teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name... psalm 86:11

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

a work in progress...

There’s been a reoccurring theme this past week amongst conversations, readings, and my own crazy little world… letting go of perfectionist tendencies. Releasing ourselves from the pressure of our seemingly unending to-do list. Freeing ourselves from our own expectations of having it all together, all the time. Learning to give ourselves grace… and room to breathe… and permission to say no…

This battle resonates deeply with me, I know it well. In all these discussions I keep hearing the taunt of Matthew 5:48- “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This verse is like crack for people like me… a challenge to keep going going going and doing doing doing, always striving, never ceasing… but that’s not what Jesus intended these words to mean.

Isn’t that so like Satan to twist words that were meant to encourage & bring life and turn them into a burden, another chore that weighs us down?

I opened my Bible to this verse today and was reminded of grace as I read old notes written in the margins of the page. An arrow from the word perfect to my own scribbling… “the Greek word teleois means complete, full-grown, developing.” But how can you be both complete and still developing? Welcome to the paradox of faith, the mystery of sanctification.

In Christ… we are complete, we are whole, we are perfect. Our scarlet sins & failings have been made white as snow. We are new creations, welcomed to participate in the eternal kingdom of our Father without a second thought. This has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with Him.

Yet in ourselves… we are still developing, still growing and learning. We are a work in progress, battling a war between our spirit and our flesh. So even in this invitation to become more in line with the heart of God, He allows grace for the journey.

If we read this verse in the context of the words prefacing it, it’s really a call to love as God loves… to love as fully and generously as perfectly as He does, without false motives of what we can get in return. THIS is the true invitation of Matthew 5:48.

So we learn to release our expectations for ourselves… we are reminded that our value comes from who we are as a child of God, not how perfectly manicured our lives appear. We are not failures if we didn’t carry out every good intention… we are still His beloved, and we’re learning slowly but surely how to allow our hearts to be shaped like His.  We are all a work in progress...



  1. Hi Denise - I love how you laid this all out. Yes, it is so like the devil to encourage us to misinterpret things like this to bring condemnation. Great post and thank you for linking up. I truly appreciate it.
    God bless

  2. This topic is near and dear to my heart as it is one I struggle with. I continue to be amazed by how NOT straightforward it is. I love what you wrote, "to love as fully and generously as perfectly as He does, without false motives of what we can get in return." It always seems to come back to this no matter what angle I approach it from. Blessings to you as He continues to reveal Himself to you!

  3. Yes, this post. So good and so full of truth. We are made perfect only because of Christ's redemptive work on the cross. He is the faithful one, He is the righteous one. Lessons I am learning as well! So good. Your latest follower.

  4. Oh, I so get this! For so long I really struggled with the meaning of this verse and how I could apply it to my life. Loved how you put the pieces together.

  5. If you click on my blog you will understand why I was drawn to your title . . . I am a work in progress too! You have shed great light on Matthew 5:48. Thank you!

  6. Complete in HIM, yet still developing,growing and learning....
    grace for today and thankfully, grace for tomorrow...and the next day....and the next....

    A work in progress...yes, indeed.

    GREAT post!

  7. The work is done, but we have not seen its completion yet...I just love these Greek word studies! So wonderful and teaches me so much. I need reminded of that striving thing on a regular basis. I think you are just in time :)

  8. Hi Denise,

    Love the Greek word studies and looking at a verse in context...Wonderful teaching here. Thank you.

    It is the mystery of the "here, but not yet" as someone once said. We are complete in Christ and yet in this life, we still deal with our old sin nature...I know I do.

    So grateful that I can go to Him with my sins and He forgives me and loves me into wholeness and His holiness.

    Blessings to you!

  9. Denise,
    I know in my heart that my value comes from God, but I still struggle to actually apply that idea. Thanks, friend.

  10. When we are grafted into God, it is a process - and like a grafting a vine, I think there are process stages and in each stage, each step, it is working, developing as it ought - and maybe that is a kind of perfection. I often get so busy focusing on what I think the completely sanctified me will be at the end of the journey - that I take my eye off of the peace in process, that I am progressing in this grafting into God, becoming closer, more fully a part of him. If we were perfect, there would be no journey, no developing closeness and there is too much of God for the journey to ever really end, isn't there? You have given me so much to turn over in my mind!