This podcast covers Lesson 2 of Knowing Jesus…Knowing Joy! Bible Study by Melanie Newton.
Joy in Letting God Be the Perfectionist
The lost cause of a human perfectionist
I was once an up-tight perfectionist. Yes, I admit it. My whole self-image depended upon being perfect in grades, piano performance and whatever got me awards for achievement. Yet, my flaws kept getting in the way. Like not getting straight A’s one six weeks so that I missed out on the “straight A’s” award for that whole school year. I was horrible in athletics so PE was my nemesis. Then, in college, physics knocked me down big time. I just couldn’t see how to get the answers to those problems. My flaws were ever before me, and I sobbed when I couldn’t achieve perfection—which happened a lot. Can you relate?
I wanted to be a good girl. I thought that if I played the part of being cheerful and following all the rules at home and school, everyone would consider me “good.” And, if I were good enough, not only would my parents love me but even God would love me and be pleased with me. Sounded like a great strategy. One problem, though. A really big problem! I couldn’t keep that goodness up all the time. No one can be good enough on her own to please God 100% of the time from birth to grave in order to earn His love and acceptance. The Bible teaches that truth. The last part of Romans 3:12 says, “there is no one who does good, not even one (NIV).” That’s from God’s perspective. No one! My self-image was tied to a losing cause.
God is the ultimate perfectionist
- But, God is the ultimate perfectionist. He determines what He considers good. Not me. Not you. None of our little checklists measure up. God knows how we get stuck in our woefully insufficient attempts to measure up to His standards of goodness (or change them to what we set up as our own). Oh, we can look good on the outside in front of people. That “role-playing” is described so well in 2 Timothy chapter 3 verse 5 as, “having a form of godliness but denying its power (NIV).” Looking good on the outside but with self-centered hearts rather than God-dependent ones. When we are intellectually honest with ourselves, we recognize this to be true.
- But, there’s good news for all of us who think we can be good enough on our own to please God and earn His love and acceptance. Give up! Yep. Stop it! The only human who was ever good enough for God was His Son, Jesus.
When Jesus entered my life as a young woman, He showed me a new way to look at myself—through what He did for me on the cross. When my eyes stopped looking at me and my flaws and started looking at Him and my value in His sight, that burden of performance and perfectionism just rolled off my shoulders. It was the greatest relief I ever felt! And, perfectionism has never controlled my life since then (although that tendency to evaluate myself and what I do with critical eyes remains latent in my personality). You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?
- The moment we say “no” to our own attempts and say “yes” to trusting in Jesus and His death on the cross to take away our sins—you know all those not-so-good things we can’t help doing, God clothes us with Jesus (Galatians 3:27) and His goodness. My confidence is this: when God looks at me now, He sees Jesus’ goodness. So, I am always completely loved and accepted by God. That is huge to a recovering perfectionist like I am!
- Through my faith in Christ, God looks upon me as already perfect, as flawless as the most perfect diamond. The Bible calls this Sanctification.
God perfects through sanctification
Sanctification is a word we don’t use in our daily vocabulary.
- To be sanctified means to be made holy. To be “holy” means to be “set apart for special use.” Because the two words—sanctified and holy—are so closely connected, they are used interchangeably in our English translations. They mean the same thing, though.
- Sanctification represents an important change in our standing with God. Our problem before Christ was our need to be separated from the world and separated to This is accomplished through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as all believers are turned from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:17-18).
- God demands that we be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). But, here’s the best news: God makes us holy in His sight by our faith in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:10). His love chooses to do that for us. It absolutely amazes me that God looks upon me and calls me holy in His sight. Doesn’t that amaze you?
- But, sanctification is more than just having a different status before God. We have a different purpose as well. Every believer has been set apart as God's special, beloved possession for His exclusive use. To be set apart for special use is similar to using fine china and silverware for special occasions. It is the opposite of ordinary and common. Dear Christian, you are God’s special, beloved possession—called by Him to be dedicated to His service. You have a valuable purpose. How sweet is that!
God declares you His saint
- And, God declares you His saint. Look at Philippians 1:1. Paul addresses his letter “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi.” Some translations say “holy ones” or “holy people,” but it means the same thing. All of those are translating a derivative of the Greek word hagios, meaning “set apart from sin.”
- All believers are called “saints” based on their faith in Jesus Christ. You as a saint are identified by position, what God declares to be true about you. Every believer is one of God’s saints, totally loved and accepted by Him. That is part of your new identity.
- You are considered a saint of God by His declaration, not because of your behavior. Some influential Christians have been titled “Saint” through the years as an honor for their service to God. This is no way negates the truth that every believer is a saint in God’s eyes.
- Believers are made holy by Christ’s death on the cross in their relational status before God. You have been redeemed, reconciled to God, forgiven, justified and completely accepted by God because of what Jesus has already done for you on the cross. All of that contributes to God declaring you holy as one of His saints by faith in Jesus Christ. That is your status before God. Perfected…no longer flawed in His sight.
God works to transform you and will complete that work
- Then, God works to transform you, and He will complete that work. Believers are “being made holy” in their thoughts, words, and actions by the work of the Holy Spirit. This is ongoing from the moment of salvation until the Lord comes or the believer dies. Then, our “being made holy” is complete. That’s what Paul is saying in Philippians chapter 1 verse 6,
he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6b)
Other translations say that God will perfect His work in us. God’s perfection is so much better than mine ever was! The goal of the Spirit’s work is to transform us into the likeness of Christ) so that we become in thought and behavior what we are in status—holy as God is holy. (2 Corinthians 3:18
As Paul writes in Philippians chapter 2 verse 13,
for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
- God is at work to perfect us. It is totally His work to make us acceptable again in His sight. Your proper response and my proper response is to trust and rest in His work and to continually offer Him thanks from a grateful heart along with our willing service.
I still want to be good. But, my motivation for being “good” now is not to earn acceptance from God. Rather, my heart is filled with love and gratitude for what God did for me. I want to live a life that pleases Him. I am able to do this not because I am so strong. No, it’s because the Spirit of God lives inside of me—God’s empowering presence enables me to do that which is good in God’s eyes. He’ll do the same for you when you trust Him. Those are reasons to rejoice!
Believers are perfected…no longer flawed
Dear Christian, you can dwell on the FACT that God declares you holy because of your faith in Christ. You are set apart by Him, for Him. This is your status before God because of your faith. You can rejoice in that!
Your behavior matches your position when you submit to the Spirit’s work to intentionally separate you from what God calls sin and enable you to live your life God’s way instead.
As one of God’s saints, commit yourself to being used for His purposes throughout a typical day as you care for your household, work for an employer, interact with people around you, and spend your leisure time. You will know joy.
Want to have joy in your life?
Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the fullness of His joy. Then, live in that joy!
Until next time, I’m Melanie Newton. And, this is Series 5 of Satisfied.
Joyful Walk Bible Studies by Melanie Newton are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.