End of Summer Tune Up, Pt. 2

End of Summer Tune Up, Pt. 2

Study Guide, September 4, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


Let’s walk through another ‘tune up’ session together as we finish up our Summer. A tune up is not only good for your car it’s good for your body and soul as well. So here we go. Sometimes we can simply just expand on what we are already familiar with in order to get a good tune up. For instance: There are names we have become familiar with that actually have an interesting history to them, especially names that are ‘acronyms’. We use the word ‘Laser’ a lot, referring to a beam of light. But ‘Laser’ stands for ‘Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation’. Or, how about ‘Taser’, that shocking device? The inventor of the ‘Taser’ named it after an old adventure novel that he liked and called it the Tom A. Swift Electric Rifle…or ‘Taser’. Then, ‘IKEA’ is named after Ingvar Kamprad, who grew up on the farm of Elmtaryd near Agunnaryd, in Sweden…or, IKEA. Even ‘Scuba’ in Scuba diving stands for ‘Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus’. And then there’s another one of man’s best friends, besides a dog and duct tape…WD-40. The WD stands for Water Displacement. And the 40?…the 40 stands for the 40th time they got it to work after 39 failed attempts!1 Now that’s ‘perseverance’!

Well, there is also a whole lot more to discover about the wondrous things that we deal with every day in our everyday discipleship. So let’s explore.

Every day we live with the wonder, but also the tension between the ‘Ideal’ and the ‘Real’. And the better we understand both, the better we will then be able to deal with our discipleship and to also prepare for life in the coming Kingdom. We could put it like this: The first two chapters of the Bible reveal the Ideal. Genesis 1 and 2 reveal the perfection of Creation and the plan of God for His newly created family. And the last two chapters of Revelation unveil the continuation of that plan with the recreation of the New Earth and the New Heavens. But in between the Ideal of Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22 is the ‘Real’ of human history with the curse of sin which interrupted God’s Ideal plan. Again, what interrupted the perfect plan of God between Genesis 1 and 2 to Revelation 21 and 22 was the imperfection of man because of the sin of man, which led to the Cross of Christ in order to rescue and redeem man, or to save whosoever would repent of their sins and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

But the thing is, even though we are now living in the ‘Real’, the ‘Ideal’ is still the deal! It’s just that we are now living in the days of the ‘Real’, where God’s perfect plan for His perfect world has been interrupted by imperfect people in an imperfect world, including even His own redeemed children, for as is stated so well in the Heidelburg catechism: “…even our best works in this life are all imperfect.” So even our best works are still ‘imperfect’, at best.

So now here is where we can get tuned up in relation to this wonder and tension between the Ideal and the Real. We need to align our thinking with Biblical thinking in order to both pursue the goal of God’s Ideal for us and to keep persevering even when our best works are still imperfect at best, because we still fall short of the Ideal. We will need to make peace with imperfection if we are going to experience peace while we pursue the perfect. What do we mean by that?

Here is how the Apostle Paul described this tension between the Ideal and the Real in Phil 3:12-14- “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” NLT

And note, the prize that he is referring to here is not salvation in Heaven, for that is God’s gift to us. What Paul is referring to is his Kingdom rewards in Heaven for the works of his service for God here on Earth. But notice again the reality of the Ideal and the Real. What’s the Ideal here? The Ideal is his coming perfection in godly character and service for God. And what’s the ‘Real’ here? The ‘Real’ is that he hadn’t reached this perfection yet! He hadn’t yet arrived at that perfection. He was still dealing with his ‘imperfections’ all the while he was pressing on toward perfection…perfection in his character and service. Which, by the way, one day we actually will reach that perfection when we leave this imperfect world and our imperfect nature…when we finally leave our sin nature behind us. For the only nature we will have in Heaven will be the new nature, the nature that is without sin, the shared divine nature with our Divine Lord and Savior! Our sin nature will be severed from us, and we will finally be free of even the presence of sin in our lives. Yes, one day the ‘Ideal’ and the ‘Real’ will be the same for us in its completion…in the perfection of our holy moral character and in our devoted service unto the Lord. But that ‘day’ has not yet arrived for us, just like it hadn’t yet arrived for Paul.

All right, so let’s unpack this concept even more. So, you are reading along in 1 Peter. You are reading about God’s great mercy that has caused you to become ‘Born Again’, and that you now have an inheritance, which is imperishable and undefiled and is even reserved in Heaven for you, with the fullness of your salvation awaiting you. But now, in the meantime, we then come face to face with this challenge from God for how we are to live now: 1 Peter 1:14-16- “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” NASU

So…how’s that working for you? Have you got that ‘being holy in all your behavior like your God is holy’ down yet? Still working on that, right? I think we would all most likely borrow from the Apostle Paul, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection.” I’m so glad the Apostle Paul told us about that. It’s great to have fellowship with the Apostle Paul right here. Yes, that’s good. However, we are also to be in good fellowship with him by also committing to the other part from Paul as well… “But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” So sure, we haven’t arrived, but we sure ought to be pressing on toward that goal!

God is calling us, calling His children to be holy in all our behavior. He commands us to be holy just as He is holy. He calls for us to be perfect in our character and in our conduct and in our service unto Him. However, both God and we know that we have not yet achieved that level of holiness, nor have we arrived in being perfect in our character and conduct. Oh, we know about the ‘Ideal’, but we’re caught up in wrestling with the ‘Real’. That is the wonder and the tension we live with. But here’s the deal: God doesn’t have a problem with us falling short of complete ‘holiness’ or with not having yet arrived at being perfect in our character and service, as long as…and here is the key point…as long as we are committed to pressing on toward both! For that is what fulfills the command! And that is what God is looking for in each of us. As long as we are pressing on toward becoming more and more holy in our holy moral character, and as long as we are pressing on toward the goal of becoming perfect in becoming all that God created us to be and to do for Him…as long as that is our pursuit, God does not have a problem with our imperfections, as long as our imperfections are related to our pursuit of holiness and service for Him.

However, God does have a problem when there is little or no pursuit toward this godly goal. God does have a problem with those children of God who are not pressing on toward holiness and are not pressing on in becoming all He intended for them to become in their character and service for Him. God does have a problem when the stumbling is not toward holiness, but away from holiness, as in having little or no intent to be holy in all their behavior even though God has commanded them to be holy because their God is holy. That’s when God has a problem with it! And whatever God has a problem with will become a problem for God’s people if they are not pursuing what God has called them to pursue!

Remember, to several of the Churches of Revelation God told them that He had several things against them, many concerned their compromising with the sins of their culture. And He was especially disturbed by the believers of Laodicea over their ‘lukewarm’ attitude toward their relationship with Him and their responsibilities to Him. Friends, take your spiritual temperature often! Make sure it’s stays ‘high’. You do not want it to fall into a ‘lukewarm’ temperature towards Christ, in your worship and service for Christ. That sets you up for discipline now and loss of Kingdom privileges later. You do not want to have to deal with the consequences of having lived a lukewarm life as a follower of Christ.

But again, even when we have a really warm or hot temperature for seeking to follow our God, God knows that we stumble in many ways, as the Apostle James says. But He also wants us to know that “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” Ps 37:23-24 NLT How wonderfully encouraging is it to know that?! How great to know that not only does the Lord know that we still fall short in holiness and righteousness, but He is also ready to forgive and to lift us up again and again to walk with Him again. He even tells us this in Ps 147:11- “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.” NKJV So God takes pleasure in those who seek to follow Him, and at the same time who also look to God to trust in His mercy when we fall…or fail to follow as much as we had hoped.

We could also put it like this. God wants us to enjoy our attempts at holiness and obedience, and at the same time, to not be dismayed at our imperfections in both. Oftentimes the Accuser of the Brethren, as well as our own distorted conscience, uses the imperfections of our obedience to discourage us in our discipleship. Every imperfect obedience you do is not intended to add guilt to you, but to inspire thanks to Jesus for His perfect obedience for you…in your place. But, again, the devil and the flesh always look for reasons in ourselves to rejoice, as though we ourselves are the source of our righteousness and strength. But that is not only a deception of the devil, it also sets us up to get caught up in either the sin of self-pride or sin of self-pity. The problem is that both are looking to the ‘Self’ as the source for rejoicing. We have trouble with rejoicing because we look to the wrong source…ourselves…No, remember, our ways are imperfect, at best. Again, The Lord tells us to enjoy the gifts and the talents and the abilities that He has given us to enjoy. However, when it comes to ‘rejoicing’, we are to rejoice in Christ alone, as being the only source of all good things. Phil 4:4-Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! NASU The word for ‘rejoice’ here is nearly synonymous with what Paul says in Gal 6:14- “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” KJV So both could also read: “Glory in the Lord always; again, I will say, glory!”…and “But God forbid that I should ‘rejoice’, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” There is an ultimate rejoicing and an ultimate glorying that belongs to Christ alone, as being the only source of our righteousness, our joy, and our peace.

To rejoice in ourselves is to steal the glory that belongs to God alone. When it comes to ‘rejoicing’, rejoicing has both one direction and one source: Rejoice in the Lord. Yes, be happy at your attempts at holiness. Yes, enjoy your efforts of obedience. Yes, be encouraged by your growth in your character and conduct. Yes, enjoy the gifts and the talents and abilities that God has given you for blessing in your family and career and leisure pursuits. But when it comes to rejoicing, reserve your rejoicing for rejoicing in Christ alone…especially when it comes to your relationship and your fellowship with Christ. What do we mean?

Well, back to Christ’s perfections and our imperfections. Even the Old Testament prophets revealed that the source of our peace and our joy is found not in our own imperfect righteousness, but in our Savior’s perfect righteousness. Notice: Isa 45:24-25- “The people will declare, “The Lord is the source of all my righteousness and strength.”…In the Lord all the generations of Israel will be justified, and in Him they will boast.” NASB Remember, our right standing with God in our salvation is based upon the gift of Christ’s own perfect righteousness that He earned in His obedient life for us and then gave to us in His gift of salvation to us. We are saved by both His perfect obedience to the Law and His perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins. So again, we are to enjoy our efforts to practice righteous living, but we are to rejoice, we are to glory in the perfect righteousness of Christ whereby we a right relationship with God and thus, eternal life with God!

So, we will be and we should be aware of our imperfections in righteousness and in holiness. But this is not to cause us to despair, but to cause us to press on…to press on in pursuing the perfect, the completion of becoming all that God created us to be and to do. And it should cause us to rejoice even more in the righteousness of Christ that He has clothed us in for our salvation and rejoice in the holiness of Christ that he has bestowed upon us in His holy relationship with us. Knowing our imperfections keeps us humble. Knowing Christ’s perfections that cover us keeps us rejoicing! We need both!

  1. AHIPS! (Acronyms Hidden In Plain Sight), p. 61 Readers Digest, Sept. 2022