Despite the fact that I hear it all the time, the Bible knows nothing of “nominal” Christianity. That doesn’t stop people from saying, “They are nominal Christians.” Or, “Jesus isn’t the center of his life, but he claims to be a Christian.” There is also this third one, “She is a Christian, but she really doesn’t act like it.” Sometimes the most gracious, helpful, loving thing you can do for a person is to be plainly honest with them, hoping they will listen to you. So, either to someone you know or to someone reading this letter I must say, “If you believe yourself to be a ‘nominal’ Christian you are confused and mistaken.”
Please don’t hear that as judgmental, mean-spirited, or harsh; at least not beyond the bounds of judgment and abruptness from Scripture and the words of Jesus. The fact of the matter is that you are either wholly devoted to God or you are wholly devoted to something other than God (Matt. 6:24). I am not saying you must be perfect in your thoughts, attitudes, and actions. Nor am I saying you may never stumble, have moments of doubt, or be temporarily pulled away by the pressures of this world. What I do mean to convey is that unless there is both a desire for and the evidence of intentional, heart-felt, and long-term growth in and toward Jesus Christ, you are not following Him the way Scripture describes.
This does not mean that you never get angry, covet God’s provision for others, speak unkindly, or tell a lie. However, when those things happen because of your flesh, the response and attitude of those who pursue Christ is to seek forgiveness from God and others, turn from the sin and take steps to walk differently in the future, and accept the grace and mercy that is ours through Jesus Christ when we confess and repent of our sins (1 John 1:9). When it is written down that simply, who would even want to be a “nominal” Christian? When God is full of love and Christ is full of mercy, who wouldn’t want all of Him?
Two different times in Luke 4:31-5:11 demons identify Jesus and He commands them to be quiet. Why? One of the reasons is because Jesus knows the fullness of life and the fountain of joy that comes from professing His name and giving your life to Him. It is the only name that saves (Acts 4:12). It is the name that is above every name (Phil. 2:9). When we profess it with honesty and sincerity, not just with our mouths, but with our souls also, we will be saved (Romans 10:9). Jesus will not allow those who will not submit to Him or follow Him to claim familiarity with Him. We should not encourage it either.
So, what should we do? I hope you do not take the tone of this letter too harshly. I have not written it to be a watch-dog for the title of Christian. Instead, I hope that those who read it will be encouraged to follow Christ more fully and those who know “nominal” Christians will share the good news of the hope that is ours in Christ with those who have not yet given their lives completely to Him. Some of the most fruitful work you do in evangelism may be challenging those who are around Christ and the Church to be in Christ and in the Church (not a building, but the fellowship of all those who are in Christ throughout all time).
For the sake of His name,