Afflicting The Comfortable: How To Help The Unconverted “Christians” In Your Churches
Four Assumptions I Have For This Talk
1. It’s possible to say and think you are a Christian and not be converted.
We see this in Matthew 7 and 2 Corinthians 13:5.
There is no such thing as a nominal Christian. You are or you are not.
2. There are unconverted Christians in each of our churches.
These people can be some of the hardest to reach because they have been inoculated to the gospel.
3. There are things we can do to discourage nominal Christianity but there is no magic technique.
Only prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit to change their hearts and lives.
4. Helping people to accurately assess their spiritual condition they need to be convinced that they are not a Christian.
The offense should be in our message in our delivery, but this will be offensive to many when we tell them they are not saved. Yet it does not serve them to not tell them just like a doctor who will not tell a patient about their illness. We must have the boldness to tell them. We need to love them enough to risk offending them.
Five Things Pastors Can Do To Help People Understand Their Spiritual State
1. We need to be clear about what it means to be a Christian.
We need to be clear about what a holy life looks like. Everyone who is truly a Christian will have a new master and new life.
This is what Jesus is getting at in John 3 when he is talking with Nicodemus.
A Christian has received new spiritual life from God. They have been born again and we need to make this clear with anyone in our ministry.
The new life creates a change in us and gives us new faith. There is not radical Christianity and Christianity. There is just Christianity. Everyone who has been born again have new life and been radically converted.
This is why methods of the sinners prayer or walk an isle or sign a card may help someone respond but they also might deceive people into giving them assurance they are saved when they really are not.
If you ask someone when they became a Christian and they point back to an external decision then that is not a good sign they actually are a Christian.
Jesus did not tell Nicodemus to pray a prayer or sign a card.
2. We need to be clear about what the gospel is.
It’s easy to assume that people believe and understand this message. We leave it behind to be more practical with parenting, marriage, or control their anger. But this kind of teaching is a car without an engine.
We leave the gospel to move on toward the imperatives and the law.
We need to point out that we are saved and loved by God because of the gospel alone. Our people must be reminded of this every week. This must be clear and must not be assumed or be underestimated.
Otherwise we leave behind us a wake of nominal Christianity.
3. We need to be clear about the presence of non-Christians in our churches
Pastors need to be thinking about these people and speak to them in the sermon. If we do this regularly in our preaching then it will develop a culture that will make them uncomfortable in a good way.
4. We need to be clear on sin.
We need to be clear about what sin is and that we are sinners and that Christians are free from the mastery of sin.
In Romans 6 we see the Christians are no longer slaves to sin. We have a new allegiance. We are on a new team. Peyton Manning should not wear a Colts jersey on game day this year.
Pastors need to be honest and transparent about their own fight with sin. If the pastor is fighting sim then it can wake those up who are not fighting their sin.
5. We need to be clear about the church.
More specifically we need to be clear about church membership and discipline. These things are giving affirmation and approval that the church thinks someone is a Christian.
We should not take people into membership when we know little to nothing about their spiritual state. Not a ridiculously high bar but careful and cautiously. We should not give the Lord’s Supper or baptize those who are not Christians.
By God’s grace we need to build churches with Christians more so than try and build large numbers of people in our churches.