Summary: We justify not being mature by claiming that we are just like everyone else, or that we are at least working on that goal. But our example is Jesus, who gathers up our incompleteness into Himself and shows us the way to mature.
When I first announced the title of this message, “I’m Not Perfect”, somebody was sharp enough to reply, “Yes, we’ve noticed, we’ve noticed.” Well, thanks a heap! Don’t you know by now that when I say something self-deprecating, you are supposed to shower me with compliments and bathe me in praise?! The correct reply to the statement, “I’m not perfect” should have been, “Oh, but you’re awfully close.” When I announced, “I’m not perfect,” couldn’t you have said, “Well, other than being a little overweight, I don’t see anything wrong?”
But, of course, you were right. You were absolutely on target. I’m not perfect as we normally use the word. I’m not flawless, I’m not totally wise, I’m not omniscient. And in case you hadn’t noticed, I don’t even have movie star looks. You guessed it, I am not perfect.
There it goes again. Who said that? Somebody in the choir, “We’ve noticed.”
But that is the common experience of all people. We all know that we are not perfect. We all know that we have flaws. Even the most egotistical of us know that we are not up to par all the time, able to leap tall buildings with a single bound. We know that. The issue is what we do with that realization. The issue is what comes after we acknowledge that we are not perfect. I’m not perfect, but … what? I’m not perfect, but … how would you finish that sentence?
Did you know that the Bible never expects us to be perfect in the sense of being flawless? The Bible is utterly realistic. Nowhere does it suggest that we can get through life without making mistakes. Nowhere does it teach that by some fluke somebody might get by with all his t’s crossed and his i’s dotted and her teeth straight and her hair in place. That’s not going to happen. The Bible doesn’t even suggest that it can. In fact, it runs in exactly the opposite direction. The Bible says, let’s see, is this it? A few have sinned and come short? Is that right? Or was that several have sinned? Quite a lot have sinned? Nearly everybody has sinned? No, you are quite right. All have sinned. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All, without exception. There is no perfection of that kind.
But while the Bible never suggests that we can be flawless, it does tell us we can become perfect in another sense of the word. It does tell us we can become mature. Perfection means becoming what God designed us to be. Becoming all that we can be under God. The Bible even tells us that we can be made into something glorious and wonderful.
Before we get to that, however, I want to think with you about what you and I do when we make the statement, “I’m not perfect, but …” How would we finish that sentence? What things do we tack on that are clues to what we expect? “I’m not perfect, but …what?
I have tried a couple of answers. I guess I still try them at times. But these answers are fatally flawed. Here are two ways I have finished the sentence:
“I’m not perfect, but I’m just the same as everyone else.” That’s one option. And, “I’m not perfect, but I am working on it. I am trying.” That’s another possibility.
I am going to bear witness today that neither one of these works! Both are fatally flawed.
First, many of us will say, “I’m not perfect, but … I’m just the same as everyone else. None of us is sinless, you said so yourself, none of us can get it right all the time, so what’s the big deal? No, I’m not perfect, I’m just average. I’m like everybody else. Mr. Ordinary Guy. I just do the best I can.”
But remember that when the Bible speaks of perfection, it means fulfilling God’s purposes. It means being mature, grown up, developed. Perfection means doing what God designed us to do, not what somebody else is or does, but what you and I individually are designed to be.
So when I say, “I’m not any different from anyone else, so I’m not even going to worry about it,” then what I am doing is setting sail on a sea of sameness. I am assuming that everybody is designed for the same thing. And I fall into the trap of good-enough-ness. There’s a word I just made up. Good-enough-ness. When we say, “I’m not perfect, but nobody else is, so why should I worry about it?” we are settling for good enough. But good enough is not good enough. When we say, “I’m not perfect, but nobody else is either,” we are drifting toward disastrous denial. It’s denial because we are not looking at what God called us to be, you and me, ourselves. We’re settling for good enough. And I tell you, good enough is not good enough!