The Deception of Perfection
For the past 46 days, I’ve been reading through Marshawn Evans-Daniels’, “100 Days of Believing Bigger, Devotional Journal.” It's been nothing short of amazing!
In all transparency, I have the tendency of starting off strong, in commitments like these, and eventually finding myself barely holding on to the initial enthusiasm and excitement. It's a pattern of mine, that THIS TIME, is being broken.
On Day 44, the scripture referenced was Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (KJV). A familiar scripture with a whole lot of power.
In my usual fashion, I wanted to get some context behind the scripture to ensure my understanding of the text. So I pulled out my study bibles and commentary. I started my study by reading the chapter in its entirety then highlighted the surrounding text of the emphasized scripture.
Philippians 3:12-17, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. 16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example” (NLT).
Though my study originated in verse 14, what captured my attention was verse 12.
Perfection has been one of a few progress hijackers that has caused a great deal of stagnation in my life. Synonymous to perfection is faultless and flawlessness. So in verse 12, Paul is highlighting that he has neither “arrived”, “attained,” or reached a “perfect” state of being. Though he accomplished great exploits as an apostle of Christ, he reiterates twice that he is NOT perfect.
The deception of perfection will have believers, especially church leaders, display a character that demonstrates they’ve “made it”. The image they present of success, without words, gives the impression of an ultimate attainment and perfection. To think that we have arrived is selfish in that our striving is self-serving and not driven to serve others. Our “press” or purpose is not just for ourselves but for those whom we’re called to usher toward deliverance and freedom.
Let’s be clear, perfection sought by human effort cannot be achieved, as demonstrated in Hebrews 10:1-2 for example. Further, perfection sought by the Spirit of God is actualized in eternity. The latter is what Paul describes in the second part of verse 12, “But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me” (NLT). This therefore, is a continual striving toward a forward focus to the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (KJV, Philippians 3:14b).
I also want to make clear that perfection as described in biblical context, most often than not, is referring to a spiritual maturity, as demonstrated in James 1:4 and 1 John 4:18 for example.
So I asked the Lord, “if perfection cannot be achieved, then why does it exist?” And He said, “To deceive.” Mind completely blown. This exposes the enemy’s tactic to keep us stuck in a place aspiring toward something we’d never achieve in the natural. I believe perfection should never be the goal, but rather, progress.
I don’t know about you but I have a new found understanding of the role of perfection in my life. Instead of seeking to attain it for my own gain and finding myself disappointed and unfulfilled, I choose to grow in the maturity for which Christ enables me to focus on the prize, forget the past and follow His example.