At the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matt. 7:16) It’s important to remember that those fruits include our actions as well as our words. (James 3:1-12) One of the fastest ways to identify a biblically illiterate Christian is by listening to their words. As one might imagine, someone who isn’t familiar with Scripture will often attempt to speak Bible without actually citing God’s Word. The following are 9 examples of Nominal Christian Talk…
- “It’s definitely a God thing.”
A God “thing.” You mean like…everything? Kidding. (not really) This is often a nominal Christians’ attempt to describe a remarkable event that cannot be explained without recourse to God’s direct intervention. Many would call this a miracle. Or God’s mercy. Or a God… “thing.”
- “God never gives you more than you can handle.”
This is usually an awkward attempt to summon the words of 1 Corinthians 10:13 and is sometimes preceded by the question, “Doesn’t it say somewhere in the Bible that…?” Unbeknownst to many, the Apostle Paul is actually discussing the theme of temptation. Nevertheless, the point of the passage is not our inherent power, but God’s faithfulness to allow an escape in our pursuit of obedience. His power is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9) That’s why we trust in Him in the midst of our trials…not in ourselves.
- “I asked Jesus into my heart.”
This is a phrase that nominal Christians sometimes use to verify their own salvation. Instead of looking at the fruit of their own lives and declaring the object of their faith as the foundation of their assurance, the nominal Christian may ground his assurance in a memory of some kind. Often times it was coupled with a prayer. Unfortunately, nowhere in Scripture does God command us to “ask Jesus into our heart.” We believe on Jesus. We have faith in His promises. We are even indwelled by the Holy Spirit. But contrary to many assumptions, there is not a miniature Messiah trapped in our hearts. The second Person of the Trinity sits gloriously on His throne interceding on our behalf, ruling His church through His Spirit, and will return in the same way that He ascended. (Rom. 8:34, Acts 1:9-11)
- “The Bible says don’t judge.”
The nominal Christian isn’t concerned with properly exegeting the real meaning of Matthew 7:1-3. In a world where morality is relative and one’s relationship with God is a private matter, this teaching is perhaps the nominal Christians’ favorite command! However, Jesus wasn’t prohibiting other people from telling you that you’re wrong. In fact, in light of God’s judgment of sinners and our call to holiness, He has appointed the church as the means for our spiritual growth! And that includes confronting our sin. (Matt. 18:15) God actually gives the church the authority – His authority – to judge sinners for their sanctification, not their condemnation. (1 Cor. 6:1-11) In Matthew 7, Christ’s concern is hypocrisy and the prideful log that lies in our own eyes. (Matt. 7:4) None of us can be measured against God’s standard. Therefore we shouldn’t assume that we command the position to judge others punitively. However, there is a perfectly just Judge. And He will judge us all. If we truly love our brothers and sisters, we’ll communicate this judgment to them and tell them about a loving Savior who took our judgment.
- “When I gave, it always came back around.”
This is actually the prosperity gospel masked in a seemingly harmless attempt to get someone to tithe. Malachi 3:10 is usually cited here in the hopes that someone will give their money to the church with the expectation that God will return the favor with equally material blessings. This kind of quid pro quo with God isn’t Christianity. It’s a get-rich scheme masked as faith. We give cheerfully from the overflow of our hearts, not because we want something from God. (2 Cor. 9:7) We adore Him. He’s worth our money. It’s His money anyway.
- “Now he’s an Angel in heaven.”
No he’s not.
- “God will forgive me.”
The nominal Christian doesn’t live obediently in light of God’s shed grace. He or she lives disobediently in light of God’s presumed grace. This phrase is usually uttered when sin is being contemplated despite one’s better judgment, more or less serving as a darkened rationale to appease the troubled conscience. Believe it or not, Paul actually tackles this kind of mindset in Romans 6. At the root of this statement is a lack of thankfulness toward God, a lack of fear for His name, and a complete misunderstanding of the Gospel and our call to live for Him in light of the cross. FYI: this is actually one of the quickest ways to spot a possible unbeliever. This person needs a conversation about sin and the blood of Jesus.
- “Jesus hated religion.”
Um…no he didn’t. This is a 21st century phrase used by 21st century Christians who like to turn the word “religion” into a pejorative term synonymous with whatever they don’t like about Christianity. Jesus actually had no problem with religion; what really stuck in his craw was Pharisaical faith, “white washed tombs” who outwardly professed Him while their hearts were far from Him. (Matt. 23:27, Isa. 29:13) Let’s just call this what it is. It’s not “religion”; it’s hypocrisy. If wielded carelessly, this kind of phrase can turn many people away from the church and into their own self-made religion cut off from Christian community.
- “We’re not meant to understand everything in the Bible anyway.”
This phrase is usually followed by, “The Bible even says, ‘His Ways are not our ways.’” However, Isaiah 55:8 isn’t about the obscurity of God’s Word; it’s about the mystery and unsearchable depths of God Himself. In his mercy, an infinitely glorious and transcendent God has chosen to disclose Himself to sinners in order to know them and ultimate unite Himself with them. However, this great news is lost upon the nominal Christian who abuses Scripture in order to give himself license not to seek after God in His Word. Why even try, right? He only went to extraordinary lengths to deliver the Bible to His people over the course of millennia. Seek and you shall find (Matt. 7:7). Or don’t seek…and make up excuses not to pick up your Bible and use your brain a little.
(the following are in no way a judgment of one’s salvation;)