“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
WHEN PAUL TALKED ABOUT “PERFECTING HOLINESS IN THE FEAR OF GOD,” HE SET BEFORE US THE MAIN GOAL OF THE CHRISTIAN’S LIFE IN THIS WORLD. Having been created in God’s image, we have marred and broken that image with our sinful rebellion against Him, but in the gospel of Christ, we are offered forgiveness and the perfect restoration of God’s glory within us. “Therefore you shall be perfect,” Jesus said, “just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Nothing less than this will do.
To most people nowadays, “perfectionism” is a word with a bad connotation. But is being a perfectionist a bad thing or a good thing? Well, it all depends. Certainly a person who can’t accept the goodness of anything less than perfect right now is doomed to a very sad life. But we don’t have to go to that extreme to be perfectionists in the good sense. We need to be people who understand the loftiness of God’s plan and never lower our aim.
As long as we live in this world, we will never be anything more than works in progress. If we’ve obeyed the gospel, then we’ve entered a process, and we should certainly be grateful for God’s grace along the way. But the process we’ve entered is one that will eventually be completed, and we dare not cease yearning for the time when that completion will be fully ours.
Whatever happens along the way, we can’t afford to take our eyes off the goal. As we make progress toward perfect holiness, there will be intermediate satisfactions that will be quite gratifying. But if we settle down in a country that we’re only meant to be passing through, then we’re lost. We’re doomed if we ever say, “Others may want more, but I’m no perfectionist; I’m content with what I’ve already got.” The question is not at what point we are satisfied, but at what point God is satisfied. And He will not be satisfied until we have been returned to the perfectly glorious image of holiness that He had in mind when He created us.
“Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable; however, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose laziness and despondency make them give it up as unattainable” (Lord Chesterfield).