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.