Being a perfect Christian is a worthy goal,
Today I heard a sermon on the radio by a famous preacher, in which he said God will not answer our prayers if there is sin in our life.
We should always be on guard against sin. We should confess it and repent of it as soon as it happens. We should give our every effort and ask for God's full help in avoiding sin.
But is it realistic to say we should be sinless? Is it honest to demand that God wants nothing to do with us if we're sinners?
It's a tough question. We want to be sin-free in the worst way. I don't know about you, but after a lifetime of trying, I've realized I'll never achieve that. Not that I've given up, mind you.
I can't stop sinning, as hard as I try. When I do confess my sin and repent, it isn't long before I trespass again and have to repeat the process.
Does that mean God only hears my prayers in those brief intervals when I am sin-free, in a state of grace? I confess that those times make up a small percentage of my life.
I think of a Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus offered to come to his house immediately, but the Roman soldier replied:
Don't get me wrong. We can't sin constantly and rebelliously and expect to stay in a close walk with God, but if we put a long list of conditions on God's love and help, we make prayer and living the Christian life impossible.
Most of us are staggering under a heavy load of guilt, afraid we don't measure up to God's standards.
But did Jesus die so we can feel miserable? Does he want us to feel inferior all the time?
When you read the gospels, Jesus constantly criticized the Pharisees for their burden of rules and impossible standards. Jesus narrowed it down to two commandments: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.
That puts it into perspective, doesn't it? Some think being the perfect Christian means participating in every church activity, constantly doing acts of charity, being cheerful 100 percent of the time, and keeping your personal life squeaky clean. Sounds like a formula for a nervous breakdown to me!
We can only do our best, and let God do the rest. We're only capable of so much. Setting impossible goals leads to stress, and we all have enough of that already.
So what did Jesus mean when he said: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)?
Jesus is the ultimate realist. He also knows the human heart better than anyone else. He knows what is possible for us and what is not. Here's the bottom line: If Jesus thought we could become perfect Christians on our own, why would he have had to die for us?
I believe he wants us to aspire to that state. He wants us to love God so much that we make the focus of our life pleasing and obeying him.
To do that we can: