As long as I can remember, I have always been a perfectionist.
Whether it was school, music, sports, or spelling, I would always push myself to the limit – if not past it. Though there is a lot to commend in someone who desires to do his best, there is a false hope that I have noticed can be particularly harmful for perfectionists: we can become in danger of deceiving ourselves into distorting the message of the Gospel, by believing that an achievement of “perfection” could be our hope for righteousness.
So, for those of us who also struggle against perfectionism, here are three truths that we need to remind ourselves:
1) I Can Never Be Perfect
As silly as this may sound, I have spent much of my life frustrated to the point of extreme depression by the fact that I would never be perfect. So many times I would think back over my day or week or life, and as I reminded myself of my actions and attitudes in various situations (especially traits that continually popped up), I would be overcome by regret, shame, and despair.
When I became a Christian, I realized that my inability to be perfect frustrated me so much because I had evaluated my worth by what I did right, and where I failed.
Paul dispels this sense of value to the Ephesians:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9
Salvation is a free gift – there are no strings of performance or perfection attached. Our works can not add to or take from our salvation, or else we would have to earn our righteousness – and that is something that we could never achieve (Romans 3:23).
Christian, you will never be perfect. And that’s okay. Your value and identity are not determined in who you are or what you do, but in who Christ is and what He did.
2) God Knows I Am Not Perfect
Some of the most comforting verses for me when I find myself frustrated by my inability to be perfect, or to love and obey Jesus perfectly, is found in the book of Psalms:
“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:16-17
God does not expect us to be perfect. He knows we are sinners, that we are weak and feeble, and that we will constantly fail Him. But what God requires from us are hearts that cry out in humility for forgiveness and strive to be more like Him, pursuing His holiness.
Now, there may be some reading this post and thinking in their hearts that, since they are imperfect anyway, they can sin and simply ask for forgiveness after the fact.
In response to these types of thoughts, I want us to consider God’s inspired word through the apostle Paul:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” – Romans 6:1-2
Just because we are not perfect doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want. Because of the cross, we are no longer enslaved to sin, but are granted freedom so that we might now be slaves of righteousness. In Christ, we are a new creation. If we have joyfully surrendered to Christ and are His followers, we will desire to live lives that please and glorify Him.
As Jaquelle Crowe beautifully sums up: “Jesus has no half-hearted followers. He demands all. And when He saves you, He changes it all.” (This Changes Everything, 2017)
3) God Delights In Using Us Regardless – And For That, We Rejoice
One of the greatest mysteries is why God would choose to use us. I mean, considering God’s holiness and our sinfulness, there is by no means anything in ourselves that would cause God to desire us – much less use us.
And yet, God delights in using us.
Consider what we were: a rebellious, unrighteous, and self-centered people. Though totally depraved and filled with hatred for God and His authority, those predestined by Him were bought at the cost of Christ’s sacrificial death at Calvary. Through no merit of our own, we have gone from being completely guilty to completely forgiven. Christ did everything – we simply had to look to Him in repentance, believe in faith, and accept the free gift of salvation.
Now, as sons and daughters of the King, we have the privilege and blessing to be used by the sovereign Ruler of eternity for His honour and praise. Not only that, but God also delights in redeeming us – an undeserving mess-of-a-people – to point the world to Himself and His glory. He takes us in our brokenness, makes us new and truly alive, and puts us on display for the rest of His creation to see His power and authority. Throughout our lives of sanctification, we are satisfied in God and He is glorified in us, until one day we will be made perfect and can rightly and purely worship God forevermore.
How can we not be overcome with breath-taking awe at the grace of our God?
Our True Hope
So, dear perfectionist me: you do not exist. The only type of perfection you will reach is that of a perfectly disasterous mess.
But as a Christian, you serve a perfect God. He is holy and loving, but fully just and righteous. We would have been forever cast out of God’s presence, but for God’s plan to redeem us for His glory. Because of Christ’s sacrifice of the only perfect life, God’s justice for our lawlessness could be meet and fully paid. We have been made new so that we might have an eternity to praise God perfectly.
Christ’s perfection is the only true hope you can place your trust in.