NORMAL OR NOMINAL?
By Jeannette Haley
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;
and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body
be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 5:23
In recent months, there has been a great cry heard the world over and it is this: “I just want life to go back to normal!” Earth’s inhabitants have been greatly shaken and cruelly victimized by fake news, subversive lies, incredible loss of loved ones, businesses, property and freedoms, topped by unreasoning fear. Even though the perpetrators of this global shaking bragged about, and foretold, their evil plans through the years, the majority of people were totally caught off guard. After all, humanity is preoccupied daily with personal lifestyles, businesses, jobs, families and other pursuits such as travel, sports, partying, and pleasures. The admonition and warnings of both Scripture and our forefathers to “Watch and pray” isn’t on the majority’s list of “must do’s,” if it’s even on the list at all.
For Americans, especially, it’s unthinkable that our lifestyles and freedoms could suddenly dissipate and come to a screeching halt overnight, but that is exactly what happened. The brutal truth is that in America our God-given freedoms have been under satanic attack and slowly eroding for hundreds of years due to the “mystery of iniquity.” The inescapable fact is that the “mystery of iniquity” began in the Garden of Eden when Satan, the father of lies, slithered in and beguiled Eve with the lie, “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” Genesis 3:4b-5. What does that have to do with America and the plight we find ourselves in today, thousands of years later?
It has everything to do with it because the bottom line is there has been war between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light ever since. Satan gained the dominion over the earth that was originally intended by God for Adam; thus, the Bible informs us that he is the “god of this world” 2 Corinthians 4:4. (That means the governmental, economic and religious systems of the world.) By the time of Noah, the entire world had corrupted itself with godlessness, debauchery, evil imaginations, and unspeakable evil which brought the great flood of Noah’s day upon the earth. After the Flood, it only took four generations (Noah, Ham, Cush and Nimrod) before Babylon was built by Nimrod. This first attempt at a one-world, global religious and governmental system was judged by God with the confusion of languages. As the people were then scattered by God around the world, they took with them their paganism, idolatry, occult practices, satanic symbols, rites and rituals (such as human sacrifices). All of these things have continued through the centuries, and are very much in use today in not only underdeveloped countries, but in secret societies among the rich and powerful. Their existence is well documented. Many ancient cultures that practiced such evil have been destroyed by God through the centuries, and we know that when Jesus returns, every vestige of Satan’s kingdom will be destroyed. Some examples of the demise of great evil empires are evidenced by what has been, and is still being, discovered globally, and of particular interest to me the ancient civilizations of Mexico, Central and South America as well as the extinct race of giants and mound builders of North America.
The question today is, how awake, informed and prepared are Christians for such a time as this? How many were totally caught off-guard, blindsided with fear, and then found themselves going along with the globalist game, and “planed-emic” like sheep to the slaughter? Thankfully, there are Christians who know their God, know their Bibles, understand biblical prophecy, and are aware of the signs of the times; and, most importantly, have discernment to recognize the globalists’ lies and attempts to gain total control. For such believers, the rising specter of the end days’ Anti-Christ, one-world government is in plain sight.
However, for others, the succession of prophesied events, like a freight train rushing past, is nothing but a blur of confusion. With tormenting fear and nagging misery as constant companions, the uninformed, or unprepared Christian will misinterpret the times we live in, miss the opportunity to demonstrate courage and faith, and will instead fearfully echo the mournful cry of the masses, “I just want to go back to normal.” For some, including nominal Christians, their goal is to simply go back to sleep.
The question is, “What is normal?” Merriam Webster defines “normal” as “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern: characterized by that which is considered usual, typical, or routine.” The definition of “normal” put forth in this article is based on what God considers to be “normal.” An applicable and interesting definition from Spirit Home Web Site is: “Norm [Latin norma (a carpenter’s square); [assumed Indo-European gnō-. Akin to ‘know’, ‘gnosis’] An adjective for a norm’s effect is the word ‘normative’. Definition: A ‘norm’ is something by which other things are measured and judged. When building something, a norm is used to make sure that the joints are at the proper angle, so the structure holds up. When the Bible is called the ‘norm’, it means that the structure of what we think, teach, and do are to measure up to the standards of Scripture. A norm helps stop us from getting carried away with ourselves and our supposed new-found wisdom. Norms have the practical effect of being something even a novice can at least start to follow, expanding on it as their wisdom grows. Many theological traditions speak in terms of the ‘norming norm’ or ‘norm within the norm’: the Gospel message of God’s forgiving love in Jesus Christ. This means that all the rest of the Bible is measured according to (or is ‘normed’ by) Christ and the Gospel message. The Bible is the norm because of who stands behind it and whose story it tells. This puts the main focus where it belongs — Christ, not Moses or David or Paul or John, or even the Bible itself. A word like it is ‘basis‘ (a basic foundational principle; an underlying state of affairs). The term ‘normal’ originally meant ‘according to the measure’, or ‘fitting the established pattern’. But in typical daily talk, it means ‘average’, ‘typical’, ‘usual’, ‘everyday’, and ‘common’….(yawn)…. The Bible is not ‘normal’ in this sense. It’s quite unique and unusual, even though it takes place in the rough-and-tumble world we live in. What it tells us is in many ways different than what we take in from our ‘normal’ world. The world and the Bible operate under different norms, and it is the world that’s askew.” Amen to that!
For Christians, the answer to what is normal depends on whether they are a normal or a nominal believer. The normal Christian seeks to obey Colossians 3:2 which states, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Thus, for the normal Christian who abides in Christ, the normal, temporal things that the world offers (whether good, bad or “neutral”) such as fame, fortune, entertainment, pleasure, partying, travel, sports, idolatry, family worship, and so forth are not of prime importance in their lives. Their hearts belong to God, their affections are established on the heavenly, their lives have been built up in Christ, the Rock upon which they stand whether they live in good times or bad. Like David wrote when he fled from Saul, recorded in Psalm 57, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.” (Verse 7.)
But for the nominal Christian whose heart is not “fixed on God” and whose affections lean towards the temporal things of this world, a sudden calamity or change in his or her preferred lifestyle can be devastating.
The normal Christian lives by the Word of God, and is unaffected by the standards, demands, ways and measurements of the world. “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” Matthew 4:4. Such people don’t try to adjust what God’s Word plainly says to somehow make it fit in with vain philosophies of the world in order to comfortably compromise and live with one foot in the world and one foot in heaven. However, the nominal Christian sees him or herself as “saved” and since they are a “good person” because they go to a church on Sunday, they think that gives them the right to live life as they see fit. Jesus described nominal Christians as “lukewarm” in Revelation 3:15, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.”
The normal Christian is just as human as the nominal Christian, but the difference is he or she is seeks to die to self and can say with the Apostle Paul, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” Philippians 3:14. Such people are committed to being overcomers of the world, the flesh and the devil no matter what the cost. They are keenly aware of how easy it is to “sell your soul.” “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36. They know that all they have is from God, they give sacrificially as the Lord leads, and when the devil comes knocking with his lies, they cannot be bribed, bought, intimidated, or compromised.
Nominal Christians, on the other hand, have not matured to the place where they recognize they no longer belong to themselves, but to the Lord. Neither do they realize that they must be faithful with all they’ve been given and that they have a responsibility to use it for the good of others if a need arises and for God’s glory. In other words, nominal Christians separate their “religious” life from their life in the world. They live as the world lives, buy and sell as the world does, enjoy the things the world has to offer, and basically live for themselves while merely tacking Jesus on while trying to convince themselves that they are “good Christians” because they go to a church, sing the songs, listen to the preacher, and live what they consider to be a “good Christian life.” Such people put more value on their lifestyle, their success in the world, and how they appear to others than they do on Jesus. Priorities and emphasis in a person’s life tell on them no matter how well they “talk the talk.”
The normal Christian loves God with all his or her heart, mind, soul and strength, and also loves God’s Word and not only reads it, but studies it, believes it, memorizes it, meditates on it, prays it, and obeys it. Such a believer has discernment! Therefore, when the world is turned upside down by evil Satanic powers that unleash a flood of fear, they are able to discern it, “test the spirits,” stand strong on the Word, make wise decisions, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, and exercise their faith for God has promised to strengthen our hearts if we wait on Him. Psalm 17:14 says, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”
Only God knows a person’s heart, but it is a frightening thing to read the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23 concerning nominal Christians. He said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23. Pastor William Klock, a preacher in Canada, in a sermon on this portion of Scripture said, “What Jesus is saying here is that assurance of our salvation is found not in a profession of faith or in any good works we do; our assurance is found in whether or not we do the will of our Father in heaven. If we look to anything else, we run the risk of self-delusion. Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood the reality of that kind of self-delusion. He lived in Germany where there was a state church. It was generally fairly liberal theologically. Just about everyone was a member by virtue of having been baptised as an infant, even if their parents had no idea what Covenant Baptism means and what its duties are. Practically everyone in the nation considered himself a “Christian.” Bonhoeffer famously described this kind of self-delusion as “cheap grace.” His situation wasn’t much different from our own. He was in a church, just like many in Canada, where people professed Christ and where lots of good works were done, and yet almost none of the people in that church had been born again. They were taught grace, but it was a grace without conversion. The people were deceived spiritually. Proverbs 30:12 accurately describes them: ‘There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth.’
“In his book The Cost of Discipleship, which I highly recommend, Bonhoeffer writes, ‘Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.’
“And that very accurately sums up the situation of much of the so-called church today. I think there are probably more people today than at any other time who sit in our churches, unconverted, but with a false sense of security – because they’ve been baptised, because they’re ‘members,’ because at some point they prayed the Sinner’s Prayer, because they walked the aisle. Why? The evangelical culture of the last two hundred years has done it: evangelistic methods aimed at getting people worked up emotionally and then pressuring them to make a commitment that doesn’t last twenty-four hours; preaching a message about a do-gooder God of love that appeals to our fleshly desire to make up for our wrongs by doing good deeds ourselves; or being ‘seeker sensitive’ and getting people into church, but in the end converting them to this programme or that or to some kind of worship-tainment, instead of seeing them convicted of their sin and being converted to real faith in Jesus Christ. The answer to the problem is right here in a faithful exposition of Jesus’ conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount.
“The truths that Jesus tells us here are, I think, pretty apt warnings to all those who go through life thinking that because they believe a few doctrines, or because they’ve done this or that good work, they’re okay – even though they’ve never entered into that kind of real commitment to Christ that produces costly obedience and true discipleship.”
Lukewarm Christians are indeed “nominal” and here’s some reasons why: They are people whose priority is looking out for themselves. In other words, whatever best serves their purpose is foremost in their minds as they weigh out their options and waver back and forth before making a decision. They have a divided heart and a double mind which makes them unstable in all their ways. (See James 1:8.) They “talk the talk but don’t walk the walk” and are as unpredictable as the weather in Oklahoma City. They look down on, and judge those who are either “hot” or “cold” and pride themselves in their “noble wisdom” and vain elitism. They can verbally run you “around the bush” until you realize that the truth is not their guide or goal. Like the Laodiceans, they can tell themselves, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” Revelation 3:17b. In other words, they are satisfied with what the world and the worldly church has to offer them, and are blind to the fact that they are spiritually bankrupt. Jesus told them, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” Verse 17.
A “hot” Christian has godly character, whereas a “cold” Christian has none. But, “lukewarm” Christians have deluded themselves into thinking they automatically have “good character” because of what they don’t do. In other words, they give themselves a pass because they don’t commit crimes, or kidnap and molest children, and they even salute the flag and vote. On top of that, they go to church on Sunday, and even idolize their family. The problem is, most of us don’t realize how dark the darkness is until we see the Light!
Babies are not born with godly character and integrity. These things have to be forged in us as we line up to God and His Word, and love the truth. In one of her Bible studies, Rayola said, “Character allows you to choose who you will serve; lack of character means you will only serve self.” In 2 Peter 1:3 we read of God’s Divine power that He has given to those of us who have “obtained like precious faith…through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (verse 1.) Now here is what we, those of us who are determined to be “hot” for Christ, and who have set our affection on things above, need to grab ahold of: “According to his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” 2 Peter 1:3, 4. Then Peter goes on to explain how to obtain the divine nature (excellent character) in verses 5-8: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Then, in verse 9, we read an apt description of the lukewarm (nominal) Christian: “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” No wonder Jesus told the “blind” Laodiceans, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” Revelation 3:18. Oh! The gold that comes forth from the Refiner’s fire! How precious it is. Oswald Chambers, concerning this fire, wrote: “As a saint of God, my attitude toward sorrow and difficulty should not be to ask that they be prevented, but to ask that God protect me so that I may remain what He created me to be, in spite of all my fires of sorrow. Our Lord received Himself, accepting His position and realizing His purpose, in the midst of the fire of sorrow. He was saved not from the hour, but out of the hour.
“We say that there ought to be no sorrow, but there is sorrow, and we have to accept and receive ourselves in its fires. If we try to evade sorrow, refusing to deal with it, we are foolish. Sorrow is one of the biggest facts in life, and there is no use in saying it should not be. Sin, sorrow, and suffering are, and it is not for us to say that God has made a mistake in allowing them.
“Sorrow removes a great deal of a person’s shallowness, but it does not always make that person better. Suffering either gives me to myself or it destroys me. You cannot find or receive yourself through success, because you lose your head over pride. And you cannot receive yourself through the monotony of your daily life, because you give in to complaining. The only way to find yourself is in the fires of sorrow. Why it should be this way is immaterial. The fact is that it is true in the Scriptures and in human experience. You can always recognize who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, and you know that you can go to him in your moment of trouble and find that he has plenty of time for you. But if a person has not been through the fires of sorrow, he is apt to be contemptuous, having no respect or time for you, only turning you away. If you will receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.”
To quote Rayola on character being forged in us, “We don’t know who we are until we develop moral character.” Perhaps the importance of moral character as it relates to the lukewarm, nominal Christian cannot be overemphasized enough. Without moral character, how can the church be the “salt and the light” in the world? Without moral character in nominal, lukewarm churches how can the lost, seeking sinners find Christ and salvation? Without moral character how can nominal Christians make a difference in their homes, communities, and nation—a nation that is teetering on the precipice of destruction because the masses have been reduced from excellence to mediocre, from diligence to drudgery, from moral character to defilement, and from real (normal) Christianity to a lukewarm, (nominal) form of powerless, socialized religion where one size fits all?
Vance Havner said, “Too many people within our borders are Americans in name but are un-American in their hearts and anti-American in their conduct. The church has a corresponding ailment. Too many church members are Christians in name, but in reality are only once-born children of Adam. Theodore Roosevelt said during the First World War, ‘If you are an American and something else, you are not an American.’ He spoke of ‘hyphenated Americans’ with a divided loyalty between this country and some other. The Scriptures say, ‘Whosoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.’ Billy Sunday used to say of the worldly Christians, ‘You might as well talk about a heavenly devil.’ America will improve when we have better Americans, and the church will improve when we have better Christians.” (From Playing Marbles With Diamonds by Vance Havner, 1985.)
Perhaps as much as 80 percent of Americans have finally awakened to the very real and present dangers we face that are working day and night to destroy our once great Republic and strip us of our God-given freedoms while shredding our Constitution. Thankfully, there is a fervent upsurge in genuine patriotism, and there is a great number of professing Christians among them who are stepping up to fight for America. While this can all be very encouraging, the question remains, how many in that number are truly “hot” in their faith for Christ, as opposed to the merely lukewarm, nominal Christians who have failed to truly humble themselves, and repent? Without repentance and a return to “normal” (biblical) Christianity, the nominal cannot be trusted to carry the torch across the finish line. America will only survive if the “normal” Christians of godly character, discernment and virtue continue to be vigilant, steadfast overcomers who endure to the end.