We live in a goal-oriented society. If you want to get rich, promoted or elected; there’s a goal for that. If you want to lose weight; there’s a goal for that. If you want to learn to fly, or dance or play an instrument; there’s a goal for that. We admire successful people who have a process, so much so that we try to duplicate their process. When someone achieves their goal, we immediately want to know how they did it so we can do it. We eagerly await their book on how they did it and try to follow the same steps. Only to duplicate their success very, very rarely.
With every goal comes a checklist. A million goals, a million checklists. Checklists after countless checklists. Maybe someone will come up with a checklist on being successful with checklists.
Our world is consumed with this attitude. Unfortunately, so is the Church. We see someone in the church and assume they are successful. But by what standard? They are: popular, nice looking, wealthy, dress nice, drive a nice car, serve on all of the important committees, asked to pray, sit up front, sit in the back, sing in the choir, play in the worship band, smell good, greets everyone, has perfect children, gives to the poor and needy, always at church, quote scripture, love animals and animals love them, when they smile their teeth glisten, it never rains on them, and on and on. And we want to be just like them.
So we break out the “I want to be a Christian like them” checklist and off we go. We read our Bible, pray, give, attend, serve, pray, read, attend, love, give, read, pray, attend, read, love, pray, check after check after check and nothing seems to change. Why?
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ephesians 2: 8-10 (NIV).
First, we assume. That’s right, we break out the lowest form of knowledge and wear it out. Because we see these people as successful Christians we assume we can be the same if we only do what they do. Except for a fatal flaw. These folks don’t exist. We see them as something we would rather be than who we are, so instead of seeking Christ, we emulate them. Only to find out they are just as messed up with just as many problems. Often, it turns out they are a bigger dumpster fire than we are.
Second, we use a worldly standard for success only to find out it doesn’t apply in a relationship with Christ. You see, these so-called successful Christians we try to emulate are figments of our imagination. Successful in the world doesn’t necessarily correlate to being a follower of Christ. The only way you can put “success” and Christian together is in describing Jesus.
Can you imagine this conversation when you come home at the end of a day?
Spouse: “How was your day Honey?”
You: “Great. I was humiliated, spat on, cussed at, tortured, falsely accused, beaten, mocked, stripped naked and crucified. All before 9AM.”
Spouse: “That was a great day. Ready for dinner?”
If you want to put the words “successful” and “Christian” together, then that is your standard to live by each day. Nothing less. Does this mean that people who have worldly success can’t be Christians? Of course not. But that may not be God’s will for you or me.
Finally, we just flat out ignore or refuse to understand what we read in God’s Word. How can you read the Beatitudes and even begin to compare it to worldly success? Poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungry and thirsty, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and persecuted. Are these on that imaginary checklist? How can they be? What if you already are?
Reading God’s Word, praying, attending church, giving, loving and serving are all good things. But if we are doing them to please God or earn grace, then they can become a detriment to our walk with Christ. God cannot love us anymore than He already does and He cannot love us any less. We should do these things as a result of our walk with Christ and not as a requirement. We have no checklist to complete daily and earn points with God. There is no checklist to complete in hopes of being like someone else when it comes to following Christ.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses all knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3: 17b-19 (NIV).
Checklist Christianity is a false god. Each one of s are uniquely created and have a unique walk with Christ. No two walks are the same. We may cross each other’s paths but no two will be exactly alike. Don’t seek to walk someone else’s path, it may not lead you where God wants you to go. Walk your own path and grow deeper in your relationship with Him.
You may not experience dealing with a physical disease, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from a brother or sister in Christ who is. If God would have wanted us to have the same walk and do the same things the same way, why would he make us so different? I can assure you that if everyone was like me this would not be a good place to live and I would be the first to not want to live here.
No matter how different our walks may be, no matter how unique our relationship with Christ is, we all share a spot of common ground. That common ground is the foot of the Cross. At the foot of the Cross we are all the same. The pretty and the not so pretty, the poor and the rich, the not so smart and the rocket surgeons, the tall and the short and the big and the small, Christ died for each one of us just the same.
“And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”
Romans 11:6 (NIV).
Its evident Jesus didn’t live by a checklist. He loved the Father and loved others. That’s what we are called to do as well. So if you have a checklist you try to complete each day, it’s time to rip it up. If you are reading God’s Word each day in obligation, stop. If you are praying each day because you think you have to or God won’t love you, stop. If you attend church, give or serve because you think God will be upset with you and punish you, stop.
Start seeking Him and His will for your life then you will want to read His Word to discover more about what He wants to tell you and how much He loves you. You will start talking to Him and listening to Him more than you have ever done in your life and the communication with Him will comfort and strengthen you. You will begin to give when you thought there was nothing to give before and you will want to give more. You will desire to fellowship with other believers, not out of obligation, but out of joy and comfort in sharing your journey with others. You will serve because nothing comes close to satisfying you like serving others in the name of Jesus. You will forget about a useless checklist because He will lead you to places you never could imagine, put you with people you never thought existed and show you things about yourself that you didn’t know. He will lead and guide you. He will never leave you. For that no checklist exists or is needed.
There is a song by Sister Hazel called Change Your Mind. The song includes these lyrics: “If you want to be somebody else, if you’re tired of fighting battles with yourself, if you want to be somebody else, change your mind.” If you are living by a checklist and trying to be a follower of Christ, it’s time to change your mind and get rid of the checklist.
Run to the Cross!