But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit. (Romans 7:6)
Romans 7 is the cure for perfectionism.
Some of you live under a crushing burden. Let me try to describe what it is like, and then to show you how what we have been learning here is the truth that will set you free.
You say to yourself, I am a new creation in Jesus Christ. I died and I rose with him. I have a new life in Christ. The Holy Spirit of God lives in me. Therefore I should be able to live a truly holy life.
So you set your mind to that task. You say, I am going to get it right as a wife and as a mother. I am going to get it right as a husband, father, leader. I am going to live as Christ calls me to live and as the Holy Spirit empowers me to live.
And yet somehow you never do. What actually happens is that you spend a great deal of time worrying when you should be trusting, and you find that you are constantly frustrated with yourself for not being a better Christian.
All over the congregation, there will be women and men who recognize that description. The problem for the perfectionist is that she takes seriously the power of Christ, but does not adequately consider the ongoing presence of sin.
There’s more to sin than wrong actions that you can put behind you when they have been confessed and forgiven. There’s more to it than that. We have been learning from Romans 7 that sin is a power. It is an impulse that resides in you, and even though you are a Christian, this impulse remains in you.
As long as you are in this life, you will never become the perfect Christian. You will never be able to say, “I did it! I lived the life that God has called me to live!” Thank God for that, because if you did, you would have lost sight of your need for a Savior!
However far you progress in the Christian life, you will be, till your last breath in this life, a sinner who depends wholly on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to save you. You need him as much on your best day as you do on your worst. When you see that, you will be delivered from the crushing burden of perfectionism.