Summary: Nominal Christians are really no Christians at all...but you might think they are if you can’t read the signs.
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”
Over the last couple of months in our church we have spent a great deal of time talking about false teachers. We were in a study of 2nd Peter and that is what his letter is about.
In the context of that letter we learned that false teachers are deliberate, calculating, ungodly, deceptive, and ultimately doomed.
As I came to a close of my personal studies on that topic in my sermon preparation I realized that there is another group of people in the church who are seldom openly addressed and when they are they usually do not realize they are being addressed, because they are not in the condition they are in deliberately, but they are in as much danger of being doomed as the deliberate false teachers if they are not awakened to their need.
They are nominal Christians. They are Christians in name only. They are in the church, many are very busy in the work of the church, they are almost unrecognizable from outward appearances, but they are spiritually dead. This sermon is about them.
NOMINAL CHRISTIANS ARE IGNORANT (Of certain things)
First of all let me reiterate that Christians in name only are ignorant. I don’t mean that as an insult, I mean it in a very specific sense. They are ignorant of the fact that they are nominal Christians.
In fact, from here on I will refer to them as ‘religious people’. After all, if you are not spiritually born from above and do not have the Holy Spirit in you then you are not really a Christian in the true sense of the term. You are just a religious person. You are not clothed in the righteousness that Christ provides.
Let me explain that.
The Bible uses the analogy of clothing numerous times to illustrate either having or not having right standing with God.
For example, Isaiah 61:10 says, “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord. My soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation. He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness…”
The teaching of the scriptures is that spiritually speaking we are naked and unfit for His presence unless we are ‘clothed’ with the right standing that He supplies, and that spiritual clothing is applied in response to the kind of faith that turns the person from sin and places complete trust in God through the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
In the familiar story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, a couple of con men, - I guess if we were to expand this illustration they would be false teachers, or at best, liberal preachers who neglect accurate teaching of the scriptures – convince the king that they are making him a suit of clothes out of very fine and very expensive invisible fabric.
So duped is he by their constant flattery that he convinces himself he can see the wonderful new suit they have made him and he goes strutting down the street to show everyone. Of course he is naked, and because he is the Emperor no one is brave enough to tell him until a little boy shouts it out from the crowd.
This is what is happening in the case of religious people. True believers are usually shy to point out to them that they are naked because they don’t want to be censured as judgmental. In truth, the duty of the true believer is to point out error, to expose not only false teachers but empty religious people, for their own good.
That is precisely what Paul is doing in our text verse. Religious people will go on, deceived, practicing empty religion, devoid of any relationship with the Living God, until their eyes are opened to their nakedness.
When I was 23 years old, just back from a tour in Viet Nam and Thailand and visiting my parents on leave from the Air Force, my dad invited me to go to a movie with him.
We arrived about 20 minutes before the ticket booth opened so we stood by his car and chatted while we waited.
Much to my surprise I suddenly realized that the direction the conversation was taking, directed by my father, concerned the necessity for repentance and true faith in the death and resurrection of Christ for the sake of a spiritual relationship with God.
Having grown up in the church with a dad who was the preacher I heard every Sunday, it shocked me to think that my own father doubted my salvation. A short time later God did open my eyes to my actual need and in what I would have called a ‘re-dedication’ I now believe I was probably actually and finally born again.