What Kind of Christian Are You?

By Richard Baxter

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A Faithful Christian?

A genuine Christian is far more concerned about his duty to God than events around him. He cares more about what God thinks of him, than what he shall get from God in this life. He looks more to his responsibility to God than God’s care for him. He knows that he is the one who is likely to fail; God will never fail in the least of His promises.

A sound Christian is much more suspicious of himself than of God. When anything goes wrong he blames himself, not God’s providence (or bad luck!). He knows that the hairs of his head are numbered. His heavenly Father knows what he needs. God is infinitely wiser in directing his life than he is to choose for himself. He understands that God loves him better than he can love himself. Therefore he thankfully accepts that gracious invitation, “cast all your care on him, for he cares for you”, 1 Peter 5:7. Such a Christian is happy submitting to the Lord’s command “Take no thought what you shall eat or drink, or what you shall wear”, Matthew 6:25.

A Feeble Christian? The weak Christian is continually guilty of meddling with God’s part of the work. He’s often sinfully anxious about the future – especially his own. What will become of him and of his family? He constantly craves security in his job. He is fearful about the future of the church, as if he were afraid that God might prove forgetful, unfaithful or insufficient for his own work. That is how imperfect is his trust in God.
A False Christian? The false Christian never really trusts God at all. His trust is in himself, in his own schemes and strength. Or maybe he trusts his fellow man. He’s like the archer who wants two strings on his bow if he can. His greatest trust for anything lies in what creatures like he can do. He knows enough scripture to realize that God alone can save his soul, so he must trust in God. But he is more concerned about his life than his soul. This means that, in practice, he trusts man more than God with his life and prosperity. He may even give God the glory, but it is man that does the work of saving and caring.
A Faithful Christian? The faithful Christian is much more concerned about his own duty towards others, than of theirs to him. He is far more fearful of doing wrong, than of receiving wrong. He is more troubled if he speaks ill of him. Such a Christian would rather be slandered himself, than slander others; or be censured himself than censure others; or be unjustly hurt himself, than unjustly hurt another. He would rather be robbed of his own possessions or his rights, than rob another of his.

Such a Christian reproves himself more frequently and judges himself more severely than he does others. He is more likely to be dissatisfied with his own faults than he is with the failings of others. His own sins trouble him more than all the sin in the world around him. He sees himself as his greatest enemy, knowing that his greatest danger is in his own heart. If only he could escape from himself, no one in earth or hell could draw him into sin.

The faithful disciple is more concerned to carry out his duty to his government, his parents, his pastor or his employer, than of their duty to him. He is more willing to be oppressed, abused or unjustly afflicted by them, than to dishonour them or be disobedient to them in any lawful thing. Why? He knows simply that sin is worse than present suffering. He does not have to answer for others sins, only for his own. He shall never be condemned for the sin of anyone but himself. Millions will be condemned for wronging others, but no one for being wronged by others. As for his own sins, he is justified by faith in Jesus Christ.

A Feeble Christian? Weak Christians believe the same things, but with a greater mixture of sin. They stand out because they are frequently censuring others, complaining of their wrongs and finding fault with them. They generally make mountains of complaints from the molehills of petty wrongs they endure against themselves. These feeble brethren are more uncharitable, more partial and more selfish than their faithful counterparts.

Few things show up the weakness of grace in Christians more than when they are biased and see the failings of others, rather than their own. It is common to both hypocrites and weak Christians to magnify all that is done against them while, at the same time, they extenuate or justify all that they do against others.

What a noise they make, if they think that any one has wronged them, defamed them, disparaged them or encroached on their rights. If God Himself is blasphemed or abused, they can bear it patiently. To them it is no great ordeal, nothing to get angry about. But let someone suggest that they are less than the acme of perfection and they leap to their own defense with passionate invective!

The selfish person believes that a man does him wrong when he keeps him from getting whatever he wants, or says anything about him that he doesn’t like. Go to the various civil courts in our country. Why are people suing one another? Was it for defaming one another? Visit the prisons. What put the inmates there, zeal for God, or crimes of selfishness? Certainly, it was not for zeal for God, but the selfishness of fallen human nature. Whose rights and honour are men more concerned about – God’s or theirs?

There are plenty of complaints against politicians in our country! There is certainly a great deal of injustice around, with misery caused by unjust laws which exalts perverts, protect criminals from their just deserts and punish parents who dare to discipline their children biblically.

But how few grieve over their sins against lawful government, both civil and ecclesiastical! Some pastors complain of the people’s contempt when they dare to rebuke their sin. Some people complain of the pastor’s inadequacy and inconsistent lives. The boss complains how hard it is to get good employees, the kind that will work as honestly and faithfully as if the business were their own. Employees complain that their employers overwork them or discriminate against them. Landlords claim that their tenants abuse their property and tenants accuse their landlords of oppressing them with high rents.

If you and I are faithful Christians, our most common and saddest complaint should be against ourselves. We are simply not the good citizens, employers, employees, parents and church members that we ought to be. You and I cannot be judged or condemned, except for our own sin. How much more therefore should we fear, feel, and complain of our own faults, than of those of others.

(Adapted from “The Character of a Confirmed Christian” in the Practical Works of Richard Baxter)