Summary: We’re in big trouble if perfection is how we make it to Heaven, but God has another Way.
“Nobody’s Perfect” Heb 10:11-17 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci achieved perfection at the age of 14, at the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympic games. She started training at the age of six with famed coach Bela Karolyi, aiming at Olympic gold. Nadia made history by earning a perfect 10 in the uneven bar competition. Being perfect at anything is a lofty attainment. In the Bible we’re given a directive for life:
"Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
"Great--that ruins just about everything!"
The first quote is from Jesus (Mt. 5:48), the second one is from me. This is more like it: (cartoon of man in traction & nurse saying, “I understand you’re the man with the nearly perfect safety record”). If I have to be perfect in order to make it to heaven, I’m in big trouble. We’re all in deep trouble. Because, if our eternal destiny depends on our performance, there is no hope. There’s nothing wrong with setting high standards, but absolute perfection is unattainable. The Greek word for “perfect” (teleios) in the Bible means “finished, brought to completion, mature, full of virtue.” That same word is used in our mission statement on the cover of our church bulletin, from Colossians 1:28, “We proclaim Him, counseling and instructing all people with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone complete in Christ.”
The Bible is chock full of bad news: "There is no one who does good, not even one" (Psalm 14:3), and, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). Just take a look at those Ten Commandments--it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that God expects perfect obedience! But it can’t be done! Isaiah the prophet stood before God and realized two things—#1: “God is holy, and #2: “I’m not!” He cried out, "Woe is me, I am undone, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I have seen the Lord Almighty" (Is 6:5). “Woe” is the Hebrew “oy”, still used today. When Jesus’ disciples understood God’s righteous standard, they too moaned in despair, "Who then can be saved?" (Mk 10:26). If God doesn’t do something, the answer is: "No one!" No one can make the grade. Perfection in this life is unattainable. In Heaven we’ll be delivered from the presence and power of sin, but if we have to become perfect to get there, no one is going to get there.
Every now and then someone comes along claiming to be perfect. A characteristic of cults is a leader who claims to be without sin. Legitimate teachers of the Bible who think perfection is possible also claim they haven’t achieved it! I knew a guy who claimed he’d achieved "sinless perfection." I asked him if I could have the phone number of his mother-in-law so I could check this out. The Apostle John gives a word of caution: "If we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (I Jn 1:8). Every now and then people tell me they’re willing to take their chances: "When I die, all I want is my just deserts." Not me! I know what I deserve! I want mercy!
Notice ch 2; John begins with a lofty goal: “I am writing this so that you will not sin.” And, since such perfection is unattainable, he continues: “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the righteous One, the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Here is the flaw of most world religions. Their way of salvation is through self-effort, by keeping the rules and by finding answers within one’s self. That may sound pretty reasonable, but when you start examining those rules, you realize that only a super-human effort is going to even come close. For example, the word “Islam” means “submission”. We all hope to submit to God and follow His commands, but our humanness keeps us from doing it perfectly.
The other day I drove by a group of people picketing outside of a construction site. Nearly all of us have at one time or another complained, "It’s not fair!" I want to go on record by saying we can be thankful life isn’t fair. The Hebrew prophets called on God to come down and clean up the mess this world gets into and punish iniquity. You’ve seen the bumper sticker, God saying, “Don’t make me come down there!” We often wonder why doesn’t God do something about all the injustice in the world? If God did a fair, thorough job and punished all human sin, we’d be part of the equation! It’s so easy to focus on the faults and wrongdoings of others and think we’re immune from divine punishment. We figure our good outweighs our bad and hope God grades on the curve. He doesn’t. Compared to the Standard--God’s righteousness--our goodness isn’t very good. We can wrap ourselves in a false sense of our goodness, but God reveals just how defiled that "wrapping" is. Isaiah writes that, "even our righteousness is as filthy rags" (64:6). If God were truly fair, we’d all be in deep trouble. Trust me--fairness is not in our best interests.