Don’t Be A Self Made Christian, Be a Jesus Made Christian

Today on my journey through the internet, I came across this website and I need to quote it to you.

My hero, John Fletcher, the 18th century Vicar of Madeley, was a seeker after God. His heart’s desire was to press in to love Him more fully.

When I visited his grave a few years ago, I prayed, “Lord, make me a John Fletcher.”

He drew up this list of questions for personal reflection at the end of the day:

1. Did I awake spiritual, and was I watchful in keeping my mind from wandering this morning when I was rising?
2. Have I this day got nearer to God in times of prayer, or have I given way to a lazy, idle spirit?
3. Has my faith been weakened by unwatchfulness or quickened by diligence this day?
4. Have I this day walked by faith and eyed God in all things?
5. Have I denied myself in all unkind words and thoughts? Have I delighted in seeing others preferred before me?
6. Have I made the most of my precious time, as far as I had light, strength, and opportunity?
7. Have I kept the issues of my heart in the means of grace, so as to profit by them?
8. What have I done this day for the souls and bodies of God’s dear saints?
9. Have I laid out anything to please myself when I might have saved the money for the cause of God?
10. Have I governed well my tongue this day, remembering that “in a multitude of words there wanteth not sin”?
11. In how many instances have I denied myself this day?
12. Do my life and conversation adorn the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Now, this is all very admirable, and certainly people would say, “wow, he’s really got this Christian thinking down.”  Well, as much as I want to agree with this reverend, I have to disagree with it for a number of reasons.

First, I want to note that everything on this list is good.  If you were to run through this check list, sure enough, you’ll be doing pretty good.  People may observe you and say, “Wow, that’s a great person, we could model our lives after that person.”  And it’s great to be a role model to people, I don’t want to minimize the affect of positively impacting people’s lives.

So, what’s the problem?  The problem is the focus.  From a Biblical perspective, if we start asking ourselves “how can I adjust my life, …” we’re already starting on the wrong foot.  And even worse, we can become a stumbling block to people who are trying to live righteously, because they will see you following your own personalized version of the holy code and commandments, and feel like they aren’t living up to a good enough standard.

What happens when you fall short on your own goals?  You’ll feel ashamed, weak, and distant from what and who God wants you to be.  Welcome to the world of shameful living.  This isn’t new, either.  Think of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.  And don’t think for a second that the people that crucified Jesus didn’t start with good intentions.  We can see a spiritual truth in how the Pharisees behaved; when they make up the rules and live rigidly, there is no place for Jesus in your life.  When we live by a set of rigid rules, we are sacrificing Jesus in our lives, and putting ourselves in the drivers seat.

Matthew 5:17 (NASB) says this:

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

We are no longer bound to the law the same way Jewish people were before Jesus’ resurrection, because they had to live by the law through faith in the grace of God because they knew (and still know) that their actions alone can’t be perfect (which is why they had to practice sacrifice).  And now there is a new shift of understanding, that God resides with each of us as individuals.  It’s no longer an issue of following the anointed leader (such as one of the Judges, or Kings), but we all receive the anointing and we all have the power through Christ.  We can’t live up to the law, but in Christ, it is fulfilled, and we are in Christ.

In being in Christ, we have to die to self.  This doesn’t mean some ritualistic suicide.  It means restricting yourself and allowing Christ to control what you do, how you think, where you go, and how you do those things.  Paul puts it bluntly in Galatians 2:20 (NASB):

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

People often don’t realize that this isn’t an issue of how much you can give up in your life for Christ.  I know it seems that way, but when you think like that, you turn your service time into an issue of quantity.  Let me assure you, God doesn’t need you to do any tasks, He can do them quite efficiently on His own without anyone’s help or intervention.  So now, you’re confused.  You know that you have to give up your own intentions to follow Christ, but how do you do it without force?  This is something that has picked at my brain for some time.  I don’t have an immediate answer, but what I can say from my own spiritual experience is that God can do whatever He pleases whenever He pleases, but God is a gentleman, and respects the lives that He created, and in contrast, if God wants you to do something, you are going to do it, whether you acknowledge it or want to.  It’s not a matter of how holy you are, nor an issue of how much time you log in prayer.

You are always going to be a work in progress while you roam this world, and you are going to screw things up, and also going to succeed at many things.  So, rather than trying to force God into whatever you feel fit to offer to Him (because honestly, there will always be nooks and crannies that you really wish God would ignore), be open to the possibility that God can use you for a miracle.  Miracles aren’t always raising the dead, or speaking in a strange language.  Sometimes the miracle is offering to take a homeless person somewhere to get food, or giving a hurting person a hug.  All these things build faith, and I believe that God can grow your faith from a tiny seed into a sturdy tree.  Never has anyone started a faith journey and moved a mountain the first day; look at the disciples, who lived and interacted with Jesus, God in the flesh!

I believe God can work in your life.  Just be open to the possibility that God has covered your sins, and will work with you in whatever state you’re in.


8 thoughts on “Don’t Be A Self Made Christian, Be a Jesus Made Christian

  1. While I don’t disagree with what you are saying – it doesn’t quite tally with my experience – although I freely accept that may be because I am still a beginner in this faith business!

    Take the following (slightly odd) example. For reasons I still don’t fully understand, I believe God encouraged/prompted me to start learning the drums 4 years ago – and it has been an interesting journey. But one thing I know, is that often it takes an effort of will to sit down and practice the drums – but when I do, the results are worth the effort and I believe God gets involved in that “effort”. Maybe, this is a metaphor for our Christian lives – sometimes it is an effort of will to go to a prayer meeting with my church family – but when I get there – God opens up his heart to me, and encourages / challenges me ….. but it took a bit of effort to get me there….

    Here are well known verses

    22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

    What is the last one all about!

    Anyway, just my thoughts!

    1. Hi Richard,

      Thanks for responding. I didn’t mean to say that Christianity is effortless. I mean to say that we can’t push in doors that God hasn’t opened for us. I certainly would agree with you that we need to have effort and willingness in our Christian walks.
      If you look back to the list I quoted, you’ll notice that all of these things are introspective, or self improvement. I’d always encourage people to be the best they can be, but we have to be the best by subduing ourselves and allowing Christ to live through us, as Paul mentioned in Galatians 2:20 (and a few other places, too). If it’s just self improvement, then we’re changing salvation from faith and grace to works, and that just doesn’t fly in the Bible or in the eyes of Jesus.

      But my brother, keep drumming and following Jesus.

  2. But I don’t think John Fletcher was trying to “self improve,” at least, perhaps, not like we think of it. That list summed up what he gathered the Christian life looked like. He wanted to live a true Christian life.

    We often speak of accountability, and this was his personal accountability. The ritual part of it was that he would ask himself these questions each day. He did not, I don’t think, attempt ritualistic suicide. Instead, he took his cue for life from Christ.

    Jesus rebuked Peter because he had his mind set on human things and not divine things. If Peter were to adjust his mindset he would have to ask himself, among other things, “How can I adjust my life?” Likewise, we surrender our lives so that Christ can adjust where necessary.

    Stay blessed…another john fletcher

    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for reading :)

      I am by no means criticizing John Fletcher. I am being more critical of the Reverend who wanted to be more like John Fletcher rather than more like Jesus. I don’t know much about Mr. Fletcher, but I’d assume he was a rather respected Christ follower, so I don’t mean to be harsh on his character or spirit. I’m just surprised that a person in a pastoral position would rather say, “I want to be like John Fletcher,” than “I want to be more like Jesus.” I’m sure Mr. Fletcher would have been seeking to be more like Jesus.

      Why desire to be like the copy rather than the original?

      1. Because Scripture directs us to learn from and emulate our spiritual leaders. 2Tim 1:5 chronicles the faith as it was passed to Timothy, 2 Thess 2:15 tells us to hold fast to the traditions that were given us, and Hebrews 11 is a list of people of faith throughout history, culminating with the admonition to do likewise.

        Our salvation is greater than our justification, it is the complete change of our inner nature. This is the difference between being saved from the consequences of our sin, and being saved from our sin itself. The former is justification, being made right with God; the latter is sanctification, being made a new creation. The scope of our salvation entails both, and sanctification requires our participation.

        As a pastor myself, I applaud the reverend who uses John Fletcher’s self-reflecting analysis of the heart. If more Christians did that, we’d see a very different church today.

        1. Hi Mr. Hanna
          Perhaps I misdirected my message. It’s not a bad thing to look up to spiritual leaders, but anyone who does this needs to guard themselves from making their leader an idol.
          Scripture doesn’t directly tell us to hold fast to our traditions (although I’m willing to change that statement if you can give me a book/chapter/verse), nor does it tell us to emulate our spiritual leaders (again, I’ll recant if there is some scripture to back that up). 2 Thessalonians tells the people in Thessalonica not to be swayed to believe that they are in the “time of the Lord” (because the apostasy had not happened then; 2 Thess 2:1-3) and that they should hold fast to the teachings Paul gave them (because, as you know from your seminary training, they didn’t have the compiled Bible then).

          It does tell us to Go and Make Disciples (Matt 28:19), meaning build and set people up to follow and emulate Jesus. On earth, we have many great spiritual leaders, but the only leader that we can look to, who has no blemish against Him, is Jesus. As I stated in my post, I’m sure John Fletcher was a great man of faith, but if I weigh him against Jesus, Jesus wins.

          That’s all to say that I appreciate your response, even though I may disagree with you a tad bit. But that’s the beauty of the Body of Christ, we are diverse, but we hold strong together!

          Keep preaching and don’t lose the zest of the Holy Spirit!

  3. I enjoyed your commentary..
    May the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ continue to guide us, He and only He will open the doors for us when we are faithful to Him. Stewardship, comes to mind today.

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