The Bible tells us to be perfect. This is likely a scary thought for many people. It used to scare me. I didn’t think I could ever get there, no matter how hard I tried. But I tried – day after day I would give it my best shot, and day after day I would fail.
This was very frustrating for me because I really wanted to obey God and please Him. I wanted Him to be proud of me. So I was relieved and encouraged when I finally understood what Jesus meant when He said we should be perfect.
Matthew 5:48 (The Amplified Bible) says it like this: “You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect.” You see, when you become a Christian, you begin a lifetime journey of continually growing in right behavior. And throughout my life, I’ve had a lot of growing to do.
Overcoming Reproach That Stunts Your Growth
If you’ve heard my testimony, you know that I was abused by my dad during my childhood – sexually, verbally, emotionally and physically. As a result, I thought I was a worthless piece of trash. I felt unloved because I was used. And when my mom didn’t help me because she didn’t know what to do, I felt abandoned. I also felt guilty, like it was partly my fault.
All of this mess put reproach on me. Reproach is shame, blame, disgrace, disapproval and a disrespectful attitude toward yourself. When you’re under reproach, your behavior shows it. I was angry, insecure, controlling, suspicious of others and hard to get along with. I was miserable and wanted to change. God revealed to me that I couldn’t do it in my own strength. Neither can you.
It doesn’t do any good to accept Christ as your Savior and then try to change yourself. The first step to successfully begin growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character is to really understand who you are in Christ. It is vitally important to know this before you try to change your behavior because apart from God, we can do nothing (see John 15:5).
Also, God doesn’t expect you to do it on your own. He will never ask us to do something without giving us the ability to do it.
When we are born again, He puts His righteousness in our spirit. At this point, it’s like a seed and needs to grow for us to really experience the fruit of it. We have to learn to live inside out. What I mean by this is we have to learn how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit little by little, obeying His direction for our life, and progressively, our behavior will change.
The Wonderful Gift of Conviction
The Holy Spirit is our helper and counselor who guides us into the truth. One way He does this is by convicting us of sin. Conviction is not usually thought of in a positive light, but it’s actually a wonderful gift God gives us because without it, we won’t grow in our relationship with God.
Conviction happens when the Holy Spirit lets us know in our heart that we’re doing something wrong. It’s the warning signal to stop, repent and turn around. Like the yellow light is the caution signal in traffic, conviction from the Holy Spirit is the caution signal in our life. And when we feel it, we should rejoice and thank God for helping us do what’s right before Him.
As you grow in your walk with God, you’ll notice that you become more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit when you have wrong behavior. There are things I’m convicted about now that twenty years ago I wouldn’t have ever considered wrong.
I’ve also had times when I felt like I couldn’t get away with anything! Have you ever thought, I can’t do anything. Every time I turn around, I’m doing something else wrong? We need to be careful when we have these thoughts and feelings because the gift of conviction can become condemnation to us if we let it.
Don’t let a bad attitude or the devil steal the blessing of godly correction in your life. The truth is, whatever God tells you to do is for your benefit and because He loves you. And although we’re all in the process of growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, God loves and accepts us as we are right now. We are made right with God through Jesus Christ!