Christians Aren’t Perfect, Just Forgiven
In the past 40 years I have thought more about that bumper sticker than any other! And after all this time I still haven’t decided whether I like it or not.
Originally I thought the message was cute, as in, don’t judge us when we fail – it’s not about our imperfections, it’s about His forgiveness.
Other times I thought the message was weak as it ignored the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Okay, so we’re not perfect, but by the grace of God we’re getting better every day. Plus there are other things which distinguish us from sinners besides being forgiven. We have the Holy Spirit. We have a new heart and a new nature. Our minds are being renewed. We are not merely forgiven. We are forgiven-plus! Perhaps the bumper sticker should have read:
Christians Aren’t Perfect, Just Forgiven, Redeemed, Justified, Righteous, Sanctified…
But then in Hebrews 10:14 it says, “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” So although our minds are in the process of being renewed, and although we are still working-out what it means to be saved and filled with the Spirit, the Bible leaves us in no doubt about our status before God.
It says we are perfect.
(Really? It says that? Yes – go look it up.)
The Bible also says that the one who believes in him “is not judged” (Jn 3:18, ASV). This means we can come boldly before his throne now and we need not fear his judgment later (Heb 4:16, 1 Jn 4:18). We do not have an appointment with his wrath but his salvation (1 Th 5:9). Think about it. How can imperfection come into the presence of Perfection personified? How can weak frail humans have no fear of God’s righteous judgment? This is what Paul called the mystery of the gospel, which is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).
I appreciate that this sort of thing isn’t preached from many pulpits. To hear some preachers you would think that our success or failure rests on our ability to manage sin and deal with our imperfections. But the Bible says that our standing before God has very little to do with our performance and everything to do with Jesus.
We were in Adam but now we are in Christ. He has become for us our righteousness, holiness and redemption (1 Cor 1:30). We were numbered among the ungodly, but now we are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph 2:6). You may not feel like that is true, but the Bible says it’s true so you’re going to have to decide whether to live by faith or feelings. I encourage you to trust what God says about you.
You may ask, but how can the Bible call me perfect when I am so clearly imperfect? Answer, it’s not about you. The new covenant is an agreement between God the Father and God the Son. Jesus is our atoning sacrifice. Just as in the old covenant when the priest would inspect the lamb and not the one who brought it, so God looks at Jesus and not the one who trusts in him. We have been redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1Pe 1:19).
Jesus is perfect and “as He is so are we in this world” (1 Jn 4:17). That’s why Paul describes us as being “hidden” in Christ (Col 3:3) or “wearing Christ” (Gal 3:27). We are imperfect, but our imperfections are covered by the blood of the perfect lamb.
The Bible tells us that one day our imperfections will vanish away (1 Cor 13:10). In an instant we will be clothed with glory. But while our present state is best described as a work-in-progress, our current status before a holy God is one of Christ-wrought perfection.
Perhaps Granddad’s bumper sticker could have read:
Christians Are Perfect and Forgiven!