Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Philippians 3:12-14 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
If the world were controlled by perfectionists, there would be no place for those who can never quite measure up to their standards. On the other hand, if the world were under the domination of people who wake up in a new world every day, we would probably suffocate in the accumulation of our own garbage within a week.
Fortunately, “practically perfect” people like Mary Poppins manage to get mixed up with the Dick Van Dykes of the world. A husband who is so organized that he can predict with a fair degree of accuracy when his next shoestring is going to break, inevitably gets paired with a wife who hasn’t the foggiest notion at 3 o’clock in the afternoon what she’s going to prepare for dinner. A wife, with such an obsession for cleanliness that she jumps out of bed at 1 o’clock in the morning because she suddenly remembers that she forgot to mop up a blob of spilled orange juice from the kitchen floor, marries a clod who comes in from a hunting trip and tracks mud all over the floor she just cleaned. So goes the struggle between perfection and the spirit of tolerance.
There is a certain amount of tension in every serious thinking Christian’s mind concerning the biblical call to perfection. In one compartment of the brain, there’s a tug to live up to all the standards of Christ. On the other hand, our attempts to measure up to those standards are always flawed. We respond to such conflict by choosing one side or the other to win out. We either become self-righteous in the pursuit of perfection or we settle for living beneath our privilege believing that any attempt at maturity will certainly bring disappointment.
Inevitably we end up with two groups of people in the church – the legalists and the lazy. The legalists may not be the largest group, but they are the noisiest, proudly proclaiming their perfection by pointing out the imperfection of others. It is a deadly game of self-vindication that rejects the grace of God. What a tragedy. How lost we are if we refuse to marvel at the grace of our wonderful God which makes it possible for “Jesus Christ to make us His own.”
But the larger group of lazies is also rejecting the grace of God. Far too many Christians live in the flawed attempts of the past. They excuse themselves from attempting to become like Christ, living instead by the philosophy “nobody’s perfect, so why try?” They are bound up by their previous failures and have decided the best way to not fail again is to not try. What a tragedy. How lost we are if we refuse to marvel at the marvelous grace of our wonderful God who gives us the freedom to “forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead.”
I know that I will not achieve perfection in this life. You probably know that about me better than I do. You see the flaws in my life every day, and with a gracious and loving spirit you accept me. How much more does our gracious and loving God accept us in spite of our flaws? Why? Because we have been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. By His grace He took hold of us.
Therefore, in spite of past failures and the potential for future ones, we will press on to take hold of Him. We will forget what is behind and we will strain toward what is ahead – the prize that awaits us in heaven when we meet Jesus face to face. We will not tell Him that we made ourselves perfect, nor will we tell Him that out of fear of failure we settled for less than perfect. No, we will stand before Him and tell Him we are thankful for His grace that qualified us to run the race, and that we ran it well. We may not have cleanly cleared every hurdle, but we didn’t let any hurdle stop us. We may have stepped into someone else’s lane on occasion, but we didn’t let that disqualify us from the race. We grew weary, but we never lost sight of the finish line. Then Jesus, our King, will present us with the prize – the crown of glory – and will say, “Well done. You are a good and faithful servant.”
Oh, the marvelous grace of our wonderful Lord!