Mere Christianity vs “Perfect” Christianity: Heart Posture

THE “PERFECT CHRISTIAN” FALLACY

Many Christians sometimes live under the pressure of a fallacy that, once a believer, one must “have their act together.” This creates a problem because it undermines one of the key reasons people turn to Christianity to begin with. A person who comes to the faith is initially humbled in admitting they are imperfect, recognizing their need for a Savior and their desire for a fulfilling way to live a life of intention, purpose, and Christ-like love.

One of the problems with the notion of a believer having their act together is that if, once a believer, a person did have their act together, what would be the purpose of continual faith? If the process of becoming a Christ-follower carried the full weight of the journey of faith, what reason would a person have to remain vigilant, keeping consistent with prayer life, community, the Bible, and choosing God first above all things? There would be no need if we were made perfect through the commencement of faith. But this is far from the truth, which is what I want to explore in this article.

THE ‘WALK OF FAITH’ LIFE DOESN’T END

When a person first gives their life to Christ, among the first actions usually urged by spiritual leaders of a church is to get involved. Whether by life group or volunteer work, the purpose is for the believer to get to know others within the community. But, why? Is this ritual-based? Perhaps a per-church requirement? Very simply, the purpose is to encourage, uplift, and support the new believer in their faith walk. Christians not only need to continue to strengthen their faith in Christ, but also, they need outside support when facing the spiritual struggles of life (I.e. Doubt, depression, grief, etc.). A Christian is not called to walk their journey alone, we are called to be part of one “body” (the church).

We, as believers, are called to reflect the Good News of Christ and be an example for others, encouraging one another in our adversities (1 Timothy 4:12) (Hebrews 10: 24-25). We are called not to be haughty, but to be able to associate with people of low positions (Romans 12:16). Faith calls us to be dependent on Christ and to love others the way He first loved us (John 15:12). We can’t love unconditionally if are fixated on the belief that we are made perfect through the mere professing of faith. Surely, we are not made “perfect” in Him if we become so proud of our title that we mistake loving others for closing others off from experiencing His love through our humble expression of gratitude (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

A new believer needs the nourishment of support from other believers who understand the difficulties and struggles of faith: the dryness of despair in a hurting world, the chaos of spiritual warfare; the heaviness of doubt as a result of experiencing the world at its cruelest. We, as Christ-followers, never have our act together, in the sense that we are never in so much control not to need any help. It would be beneficial to remember and remain aware that grace is given to us through Jesus’s love and volition, and not because of any act of our own. After all, it was while we were still sinners that He came and died for us (Romans 5:8). Therefore, actions are not a prerequisite for grace, but a means for which we express thanks for what He did on the cross.

THE DANGEROUS GAVEL OF CONDEMNATION

Still, sometimes Christians face pressure from unbelievers to ‘be better’ because, after identifying as a Christian publicly, they are met with criticism for not being a more “perfect” (I.e. Nice, selfless, compassionate, forgiving, etc.) person.

Critics sometimes stigmatize Christians as the failure of a promise towards perfection when they witness a believer treating them unfairly, or unjustly, while identifying as Christian. Some people witness believers who treat faith like a graduation certificate in the morality of life, behaving as though they know better than they really do, waving around a dangerous combination of Christianity and condemnation like a gavel. The truth is that every person, believer or unbeliever, falls short of perfection.

Although these types of actions do not align with what Jesus intended for the community of Christ-followers to hold true to (loving others the way He first loved us), they do not defeat Christ or His work. Believers must be diligent and committed to lifting each other up, gathering themselves in Christ, admitting their wrongs, and trying again; continuing to extend Christ-like love with those who don’t yet understand the importance of relationship with Jesus.

AUTHENTIC MOTIVES IN A FALLEN WORLD

Generally, depending on his heart posture, a person who becomes a believer has a genuine desire to improve the manner in which he lives his life, and ignite the passion with which he loves his family and friends, in order to express a more Christ-like acceptance, love, and grace towards others. These intentions are byproducts of the Holy Spirit working in a person and moving him towards closer alignment with relationship with Jesus.

When a Christian speaks or acts in an unloving way towards a person, the claim that the believer is a bad example of the faith is a reality check that any believer is just as imperfect and flawed as any unbeliever. However, the difference is between a believer and nonbeliever is that the believer wants to improve, and to do so as a reflection of Christ’s impact on their life. The point to take away from this is the importance of discerning and distinguishing between two heart postures:

1. A person who is emptily professing they are a Christian but not acting or speaking from a genuinely Christ-like heart posture.

2. A person who identifies as a Christ-follower, makes mistakes, and repents; making noticeable changes in behavior to display Christ’s influence in their life.

While number 1 is refutable, number 2 is increasingly important to consider. The only authentically good change a believer can make is to turn their heart to Christ in surrender and try again.

“REFLECTIONS” OF CHRIST, NOT ‘REPLICAS’

Christianity is merely a word until a person depicts Christ-like qualities. That means the actions of a Christ-centered individual coincide with the truth that the only perfection that exists does so through Christ, and is merely reflected through a person who identifies as a follower.

Put differently, perfection exists only through Christ (God incarnate), and therefore, to expect more “better-ness” from a person is too high of a standard from which to judge. There is always room for more improvement, so the best action to take is to choose Christ, move forward, and humble ourselves to receive His grace again and again when we mess up—which we will—taking responsibility for our sinful choices, but always turning to Jesus for the strength to try again.

His grace is sufficient, His love unending. If we can learn to view others through a more Christ-like lens, we will come to see others with a deeper sense of empathy, grace, and forgiveness, while not looking down on them with unnecessary condemnation. Only Jesus is Jesus. Believers are His followers, and we must surrender ourselves constantly. We are nothing without Him, but because of Him, we are made new in God’s eyes, and that is the actual Truth that will set us free from ourselves, others’ criticism, the lies of this world, and the choice to live our lives the way we would without Him.

CONNECT WITH ME

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7 thoughts on “Mere Christianity vs “Perfect” Christianity: Heart Posture

  1. What a blessing your blog is to me! I came across it today thru Lily Dunbars blog. I am 66 years old and have followed Christ since twelve. Many failures, two marriages, divorce, family drug and sexual addictions and depression and dysfunctional baggage bringing doubts of salvation and guilt condemnation from myself and the enemy constantly beating me down.
    Your blog is so refreshing to me being raised legalistic not Gods grace and love so I have limped thru life and believed only the “perfect” ones are accepted….what a lie from the pit of hell!
    May God keep giving you truth to write in your blog, I have pinned you to follow your writings as it is evident Gods Spirit is using you. Thank you, Sharon

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    1. Hi Sharon! Thank you so much for reaching out, for your incredibly humbling words, and for your vulnerability. Messages like yours are the very reason I have this God-driven blog: to inspire, encourage, challenge, and to meet others where they are in their journey. I’m so moved that you can connect with my writing, and that you feel God’s spirit moving here.
      May God bless you, provide for you, and show you how He sees you and cares for you, and how perfection is not what He wants from you, but only for your heart to be turned towards Him in humility, surrender, and submission. May He give you strength, courage, boldness, and grace with your every breath. And may you feel His unconditional love flooding into your life, abundantly. In Jesus name.

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      1. But Lance much of scripture tells me be holy like Christ, His purpose is for us to become like Christ, conformed to His image. How do you reconcile in your mind and heart. I understand completion will be in heaven but I have so much gunk inside! I know Christ righteousness is my hope but because of the struggle I find the JOY so hard to obtain.

        Thank you for your response!
        Blessings, Sharon

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      2. Hi Sharon, thanks for sharing your honest concerns. I can see how your first comment echoes the concerns you’ve voiced in this commen, in the way you are pinpointing the concept of perfection.
        First, I want to state that I do not have a seminary degree, and that I am not a biblical scholar; I am, like you, simply a Christ-follower seeking to live the best I can for Christ, in spite of my flaws, sins, and mess ups.
        That said, I would like to know what Bible verse you are referring to when you write that the Bible asks you to be holy, so we have a reference and context for your concern.
        Secondly, I would strongly advise that you also reach out to a trusted pastor who DOES have more Biblical knowledge and training, so that you can receive the thorough and accurate information you are seeking. I would not want to lead you astray, and I do not desire to throw “guesses” at you. I would rather that you find the most authentic, Bible-based answers that you can receive, in addition to feedback based on a person’s own personal walk of faith journey, such as my own, or a pastor’s. I know God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, otherwise Jesus’s crucifixion was in vain (why die if we are capable of achieving perfection, here on Earth?). But He didn’t condone laziness, hence Jesus’s words about not being like warm in faith. Can you give me a verse about being holy?

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      3. Hi Lance ok 1 Peter 1:16, Colossians 1:28, 2 Corinthians 7:1, 1 John 4:18…..I have a lot of fear and it says that if you have fear, love has not been perfected in you ??? These verses are all talking about being perfect. And, because we are not perfect (I know Christ is our perfection), but how would you reconcile these verses, when it’s telling you to be perfect?

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      4. Hi Sharon, thanks for providing scripture references for the sake of helping me understand the position you’re coming from.

        With regards to 1 Peter 1:16, I found this article to be helpful in understanding this verse. Just to paraphrase what the article breaks down, Peter is referencing the way God wanted the Israelites to live in the Old Testament with the use the word “holy.” But what readers need to take away from this, as this scripture is in the New Testament, where we have been MADE holy in Christ; meaning, we cannot live perfect lives on Earth as sinless creatures due to the Fall (Adam and Eve), but because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we are made holy in Him, NOW. So, to be “holy” means to live to the standard by which God laid out for us, by receiving Jesus and being renewed in our spirit. It is not saying to be “perfect.” That is impossible, as we both know.

        For Colossians 1:28, I found this article to be very helpful. I really don’t feel I need to paraphrase anything here, because this link really breaks down the meaning of this scripture effectively, and after reading it, I hope it will give you some ease with how you may have been interpreting it, previously.

        For 2 Corinthians 7:1, I didn’t find a link that broke down the scripture as quickly, but what I did find helpful, through research (and I would recommend that you do as well if you have not previously, perhaps by Googling “2 Corinthians 7:1 what does it mean?”) is this. With regards to perfection, where Paul says to “purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God,” he is NOT saying to “live perfectly”— because that is impossible. (and God knows that that is the truth of our fallen world). Paul IS saying to live fearfully out of “reverence” of heart (out of our affection for our relationship with God). In other words, rather than living out of the FEAR of not being able to live perfectly (which is impossible), and that instead, to live out of our respect, admiration, awe, surrender, and love of the Lord (I’m paraphrasing, since those words are not in this verse), for which case the fruit of our lives would be, in turn, stemming from and influenced by our relationship to God, more than our fear of remaining imperfect. I hope this helps a bit.

        Lastly, I find 1 John 4:18 the most difficult to break down, but what I will write (and again, I am not a Biblical scholar, nor do I have a degree in this material. I am writing from my own understanding, from other writers that I’ve read from regarding this, and what I feel makes sense to me) is this. If you think about it, “perfect love,” which is GOD’s love for us (unconditional and eternal), DOES drive out fear of condemnation (hence why this scripture includes “because fear has to do with punishment,” referring to the way it feels to live under the fear and pressure that we have to prove ourselves to some capacity). When John writes that the one who fears is not made perfect in love, he’s simply saying (and quite profoundly so) that if one fears, they are NOT driven from LOVE, which would prevent them from living, acting, speaking, and thinking out of fear. When we receive God’s love (and Grace), we receive the gift of forgiveness, and the chance to move forward again. When we live from FEAR, we are saying that we do not accept God’s love, grace, or forgiveness, and that we are again afraid of his condemnation and punishment (in consequence of our sin). But that is why Jesus came: to take on our punishment for us so that we would be reconciled to God through faith in Him. Therefore, love “perfects” us in the sense that, even in a fallen world, we are able to be restored through God’s love by turning to Him (again, in reverential “fear”) instead of turning to fear of condemnation (dismissing Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, and turning again to our actions rather than our faith, where faith produces the fruit of God’s love, whereas our actions produce our fear of imperfection).

        If you have any further questions, Sharon, I strongly urge you to bring them to a local, trusted pastor or priest who could explain with more elaboration, context, history, and thoroughness, just what God wants you to receive from these scriptures. That way, you will come to understand that God doesn’t require us to be perfect here on Earth. He gave us Christ because He knew we COULDN’T be perfect. What we need to be is grateful for Jesus (humbled by His undying love for us—even while we were sinners!), faithful and obedient in our ways, submitting and turning to Him, His grace and His community (the church) for support and fellowship. This is all about relationship. God doesn’t want us walking on egg shells and then avoiding Him. He wants us to be restored by turning to Him in faith that He will finish what He started. May God bless you on your journey, Sharon!

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      5. Thank you Lance! God is using you to thwart the enemies lies. I’m thankful for your CLEAR understanding is Gods Word! You have helped me not a “bit” but “a bunch”, May God richly bless you for your investment into the kingdom!
        Merry Chrtmas
        Sharon

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