Nominal Christianity has become quite normal and it would be argued that this is evident when you know what biblical Christianity looks like. I would make a wager that this claim is only offensive to the nominal Christians, and that this is offensive for good reason; conviction. It is important to note that it would be unloving to avoid such a topic. If an individual is in a burning house, but doesn’t realize it, you don’t stand there and let them burn in ignorance, you alert them. Nominal is quite a term and it means the possession of a baseless title, description, or name. It is merely a prefix to your identity without having any bearing on your actual identity. This is the plague of the modern church, though, it certainly is not a new phenomenon.
The kicker is realizing that many churches and denominations are filled with nominal Christians with this prevalent idea that Christianity is merely a cultural – or social – construct that is just “good for them” or “a structured lifestyle”. Some individuals are ‘Christian’ because that is the culture they grew up in or because their parents are Christian in name. Sometimes the Christianity of such individuals is so shallow that they believe that attending church once a week is the means of salvation. On the other side of the pendulum, there are those who are nominal in the sense that they see a false Christianity as the true Christianity, that is, they hold to legalism without realizing it. Christianity becomes a means of ‘self-help’, or ‘life-improvement’, or a guide for living, but I assure you, that is not Christianity.
“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1)
Christianity is much more than a name you tack on or a moral principle you adopt. It is a matter of being transformed, having your dispositions changed, from hating sin and to loving God. To live for and love God; obeying him, striving for holiness, working on your relationship with him, that is Christianity. Nominal Christians can adopt many moral principles but theologically they cannot truly adopt the most important; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Matthew 22:37-30; Mark 12:30-31). They cannot adopt, nor desire to adopt, Jesus’ words, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24), meaning you must die to yourself (take up your cross) and live for him. Jesus tells the disciples, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15), and Paul restates these truths in saying, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1).
It is worth looking more at this particular verse; laying down your life (present yourself as a living sacrifice), and following Jesus (holy). Notice too, “acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Worship is not a song you sang on Sunday morning or listening to a sermon that you didn’t pay attention to, no, it is a mode of living as a living sacrifice in holiness which is acceptable to God. This of course does not mean that we do not sin as saints, I would never suggest that, but Christianity is not a hat you put on and take off. It is a radical change from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh which causes you to love God, and strive after him while abiding in Christ and his word. This leads to the inevitable recognition, confession of, and killing of sin in your life. If you live in sin, never inclined to confess it, and never growing in holiness, you are a nominal Christian and are in grave danger.
Questions we must ask ourselves; do you love God, genuinely, want to follow him and obey him? Does your trust in God lead you to action, aka; is your faith genuine? Has your life been changed radically by the work of God by means of the gospel and sanctification? Do you grow in these qualities? Do you love the scriptures? Do you spend time in them, or put them aside for other tasks? Do you work to learn what they say and how it can be applied in your life? Do you conform your mind to scripture or let your old worldview prevail? Do you share the gospel, or care for the salvation of others? Do you want Christianity for God or for what you can try to get from God? Do you love the church? Desire to serve other Christians and love the faithful proclamation of scriptures from sound teachers? Do you detest the twisting of scripture and false doctrines or systems that emphasize the glory of man over the glory of God? Do you struggle with sin, or love your sin? Do you desire to be holy and to love God more or do you remain apathetic?
This is not an exhaustive questionnaire, but hopefully a thought provoking one. It is no doubt we have spiritual lows and times of struggling with sin. I struggle daily, and I certainly don’t do as much as I ought to, and I want to stress that I would never claim otherwise. In fact, it is true that we cannot live perfectly, but what is the direction of our lives? There are two choices; you either move towards God or away from God, which direction are you going? It is important for all individuals who call themselves Christians to examine themselves, in fact, it’s a command from scripture.
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Corinthians 13:5