Every day I wake up to the startling reality that I am not perfect. “Startling” may not be the word those closest to me would use. Perhaps “obvious” would a better word. It’s starting because every day I discover anew how far I am from perfection; how far I had been off target all along.
To make this clearer, we need to contrast perfection with imperfection. I am not perfect, because I am not God. I am made in His image, but I am not the image. I can be loving, but I am not love. I can have wisdom, but I am not completely wise. I can have patience, but at some point I’ll lose my temper and it won’t be justified.
All of us are short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). All of us fail to live exactly as Jesus did. But, we shouldn’t let our weaknesses be an excuse to stop trying. We shouldn’t let our weaknesses cripple us from coming to the Savior and admitting that we can’t measure up. Furthermore, we shouldn’t let our sinful nature be the spokesperson for our identity. Just because I am imperfect doesn’t mean I should give up and live how my flesh wants to live.
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
(1 Peter 4:1-2 ESV)
To add to this, the Apostle Paul gives us a humbling view of his weaknesses in second Corinthians,
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV)
Inevitability is a two-way street. On the one hand, it is inevitable that you will sin again while on this earth; but, on the other hand, it is inevitable that God’s grace will work its way into that situation to bring about His glory. He will convict you and lead you back in repentance, to press on (Heb. 12:1-2). It is inevitable that one day your struggles will cease and God will put you on display for eternity as a visible sign of His glorious grace (Ephesians 2:1-7).
Don’t Settle, but Trust
The Apostle Paul did not see his weaknesses as a sign to throw in the towel, or surrender to the inevitability (while on this earth) of sinning once again, or letting his limitations get in the way of his ministry. No! Instead, he saw his weaknesses as an opportunity for Christ to be glorified. This was the mission of Paul (and should be our mission too):
Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:19-20 NASB)
Christ is exalted in our bodies when we confess our weaknesses and sins (1 Jn. 1:8-10). Christ is exalted in our bodies when we depend on Him for His strength to rest on us, empowering us to continue the ministry He has sent us out to do (Matt. 28:18-20). Christ is exalted when we show the great contrast between us and a holy God, and once that contrast is seen, pointing people to the Savior we all need, and the Savior that gives every Christian a hope.
The Christian’s Relationship to Sin
One way we can understand the hope we have in Christ, the hope that will empower us in our weakness, is to understand that our relationship to sin has changed. How has it changed? In every single way.
The Bible describes man in his natural state as a slave to sin. It may not have felt like it; in fact, you probably felt in control. When we are born we are bound to sin and are under its authority. It rules our life. Sin is the antithesis of obedience to Christ. Satan is our father (John 8), and we are his children. Our decisions are guided by this reality- sin affects our wants, our relationships, our thinking, and everything we do. Our very hearts beat after this (Ezek. 36:26). Everything we do signals to God that we serve sin and not Him. All of this is an offense to God.
When you become a Christian, by placing faith in the finished work of Christ and choosing to repent and follow Him, this whole relationship changes. What once ruled you is now powerless over you; what you once loved you are now beginning to hate, and what you once neglected (Christ and His commands) you now pursue. You are dead to sin (you serve it no longer), and alive in Christ (you serve and follow Him) (Rom. 7:1-14).
You are set free in Christ with the hope that when you die, you will enter into your true life. Into eternal life, a life without limitations, deaths, fears, and sin.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)
Don’t settle in your weakness. You have the Holy Spirit, who empowers you even when you feel weak and don’t have the words to pray (Rom. 8:26). You have the hope of heaven (1 Thess. 4), and have been rescued from slavery to sin.
Jesus is with you, now go.