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The Perils of Perfectionism
 

Conservative pastors tend to raise a perfectionistic standard that can hurt more people than it helps. For all it’s moralizing, the American church is just as unhealthy as the secular world. As such pastors rail against the evils of pornography, divorce, alcohol or any laundry list of pernicious habits, they may not realize a very telling item. Preachers usually preach what they need.

Personally, I suspect everyone has something in their life that they don’t want anyone to know. Psalm 14 came to mind says no one is righteous. We have all turned away from following the Lord in one way or another.

I learned a poignant lesson on perfectionism as I transitioned out of pastoral ministry and towards pursuing my calling to make films that glorify God. I had an opportunity to do some commercial acting in Miami for a few months. This would introduce me to the industry and also possibly generate an income while I learned screen writing. Though this felt risky, as I’d be going there alone, many things confirmed that this was God’s will for me.

A kind gentleman from a local church I was working with there took me apartment hunting. We felt led to a particular building in the heart of the burgeoning South Beach entertainment industry. I signed the lease on a studio apartment and moved in only to discover I was living on a topless beach!

It gets worse. Within a five minute walk of my building was any temptation money could buy, from ‘gentlemen’s clubs’, porn stores and X rated theatres, to hookers and drug dealers openly pedaling their wares on the street. I began to think I had heard wrong, that it wasn’t the Lord who led me here but Lucifer himself. What was a nice Christian pastor to do awash in so much decadence and easy erotic temptation?

Each day I walked for two hours to get in better shape for film and commercial modeling assignments. Each day my senses were assaulted by a dizzying array of skin, sensuality and seduction. I found myself praying during these walks for greater strength and power to overcome, but the harder I prayed, the more I felt as if I were losing my capacity to resist. I felt like I needed blinders just to walk down the street and remembered Jesus’ advice to pluck out your eye if it offends.

Since I didn’t think I could make movies if I were blind, I scoured the Bible and devotional books desperately seeking solutions. Finally I came across a quote from William Blake who was known as the happiest Christian of his age. He said, he’d “rather strangle an infant in its crib than nurse unacted desire.” The author said Blake felt that whenever we fight temptation as if our life depends on it we will lose the battle. Instead of trying to drive all such thoughts out of our mind we should examine them thoroughly and see if we really want them. I sighed deeply when I read that. I felt like weights were finally lifted from my soul.

The 5th chapter of Galatians speaks to this. Perfectionists tormented the early Christians with Jewish legalisms. The Apostle Paul, who had fought his own fierce battle with temptation, understood the danger very well. He knew what it was like to do the evil he hated and to run from the good that he wanted to do (cf. Roman 7-8). He also knew that the law kills but the spirit gives life (II Cor. 3:6); that the strength of sin is the law (I Cor. 15:56); that the only way to escape the sin’s dominion was not through stricter laws but through God’s sufficient grace (Romans 6:14).

So how did it all play out in my life? When I looked temptation squarely in the eye I didn’t really want what it had to offer me. A few weeks later, when the most beautiful woman I ever met made it abundantly clear that she was open for anything, I firmly reminded her that I was a married man and I didn’t have affairs.

News flash: God doesn’t expect you to be perfect today. If you belong to Him, He has begun a good work in you that will take a lifetime to complete. Along the way you will stumble and sometimes fall, but His grace is adequate. Don’t waste time in self-hatred and bitter recrimination. Get up, dust yourself off, and begin again, humbler but not humiliated, and more in love than ever with a God who loves sinners.

Your sins might surprise you, but they don’t shock God. There in nothing you can do to diminish His love for you.

Ken Unger is President of OnlyGodsFinest.com and founder of TransformationIncorporated.com, where you can learn more about him and his transformative ministry. click here ,
 "Ken's new book, The Ultimate Breakthrough, goes beyond self help to self healing. You can preview it at  The Ultimate Breakthrough "

 

 
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