Monday, September 28, 2015

Will Nominal Christians Go To Hell?



            The Lausanne Movement [1] characterized a nominal Christian as, “…a person who has not responded in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour and Lord. He is a Christian in name only. He may be very religious. He may be a practising or non-practising church member. He may give intellectual assent to basic Christian doctrines and claim to be a Christian. He may be faithful in attending liturgical rites and worship services, and be an active member involved in church affairs. But in spite of all this, he is still destined for eternal judgment (cf. Matt. 7:21-23, Jas. 2:19) because he has not committed his life to Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10)” [2] (Emphasis Mine).

            Lord Jesus offered many examples of nominal Christians – foolish non-practitioner of the Bible (Matthew 7:26-27), five foolish virgins (Matthew 25:8-12), seed that fell on the rocks (Luke 8:13) etc. 

            Nominal Christians are everywhere - Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox included. (Ask these questions to know if you are a nominal Christian [3])

            The causes for nominal Christianity are [4]:

            Philosophical – Pluralistic tolerance for rational alternatives and materialism.

            Sociological – Availability of multiple choices and the anonymity of city life in tandem with postmodern intellectual environment.

            Ecclesiastical – When the church preaches grace without costly discipleship, encourages and tolerates nominality, and fails to satisfy the needs of its newly converted or nominal members.   

            Isn’t Christianity all about belief in Christ? Doesn’t belief in Christ as God and as the only way to heaven gain us eternal life in heaven?

            A nominal Christian who believes in Christ as the only way to heaven has intellectually affirmed Christ’s divinity and HIS perfect salvific sacrifice on the cross. But would a mere belief suffice? Wouldn’t his belief in Christ save him from hell?

            Nominal Christians may believe that Christ is God and that HE died to save mankind from sins. But they do not love Christ. They would not share a personal, loving, obedient and a growing relationship with the Lord. The Bible, in the life of these Christians, would be a mere book; not a Holy Scripture that should be read, understood and lived.

            Dr. Ravi Zacharias defines nominal Christianity as an absence of clear understanding of Christ’s teachings [5]. Nominal Christians would not endeavor to understand Christ. 

            A nominal Christian is:

            A. Christian in name.

            B. Believer of Christ intellectually.

            C. Regular to church and may be active in church ministries

            D. Outwardly religious.

            A genuine Christian, in contrast, is the Lord’s disciple who:

            1. Responds in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ as his personal savior and Lord

            2. Progressively loves and obeys the triune God and HIS Word with all his life

            3. Yearns to be like Christ through a constant endeavor to obey the Lord   

            4. Owns a distinct fruitful lifestyle (in private and public) that constantly grows in Christ to contrast an unredeemed person

            Hypocrisy is the key to understand a genuine and a nominal Christian. Nominal Christians could fake a holy lifestyle in public, whereas inwardly they could be utterly immoral.

            God knows if a Christian repented truly and accepted the Lord Jesus as his/her personal savior and Lord. God alone knows if a Christian loves the triune God and yearns to love HIM more. Only God knows if a Christian desires to be Christlike or not.

            Other than God, the Christian knows his personal state – whether he/she is a nominal or a genuine Christian.    

            What’s wrong if nominal Christians go to heaven?

            In order to answer that, we need to ask a leading question, which is, “What is the essence of Christianity?”

            Love is the essence of Christianity. Christianity is all about God’s love for man and man’s love for God.

            God did HIS part for man in full. God saved mankind by dying on the cross of Calvary. God has expressed and continues to express HIS love. God cannot be faulted for a deficient expression of love upon mankind.

            Man, on his part, ought to freely recognize God’s deed, believe, and love God with all his life. This is the crux of man’s responsibility towards God.

            The nominal Christian fails in this responsibility.  The nominal Christian relates to God as how he relates to a fuel station to fill fuel for his automobile. When he is in trouble, he will call upon God. Just as he forgets a fuel station when his automobile is fuelled, he forgets God when trouble disappears from his life.

            If Christianity is all about love for God, and if nominal Christians do not love the triune God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, then they are lukewarm Christians. Isn’t heaven for those who love the Lord Jesus?

            Nominal Christians are lukewarm Christians. Being lukewarm is an extremely dangerous dwelling place (cf. Matthew 7:15-23;  1 Corinthians 15:34; Galatians 2:4; 1 John 2:19; 2 Peter 2:10-22; Revelation 3:15-16).   

            A word of caution is mandatory; God alone knows the identity of a nominal Christian. Christians would be wise to not brand each other as nominal for our observation is only in part and not in full. God’s knowledge of man is perfect, whereas our knowledge of each other cannot be perfect.

            Some of us unwisely and incorrectly condemn and disassociate with nominal Christians, “…you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people” (1 Corinthians 5: 11, NIV). This is an instance where a so-called Christian willfully disobeys the Lord through his sin.

            The church, in this instance, should graciously advise this Christian to renounce his sinful ways. If the sinning Christian rejects Church’s intervention, then this verse could be applied.

            Nominal Christians provide a good soil for evangelization and discipleship. The responsibility of the church is to evangelize and disciple nominal Christians. The church would fail to discharge the mandate of the Great Commission if it does not disciple the nominal Christians in its fold.  

            A critical threat to Christianity is if nominal Christians are at the helm of the local church leadership. This is a surefire recipe for disaster. Nominal Christians are Satan’s fertile soil to destroy the local church.

            How could a nominal Christian become a genuine lover of the Lord?

            By reading the Bible!

            Bible reading is mandatory for every Christian. Any earnest reader of the Bible will love God. (Yes, there are difficult passages in the Bible, but while treading through these difficult passages it would be wise to offer God the benefit of doubt, than blaming HIM.)

            A Christian who loves the Lord Jesus Christ will constantly and fervently desire to obey Christ, live for HIM, and glorify HIM. God cannot be separated from this Christian’s life. This person will greatly desire to serve the Lord through the means accorded to him. His entire life will revolve around God and God alone. He will see the world and every single activity through God’s eyes.

            Upon suffering, the disciple of the Lord will absolutely rely upon Christ to endure and overcome suffering. Suffering and pain cannot separate this Christian from God.

            May the nominal Christians grow in Christ and may this world be filled with lovers of the Lord Jesus and may we love each other with the love of Christ.

      
Endnotes:

[1] Lausanne Movement was founded by the much acclaimed Christian evangelist Dr. Billy Graham.

[2] http://www.lausanne.org/content/lop/lop-10#1

[3] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2010/09/15/are-you-a-nominal-christian-a-diagnostic/

[4] http://www.lausanne.org/content/lop/lop-23#2

[5] http://rzim.org/global-blog/ravi-zacharias-interviewed-in-baltimore-we-are-being-trapped-in-the-quicksand-of-the-absence-of-objective-truth


Cited websites were last accessed on 28/Sep/2015.

4 comments:

Denny Benjamin said...

Agreed brother

Raj Richard said...

Thank you, Denny. Always good to be in touch with a like-minded brother in Christ.

Jiji & Santhosh said...

Hi Raj,

Well written, well said.
You already covered the debatable point with "Only God knows the heart" and only HE can discriminate who is a nominal christian and who is not. God's desire is that "all must be saved and become the heirs of his inheritance".

Some of the preaching in the pulpit condemn people and as a result, many lose their confidence that they are the BELOVED children of GOD and slowly lose the relationship. The revelation of GOD's LOVE is a powerful tool against the enemy and this must be preached in pulpits to ensure HIS children that it is not about what we do will bring us to heaven, but WHAT CHRIST DID ALREADY will bring them to heaven.

in HIS Grace
Santhosh

Raj Richard said...

Hi Santhosh,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

You hit it on the head..." The revelation of GOD's LOVE is a powerful tool against the enemy and this must be preached in pulpits" But this love revelation ought to invoke a loving response, isnt it? If there is no love for God in the heart of a believer, would be remain a believer?

Although God desires that all be saved, HE allows those who disbelieve in HIM to go their way. In the same manner, my contention is what if there are Christians who intellectually affirm that Christ is Lord but do not LOVE HIM [and as a result not obey HIS commands]? Isnt love the first commandment that Christ laid out for believers? That's my point.