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The Curse of Nominal ChristianityNovember 29, 2016
Ask almost any Bible-Centered, God-glorifying, Christ-exalting and Spirit-directed pastor what his is biggest enemy inside and outside the church and he will most likely point to some expression of nominal or cultural Christianity. The terms are interchangeable. Nominal Christianity is a kind of Christianity in which a person really and seriously professes to be a Christian but shows really little or no evidence of a changed and ever changing life. Such a person has almost none of the biblically identifying marks that always characterize genuine Christians. Nominal Christianity in American, Canadian, and Western European Cultures is called cultural Christianity because it is by far the most prevalent form of Christianity found in the majority of professing Christians in the mainline denominations (Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, and Episcopalian). The challenge of cultural or nominal Christianity is that those who possess it and thus profess to be Christians have so little true Biblical knowledge of what being a Christian really is that they really think genuinely and sincerely that they are Christians. They are deeply and dreadfully deceived by the devil.
A true Christian is a person who is possessed by Christ Jesus who is Lord. A true Christian is a person to whom God has come in His Spirit to show this person that he is a sinner under God’s wrath and needs God’s mercy. Such a person under conviction of sin turns from living for himself to Jesus and begins to learn and to live what Jesus wants for him or her. This person begins at a very simple and basic level to love what Jesus loves. These simple evidences become the basic identifying marks of a true believer: love for the worship of God with the people of God, love for the church and a desire to gather regularly and routinely at least on the Lord’s Day with fellow believers, a love of the Bible and an unquenchable desire to read it and to study it, a love for communion with God in prayer, a love for fellowship with other believers, and a deep and growingly intense hatred of sin with an increasing disaffection or the things of this world. These words do not describe Mr. or Ms. Super Christian. They are the simple essentials in the life of any and every true believer. When they are absent for long seasons, they may wane for a time, we have every reason to question whether or not we are really a Christian at all. But no nominal or cultural Christian would ever truly examine themselves; their favorite doctrine is “once saved, always saved.” But what they mean by that is not at all what the Bible means by that precious promise from God.
So, how does a person become a nominal Christian? What are the marks? Why do we have so many in our churches and in our culture? A person becomes a nominal Christian by being a part of a church that accepts people as Christians whenever they fulfill the ritual requirements of that church. Those requirements can range all the way from being baptized as an infant to walking an aisle and making a decision for Jesus. There is nothing wrong with these rituals, but they do not in and of themselves make us Christians. A nominal Christian though is certain that he is saved by what he has done. He then lives his life as he wills it. He may attend church from time to time if the service is not too stuffy or the music is not too loud or heaven forbid if the preacher keeps it within thirty! He professes to belong to Jesus but never tells anybody that He does and his attendance at church is totally up to him. He comes whenever he is able. He gives. No tithing here. He does not read the Bible that way, or so he says; but he doesn’t really read the Bible anyway on any other day. He sees himself as a pretty decent dude or dame who is better than so many he knows and besides, since God is good and loving and kind etc. and since he is doing the best he can and since he did “make that decision” he is confident that he is on the train to heaven. Such a person is a nominal Christian. They profess what they do not possess. They are deceived by the devil and under the condemnation of a good and just God.
And how did we get so many in the church and the culture? That is another blog for another day. It is enough to pray for people that you know who are this kind of person. They need Jesus. We need to love them and pray for enough pain in their lives to bring them to Jesus.