Does the enemy attack you on your journey? Does the accuser attack you for not being perfect? What if that is not what our focus is to be on? What if we focus on our progress, not perfection?
Yesterday we discussed the heavy topic of embracing and extending forgiveness. But, what comes along with the imperative to forgive is the recognition of God’s mercy and grace that He offers to the lowly of heart. Have you come to know God’s grace as your own yet? It’s time to embrace the fullness of His love.
Welcome back to 30 days of prayer series! We are hitting day 12, and continuing to uncover gold.
It is our duty and honor to scour the scriptures to learn about our Abba and what it means to be a believer, and what jumps up repeatedly is the need for prayer.
Prayer is a lifeline for building our relationship with our Abba, where we knit ourselves together with Him and become intertwined, “as two become one.” This is our heavenly covenantal marriage. And, it is a blessing for those who eat its fruit.
30 Days of Prayer: Pray to Embrace the Journey of Progress, not Perfection
Grace is something we often hear about in believers’ circles, but it is not always broken down and explained so that it is understood. Maybe this is a veil that we need to pull back, but surely it is a necessary topic for those who are saved through it.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” ~ Eph. 2: 8-9
This verse is one of the most commonly known verses in all of scripture, and yet the underlying deep Truth of it is often overlooked by the reader. God’s grace.
I recently heard an excellent breakdown of some central components of God’s character, including the trait of grace. It went something like this:
- Justice is to receive the appropriate penalty for wrongful actions.
- Mercy is to NOT receive the penalty that is due for wrongful actions.
- Grace is to receive blessing and favor in place of penalty in spite of wrongful actions.
And when I heard these explanations, my brain about exploded. Such a simple clarification of some complex ideas and their application.
You see, I’ve known about grace, but never truly internalized its presence in my life.
I am a perfectionist by nature, which truly just means that I have a nagging voice in my mind that likes to provoke and cajole me when things are not just so. It could be such little things as a few books not being put away or the messy side of my bedroom where my husband’s things lie.
This voice, the perfectionist, loves to find fault, point fingers, play the blame game, and criticize, and it is no respecter of persons (see post on not being the perfect mom here). It is an equal opportunist, ready to pounce on others as well as myself and my own imperfect ways.
This critical voice, which I will point out is the enemy, pokes into an area of my soul and my design that is purposed to help bring to Light dark places in the world and order out of chaos. But, when it operates in the animalistic element of the flesh, it only produces misery, contempt, condemnation, and isolation.
The spirit of perfectionism (a.k.a. the legalist or spirit of religion) is a destroyer when left unchecked by the whole Truth.
And, what is the whole Truth?
It is that though I may be saved in the realm of eternity, I am still being saved in the present day and time. My inner man and whole being are still going through the everlasting process of sanctification as I am piece by piece brought into the full understanding of the goodness and wholeness of our perfect God
This is the idea behind Philippians 2: 12, which says:
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
We work out our salvation in the constant refining work of the Spirit as we continue to obey His guidance. It is not a matter of already being perfect the moment that we come to believe in Christ, but rather that we are being perfected in our flesh piece by piece as we walk with Him and are cleansed by the washing of the Word. Within ourselves, we can resolve to pursue progress, not perfection.
For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” ~ Hebrews 10: 14 (emph. mine)
Sanctification is a process in this journey of faith. It is the long-term result of a committed walk of obedience as the Holy Spirit brings to Light one area of darkness and shadow in our life at a time.
There are no shortcuts, and it cannot simply be demanded of a person from the external. This process purely works from the inside out, initiated and culminated through an active relationship with a Living God.
The enemy loves to try to confuse this process, though. He shouts accusations of our imperfection as though we should be already perfect. He readily attacks through the wolves among the sheep to aggressively sling out a prioritized focus on works over faith. And once to wolves have put out their thorns even true believers can get caught in their ensnaring vines.
The vining thorns love to choke out the Truth of the Word of grace.
Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.” ~ Luke 8:7
With the thorns of twisted truth, satan will stab into the heart of the believer to suggest that they are not good enough as they are.
You’ll never be able to get this right. You might as well give up now. You’re so ________, I don’t know why you even try. You are just wasting your time. No one is ever going to listen to you anyway.
And on the onslaught goes.
The Gospel of Grace Redeems All
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” ~ Acts 20: 24
It is His grace that permits the space for messing it up, dusting yourself off, and trying again. His grace is what releases us from having to have already figured it all out and be perfect immediately through the whip of religion. It eliminates the reality that perfection is a process.
Grace is not an open door for intentional sin, but a gateway of release from the weight of guilt that follows through the Law of Sin and Death. Through the work of Christ, we all have access to His grace because the perfect sacrifice has already been accomplished.
We now can stand purified and clean before the eternal God, even as we mere mortals know we are still being cleansed in the here and now.
Grace is what gives us the freedom to Love in place of judgment, for both ourselves and others. In His grace we recognize that “we all fall short of the glory of God” and yet we are still loved by Him as we stumble onward through the journey of faith.
Yahweh knows how He made this whole thing to work, including us, who learn best through experience, not simply passive hearing.
Practice makes perfect.
How does one get better at basketball or baking? What about becoming stronger in weightlifting? Practice. And, often the first several rounds of practice are not all that much to look at. Basketballs slam into the rim. Cookies come out burned and crispy. And initial weights are truly paltry things that reflect the initial starting point of weakness.
Do we shame our children when they are just getting started in learning a new skill? No, never. Yet, we accept shaming within ourselves or reflexively project it out onto others when it comes to the weightier things of faith.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. Why, you should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”Matt 23: 23-24
The Pharisees lived by the spirit of religion; they operated in legalism. Their focus was solely on works, not the inner heart of man, and therefore judged harshly everyone around them, while self-righteously proclaiming their own moral goodness based on their works.
They make themselves into the voice of the Spirit, but instead of gentle guidance offer harsh ridicule and judgment.
Legalism pushes perfection where revelation has not yet occurred.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.” ~ Gal. 6:9
Abba Father, thank You for Your amazing love that covers my multitudes of sins. Thank You for Your all-consuming grace and forgiveness that saves a wretch like me. Help me to never forget that Your grace covers me, so that when the enemy comes threatening and attacking that I fight against his accusations with Your Word of Truth in grace.
Remind me at all times as I work out my salvation with You that I am redeemed because YOU have set me free, not from my own works, or perfect life. Abba, I desire to stay close to You at all times. Reveal Yourself to me more and more. I want to know You, and I want You to know me. May our spiritual marriage bring us into oneness with each other, that I may rejoice in the glory of becoming more and more like You.
Thank You for the saving work of Christ. Thank You for Your great love for me. May I always live a life worthy of this gift. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, amen.
Moment by moment we are called to do our momentary best, even if it is not perfect for our long-term goals. Our present focus is to be progress, not perfection. Incrementally we are learning and being perfected, and therefore can give space for the learning process.
Enjoy the journey. Embrace the process, and in time you will delight in seeing all that the Lord has accomplished within you as you transition from the old creation to the new.
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