This post was borne out of things I often hear and conversations I’ve had with friends both Christian and non-Christian over the years about some of the things Christians say over and over. Heck, I’ve said most everything on this list at one point. Have you ever noticed that we Christians have lots of buzzwords and sayings? We have so many that some have labelled it Christianese. Like everyone else, we Christians often say things — just because. All pop culture does this. Christian pop culture is no different. I wonder if we ever take the time to look more closely at some of the words and sayings we repeat often? As we’re using the new year as a spring board to make changes in our lives, let’s also make changes in the things we say. In 2014, let’s resolve to drop the following five things from our collective vocabulary.
“God told me…”
Variants: “God showed me…” “God allowed me…” “God wouldn’t let me…” “God spoke to me…” “God said to me…”
When someone says “God told me…”, I admit that I immediately cringe. I’ve heard plenty of outrageous claims that God “told” someone something, only to find out God didn’t. Often, when I hear “God told me” I know what I’m really about to hear is someone’s sincere attempt at being spiritual, or that I’m about to hear someone’s opinion or agenda couched in a biblically-sounding “thus saith the Lord.”
When we invoke “God told me…” we must realize we are claiming a prophetic mantle for ourselves, an authority in line with Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Paul, and ultimately Jesus. We are claiming to repeat the very words of God. While I affirm that the Holy Spirit still works in our lives today applying scripture, prompting, convicting, affirming, and denying, I do not believe he is giving special and individual revelation to his church (2 Peter 1:21). Jesus is God’s final revelation to the Church and to the world. Hebrews 1:1-2 teaches just that:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”
Because Jesus speaks for us and to us through Scripture, we can be assured that the Bible alone is sufficient for communicating God’s will to his people:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
We Christians need to drop the out-dated hyper-spiritual phrase, “God told me…” from our vocabulary. It sounds silly, and in my experience 99.9% of the time what God supposedly told someone to tell me turned out to be inapplicable and untrue.
“I’ll pray for you.”
Variants: “I’ll pray about it.” “Let me pray over it.”
First off, I don’t think Christians should ever stop praying for others. We should just stop saying we’ll pray and then not pray. I plan to always say that I’ll pray about it — providing I genuinely mean it. The problem is when we say we’ll pray, but then we don’t actually pray. We essentially lie, but make ourselves look spiritual in the process. Prayer is a holy privilege (Hebrews 4:16), and so is being able to carry another’s pain, hurt, and burden before God. As Christians, we should always be praying for one another (Colossians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). But, we might as well drop the phrase from our mouths if we really aren’t praying when we say we will, or using the phrase in a way that isn’t truthful.
The idea of “rededication” – in the spiritual sense – is not found in the Bible. The aim of the gospel is not behavioral modification, which is essentially what rededication teaches. The Bible assigns another word to the action of turning from sin and turning to God: repentance. What we need is not rededication, but repentance. To repent means to change the direction of one’s heart and mind (and actions) from God toward God. Normally, the desire for repentance is produced when God the Spirit shows us our sinfulness (John 16:7-8).
Repentance must start in the heart and it must be rooted in the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It’s painful. It’s messy. It’s sometimes embarrassing. The idea of rededication achieves high fives and pats on the back and an “I’m so proud of you” or two, but the heart is left unchanged. The root of sin has not been dealt with, only its fruit. It’s great that you stopped smoking and cussing and started going back to church. We’re proud of you. But, have you turned from the root sins that caused you to embrace addiction? Pornography? Lying? Laziness? Don’t put a new coat of paint on the same old house. Build a new one. That’s the difference between rededication and repentance.
Variants: “God thing”
If we believe the Bible, we believe that God is involved at all times in every aspect of the entirety of his creation:
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17).
“A man’s steps are directed by the Lord” (Proverbs 20:24).
However, there are those who believe that God only has moments. Normally, they say things like this: “Youth group tonight was amazing. We all prayed together. It was a God moment.”
The idea of “God moments” runs contrary to the Bible. It basically says that there are ho-hum normal moments, then there are God moments. God moments are better than all other moments because something awesome happens. My problem with this is it’s essentially a deistic view of God. A deistic view of God teaches that God is removed from the everyday affairs of his creation, but intervenes at certain points in time.
We should recognize that every moment is a God moment.
“God showed up and showed out.”
This one saying I think we should drop like a hot potato. This phrase goes along with God moments. “God showed up and showed out” is fairly new to the Christian vocabulary. I don’t remember it being used until a couple of years ago. When God shows up and shows out, it means that he’s really strutting his stuff. It seems that at other times he was absent, running late, etc., but now he’s here. And he doesn’t just show up — he shows out! Kind of like a cosmic Mick Jagger. In this understanding, God is like the proverbial life of the party: It’s not a party until he shows up.
As with all these phrases, the intent is well-meaning, but the theology is off-kilter. Anytime the church is gathered, Jesus is there (Matthew 18:20; Revelation 1:20, 2:1). He is present. He promises it. We can believe it. This includes times when there’s brokenness, boredom, silence, and struggle. He’s just as powerfully present in the solemn and somber as he is in the excited and busy. God is not limited by time and space. He’s there. Always. He’s sovereign. He doesn’t have to show up — he’s already here.