What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. – Galatians 2:19-20 (MSG)
Sometimes we act like the Christian life is nothing but a series of wise decisions after wise decisions or a life lived to the tune of “biblical principles.” As a result, when we mess up we think, “That’s it. I’ve really done it. Everything’s ruined now, and there’s no hope for me.” But the Bible says life is a series of grace upon grace. In other words, we live by grace added to even more grace.
Grace is a hard topic for us to wrap our minds around. By it’s very nature, it’s impossible for us to understand because it’s too good to be possible in the first place. God’s grace simply says, “Here is an undeserved gift of eternal life and righteousness with me, and you don’t have to do a thing to earn it other than just accept it.”
That doesn’t discount the importance of wise decisions or biblical principles. Using wisdom and discernment helps us experience God’s best. And it’s not to say we should ever intentionally defy God just because we know He’s going to forgive us. We might be recipients of grace, but the Bible also tells us that we’re no longer slaves to sin. When the Holy Spirit rules our hearts, we’re not moved to do things that are outside of God’s will, and we’re definitely not moved to disobey Him.
But just as we’re no longer slaves to sin, we’re no longer slaves to a standard of perfection.
What do I mean by a standard of perfection? I mean that we’re no longer defined by our past mistakes or even the future ones that we’ll unintentionally make as we go about life. Not just that, but we’re not defined by how well we measure up to the world’s standard of success or other people’s expectations of us. Life is not about “getting it right” all the time so we can reap the rewards of perfection. It’s not even about wise decisions that yield good things like a great credit score, impressive career, nice car, new house, or Pinterest-worthy anything. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but they’re all just our human measures of success, and if we’re not careful these ideas of what makes a “perfect” life can sneak into our faith.
The problem with holding ourselves against a standard of perfection, is that somewhere along the line, most of us will mess up. We will make a mistake, even in spite of our best intentions and maybe sometimes we’ll mess up intentionally in a momentary lapse of judgement. At some point, we’re all going to face the reality of our imperfection, and we might even face some ugly consequences or shattered dreams.
If we’re not prepared for that possibility, we can end up carrying the burdens of our mistakes like prison shackles around our ankles and believing that all hope is lost. We might start believing the lie that God doesn’t have good things in store for us.
The truth is that the Christian life is one of wise decisions and biblical principles. But it doesn’t stop there. It must also be a life of grace. Because the reality is that mistakes do happen and consequences do exist, but none of those things is bigger than our Savior and none of those things is outside His reach.
Our mistakes might mean some of the things we wanted, dreamed of, or even worked hard for are lost or will not pan out as we’d hoped. But the gospel is a message of grace, of undeserved forgiveness, of resurrection, and of second chances. The Bible says that none of us are perfect, none of us are wise, and none of us will get through this life without mistakes. Sometimes even big ones.
But it says something else as well. That knowing all of this, God sent His Son to die in our place and to fully pay the price of our sins and mistakes. Then Jesus rose to life, defeating once and for all death, sin, and anything that would tell us hope is lost. When we accept His sacrifice and call on Him as our Savior, we’re forever made right with God. And in the same way, when we surrender our mistakes to Him, when we call on Him for help and commit to honoring Him in our actions, He will use even our mistakes for good.
Our life might not look like we wanted it to, but our plans aren’t the point. The point is God’s goodness.
God is not holding out hope that you or I might be the one perfect person, aside from Jesus Christ, to walk this earth and never mess up. If that was possible we wouldn’t need a Savior, because one of us would have earned our way into heaven and the rest of us would have to live with the knowledge that it was possible to do so. Since that’s not possible, we have a Savior. His name is Jesus Christ. And life is not about being perfect, because it’s only in Christ that we’re made right.
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Have you ever struggled with perfectionism? What does grace mean to you?
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 (ESV)
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 (ESV)
We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. – Romans 6:6 (NLT)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (NIV)
Original photo of Business Lady Giving Focus Gesture by Ambro from freedigitalphotos.net. Adapted by Stephanie Oh