather we should pursue perfection. If we are saved, then we are of God and we should strive to be like God, for we act like our father. We prove who we follow by how we act. If we remain as we are, have no desire for change, and view sin as inevitable, then we prove that we are like Satan who is opposed to God and entirely selfish. But if we desire to change and be godlier, if we throw off the things of this world and pursue righteousness, then we prove that we are God’s children. We are not saved by what we do, rather what we do proves that we are saved.

2 Corinthians 7:1 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Unfortunately, we will never be perfect in this life. So how do we respond to this conflict?

Romans 8 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 10:14 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

If we are saved, and we are pursuing godliness, then we are also justified before God. He does not see our sin, but the sacrifice and perfection of His Son. His blood covers us. We don’t have to live in condemnation. Not only are we covered, but He is working in us continually to perfect us, to make us like Him. We don’t have to do it on our own and we don’t have to have shame for not being perfect. God gives us grace for our imperfection. He knows our frame. He is mindful of our state. And if God has grace for us, then we should also, for ourselves and for others.

We are all a work in progress. And we are all in a different place. We can’t judge someone else’s progress with our own. We may be at chapter 20 and they only at chapter 2, or 200. All that we are, all that we have become, is because of God working in us. We have nothing to boast of because it is all through grace, which we did nothing to deserve.

That grace should be our motivation to seek God’s perfection, to thank Him for His salvation, to honor Him with your life. His love motivates us to pursue Him and His ways. We should not strive to earn anything, nor should we use grace as an excuse to stay as we are. We need to both accept our state without condemnation, yet also not be satisfied with it as the status quo. This is a difficult balance which even the apostle Paul struggled with, in Romans chs 6-8. But that is the beauty of grace and faith in God, He helps us change, He gives us grace and the strength to keep going. And He does not demand perfection as the price for acceptance.

So how will you respond now? Will you stay as you are? Will you try to earn God’s love? Or will you press on, accepting God’s grace and strength to mold into His likeness?

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