I think we’ve all heard the phrase: “Practice makes perfect.” It’s a phrase meant to encourage consistent effort towards a goal. Whether you are trying to improve your capacity to master that difficult piano concerto, or be able to keep your balance true and your momentum consistent as you do fouettés in dance class, or steadily increase the percentage of foul shots you make in basketball, “practice makes perfect” is a compelling motivator to keep at it. And certainly, since the adults in our lives have repeated it so often, it must be true that if we do keep at it, the day is coming when we will perform—whatever it is we practice—perfectly and according to our deepest wishes. At least we subconsciously believe that to be the case, and we pass on the idea to others whom we want to encourage in the same way. BUT…is it really true? Will practice be the thing that eventually brings us to consistent perfection?
And what about when it comes to our deepest spiritual longings, will practice make us perfect? I can see how any of us could carry the “practice makes perfect” line of thinking over into our view of spiritual things. If practice could really make us perfect at the piano, then it would make sense that it could also be the way we become perfect in patience, or in humility, or in love. But, again I ask, is it really true? Will practice bring us to ultimate perfection?
A young man who was speaking in our sacrament meeting about perfection said: “I can be perfect for about a couple of hours is all,” insinuating that perfection is what you do and not what you are. The truth is: Because of the fall of man, we can’t be perfect for even a second in this imperfect world.
This new blog series investigates what I feel is a more accurate statement regarding perfection of any kind: “Practice makes perfect progress; Jesus makes perfect.”
And since this blog has always been about the things of God, I will be sticking to spiritual matters.
The scriptures tell us this about Christ: “…being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5: 9). So, Jesus was made perfect by His Father, and now desires to make us perfect.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf said: “Christ-like attributes are gifts from God. They cannot be developed without His help” (Ensign, October 2008, pp. 4-9).
Just as our Savior developed what we call “Christ-like” attributes through His Father’s blessing and help, so must we do the same with our Savior’s blessing and help (see D&C 93: 11-20). Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28: 18), and “all power” includes the power to bring us to perfection…to make us perfect. Those that will end up living in God’s celestial world are described in this way: “These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (D&C 76: 69). “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10: 32). So we see that Jesus is the power through which perfection comes to us. God has given Him this power and this charge. Not only is perfection possible because of Christ, and in Christ, and through Christ, but Jesus, Himself, is very involved as a hands-on participant in the process of our perfection. It is His great desire and pleasure to one day present us to the Father, spotless and without blemish, complete and fully developed, finished and perfected.
These are the good tidings of the gospel of Jesus Christ: that all sin can be abolished, and that all our weaknesses and imperfections can be taken from us! And it is through Jesus that this happens.
You may have thought that your eventual perfection was up to you and your practicing the different traits of godliness. Well, while you need to be a willing player in the process, I tell you it is Christ who will oversee and bring about the divine work of your perfection. Not you.
“I WILL DO IT”
How many times does Jesus say He will create a new heart in us, and He will make us clean? (See Ezekiel 36: 26-29.) In Jacob 5, the Lord uses the words “I, me, my, myself, or mine” some 177 times, telling us that He will do the work. “I will prune the vineyard. I will sweep away the bad. I will preserve the fruit unto mine own self.” Even though He has His servants helping Him, He says “I” have done this. Now, this could be thought of as taking too much credit for other people’s efforts. But would our Lord do that? No. Apparently He wants us to see that He is the source behind what is happening, even though He has us helping Him. Every good thing that comes, comes because of Him. Otherwise men are fallen, and “there could no good thing come unto them” (Moroni 7: 24).
And so it is with our individual perfection. We may be doing things, keeping commandments, practicing virtue and holiness, but Christ is bringing about our inward transformation to real virtue and real holiness.
Isn’t it absolutely beautiful how our Savior wants us to see how present He is through our life’s journey, to be continually reminded how un-alone we are! He wants us to know that He is sending us power, and courage, and direction from one moment to the next. Because of the veil we have forgotten Him, but He wants us to know that He has not forgotten us!
The young son of one of my friends asked him a while back: “Dad, why do people call me ‘crazy baby’?” My friend replied: “Well, maybe it’s because you are a crazy baby. Why do you think people call me a father?” His son then said: “Because you’re made out of Jesus and you can see in the dark.”
Isn’t that great…to be “made out of Jesus.” I love that! It is the Father’s intent—if we will go along with His plan—that each of us will be made into “a perfect man [or woman], unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4: 13). Jesus wants to transform us into beings that are eventually made out of the same stuff He’s made of. And…as for us being able to “see in the dark”…well, that will just be a bonus. :)
(to be continued…)