You’re a good mom. You’re a good dad. You want what’s best for your kids. You sacrifice to provide for them. You forego vacations and skimp on retirement savings to give them good gifts. In the affluent West in 2018, those good gifts often take the form of youth sports....
Perfectionists don’t settle for anything less than perfect. We desire perfect relationships, to meet specific goals, and to reach a certain standard. Yet when conflict comes, we withdraw in hopelessness. When we fail, we beat ourselves up. And if we don’t reach the standard we set for ourselves, we determine to find a different way to reach perfection.
Perhaps we could say God is a perfectionist—but in a far different way than we are. In the beginning, he created a perfect world. He ordained a perfect salvation plan for mankind. In the end, he promises us a perfect body and soul in the day of the Lord. He promises to create a flawless new heaven and earth without sin and corruption at the end of time.
God is perfect—no sin accompanies him. He is perfectly holy and set apart.
So our human desire for perfection is good and reflects our perfect God. But our struggle comes when we seek perfection in the wrong places. Are we seeking it in this world—in our career, in our home, as a spouse or parent? Or are we seeking perfection in heavenly things? What is the place of perfection in the Christian life?
Scripture enlightens us about it in at least five places:
Creation: God Made a Perfect World
God looked at all he had made and saw, “It was very good” (Genesis 1:31). He created the heavens and the earth with perfection. And man, whom he created in his own image, lived in the perfect world, in perfect fellowship with God.
God’s goal from the beginning set out for a perfect world with perfect humans—Adam and Eve—who worshiped him as perfectly as he deserved.
Fall: Man Became Imperfect
Three chapters into the Bible, Adam and Eve took and ate the one thing he forbade them to eat (3:6). They sinned. Therefore, man no longer lived in perfect fellowship with God, for God kicked him out of the garden (3:24). As a result, the world was no longer perfect. Sin infected it. Weeds sprung up (3:17). Pain entered (3:16-17). Death was born (3:19).
Man’s sin came from a desire to acquire knowledge and to be powerful like God. Before sinning, they possessed what we hope for as we wait on the return of our Lord. They possessed a body and soul without sin and the manifestation of God’s presence. They wanted to be like God, but not merely as an image-bearer: They wanted his perfect knowledge and power as they walked in the garden (3:5). With pride, man felt God kept something good from him. He felt God owed him. In selfishness, man wanted what God had.
Law: God Commanded Perfection
After sin entered the world through humanity, God gave the law, and the law was strict. Man replied, “We will do everything that the Lord commanded,” but he couldn’t (Leviticus 24:3; 7).
To temporarily forgive sin, God set up a sacrificial system requiring the bloodshed of animals. His standard sought perfection. No tiny spot could exist on sacrificial animal. Likewise, he gave laws in which clean persons could not mingle with unclean persons or animals.
God demanded perfect obedience to his law, which no one could attain. Instead, his people sinned again and again. God declared the price for sin was blood, but the blood had to be pure, coming from one untainted. Even when it was spilled, its covering was temporary.
So he sent his Son to be perfect for us.
Redemption: God Accomplished Perfection
Jesus set his eyes on perfection in humbling himself through full obedience to his Father’s perfect will (Philippians 2:8). He took on sin when he himself had never known sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of sin, we can no longer please God. But through faith in Jesus Christ, who bore our sins on the cross and took the wrath of God we deserved, we can please him (John 14:6; Hebrews 11:6).
God meant us to be perfect—but sin made this impossible. So he sent us his perfect Son to be perfect for us—to bear our sin on the cross and defeat it by rising from the grave.
Restoration: God Promises to Perfect All Things
The Bible says there will be a day with no tears, no death, no mourning, and no pain (Revelation 21:4). These will be things of the past, for God will make a new heaven and earth (21:1). In this day, God will dwell with his people like he once did with Adam and Eve. God will utterly purify us by the blood of Jesus Christ the Lamb, for nothing with sin can enter into the kingdom of heaven (21:27), and we will share in the glory of Jesus (Romans 8:17). God will give us a new and glorious body, and creation itself will no longer decay.
God will restore all of his creation to its original state—perfection. And we will be with God.
Our nature desires perfection. God created us this way. The question is, what’s the nature of our desire? Is it like Adam and Eve’s desire to be like God for their own sake—to take hold of more now, in our earthly life, than what God has given us? Is it a desire to do everything right for the sake of accomplishment—even though we can’t?
Yes, God meant for us to be like him. He created us in his image to glorify him. Though we fell short (Romans 3:23), God still purposes this for us, only not on earth, but in heaven.
It won’t be easy to get there, for sin and pain and sweat exist. But as we persevere by faith in Jesus Christ, God will accomplish this in us (Hebrews 10:36), by degrees now and finally when we’re with him.
Therefore, let us spend our desire for perfection toward what will last. Our good name won’t be remembered. Our earthly accomplishments will burn on the day of judgment. May we persevere in killing sin, doing good works that glorify God, and continuing in the faith, until our sanctification into the perfect image of Christ in the day of our Lord is complete.
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