A college professor of mine, picking up on my perfectionism-induced procrastination, gave me some wise advice. “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” he said, explaining that striving for perfect performance can prevent the risks necessary for growth. Accepting that my work would always be imperfect would give me the freedom to keep growing.
The apostle Paul explained an even more profound reason to let go of our own efforts to perfect ourselves: it can blind us to our need for Christ.
Paul had learned this the hard way. After years striving to perfectly obey God’s law, encountering Jesus changed everything (Galatians 1:11–16). Paul realized that if his own efforts were enough to be whole and right with God, “then there was no need for Christ to die” (2:21 nlt). Only by letting go of—dying to—self-reliance, could he experience Jesus living in him (v. 20). Only in his imperfection could he experience God’s perfect power.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t resist sin (v. 17); but it does mean we should stop relying on our own strength to grow spiritually (v. 20).
In this lifetime, we will always be works in progress. But as our hearts humbly accept our constant need for the only perfect One, Jesus makes His home there (Ephesians 3:17). Rooted in Him, we are free to grow ever deeper in the love “too great” to ever “understand fully” (v. 19 nlt).
Lord, so often we exchange the joy and freedom of life with You for the burden of relying on ourselves. Help us to humbly rely on You instead.
We are free to grow in Jesus’s love.
Before his dramatic conversion to Christ, Paul relied on his observance of the law for right standing with God (Philippians 3:4–6). But we see in today’s passage that Paul’s focus has shifted from human effort to acknowledging the work of the Lord. Paul prays for the believers in Ephesus that God would strengthen them (v. 16) so that Christ may dwell in them (v. 17). Then they will be rooted in love (v. 17) and filled with the fullness of God (v. 19). These are things God does for the believer, not something we do.
Have you been tempted to rely on your own strength to please God?