What is your definition of “perfection”? For me, it landed one afternoon on a golf course.
Someone once said that golf can best be defined as an endless series of tragedies obscured by the occasional miracle. My miracle happened on a nine-hole “executive” course—which sounds like a place for really important people but actually means that it’s a smaller course with lower expectations.
My first drive went straight as an arrow, with just as much fairway on the left as on the right. That’s remarkable because my first drives are often a lot like a divining rod, able to find water where none appears to be. But on this day my approach had a touch of backspin and put me on the green, putting for birdie. Though I missed my first putt, I tapped in for par and immediately considered quitting for the day. It wasn’t going to get better than that.
But it did. On each hole, I was increasingly amazed by what my clubs were doing and where the ball was going.
For me, a good day of golf is scoring 60 for nine holes. If you’re a non-golfer, that means you’re better than me. A great day is when I shoot par on a single hole. But at the end of this day’s Miracle on the Links, my score totaled 38—close to par for the whole round.
In my world, that’s perfection.
The Gospel Defines Perfection
What’s your definition of perfection? A weedless lawn? A balanced budget? Abs of steel? Maybe it’s good sales numbers or kids who make honor rolls at school. Or perhaps it’s less concrete, like a sense of wholeness, of inner peace, or lack of conflict.
We all want some kind of “par” we want to achieve in life. Ambition implies that standard. Ambition is a drive towards that “par,” towards glory, a drive toward greatness. If we achieve it, we can rightly view ourselves as successful. If we don’t, we feel like failures. When this happens, it reveals that we’re held captive by chains we’ve forged, link by link, with our own hands.
The reality is that there’s an eternal standard to which we’re held—a standard not for “par” but for perfection. And that is a standard that’s beyond our ability to attain. For our ambition to be anything more than a frustrating and futile experience of wasted effort in the face of impending judgment, we must not rely on our own efforts toward perfection. We need to be given perfection by someone else.
Put your mind right there this morning.
The gospel announces that this is exactly what has happened. If you’re a Christian, you’re never more loved or accepted by God than at this exact moment. What a remarkable truth! But this acceptance didn’t come cheap. It was purchased for us when God substituted his Son for us upon the cross—what we call the atonement. In a divine swap, Christ took our sin and gave us his righteousness. Martin Luther called it “the wonderful exchange.” This remarkable display of love takes us to the heart of the Christian gospel. And it affects all of life.
Christ did more than die for us. He lived for us. He came as the new Adam and lived the life of perfect obedience that Adam failed to live (so dooming the rest of his posterity). In the great exchange of the gospel, the perfect life of Christ is counted as ours, and we can be freed from the need to prove ourselves, to achieve “par” on our own. Instead, we’re released from the chains of our self-made standards and given the freedom of the children of God. When God sees us, he sees us wearing the robes of Christ’s righteousness, and he says, “Perfect.”
As you start your day, remember: Don’t worry today about how well you golf or whether you feel you scored big over the last week. Jesus supplies all the perfection you need.
Tenacious Tuesday Questions
What kind of perfection are you aiming for in your own life, job, or family? In what ways has it chained you down? How should Christ’s perfect life and substitutionary death change the way you see yourself this morning?
Heavenly Father, grant me the grace to let go of the ambitions that chain me down, that hamper my freedom. Please cause me to walk in the freedom of the Spirit as your child. May I cling to Christ as all my perfection.
Photo by Quino Al