About a month ago the Lord spoke this to my heart…"I never asked you to do that."
It got me thinking...we put a whole lot of unnecessary pressure on ourselves to do and be things God simply never asked us to do or be. Sometimes a reminder of the fundamentals brings us back to a beautiful place with the Lord. This #StudySeries - Take the Pressure Off - breaks down 4 things God never asked of us:
1. Achieve Perfection
2. Have it All Figured Out
3. Burn Out in His Name
4. "Create" Yourself
Let's start Taking the Pressure Off!
God never asked us to be perfect.
Oh, the pressure this would take off our shoulders if we truly understood that. The interesting thing is, we don’t even have a perfect idea of perfection. To us, pursuing perfection is about doing things perfectly, while God’s definition of perfection is about being perfect, which He showed us through Jesus Christ.
So where does this pressure come from? While there are many possible sources, here are the three I would venture to say are most common -
1 Peter 1:16 “since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”
Matthew 5:48 “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Personal experiences; the way you were parented or the faith community you grew up in being legalistic by nature in their teaching and philosophies.
1 Peter 1:16 “since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” When Peter reminds us of these words of Christ, they do not indicate a call to be morally perfect in deed. That word “holy” speaks to being set apart. I have found many people, myself included at one time, thought this verse called me to pursue perfection, but what it really calls us to is setting ourselves apart for the purposes of the Lord rather than of this world. The byproduct of a life in pursuit of holiness is being more Christ-like in character, not necessarily “doing.”
Matthew 5:48 “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” This is one that gets taken out of context quite often. Without full context, this just looks like a pretty cut and dry command to be perfect. If we put it in context, we find that Jesus is addressing the Pharisaical philosophies of legalism, and how that is not the way to the Father. He’s saying if it’s about the law, then you need to keep it perfectly to be perfect…and He says that after making the point in various places through Matthew 5 that it is not about keeping the law, but a matter of the heart. Again, perfection is about being, not doing. The Pharisees did a whole lot that looked and seemed right by deed, but their hearts were far from the Lord.
Personal experiences. Some of us grew up in religious systems or churches that insisted your standing with God was based on how much you did. Some of us grew up with parents that constantly applied pressure to do more, be better causing you to both become your own worst critic in life, and possibly even to mistakenly think your Heavenly Father puts that pressure on you as well. Those types of personal experiences are very damaging to our understanding of what God actually asks of us.
So let’s look at God’s heart on the topic...
If God knows that we do not have a perfect understanding of this perfection we put pressure on ourselves to pursue, than how could He expect perfection from us? God doesn’t put unfair expectations on His children because He knows us; He is very aware of His creation according to Psalm 103:13-14 -
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
Paul addresses the Pharisaical mindset in Romans 3 (v21-23) -
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
Righteousness, which is innately tied to the idea of perfection, does not come through the Law, it comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. Not one of us can or will get it right on our own.
Paul addresses this idea of the law again in Galatians 2 (v21) -
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
By putting pressure on ourselves to achieve perfection, we’re saying we have no need for Christ. Yikes. We don't realize what our thoughts and actions indicate sometimes...
The truth is, our works are simply an overflow of the reality of our heart. The Bible speaks to that as well in Proverbs. Which tells me two things:
When we get caught up on trying to achieve perfection by doing, we’re skipping the heart part of it all, which is what God looks at.
When we fail at doing something, something physical/tangible - like if our marriage fails - there was a heart issue that preceded the failure.
I say this to make the final point that - it's not that works don't matter, it's just that they are a byproduct of the condition and posture of our hearts - which means perfection would be defined in the being, not the doing. Our actions are indicative of our heart.
So then what is it God does ask of us?
To trust in the perfection of Jesus Christ.
God simply asks us to know, believe and live out our faith that Jesus was perfect - perfectly humble, perfectly obedient (Phil. 2), perfect in all things - to make a way for us to be in relationship with the Father despite the reality of our imperfection.
What a beautiful, simple Gospel, and what a God we have the privilege to know!