Summary: Some people believe that Christians are supposed to be and appear perfect, and that the only ones who can attend church are those who “have it all together.” The church is not a country club for saints, but a hospital for sinners.
Life is hard, and there are many people who are wounded and hurting inside, who are dealing with personal and emotional issues. This is true not only of unbelievers, but Christians as well; but all too often we come to church wearing a mask and putting on a show. People will ask us how we’re doing, and we’ll reply, “I’m doing fine,” when in reality our life is a mess. Somehow we’ve subscribed to the notion that followers of Christ are supposed to appear perfect, and that the only ones who can come to church are those who “have it all together.”
In her song “Perfect People,” Christian singer Natalie Grant says, “Never let them see you when you’re breaking. Never let them see you when you fall. That’s how we live, and that’s how we try. Tell the world you’ve got it all together. Never let them see what’s underneath. Cover it up with a crooked smile; but it only lasts for a little while.” However, she continues to sing, “There’s no such thing as perfect people. There’s no such thing as a perfect life. So come as you are, broken and scared. Lift up your heart and be amazed, and be changed by a perfect God.”(1)
When we subscribe to the notion that church is a place only for the righteous - or perhaps even for the wealthy, and the pretty and popular - then we alienate the ones who really need to be here; the ones who are lost, wounded and broken; the ones who are rough and crude; the ones who seem strange and different; and the ones who are blatantly living in disobedience to God. The church is not intended as a country club for saints, but as a hospital for sinners; as Jesus told the Pharisees, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:19).
Rick Warren says that every church should put out a sign that reads, “No perfect people need apply. This is a place only for those who admit they are sinners, need grace, and want to grow.”(2) So, I have entitled our message “No Perfect People,” and I wish to talk about three important biblical truths that we need to grasp as believers and as a church; and if you don’t know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord this morning, these truths that I am about to share might help alleviate any hesitance you have in attending church and drawing near to God.
These three important truths are: 1.) none of us have fully arrived; 2.) Jesus died for the vilest offender; and 3.) Jesus enabled His followers to be justified and sanctified unto God. Making these three truths part of our theology will help us grow in love and grace toward those who are spiritually sick and wounded.
None of Us Have Fully Arrived (Philippians 3:12-14)
12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Author Steve Brown says, “According to the Bible, the church is the only organization in the world where the only qualification for membership is to be unqualified.”(3) And what he states is so true; however, many believers seem to forget this fact, or perhaps, they never got a handle on this basic understanding concerning faith in Jesus Christ; but according to the Bible, we are all unqualified to stand before God. The apostle Paul declared, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10); and the apostle James stated, “For we all stumble in many things” (James 3:2a). You see, there are no perfect people; only a perfect God, and a perfect Savior (Matthew 19:17).
When we look at Paul in this passage, he was actually qualified by the world’s standards. If we back up and examine verses 4-6, Paul stated that he was once very proud of his accomplishments before becoming a Christian. He was born a pure blooded Jew; and he was a Pharisee, or great teacher and lawyer. Christians were at that time considered lawbreakers, and since Paul upheld the Jewish law so strictly he persecuted many believers. He stated that he was never accused of any fault by his Jewish peers when he persecuted Christians, because the Jews were convinced that it was the right thing to do.