Spiritual Growth

Enter Through the Broken Gate

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. ~ Romans 12:2

Perfectionism.  Legalism.  Materialism. 

Sunday morning, we gather together, singing to God.  We raise our voices proclaiming His worth, our need, His goodness, our wretchedness.  We walk out of church, easily forgetting these soul-shaking truths by the time we place the dishes on the table for the midday meal.  The world outside us, the flesh within us, the devil about us all lull us into conformity with the customs and priorities of our culture.  We suffer from three pervasive ailments designed to distract us from abiding and living the abundant life of freedom with Jesus.  When I say “we,” I mean me and you.

Perfectionism: striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations. 

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God says, “Be perfect as I am perfect.”  We could mistake Him to mean that He wants us to live up to the highest of standards, criticize ourselves when we fail and strive even more to achieve the goal the next time.  In reality, the verse says, “Be mature, as I am mature.”  Theology tainted by perfectionism denies God’s heart towards us.  He longs for us to know we are loved and accepted.  He reminds us, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  He tells us “No one is righteous, no not one.”  In futility we attempt to rise up to standards apart from Him.  He doesn’t want our perfect image.  He wants us.  Our God, the Lover of souls, seeks us in our imperfection and draws us up into maturity as we answer the call to be authentic and known in our weakness.

God isn’t interested in our perfectionism.  He calls us to humble ourselves and seek Him.  He tells us He will enable us to walk in high places.  He will lift us up in due time.  I have come to Him with my striving.  I have believed the lie, attempting to fix myself up before I entered His gates with thanksgiving.  Knowing my unworthiness, I tried to cover it with perfect living and perfect serving.  He saw behind my charade and called me to Himself – imperfect and fully loved.  I’ve been trading my insecurity for deep inward peace, and believe me this is a journey, not a destination.  I grow two steps forward, one back, get up, dust off, remind myself of grace and go forward all over again.

Legalism: A belief in salvation by works; Strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit.

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Works.  Works.  Works.  We can stay so busy our heads spin, taking on more than we can handle or adequately complete.  The secret belief {sometimes even hidden from ourselves} that we earn merit with each “yes” answer keeps us doing more and more.  We come to God with our spiritual checklist.  “Look, God, I prayed, I went to Bible Study, I tithed, I helped the poor, I served in ministry …”  Here’s the desperate, pathetic truth on the other side of works righteousness.  In our darker moments we feel, “I can’t face God, I didn’t pray enough, read the Word enough, serve enough … I yelled at my children, disrespected my husband … was human.” 

God doesn’t want our works.  He is able to make rocks cry out on His behalf.  He tells us, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”  Nothing.  Not one thing of value.  All our works are like filthy rags.  Our perfect works will burn off if they aren’t grounded in a loving relationship with Him as our savior.  When we attempt to save ourselves by our works, we deny the cross and it’s necessity and value in our lives.  Jesus told the Pharisees, only the sick need a physician.  Unable to see their own glaring need, they basked in their self-righteousness and perished.  Admitting my need I always feel a fresh breeze of freedom.  What works couldn’t earn me, I have received at great cost to Him.  I joyfully labor as an eternal thank you for His work on my behalf.

Materialism: a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values

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The world promises safety, security and popularity if only we decorate our homes just right, wear the recent fashion by the best designer, drive the trendy car, take the best vacations and fix our eyes on all the accouterments of the world.  Decorating our home, dressing well or enjoying a shopping trip are not sins in themselves.  The trouble comes with the place they take in our hearts.  God knows the temptation we face.  He warns us ““You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” 

Where does our money, our time, our thought life go?  We dwell upon, spend for and give to that which matters most to us.  Jesus said we can’t serve two masters.  Either we will love the one and hate the other or vice versa.  Plainly He said it.  You can not serve both God and wealth. Wealth is not evil.  I know many wealthy people who love and serve God fully with all He has given them.  When our hearts turn towards wealth, we are in danger.  It isn’t only the wealthy who can fall into this sin.  Poor people, those struggling to get by, can put their hope in riches instead of the Lord.  I have been on both ends of this spectrum.  I have longed for more money and possessions, thinking they would heal some deep hurt or secure me a position which would lead to approval.  In other seasons I have reveled in things and appearances to the detriment of my walk with Jesus.

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

God gives us all good things.  He lavishes goodness on His beloved.  To enjoy His gifts is a form of gratitude and worship.  He wants us to delight in the many gifts He has provided.  Let’s not substitute a love for the gifts over love for the Giver.  He wants us to properly put our hope for security, safety and all other blessings of life in Him, not in any material thing. 

As I pondered these ailments this Sunday, I recalled the ways I have been plagued with each one of them at various times in my life.  I thought about how God receives us – empty, imperfect, broken.  We want to come perfect, self-righteous and filled.  We mask our need and in the process we evade intimacy with Him. 

He knows we are weak.  He is mindful of our frame.  He is the strength for our weakness.  His perfect sacrifice makes room for imperfect sinners to draw near.  He provides all things for our enjoyment and blessing, yet He is the greatest gift and only prize worth possessing. 

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17

Broken Heart Ranch Enter Through Gate with words

Come broken, needy, empty and imperfect. 

Enter in through the broken gate … the gate of your own brokenness.

Come as you are. 

He welcomes the authentic and longing heart.


GraceTruth-300x300Linking up with the Grace & Truth Linkup where Christian bloggers gather to share their posts and encourage one another.

 

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Carrie
    February 16, 2016 at 2:27 PM

    This post reminds me of several things – all at once! I tried to be a perfectionist for most of my life, personally, academically and professionally. Always fell short of my expectations and it only led to frustration. I’m in recovery now 🙂 Add to that growing up in a legalistic denomination. Once again, I couldn’t measure up to the church’s expectations and it only led to feelings of unworthiness. So when I finally surrendered to God, boy was my heart battered and broken. So thankful He takes us as we are!

    • Reply
      Patty
      February 17, 2016 at 7:58 AM

      Oh, I relate, Carrie. So many of us feel we must be perfect – all clean before we approach God. I don’t know if you ever heard C.S. Lewis’ analogy of a man who finds a stray in the woods. He loves the dog as is – muddy, flea infested, ill-mannered. He takes the dog home with him because he already loves and wants the dog. He gives the dog a bath. He begins to train the dog and over time the dog is a more suitable companion for the man. The man didn’t love the dog more when he was clean or well-behaved. The cleaning up and good behavior made the dog able to draw nearer to the man than he could have in the dirty and untrained state of his own nature (I always noticed the cleaning and training were completed by the man, not the dog himself – the dog only needed to comply with the process by submission of will). I could go on about church expectations, but I won’t here. The thing is we (even the church) can only be as healthy as we truly are. We can put such demands on members and expectations return from members to leaders. We need to live in grace and grow in love. I am grateful you came here and shared your heart – even more grateful that my words blessed you.

  • Reply
    Jeff Harrington
    February 16, 2016 at 2:54 PM

    Great job and insights Patty!

    • Reply
      Patty
      February 17, 2016 at 7:47 AM

      Thank you, Jeff. I appreciate you coming by to read.

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