Walk into my office and you feel like you’ve entered the aftermath of a tornado. Nine bookcases haphazardly line the walls of my office: each with stacks and piles of read and unread books strewn on their shelves. Three tables crammed into the space hosts more books, the computer and associated monitor, speakers, a printer, DVDs, a Topo Chico bottle, TV remote, and some prayer cards (among other things). A few backpacks and more stacks of books scattered around the floor make it nearly impossible for you to walk a straight path.

You may notice that I own a lot of books. That, however, misses the point. I tell you this in order to illustrate how far I have strayed from perfection. My room looks like a disaster zone. Sometimes I read a book, but neglect to put it back in its place. Sometimes I grab a notebook off the shelf, write on a page or two, and then forget about it. There it remains, still sitting on the desk.

I don’t pretend to have attained perfection, but do I want to? Yeah. I do want to be perfect. I have visions of an organized office, everything with its own place, neat and tidy, hidden away in some colorful stylish wicker box on color-coordinated bookcases.

Where does this ideal of perfection come from? The Apostle Paul addressed it in his letter to the church in Philippi: “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (3:8–9). What does righteous mean, aside from a surfer’s slang term for “awesome”? Virtuous, maybe? Perfect? A characteristic of God? The Dictionary of Bible Themes defines righteous as, “An aspect of God’s nature which expresses his unique moral perfection and his readiness to save sinners.”[1]

My desire for perfection stems from wanting to follow the Law of Moses in order to gain salvation. But Jesus brought good news. “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). Jesus followed the Law and paid the price for our salvation. And because of this, through Christ Jesus, all who believe in him are made righteous through his death on the cross.

“God’s promises lead along a path straight and true to fulfillment”[2] says the ESV Study Bible notes, referring to Isaiah 26:7. The verse itself says, “The path of the righteous is level, You make level the way of the righteous.” In other words, “the path of the perfected person is level.” And “God makes level the path of the person who is perfected by faith in Christ.”

I rejoice in that I don’t need to attain perfection because Christ made me perfect by faith in him.

 


[1] Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).

[2] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 1285.

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