Craig Groeschel - Perfectionism
Come on somebody, come on. Sometimes you've gotta groove when you're at church. Welcome today to all our Life.Church campuses, today we're in a message series called Chasing Carrots and I wanna talk to you about the unhealthy pursuit of perfection. Did I do that last part on perfect? Was that perfect, did I mess up? Was it an accident? Or was it perfectly executed, acting like I messed up? I don't know who this message is going to speak to today. Certainly me because I live with this incredibly unhealthy need to live up to your expectations, to live up to my own unrealistic expectations, to live up to God's expectations. How many of you honestly are often hard on yourself because you don't get it right and you really like to be perfect?
It's funny how many of you say that and the very same person who says I battle with perfectionism will also show grace to someone who messes up. Your kid falls short, your best friend falls short and what do you say? You say, don't worry about it. Help me out, no one is what? No one is? Perfect. Perfect, you're quick to show grace to somebody else but yet in your own life you often hold unrealistic expectations and when you don't live up to them, you feel deep feelings of shame, of guilt or unworthiness and to top it off, Scripture can be incredibly intimidating.
In fact, when you look at what Jesus said in Matthew's Gospel, Matthew chapter five verse 48. This is what Jesus said. He said, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect". Be perfect. No pressure there. Just like God, be perfect. Never sin, never have a bad thought. Never look at somebody critically, be perfect. Especially if you're a mom, happy Mothers' Day, no pressure there to the moms. Hey if I seem a little bit distracted today, I might be a little bit distracted. We don't have much going, preached on Saturday, preached on Sunday, Mothers' Day weekend, my third daughter is getting married tomorrow to an amazing young guy, Luke, that we love.
My future third son in law but he's still taking my daughter. That's not easy, ever and then to top it off my oldest daughter actually gave birth just now to this is little McKenna Jane. So if I'm a little bit distracted you might know why. Little McKenna, you might pray for her, she was taken away on Medi-flight to another place and had what looked like a lot of very bad, extreme complications and after a lot of prayer and maybe 12 hours or so we're getting better reports from her and so, shoutout to my daughter Katie and Andrew and we're wishing you all the best. Be perfect, as your Father is perfect. No pressure, moms no pressure.
In fact there's a comic strip that some of you moms may be able to relate to. Am I a good mother Susan? My name is Amy. I don't know if you ever feel this, there's no expectations on moms today. You've got it so easy. All you have to do moms is have a Pinterest-worthy home. And Instagram worthy looks. Take your kids to the zoo, do crafts, throw elaborately themed birthday parties with ponies and princesses. Have a successful career, keep up a hobby, post on Facebook, work out five times a week to keep your Instagram worthy looks. Pray an hour a day. Pump three times a day to feed your baby while you're at work. Be a homeroom mom, do the laundry, read books, give baths, tell stories, sing songs. Feed your kids organic kale and carrots when you would rather eat Oreos and ice cream. Can anybody say amen? Amen.
You know how it is. You just can't win. If you're a working mom you might feel guilty because you're not at home with your kids but then you feel guilty because you like not being home with your kids. And if you're a stay at home mom you feel guilty 'cause you're not contributing financially and you have that whole degree thing that you got that you don't appear to be using and you know you should be very blessed but yet you fantasize about putting them in a perpetual mother's day out, having someone else take care of them. It's not just a mom problem, it's an all of us problem. Dealing with the pursuit of perfection.
If I get a little bit wound up in this talk, it's because I live in this world of trying to live up to the expectations of others, putting unrealistic expectations on myself, or trying to live up to what I believe God wants me to do and I always seem to fall short. It's so interesting how this will impact us and in different ways.
If you battle with the pursuit of perfectionism, in some areas you'll almost lie in order to show an image of yourself that's not real, can we say #Instagram? Or you might find yourself avoiding something that you would like to do because you don't feel like you're gonna hit the standard and so rather than failing you avoid it altogether or you might find yourself doing what I do which is obsessing over something to get it just right, to the point of inefficiency or ineffectiveness and realizing that perfection can actually be the enemy of progress but yet you do this and obsess about it, knowing that it's unhealthy but telling yourself, this is the price I pay to be successful.
Many of us battle with this problem. In fact, I did a lot of research on this subject and back years ago when I was in counseling, dealing with some personal issues we actually talked about the different types of perfectionism. I researched it again and I wanna show you the three different types of perfectionists and perhaps you might find yourself in one or more of these categories. The first type is called the self-oriented perfectionist. These are the expectations you put on yourself. If this is you you tend to hold unrealistically high expectations of yourself and you battle with feelings of guilt, often obsessing to the point of inefficiency.
If this is you, you might be prone to procrastinate and you struggle with deep feelings of inadequacy. It's the self-oriented perfectionist. I've gotta live up to my own standards or I don't wanna do it or I feel ashamed and guilty. There's the externally oriented perfectionist and this is what you believe others expect of you. If this is you, you believe others expect you to be perfect. So to cope with the pressure you often use self-deprecating humor as a defense. You might make fun of your work ethic or your appearance or whatever, totally as a defense. You'll often feel very, very alone or depressed and you feel secretly desperate because you know no matter how hard you try, you will never ever be good enough and live up to your idea of what others expect of you.
Then there's the others oriented perfectionist. This is when you impose your expectations on somebody else. If this is you, you expect others to live up to your impossible standards. Your challenge is that you lack empathy, and because you lack empathy you often tear others down or use abrasive and demeaning humor toward those who don't meet your standards. Some of you, you had parents like that. Some of you, you are parents like that.
If you recognize yourself in any of these categories, what I wanna do today is I wanna talk about the spiritual side of perfectionism because a lot of times we see perfectionism as like a psychological issue, and it is. But I believe at its root, it's actually a very real spiritual problem. Why, because perfectionism is very often a covering for our deepest insecurities, our deepest fears or if I can say it theologically, it's a covering for our sinfulness. It's creating the illusion or the external standard that if I live up to this, then I'll be good enough for somebody, my own standard, yours or perhaps even God's. At its root, perfectionism is a very real spiritual problem covering an insecurity or our sinfulness.
In fact, if you go all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve were perfect and holy before God, they lived free and the pressure was off. Until, they disobeyed God and they sinned and immediately they felt insecure, they felt flawed and so what did they do? They created a covering for themselves with the leaves to create the appearance that you don't see my imperfections. Instead I'm still gonna show you what I think you want to see. A covering for insecurities, for imperfection and for sinfulness. Moses did something similar. When Moses went up to the mountain and experienced the presence of God his face shone with the glory of God. But then, he put a veil over his face and some would think it was to keep the glory from overwhelming other people.
But what they didn't realize is, the veil was to hide the fact that the glory had already faded. The veil was a covering for the insecurity or the lack and that's why so often, we show others what we think we want them to see because perfectionism is a covering for our insecurities, for our fears, for our insecurity. So what do we do? If at its root, it is a spiritual problem then at its root we need to let God solve this problem. What I wanna do is show you as clearly as I can from the book of Romans how it is that we're actually made right with God. This is what Paul said, almost speaking directly into a spirit or a craving for perfectionism. He said in Romans chapter 3 verse 20, for no one.
And let me pause here, no one includes you, the person you're sitting next to, the person in front of you, the person behind you. Someone else watching with you online, doesn't matter if you're a great person, a bad person, a pastor, a priest, a holy person, a 17-year-old girl or an 80-year-old man, no one no matter who you are can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. We do not have it in us to completely obey the law of God. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. In other words, on our own, in our own fleshly sinfulness, we can never ever ever ever obtain all the standards of the law, so why did God give us the law? Paul tells us, I wanna look at it again. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. The law reveals the reality that we need help. We need grace, we need mercy. We're never gonna be good enough.
If you say you know, I'm a Christian, the 10 Commandments whatever. Before we talk about the 10 Commandments let's pretend you were a Pharisee hearing this in the times of Jesus. The Pharisees didn't have to live up to 10 Commandments but 613, can you imagine that? 613, we only have 10 and can I be honest with you, those 10 are pretty intimidating. How do you do on them? Don't put anything ahead of God? X for me. Don't lie, X, X, X, X, X, X, X. Don't covet, X, X, X. Don't take God's name in vain, I hate to say it, not in the last couple of decades but somewhere back on my sin resume, X, X, X, X, X, X, X. Can we quit before we go on anymore? We cannot live up to it. No matter how hard you try, you can't get there.
The problem is today, that if we try to talk at this level in our culture, people tend to say, don't tell me I'm a bad person. Don't call me a sinful person. I'm not a sinner, I'm not a bad person, I'm a good person, don't judge me. Actually this isn't judging, this is just telling the truth. You're a jacked up, screwed up, bad, evil sinner and so am I. Welcome to Life.Church we're a feelgood church, here to make you feel better about yourself. You are, listen to me. Scripture says your heart is deceitful, above all things. It's so whacked you can't even tell the truth about yourself. Every single one of us, we have all fallen short of God's standard. All of us, we do not have the capacity in our sinfulness to live up to his standards, why is this so important?
It's not that I wanna make you feel bad about yourself. You're all sinners, no. The reality is, until you see yourself as a sinner, you won't see your need for a Savior and that's why the law is so beautiful. It shows us, I need help. I can't be perfect. I can't live up to that. So what do I do? How am I made right with God? This is so amazing, if you've heard it before, I pray you hear it like you're experiencing it for the very first time. How are we made right with God? Paul goes on to say, we're make right with God, not by religious efforts, not by doing good works, not by eliminating bad stuff from our lives, not by joining a church but we're made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.
Who is Jesus? He is the sinless Son of God who is perfect in every way. He is the one who hung out with sinners and loved the unrighteous and gave his life as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. We're made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ and this is true for everyone who believes. Doesn't matter how bad you are, doesn't matter how much you've messed up, doesn't matter how much darkness there is in your life, this is true for anyone who believes. No matter who we are.
How are you made right with God? It's not Christ plus church. It's not Christ plus good works. It's not Christ plus helping a little old lady walk across the road, you don't have to do that to be made right with God but you better do that, you may not answer to God but you answer to your pastor, you better be polite to her in the name of Jesus. It's not Christ plus not doing bad things, you're made right with God by Christ plus nothing. Jesus and Jesus alone, Jesus the perfect Son of God and faith in him alone. It's not perfectionism but it's grace. It is the grace of God, let me contrast the two for a moment.
What is perfectionism? Perfectionism focuses on what I do. My performance, my effort, my religious works but grace focuses on what Jesus has already done. It's his righteousness, it's his goodness, it's his perfect work. Perfectionism is all about me. My works, my effort. Grace is all about Jesus. The sinless Son of God who did the perfect work that God sent him to do. Perfectionism believes if I obey, if I'm good enough, if I'm holy, then maybe God will love me. But grace is so much different. It starts with the love of God. Because God loves me, because he accepts me through Christ, I can obey. I choose to obey, it's a response to his goodness. Perfectionism says hey I need to win God's approval. But grace says because of Jesus I am living from the approval of God. It's not by works, so that I can boast. It's by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Because of who Jesus is. Because of what he's done, when I put my faith in him I don't have to live a perfect life. Because of Jesus the pressure is off. Be free, walk in it.
Embrace his grace, step into the goodness of God. You don't have to be perfect to please him, you don't have to get it right to live up to his standards because of what Jesus did. It's a response to step into his grace. Maybe somebody here wants to give him a little praise today to say thank you God for your goodness. And for your grace. So to someone incredibly insecure like me, who wants to impress everybody with my performance, it takes the pressure off. It takes the pressure off. If we truly understand this, it shouldn't just change what we think. But it should change everything about how we relate with people, and how we live.
You see grace takes the pressure off and what I wanna do is I wanna give you two thoughts of application. And my prayer, I prayed all week long that the Holy Spirit would speak to someone here about one of these. Deep in your soul, you wouldn't just have a head understanding of the grace of God but it would be so in your heart, so in your heart that it would truly change how you live. This first one is really personal to me because I remember where I was when Amy and I made this decision together. Because of Jesus and his goodness and because the pressure is off we get to choose people over perfection. We get to choose intimacy and we get to choose relationship and we get to choose depth of connection instead of performance and perfectionism in front of people.
In fact there's no better illustration of this in Scripture than in Luke's Gospel, Luke chapter 10 when there were two sisters, hosting Jesus for a dinner party. One was named Mary and one was named Martha. Many of you are like Martha. Martha was wigging out, everything had to be perfect. Imagine, the pastor comes to your house, you prepare. Jesus comes to your house. No pressure. Be perfect, Martha was doing what many of you would do, every detail's gotta be just right. Mary's sitting there being lazy, just talking to Jesus, chat chat chat chat chat, doing nothing, Mary! Get up off your blessed assurance and come here and serve Jesus! And Jesus looks at Martha or you or me and said this. "My dear Martha," can you feel it? "You're worried and upset over all these details".
You can almost hear him saying like that doesn't matter that much, I don't care. Those things don't last. Then Jesus says, "Martha, there's only one thing worth being concerned about. "And Mary," the one who's focused on me right now, "she's discovered it and it will not be taken away from her". Martha, Martha, choose people over perfection. Don't miss the moment. Trying to live up to something that's not real.
The reason this is so meaningful to me is because I remember where we were standing when Amy said it to me. I'll give you context. We have six children and we home educated our children all the way through and so, we wanted them to have great friends and wanted our home to be the home where people came to and so they did. 40 or 50 kids honest to goodness at a time, with parents all over the place and we loved it and we hated it. We loved it because we loved having them there, we hated it because we were the pastors and we felt so much pressure to have the perfect home.
So if you were coming over to our home was were not praying and fasting, we were working in the name of Jesus to put on this image for you. So when you knock on the door and we walk to the door calmly and Godly, you can walk in to a home where the pillows are all in their place to honor the goodness of our creative Father God. The candle would be burning giving off an aroma of spiritual smell. The Christian music would be playing in the background because we are so holy. There would be bread baking in the oven because man shall not live by bread alone but it's not bad to have when company comes over and we would welcome you into our spiritual sanctuary of goodness, glory, might, power, intimacy in the presence of the holy of holies in the Groeschel house.
And Amy just said to me the pressure is killing me. I can't keep it up and then she said those exact words. She said, "What if we just choose people over perfection"? And me being a man said, what does that mean? I don't know what you talking about? And she said, "What if we just let people come over and said this is who we are"? This is our house, this is how we live. What if we just don't care about appearances and just instead of focusing on the details of the house just focused on loving the people? I think that's a pretty good idea. And so we did that.
That's why if you come over to our house we promise you we'll do our best to make you feel loved but you need to know the pillows will not be straight. In fact, there's 17 of them that we don't know where they are. There'll be no candle burning 'cause we couldn't find the doggone match anywhere in the house with the chaos. There won't be Christian music playing, there will be the stinkiest socks and shoes you have ever smelled out by the front door. There is no odor worse than 16-year-old boy sock and shoes in the whole world.
There will, I'll just be honest with you. There'll probably be pee on the toilet. It's not mine. I got really good aim, it's not my son Sam's, it's not Steven's, none of our family. Someone, one of your kids has the gift of spray it. I don't know but it's all over the place. When you come over, and this is gonna speak to somebody. Because the pressure is off, why don't we just choose people over the illusion of perfection? You are loved, you are blessed. We're happy to be here, welcome into our world. We're not gonna give you the appearance of something that's not real. We're gonna offer you the real love that we have. Let it speak to your soul. Because the pressure is off. We can choose people over perfection.
The second thing is this, because the pressure is off, we can actually choose perfect love over perfect performance. We can choose the perfect love of our Father rather than performing to try to impress him or to impress somebody else. Why does this matter? What is a spirit of perfectionism? What it is is it's a covering for our deepest fears. It's a covering for our insecurities. It's a sinful way to try to cover up for our sinfulness. What's your greatest insecurity? What are you trying to cover up? Some of you it's a deep feeling of inadequacy. Some of you it's shame. Maybe not even something that was your fault. Guilt, maybe it's a fear of rejection. Or a fear of being judged. Whatever it is, it's a covering. And it's a bad covering. You don't have to be perfect.
But wait, didn't Jesus say be perfect? Pastor Craig, didn't you read from Matthew's Gospel, that we're supposed to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. What I did is I intentionally quoted that verse out of context so I could read it to you in context. It's very important when you're looking at Scripture to understand the totality of what really is being said. And the context of Jesus' teaching in this portion of Scripture is not about performance. Listen to me, it's all about love. It's not about our behavior, it's about our response to God's love in loving others, watch this.
Look at the context and see the love all over this teaching. Jesus says, "You've heard that it was said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy but I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you". He's all about love. He says, "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that"? It's all about love. That's why when Jesus says, "Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect". He's not actually talking about our behavior or our performance. He is talking about being perfected in love.
The word in the Greek that's translated as perfect is the word _. And it doesn't mean to be perfect in performance. It means to be mature, it means to be made complete. In other words an eight-year-old isn't mature in body, a 24-year-old may be. The same root word was used when Jesus was on the cross when he said. He said, "It is finished". In other words, it's complete, it's mature. It is now whole and it is done. What Jesus was saying was this. Love, love. You've been taught love, those who are nice to you but hate your enemies. I tell you, love everybody. Love freely, love as you've been loved. Reflect the love of God in the way you love others. Be perfected in how you love, be mature and complete in your love. It's not that you have to be perfect in performance but it's growing into the perfect love of God.
That's why and for all of these years, it's finally getting through to my perfectionist soul because the reason I work so hard to perform is because my deepest fear is that I always be inadequate. I'll never be enough. I'll never be successful enough at home. I'll never be a good enough pastor, I'll never be a good enough husband. I'll never be a good enough friend. I'll never be a good enough dad and so because of that my mask is perform. Get it done, push it. Be perfect, win their approval. Stand out, be successful. I know it hurts me but that's the price you pay for success.
Now I realize, that's not my calling. And that's not your calling. Our role, our assignment is not to convince people how good we are. Our calling is to convince people how good God is. It's not about our performance, it's all about Jesus. It's not about our righteousness, it's all about him. So may I try to help you understand how much your God loves you. If you've ever seen a child walk or you've ever had a child learn to walk, I love it. When they're nine months old, 10 months old they do the drunk Frankenstein and then they fall down, what do you do if you're a father?
You don't look at the child that fell and say, you pathetic no good can't even walk three step kids. I'm trading you in for someone more coordinated, no you don't. What you do is you hug them and you love them and you say great job you took a step now let's do it again and whenever they fall you continue to love them and when they do something good you cheer them on. Your Father in heaven is not withdrawing his love when you fall short. He's cheering you on when get it right. He is continuing to love you because there is nothing you can do to cause him to love you more. And there's nothing you can do to cause him to love you less. Because love is not something he does. Love is who he is. It is his essence and so, step into it.
Step into it. Not trying to win the approval of perfection but in a response to his grace. Jesus takes the pressure off. So we don't have to perform for approval. But because we're already approved because of what Jesus did, now we get to respond. While we were still sinning Scripture says, Christ died for us. That's how much he loves you. Step into it. Feel it, let the pressure leave. And choose people over perfection and choose perfect love over perfect performance. Be mature and complete in the unconditional, undeserved, unreserved love that our Father has for you. Pressure's off.
So Father help us step into this, to embrace your grace and to show your love. At all of our churches let's be honest today. Those of you that may battle trying to live up to your own standards, the expectations of others, or the expectations of God and you know you're covering up for that insecurity or that fear. And you wanna step into his grace.
Lift up your hands right now and say yes Jesus. Help me, help me, help me, help me, help me, help me. Hands going up today at all of our churches, Jesus thank you that it's all about you. God forgive us for trying to accomplish what you already did. May we enjoy, experience, embrace your grace and not out of an effort to win approval but out of a response to your love. Help us be mature and complete in that same type of love. Speak to someone today spiritually. To choose people over perfection, to chose perfect love over perfect performance. Take the pressure off. So we can truly become who you've created us to be. Fulfilling that assignment, showing people God just how good you really are.
Still praying today, there are those of you that may feel very guilty for something you did, very ashamed for something you said that you can't unsay. You wonder where you stand with God, let me be clear with you. The only way you're ever made right with God is by faith in Jesus. Not by works, not by religious efforts but by faith in Jesus and the good news is, our God brought some of you here today, not to change the way you live but to change what you believe which eventually will change the way you live but it starts with what you believe.
I hope you'll recognize I'm not being mean, I'm being truthful. We've all sinned. Until you see yourself as a sinner, you won't see your need for a Savior. This is how good our God is. That while we were unrighteous, while we were sinning, he sent Jesus, his Son, perfect in every way to give his life so we could be made right with God. And all of our churches there, those of you, you recognize you need his grace, you need his forgiveness, when you call on his name he hears your prayer, you will be forgiven, you will be new at all of our churches those who say yes, Jesus I need you, I turn from my sin. Jesus I turn toward you today by faith, I give my life to you.
That's your prayer, lift your hands high now. All over the place say yes. Up here, close, both of you right here praise God for you. Right back here toward the back, others if you lift them high, let me just meet you eye to eye. All three of you in this middle section praise God for you. Right back over here sweetheart and yes, sweetheart right here. Others of you today, Jesus I call on you, Church Online you click right below me, right back over here ma'am. Why don't we give God a little bit more praise today? Others of you today calling on his name, Jesus I need your grace. Hey church in this holy moment why don't we just stand to our feet, to give God honor at all of our churches and we're gonna join our hearts with those around us.
Heavenly Father, forgive my sins. Make me new. Jesus save me. Holy Spirit, fill me, so I can be mature and complete in your love, showing your love in all that I do. My life is not my own. I give it to you. Thank you for new life, You have all of mine. In Jesus' name I pray.