Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

less than perfect — January 20, 2021

less than perfect

I wanted to do a rebuild on my garage.  I planned on putting up new sheet rock all the way around.  Never did it before – but if it turned out to be hideous, I planned to hang rakes and shovels everywhere. 

So, I tacked it up, taped and bedded, sanded, primed and painted.  I was pleasantly shocked at how good it looked.    My son-in-law came over to inspect it.  To my chagrin, he looked past my gorgeously smooth seamless walls, to spot the trim above the door. 

It dropped ¼ inch from one side to the next.  That is what he saw and pointed out to me.  Hmm.   I told him I did that on purpose so that people can’t accuse me of being a perfectionist. 

And I was half serious.  I typically aim to do my very best when I engage in a task.  But my best is always hampered by my limitations.  No matter how hard I try, my stubby legs will never give me victory in a wind sprint. 

Or it may just be too much trouble to do it perfectly.  I play guitar pretty well, but I decided long ago it would be way too much work to master it. 

All in all, I end up averaging a B on most of what I do.  That works for me – but I am so glad that Jesus set His heart on more. 

He wants to see nothing less than perfection worked in me – not by me – but in me.

This is how Paul put it in Philippians 1:6, “For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

On the day a person comes to faith, the Lord makes some fundamental changes.  Our old natures are put to death, and we become new people with new spiritual capacities to live in the way that honors the God who created us.  (2 Corinthians 5:17)   

Paul tells us that it was Christ that began the process and He continues to work at it on a frequent basis.  His goal for us is nothing less than flawless perfection. 

So how do we get from here to there?  Remember that guy that irks you at work?  Or what about the psoriasis that clings to your arm?  James calls things like that trials and he says that these trials are a good for you.  They refine you “so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.”   -James 1:4

But there are other tools as well in the Lord’s toolbox to help develop quality in us.  Perfection grows as we read and apply God’s Word (John 17:17) and as we respond to the nudge of His Spirit (John 16:8) and as we interact with each other (Colossians 3:16)

Some of you are saying, “Too late. I have already arrived.  Meet Mr. Perfect.”  OK not sure conceit is a part of the finished package.

This is what Paul said about this expedition to perfection.  “Not that I have already attained this – that is, I have not already been perfected—but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me.”  – Philippians 3:12

Paul was still in process as are all of us and he tells us that it will not be complete until Jesus’ return.  For then we shall see Him and we shall be made just as He is – in perfection. (1 John 3:2) In the meantime, we strive along in Jesus’ power to reach the goal.

I must say that because of Christ’s work in me, my life is of a much better quality than it once was, but I am still a far piece from perfect.   He has tamed my temper quite a lot which makes it all the more galling on the unusual occasion that I lose it.  

So, what if Jesus approached His work by using my B level mentality.   He might say, “Well I’d like to make Jim a better person but it’s just impossible – actually Jim’s impossible.”  Or more realistically, Jesus might say of me, “Nah he’s just too much work.”  

Fortunately for me and you, Jesus plans on getting straight A’s. 

A PRAYER: Lord I am glad the process in me depends on you and not me.   Have your way!

All Scripture references are from the NETBible®

my four-point fiasco — July 17, 2019

my four-point fiasco

james ray johnson

It took my 4-point GPA to show me how dumb I really was! 

I grew up with the idea that getting to heaven depended on what I could do.  I assumed there was a cosmic scale betwixt heaven and hell, with my sin on one tray and my merit on the other.  If my merit should exceed my sin at the end of my life, then – boom –the doors to paradise would open to me.  Simple – I just had to obey the rules. 

Even as a kid I worked hard to tip the scale in my favor.  I listened to and obeyed my spiritual teachers, I prayed my rote prayers faithfully (though at the speed of light.) I also attended church service six days a week.  I really did. (So, don’t even look to me for sympathy when you feel like you need to sleep in on Sunday morning.)  I was an A1 rule keeper. 

But I eventually bumped my head on the words of Jesus.  He let me know that a rule keeper must keep the rules perfectly.  He said, “So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Matthew. 5:48) -NET Bible®   

Did He really mean perfect? – as in keeping the rules flawlessly? – as in complete conformity to the intrinsic holy character of God Himself? 

I learned about perfect as a student at Tri-State Bible College.  After 4 semesters, my GPA was a flawless 4-point.  Straight A’s all the way – in every single class.  Cool.

But alas, I eventually blew it – just a little, and was given a final grade of B in a church history class.  My 4-point slipped to a 3.96.  Now I must admit that I am perceptive when it comes to theology, but as dense as a brick when it comes to math. 

Which is why I got out a calculator. I wanted to know how long it would take me to reclaim that 4-point average.  (please stifle that laugh)  

So, I multiplied future course hours by 4, and then added the sum to my current average. It came to 3.999999!  Not yet up to 4, but I ran out of numbers, so I found a bigger calculator.  This time it came out to 3.999999999.  An even bigger machine was obviously needed – an industrial strength adding machine.  This time it came out to 3.999999999999. 

Only then, I realized that I could go to school for the rest of eternity and get perpetually perfect scores, but the best average I could ever attain would be 3 with an infinite number of 9’s behind it.  Perfect does not allow for even one imperfection. 

So why then did Jesus say, “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”   Doesn’t the Scripture say, “All have sinned?” (Romans 3:23).  All of us have missed the mark with God, so it is impossible for any of us to ever achieve the Fatherly 4-point. 

Which was His point!  Jesus wanted us to know that the bar is so high with the Father that no one could ever qualify for heaven – without Him. 

Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made the one (Jesus) who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God.”  -NET Bible®

Jesus became sin!  God, out of His mercy and grace, transferred the guilt of our sin to Jesus which left us guiltless before God.  God now views the Christian through the lens of Christ– and what He sees is His perfection.  The Father’s 4-point is met in Jesus. 

If eternal life is important to you – then maybe you should speak to the Father today and tell Him, “Father, I am helpless to save myself.  I cannot keep the rules perfectly.  Save me by the virtue of Jesus.  Wash me of my sin and give me the stamp of his perfection.”  

If you would like help in understanding this commitment, go to the contact page and send me your question.  If you need help balancing your bank account – I am probably not your man!

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