Saturday, November 17, 2012

Perfectionist or Perfected?

That was the one word that I hated hearing much of the time:

"You're a perfectionist."

All of that labeling never sets people free. The last thing that a perfectionist, or anyone else for that matter, needs is someone labeling them.

An individual who demands that everyone and everything measure up and work out well, this is a perfectionist.

Yet what drives this need for perfection in most people?

The Book of Hebrews outlined for me what this perfection is really all about:

"Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 7But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation." (Hebrews 9: 1-10)

I am so grateful for the revelation which I have received from this passage. A number of godly men, including Missouri Pastor Paul White and Creflo Dollar exounded this passage for me.

A perfect conscience speaks to a sense of peace and well-being, in which a person no longer has a lingering sense of "wrong" or "sin". Confessing one's sins, going over the past, hitting people up and down for what they did or did not do, all of this cannot perfect our conscience.

For the ancient Israelites, their conscience of righ and wrong, their sense of obligation to renew repentance through the sacrfice of animals, never set them free from a "sin conscience", a sense of being out of step with the world, that "something was wrong" and that they had to "do something".
11But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9: 11-14)

The Blood of Jesus Christ once and for all purges us from a "conscience of dead works", in that we no longer have to do, have, or say or be certain things in order to get a sense of release in our lives.

I still remember the late November afternoon, when I began to sense that this evil foreboding of "it's just not worth it" would never leave me. No matter what I did, I was never set free. This weight of unhappiness, this burden of self would never slip away. When the connection came through to me, that this sense of "ill-will" had nothing to do with my circumstances, that it was not true, I was set free in such a manner that I could not describe. I believe that I was flying, and more than touching the sky, I was touching the hot-bed truth, that the way I was thinking was all wrong.

I had been spending so much of my time trying to make myself think and feel a certain way, when what I was thinking or feeling was not necessarily important.

What causes this sin conscience in people, anyway? The Law, the sense that we still have to do certain things in order to measure up to God, to man, or even to ourselves:

"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3: 20)

The New International Version teases out the "consciousness" issues:

"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin."

The law makes us "sin-conscious", which is necessary so that we can know that we need a Savior:

"23But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." (Galatians 3: 23-25)

I believe that many people have a little "schoolmaster" in us, something which keeps telling us that we are not good enough. Point of fact, it is Satan, it is the enemy who uses God's law to keep men in bondage. Jesus Christ has set us free from sin and the law, and thus from the power of Satan in our lives:

"13And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it." (Colossians 2: 13-15)

For the believer in the Body of Christ, we do not need the law anymore, because God gives us something greater:

"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

"And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 8: 10-12)

Many people, like myself, were perfectionists because we were afraid of doing something wrong. Too many people in our lives threatened us with fearful foreboding in order to drive us into doing good. Yet it is the goodness of God which leads us to repentence (Romans 2: 4), and this goodness we see in the Cross, in that while we were still sinners, God sent His Son to die for all our sins (Romans 5: 8), and this death also annuled the law against us, because in Christ we are made fully righteousness (2 Corinthians 5: 21). Since we have been made the righteousness of God in Christ, there is  then no further need to obey the laws engraved on stones (the ministry of death -- 2 Corinthians 3: 7). Instead, God has now place His laws in our hearts and our minds. He gives us inner guidance through His Holy Spirit, he leads us into all knowledge, and in whom we can know all things (1 John 2: 20). So, the Old Covenant is no longer necessary:

"In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8: 13)

The problem for so many people is that we are still relying on the Old Covenant because we have not imparted to people that the new Covenant is at work in us through the Holy Spirit.

As far as God is concerned, because we are in Christ, we are perfected. The Writer of Hebrews plainly declares this truth in Chapter 10. First, he states that the blood of animals would not remove the sense of guilt once and for all:

"For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins." (Hebrews 10: 2)

Jesus Christ has perfected us:

"For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Hebrews 10: 14)

"Perfection" speaks to our conscience, for the Blood of Jesus keeps on cleansing us:

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)

You and I can look to Jesus our High Priest and our Mercy Seat, and we can trust that all of our sins are forgiven forever, and thus His Holy Spirit can live in us, work in us, and guide us into the life that He wants us to live.

We are already perfected in Christ, so that even when we sin, we can rest in the knowledge that grace will superabound where there is sin (Romans 3: 20)

Believer in Christ, you can stop looking at yourself, your thoughts, your feelings, and you can rest in His righteousness and let His grace all the more abundantly work in you (1 Corinthians 15: 10)

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