Flashing back years ago, I can vividly remember my first impression of the word of God after finishing my very first read-through of the New Testament. God had opened my eyes to His truth and got me born again only months before I finished this initial reading, and as a new believer, I definitely had God’s zealous fire within me that created a hunger to devour all His word and learn all His ways as quickly as possible. I had also begun to attend a mainstream, contemporary, evangelical Christian church of my choosing, and I was beginning to discover the deeper meaning of my newfound faith. In my childhood, I had grown up going to church with my family, but because my heart was never really in it, I had never learned anything besides the Cliff Notes versions of the sermons being preached from the pulpit. So as a new believer, I readily admitted that I didn’t know much about Christianity, and I made a conscientious effort to value the knowledge and opinions of other members of the church, especially those of the people who were willing to teach me and mentor me on my journey. I had a great respect for my pastor and the associate pastor at my church, and both were very knowledgeable about the word of God and had obviously been believers for many years.
Due to my large respect for my pastor and his knowledge of God, I was extremely excited to tell him about my first impressions of the New Testament so that he could help me learn more. I had noticed a distinct and common theme in all the Gospels and the other letters, and this theme stood out to me like the text was divinely highlighted. It felt as if God was speaking to me personally about this subject, and that thought thrilled me. So I memorized a few key verses that clearly represented this theme, and I approached my pastor to ask him for his feedback. I said to him, “Pastor Scott, I just finished reading the New Testament, and I noticed a common theme in the language. The Bible seems to say that as Christians, we don’t sin anymore, and a lot of the verses even say that we can be perfect! Is that possible? To never sin again after we accept Jesus into our lives or even become perfect in this life?” I immediately received a response from him, but not the one I was expecting. Scott waved over the associate pastor to come join us, and he said to me, “No, that’s not what the Bible is saying at all. We are never perfect in this life. Perfection only happens after we get to heaven. Think about it: we constantly mess up, and these screwups happen daily, even if we don’t know it. And also think about this: if we were able to become perfect, then why would we need Jesus? We wouldn’t have need of a Savior if we were able to be perfect. No, sin still exists in us after we accept Jesus, but once we get to heaven, then we will be fully cleaned from it.” Then he left me and the associate pastor to continue speaking, and the associate pastor proceeded to walk through the verses I had memorized while disproving my line of thinking, thus completely dismantling everything that I truly thought I had learned from God.
Needless to say, I was crushed. In mere moments, everything that drove me toward growing closer to God was cut out from under me, and I felt like God’s word was impossible to understand. I also felt like I had nothing to strive for anymore. To me, it seemed pointless; I thought, If I’m always going to sin, then what’s the point of trying so hard not to? Thus began my very first backslide as a Christian, occurring only months after being saved and baptized. I lost my drive and quickly reverted back to many of my old destructive habits. I wasn’t about to totally give up on God over my own unintelligent first impression of His word, so I still continued to go to church and my small group, but I still felt like something in me had died. It was like my fire went out.
Well, God was prepared for this miniature backslide, and thankfully, it didn’t last long. He had me surrounded with fellow believers and close, godly friends who kept an eye on me. I know for a fact that their prayers and direct support got me back in the saddle much faster than I ever would have without them. However, for the sin and perfection ideas that I had, I put them to death. I firmly decided that I was going to continue on without them because I was obviously totally off track with those thoughts.
It took God nearly two years to revive those thoughts in me again, and the next time they revived, He wouldn’t let them die. Allow me to share with you why He wanted to bring them back to life and everything that He showed me and taught me about sin and perfection over the following several years.