Luk 12:27-28 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (28) If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
One of the things that I have encountered that puts up a lot of barriers in churches is what I like to call, “The atmosphere of perfection.” Let me explain. An atmosphere of perfection is a condition that is created when people are made to feel afraid of discussing their shortcomings, struggles, or faults, for fear of judgement. The message from the pulpit is often, “This is a hospital for the hurting” or “this is not a place for perfect people”, but too often, the actions don’t reflect that. Many times, if a struggle is shared, it becomes an item of “gossip prayer.” Gossip prayer is a method of talking about someone and making known their “issue” in a pretense of prayer. Rather than looking to come alongside and help someone, they are kept at arms link or treated like a leper. The church coffee station talk becomes, “Did you know so-and-so struggles with this or that. What kind of christian struggles with that? His or her faith must not be very strong.” How do I know these things? I know them because I have been on the receiving end! Rather than being a place where sinners can come to get with Jesus, many church environments are more similar to that of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, and here is what Jesus had to say about that:
Mat 23:27-28 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. (28) Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Now let me clarify: I am not saying ALL churches are like this, or that because it happens among certain individuals within a church body that it is an indictment on the whole church or the pastors. What I am saying is this: it is a big enough problem that it is affecting the world’s, and even christian’s, view of “organized religion.” What I mean by the term “organized religion” is what most people refer to when they are talking about a public church service in a public building where people go to congregate. As I stated earlier, I am not saying ALL churches are like this, that ALL who claim to be Christians are like this, or that you should leave a church because you have a negative experience with people who will do negative things: Satan has his implants everywhere, even in church. What I am saying is, especially if you are a pastor, is that you better be aware of the vibe (or “spirit” to put it in biblical terms) your church is putting off as a whole.
So how, or why, does this atmosphere of “false perfection” and hypocrisy creep into a church or even into individual lives? It creeps in because of a misunderstanding of the term “perfection.” The problem of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day is that they thought they were “all that” (perfect) because they “kept the law.” But the truth was, they didn’t keep the law, the actually broke it in many, many places. But then, rather than admit that, they made excuses or exceptions as to why it was really not breaking the law. In today’s religious world it says, “When you commit YOUR sins (break God’s law), it’s bad. When you commit MY sins (the sins I do), its bad. But when I commit sins, its not that bad, or, I had a “just cause” for doing so.” This is what Jesus meant when he addressed the religious of his day with their hypocrisy. Oh sure, it LOOKS great on the outside…smiling faces, greetings of “how are you doing? Nice to see you”, and answers of “everything’s fine, thanks for asking.” But behind all of that “false front” is the gossip, back-biting, never letting anyone get too close, and hiding of “secret” sins while judging others for theirs. So what is the remedy?
The remedy is getting Jesus’ take on perfection. Consider the above verse about Solomon and the lilies:
- Solomon’s clothing was the work of man.
- The lilies of the field are a work of God.
- Between the two, there is no comparison. The lily is more perfect, more beautiful, and more majestic!
The teaching is this:
The works of man are NEVER perfect, but the works of God are ALWAYS perfect. That means PERFECTION cannot be based on one’s own striving to produce good works, but rather, perfection is found in the way of the lilies Their secret is…they ARE the works of God!
And in this, the lilies are wiser than many religious and secular people. Lilies neither toil or spin: they don’t TRY to produce good works or keep the words of the bible, Old or New Testament. Rather, they ARE what they are – a work of God. A life spent trying to produce works of righteousness and holiness will NEVER produce them! As a matter of fact, it will ABSOLUTELY produce the opposite – the judgmental “atmosphere of perfection” that I spoke of earlier, where people keep their own sins hidden or make excuses for them while judging others for theirs. This is because they are trying to “keep (do) all that the bible says.” It makes me wonder, have they never read:
2Co 3:4-6 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: (5) Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; (6) Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
Living by the letter…the law…WILL KILL YOU! Why? Because no one is perfect in the sense of “sinless perfection!” The life spent trying to PRODUCE good works and holiness will inevitably become focused on the SOURCE of those works…THE SELF! But a life focused on the works of God will be focused on the source of those works…GOD!
So the SECRET is:
To NOT focus on your work FOR God, but to realize you are a work of God and allow yourself to become that work!
So how do we do this? We cease striving to do the work of God and start letting our lives BECOME what God promised! That doesn’t mean we do nothing, but it means we FOLLOW God’s lead, trusting in God to do in and through us what HE PROMISED! Let our doing BECOME the doing of God! Stop struggling to produce good works or to put on this “air of perfection” that isn’t real or true and let God produce his good work IN you! Let HIS goodness cause your life to become a good work. Let everything you do and are begin with HIM! When we learn to do that, we BECOME like Jesus, the man sinners and publicans loved! But remember, Jesus was also the man that most religious hated and wanted dead. Why? Because he was an indictment to who they really were – people who weren’t really trusting in God, but who were trusting in themselves. People who liked having the preeminence, who liked controlling others, who liked getting the accolades about what GREAT men of God they were.
Rather than “playing church”, let’s GET REAL. Let’s let our righteousness be the out-flowing of his righteousness through us. How? By acknowledging that, in ourselves, this is impossible; but, in Christ, well…
Php 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
And if we already know “we” can’t do it, and then suddenly we are able to do it after going to God, then we know it wasn’t really us, it was Christ through us. And when we know that, Christ will get our praise instead of praising ourselves. May our love be the out-flowing of Jesus’ love, and our lives the out-flowing of his life. In this, we will have discovered the secret of the lilies and the secret of perfection!
So today, don’t focus on your works, your sins and shortcomings, or the sins and shortcomings of others, but rather, discover the secret of the lilies and the secret of perfection – learn that in Christ, you are God’s NEW creation, you ARE God’s work, so just focus on allowing God to work in and through you to be like Jesus. And what’s a good sign of that?
Joh 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (35) By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
And if you want to know what love looks like, then you have to look at Jesus…God in human form, who IS love…not at yourself! Love you all and have a great day!