Summary: This sermon looks at how God's grace liberates us from the bondage of perfectionism.
God’s Liberating Grace
In the desire to be free, the American public is in greater bondage than at any other time. While this is true given the increase of violence and overpopulation of jails, the real bondages are far deadlier.
People are in the shackles of alcohol, drugs (both legal and illegal), sexual immorality, and an overwhelming need for acceptance.
The good news, however, is that God’s grace can liberate us from these and other bondages that have our hearts and lives in chains. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to hear this. Instead they try to deal with them in their own way and end up dealing more with the symptoms than the cause.
Some time ago I was given an article about the increased popularity of young girls who cut themselves. In the article one said, “I’ve got to get away. Why do I even bother coming – no one cares that I’m here. I’m worthless. Nothing I say or do is ever right. I’m ugly, fat, and lazy. I’ll never amount to anything.”
These acts of self-abuse and addictions are becoming more and more popular as people are trying to find new ways to drown out the emotional pain. These kinds of solutions, however, are short lived.
One youth said that in caring for these self-inflicted wounds that they felt comforted, yet at the same time guilty, because next time it’s going to take more pain to find the release they’re hoping for.
The journalist said that these kids were “bright, talented, creative achievers – perfectionists who push themselves beyond all human bounds, people-pleasers who cover their pain with a happy face.”
This journalist hit on one of the root causes in these sorts of hurtful behaviors, and why so many find themselves in their addictions, and that is “perfectionism.”
Perfectionism is trying to prove our worth, not only to ourselves but also to others. It’s actually a counterfeit to spiritual maturity, because it’s putting on a false front.
One of the main reasons people get caught up in perfectionism is because they haven’t understood God’s grace. God takes our sins and gives us forgiveness, along with the power to live our lives productively.
Now that’s a good deal and one that’s hard to refuse, because God’s grace is free. But we think that it’s too good to be true thinking there’s a catch in there somewhere. We also think we have to help God out in the process.
To counter this faulty thinking, Paul dedicates just about his entire letter to the Galatian church in the attempt to portray any attempt to try to earn God’s approval as a dumb idea.
“Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3 NKJV)
No matter how strong or disciplined we may be, or how many good deeds we do or rules we keep, they cannot make us perfect, because our salvation is a work of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. And so Paul says, “Don’t be foolish enough to try.”
Paul is bringing them back to the beginning, when they saw and experienced God’s wondrous works, and asks, “Was it through your being perfect, through keeping the law, or was it through your faith in God’s grace?”
Perfectionism says, “Do,” God’s grace says, “Done.”
Therefore Paul is saying it’s ludicrous to think that we can accomplish what only what He can complete. It was the same thing he said to the Philippians church.
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 NKJV)
To the Galatians, however, Paul is more forceful saying, “Who has bewitched you.” (Galatians 3:1 NKJV) This reveals an element of demonic activity in this sort of thinking.
Today I’d like to look at God’s liberating grace and how we can break free from the prison of perfectionism, along with other hurtful and destructive behaviors and addictions.
Perfectionism’s Destructive Force
1. It Defeats Initiative
When we end up waiting for the perfect set of circumstances, timing, weather, or environment. When we wait for our kids to leave the house, when enough money comes in, or when the stars line up, then nothing will ever get done. This is perfectionism’s curse.
“He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4 NKJV)
We may reinterpret this saying, “If we’re waiting for the perfect conditions before we start, then we’ll never get anything done.”
Perfectionism promotes procrastination. When standards are too high, paralysis sets in.
2. It Damages Relationships
“Do not be overly righteous, nor be overly wise: why should you destroy yourself?” (Ecclesiastes 7:16)
We have the tendency to take things to the extreme. We can make any virtue into a vice by doing so.