by Brian G. Bettes
I went to my daughter’s school awards ceremony a couple of days ago. I was struck by the fact that there was a “B” honor roll, and that there was an honor roll for each semester. Are we really telling kids that they can do less than stellar work for only part of the year and still be on the honor roll? In my school growing up, if you didn’t maintain a straight “A” report card all year long, you didn’t make the honor roll. When did we start telling our children that all they have to do is be slightly above average, and they get honored for that?
That reminds me of when schools were passing out “Participant” trophies. Really? We give out a trophy for just showing up, being there, and participating? Is that what our society is lauding as achievement; to just show up and join in? There was a TV commercial a few years ago that flashed several middle-school-aged kids up on the screen who said things like, “I aspire to reach middle-management someday,” and, “In life, I want to be an average achiever,” and, “I can’t wait to grow up to succeed at mediocrity.” The commercial was using “demotivational statements” to make the point that nobody really plans to fail, yet that is exactly what will happen if a person fails to plan, and then doesn’t follow through and execute.
People don’t end up in lives they are disappointed in because they didn’t try. They end up there because all they did was try. In other words, they were headed in the right direction, but when upsets and challenges arose, because their mentality was to just “try,” they gave up when the going got tough. They simply accepted mediocrity and “settled in.” They were aiming in the right direction at their target, but they didn’t demand the absolute best out of themselves, so they became content when they hit the target, but missed the mark.
Is this the standard God has set for us?
Being a Christian isn’t about becoming a better human being—a better “us.” God is not limiting His vision to a “new and improved” you and me. Being a Christian is about becoming like Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father. God’s goal for us is not just to make us better people, but rather, to make us into Him, what He is now, which is pure righteousness, with the purpose of reproducing Himself; Him created in us.
Like a refiner watches to see a perfect image of himself come clear in the silver he is purifying, God is intently watching us to see His perfect character, His perfect Divine Nature, His image within us, come clear and reflect back to Him when we are “finished” (1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:18). This cannot be accomplished if we are consistently just slightly off, missing the mark.
God expects that, over time, with study of His Word to get to know His mind, repentance from those character flaws His Word reveals to us, using prayer, fasting, meditation, and fellowship with other of His children who are like-minded as tools, we will learn to consistently hit His mark of righteousness. Understand, we don’t have any input into where the mark is set. God alone tells us what the mark is (2 Corinthians 10:5). We are to be holy as He is holy, and purify ourselves as He is pure (1 Peter 1:15-16; 1 John 3:3).
In Scripture, 220 times in the Old Testament, and 37 times in the New Testament sin is defined as “miss,” or, “miss the mark.” Missing the mark means we were aiming for the target, and usually hit somewhere on the target. But the “mark,” or what we call the bullseye, is what we are aiming for and missed. Nobody I know intentionally misses the mark when aiming at it. The objective is not to see how close we can get to the mark, but intentionally miss it.
I have heard some say, “Is just hitting the target so bad? I mean, I was aiming in the right direction. That should be good enough, right?” In target practice, hitting the target only shows you how much you need to adjust, or improve, in order to hit the mark. So no, hitting the target is not a bad thing, but it isn’t the goal. However, it isn’t the standard that is expected in a shooting event. In a shooting event, it is the one who consistently hits the mark the most that wins the prize.
Spiritually speaking, the analogy is the same. God says when we aim for His righteousness, and we don’t succeed at hitting it; we miss the mark. To carry the analogy further, hitting the target of righteousness, and maybe even hitting close to the mark, is good, but that is not what He is expecting, yea, demanding of us. Hitting the target, but missing the mark only shows us how much we need to adjust our thinking, and our actions, in order to be like Him; to hit, or perfect, His holiness within us (2 Corinthians 7:1). That sweet spot where we are right on the mark with God and His righteousness is what we are aiming for, and what we need to learn to consistently hit.
This is about an attitude more than anything else. Matthew 7:21-23 sheds some light on this. Here we have people who did many things in Jesus’ name, thinking they were pleasing Him, or hitting the mark. They were shooting at the target, but they missed the mark. As a result, He said He did not know them and sent them away.
As I have said previously, understand that Jesus did not die so that sin could be accepted in any way, shape, or form. Jesus died because sin is completely unacceptable in God’s realm; there is no place for sin whatsoever. As a result, the only way we can approach our Father is through the perfection of Jesus Christ.
Note Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” However, just because we are not condemned doesn’t mean we can have a cavalier attitude toward sin, or stop striving for His perfection within us. No, indeed, quite the opposite. Missing the mark of His character only shows us how much more we need Jesus living in us by the Holy Spirit. That is the process that will change us to be like Him (Galatians 2:20)!
Having a lackadaisical attitude toward sin is a sin. Thinking, “I don’t have to (insert whatever we don’t want to work that hard at removing from our character here). It doesn’t really matter to God. The Father will forgive me because Christ’s sacrifice covers that.” Being lazy in our approach to removing sin and worshipping God is a sin (1 John 1:7-10).
If we do not show the highest regard for Jesus and our Father, we are attempting to lower Them to our level, our standard of thinking. Instead, we should be lifting Them up to the highest level of honor that They deserve, then striving to become like Them ourselves. Look at how the angels who surround Them treat Them (Revelation 4:8-11). Are we better than they are? We must be careful not to be stubborn and proud before the Great and Holy God! We must be fully committed to remove sin from our lives, to become perfect as He is perfect. As long as we draw breath, our responsibility to Them is to continuously strive to no longer miss the mark.