I’m Imperfect, You’re Imperfect, Let’s Get Over Ourselves

I’m Imperfect, You’re Imperfect, Let’s Get over Ourselves

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One of the most challenging things a person will ever do is tell others the secrets of who they really are. I’m not suggesting we blab all our stuff to everyone, or even our deepest, darkest secrets that only God knows, but there is wisdom in inviting at least one trusted friend into our more vulnerable thought life, a person who can handle our unsavory truth. Ironically, many Christians will not do this even though we’re all messed up. Nobody is perfect. Too bums on the street not talking about what is apparent to both of them is odd.

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Set the Imperfect Free

But imperfect people are afraid to share their imperfections with other imperfect people. Does that strike you as odd? It’s like a skunk being afraid to tell another skunk that he stinks. We all stink. Rather than embracing the biblical record—we smell bad; we seek to perfume ourselves to make ourselves appear better than we know ourselves to be. We’re like a bunch of skunks seeking to fake out each other. It’s somewhat weird. Wouldn’t being set free from people-pleasing, image-guarding, and reputation management be a better option?

I recognize that some people do not have that trusted, intimate friend while others fear the risks of relationships. How free are you? Are you open to sharing your secrets appropriately? Or are you tempted to cover up and hide your truest self? If you are, in what ways do you hide? How do you make yourself appear better than you know yourself to be? What are your tricks of the trade? Do you see how the charade is vain, leaves you empty, and feeds low levels of discontentedness? If this is you, what would it take to release you from this bondage? What steps will you take to find that trusted friend?

Do You Smell?

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

I think if we were honest with ourselves, we would agree with the Bible’s perspective about ourselves and accept its truth claims: we are sinners through and through, totally depraved. If we were humble and courageous, we would openly discuss how we struggle with sin with our intimate friends. Not only have we sinned, but it gets worse: others have sinned against us. Sin happens in two ways: We sin; people sin against us. We are active sinners and passive and unwelcome recipients of other people’s sins. On one level, it does not matter how we got this way. Whether it was our doing, Adam’s doing, or the fault of others, there is something profoundly wrong with us.

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17).

The thing we have to guard against is how we respond to our internal dysfunction. It would be better to accept the truth about our unique smells, recognizing that we all stink to high heaven. The gospel already tells us we are badly broken and need repair. Isn’t that the point and purpose of the gospel? Didn’t He come to repair broken people? Christ is our divine repairman. Sometimes, some people spend too much time figuring out how they got to their current dysfunction. To spend time trying to discern our active role or our passive receiving in our dysfunction is not the best use of our time. The primary concern is what we are doing to repair ourselves. What is your repair plan? A person who can accept that he has a problem can quickly transition to gospel solutions for his messed-up-ness rather than wasting his days blaming others for how he got to where he is.

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Who Is Fixing You?

The free individual is not concerned about who he is, what he did, or who did what to him. The free person has moved forward because he accepts the truth claims of the Bible–he is a sinner. Say it aloud: “I am a messed up person.” Did you say it? Good. Now, let’s move on. The real struggle is how we fix ourselves. Who is repairing us, and how is it happening? One of the biggest temptations for messed-up people is to fall prey to the do-it-yourself self-repair worldview. Let me introduce you to seven people born into sin like us. They are active sinners and the unwanted recipients of the sin from others. From a sin perspective, they are the same but seek different ways of self-repair.

  • Mable’s fix-it approach was to enhance her natural beauty. She became a flirt who enjoyed capturing the gaze of guys. It made her feel robust, durable, and unbroken inside. Sadly, when she pillows her head at night, the gnawing reality of the emptiness of her soul causes her to toss and turn. Her self-repair methodology is only as deep as her make-up.
  • Biff pushed through three degree programs. You only have to spend five minutes with Biff to learn about his education. Academics is his identity. His feel-good about himself syndrome is three-diplomas thin.
  • Bert went the bodybuilding route. He is one strong-looking, macho man. Just don’t let him know that you know his hulk-i-ness is a weak disguise. He has a significant anger problem, as you might imagine, which, combined with his physique, keeps the undiscerning cowering or impressed.
  • Marge became an athlete because she could. It was her strength. It became her surefire way to gain attention, significance, acceptance, and approval. After she blew out her ACL, her world collapsed. The injury took away her self-repair kit. She lost hope. She became a drug addict. Nothing mattered to her anymore, and it still doesn’t.
  • Madge went into the ministry. In her mind, it compensated for the hideousness of what she did as a teen. According to her accounting, having sex is one of the worst sins a person could commit; therefore, going into the ministry is one of the best things she could do. Ministry made things right in her self-atoning mind. She will tell you that her salvation is by grace, not by works, but her practical theology reveals a legalistic heart condition.
  • Myrtle is on her third husband. The dating and early marriage process work great for her. She loves being pursued, captured, and loved by a man. After she gets her love cup filled to overflowing, she realizes she married a selfish person—her clone—who is more about receiving than giving. Myrtle is one angry and frustrated lady in search of number four.
  • Bart is 35 now and still living at home. He knows it’s twisted, but it’s safe. Why try anything if there is a risk of failure? Each time he fails, he has to endure the painful reminders of inadequacy, the complications of the fear of man, and a more than subtle reality that he can’t fix himself. Regardless, he chooses not to try rather than try and fail.

Whose Works?

All seven of these people realized something was wrong with them; they stink to high heaven like the rest of us. All seven tried man-centered, man-glorifying ways to overcome their souls’ shame/guilt dynamic. All seven put on a front of having it together, which worked to varying degrees, depending on their ability to pull off their charades. All seven of them are miserable. All seven of them have not come to embrace the liberating truth claims of the gospel. Every person receives two options for their transformation. Option one takes you down the road of self-effort, self-help, self-reliance, and self-centeredness, as these seven have done. Option two takes you down the path of dying to yourself while relying on someone more special and effective.

There is no question it will take much work to fix personal brokenness. The real question is, whose works will we rely on for our transformation? The most evident and natural temptation is to rely on ourselves—like our case study friends. The self-reliant approach is native to all of us. Trusting others is difficult for insecure people, who prefer a self-sufficient “I can do it myself” mantra. Didn’t you learn long ago that you can’t trust anyone? Don’t you know that nobody else will come through for you? Besides, you have gifts, qualities, assets, and strengths. It makes sense to leverage them to your advantage. Others will let you down, but you will never let yourself down. People will not make you feel better about yourself, but self-reliant idolatries can.

But did you know an unguarded strength could be your most significant liability? Could it be that your strengths have further incarcerated you? Have you considered that you could be a slave to your God-given abilities to pull yourself up by your bootstraps? These side-effects of self-sufficiency are what can happen with our strengths. Personal gifting can be a tool to enslave ourselves into more profound self-reliance. Anybody who seeks to enhance their reputation because they are overly concerned with what others think about them will be tempted to strengthen themselves through personal abilities. Their mantra is, “I can do all things through me who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Living in God’s Pleasure

Our strengths and abilities may impress others and garner the long-craved approval we desire, but it does not garner the acceptance of God. The Father is not impressed with our works, even if our good deeds are righteous (Isaiah 64:6). God is pleased with the works of His Son (Mark 1:11). It is Jesus who pleases Him. The Lord will never find pleasure in our finely-honed skillset or well-established reputations. He is pleased with His Son’s works and reputation. It is His Son’s name that He wants to put on display, not ours. If your self-produced reputation gives you the desired approval, do you think you’ve gained something? Can you see how living for reputation and image enhancement is a vain life?

Our seven friends all struggle similarly. They sense stinging guilt deep inside of them. Part of that guilt is what they were born with because of Adam. It’s their Adamic problem. Part of their sense of shame came from fellow sinners. People have hurt them. Part of their struggle is their fault. Rather than trusting and resting in Christ to free them from their internal turmoil, they carved a self-generated path to make themselves feel better about themselves. The end for each of them has left them hollow, empty, and unsatisfied. There is no amount of work we could ever do to satisfy the guilt that is held against us by God. Our guilt is an infinite guilt that demands an infinite payment.

Finite people do not have what it takes to pay an infinite price for an infinite transgression. The only way we could pay for our sin against God is to pay it eternally. That is why we have hell. It is for people who do not want to do it God’s way but prefer to pay their infinite debt themselves. Mercifully, God gave us another choice. There is another infinite option for what we have done. God gave Himself—an infinite gift—as a sacrifice for our infinite crime. This kindness from God is the gospel. All He asks us to do is accept His gift. He wants us to cease from our works and enter into His rest.

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Live Who You Are

Perhaps you have accepted His gift. Maybe you have been born again. Perhaps the good Lord has paid your sin debt, but there can still be a problem. What I did not tell you about our seven friends is that they all profess Christ. The mercy of God has regenerated them, which raises some big questions.

  • Why are they not living in the freedom that the gospel offers?
  • Why are they not enjoying their entire inheritance?
  • Why are they still seeking to promote their glory and not Christ’s?
  • Why is the gospel not impacting their sanctification?
  • What do they fear?

The gospel has been powerful enough to save them but not to sanctify them progressively. In essence, they are unbelieving believers. They are functional atheists. They are people who the gospel has saved, but the gospel is not practically ruling their hearts. They are still bound to image, reputation, and people-pleasing. These individuals still want to protect, guard, and hide their true selves. They live to impress people, as though their stinkiness is something to be proud of among friends. Though they trust Christ, they still want to hold onto pockets of glory.

If this describes you to any degree and you struggle with being honest about who you are and how you need help, here is a prayer for you. Ask the Father to release you from your fear. Let the gospel do more than save you. Let it sanctify you. The best thing you can do is find a trusted friend and reveal your actual heart to them—appropriately. Let them know you are a pretender and you need help. Let them know what they already know about you: you smell bad. Who knows, your humble and honest transparency may be the key to releasing them from a similar bondage.

Prayer for Stinkers

Dear Father,

I have tried many things to make me feel better about myself. Some of these notions were objectively wrong. Some of them give the perception of righteous deeds. My efforts, good and evil, have closed my eyes to the truths of the gospel.

I have not fully rested in the gospel. I know the truth, and I know that I’m a pretender. Please help me be honest with you and with others. I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to do evil or good works. I want to rest in your divine pleasure because I trust your Son’s works alone.

But I cannot do this alone. I need divine intervention. Will you give me the faith to live like a set-free Christian? Will you give me the faith to share my struggles? I love you. I love the gospel. Make it real to me and release me from the bondage of self-reliance that my fears perpetuate. Will you bring a friend to help me?

I’m a debtor to your mercy.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:16-17).

Call to Action

  1. Will you have a long-form discussion with a friend about the content in this chapter?
  2. If you do not have that friend, will you talk to your pastor, share these things with him, and ask for his assistance in finding you a friend?
  3. If you do not have a pastor or other spiritual leader you’re comfortable talking to, will you speak to God, asking Him to remove any excuses that hinder you from finding this friend so you can have that long-form discussion? Act as though a mature walk with God depends on it because it does.
  4. Perhaps returning to my questions at the beginning of this chapter and answering them with a friend will assist you in this journey of faith.
    1. How free are you?
    2. Are you open to sharing your secrets appropriately?
    3. Or are you tempted to cover up and hide your truest self?
    4. If you are, in what ways do you hide?
    5. How do you make yourself appear better than you know yourself to be?
    6. What are your tricks of the trade?
    7. Do you see how the charade is vain, leaves you empty, and feeds low levels of discontentedness?
    8. If this is you, what would it take to release you from this bondage?
    9. What steps will you take to find that trusted friend?
  5. For a deeper conversation, reflect and answer the questions about our seven reluctant and self-reliant friends:
    1. Why are they not living in the freedom that the gospel offers?
    2. Why are they not enjoying their entire inheritance?
    3. Why are they still seeking to promote their glory and not Christ’s?
    4. Why is the gospel not impacting their sanctification?
    5. What do they fear?

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