As Christians, we use a lot of cliches to make certain points or purvey certain messages. However, these cliches can often times be poorly worded, if not blatantly unbiblical. Here are just a few examples of cliches that can be both harmful and erroneous.
- ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME
In one sense, it is true that God is the judge of the universe and in the end we will all answer to Him and only Him. If faced in a situation where one must either deny the faith or be given capital punishment, I would love to hear someone say God is the final judge. However, that is usually not the message being given here. When someone says, “Only God can judge me,” they usually mean, “I know this is wrong but I want to keep on sinning.” They are also usually saying it as a rebuke to someone who is telling them that their sin in wrong.
An even bigger issue with this is that this, when it is used, usually minimizes the judgement of God. If you find yourself saying, “Only God can judge me,” to a friend who has rebuked you for your sins, you should be scared of that fact. God WILL judge you unless you have repented and put your faith in Christ.
- PREACH THE GOSPEL AND IF NECESSARY USE WORDS
Wash your hands and if necessary, use soap. Eat your soup and if necessary, use a spoon. Brush your teeth and if necessary, use a tooth brush. You see the issue here? The primary tool used in the preaching of the Gospel is words. While this quote is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, historians have concluded he never said that. Even if he did, it is unbiblical. In Romans 10:17 (ESV), we read, “Faith comes by hearing.” How can one hear without words being spoken?
I agree that our actions are important to our evangelism. In fact, if you live a carnal lifestyle but want to preach the Gospel, you have two options: 1. Repent of the sins that you are committing, or 2. Walk out into an empty field where no one can hear you and say absolutely nothing. However, that does not mean that preaching the Gospel can ever be done without words. About this cliche, Michelle Lesley has said, “While our behavior should certainly prove out our testimony, nobody’s going to see us working at a soup kitchen or eschewing barhopping and somehow magically understand that he has broken God’s law and needs to repent and put His faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for the forgiveness of his sin unto eternal life. That has to be explained. Clearly. By us. From the Bible. With words.”. Similarly, R.C. Sproul, Jr. has said, “Preach the gospel. If necessary, rebuke anyone who says, ‘if necessary, use words.'”.
- GOD HELPS THOSE WHO HELP THEMSELVES
This statement is untrue. While many people believe this, some even mistaking it for a Bible verse, many people think it originated from Aesop’s fables. If I were to revise this statement, I would change it to, “God helps those who are unable to help themselves.” Read Ephesians 2. We were dead in trespasses and sins, but we were made alive in Christ. Dead people cannot “help themselves”. Dead people can contribute absolutely nothing to being resurrected, but that it what God does. God raises us from spiritual death.
- CHRISTIANITY IS A RELATIONSHIP, NOT A RELIGION
Usually when people say this, they don’t understand what Religion is. They usually equate Religion with empty works, self-righteousness, pride, and disdain for the lost. That is not what religion is. Religion is the faith in and worship of God or a god. James 1:27 (ESV) even says there is a “pure and undefiled” religion. It says that it is, “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” By the very dictionary definition of Religion, Christianity is a religion. This is not to say that true Christianity is not a relationship with God. What I am saying is that it is a religion, and Religion vs. Relationship is a false dichotomy. True Christianity is both.
- GOD IS A GOD OF SECOND CHANCES
This is usually said in a well meaning manner, but it is very sloppy. Thanks be to God that He isn’t a God of second chances. Imagine it like this: In order to go to Heaven, you must make a basketball into the basket in one shot. However, you are a mile away from the basket and it is pouring down rain with winds that are nearly knocking you over. You shoot, and you miss. Then you get a second chance. I don’t care who you are, you will still miss. In the same way, we have to live a sinless life to make it to Heaven. The human with the most willpower of us all (Excluding Jesus) was Adam, and he wasn’t able to make it on the very first temptation. If we were given a second chance, we’d blow it. We would also blow the one after that. And the one after that. God giving us a second chance is not the Gospel, because if we are given a second chance it still depends on us. Instead, the Gospel is that God the Son came to Earth and kept the law for us, then went to the Cross to be the atonement for our sins.
- MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL
While many people think this is in the Bible, this is only derived from a Bible verse. It is not the actual verse. What the verse actually says is, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” (1 Timothy 6:10, ESV, Emphasis Added). It doesn’t say money is the root of all evil, it says the love of money, or greed, is.
- ASK JESUS INTO YOUR HEART
This is usually said as a general term when someone is speaking of being saved. However, the phrase, “ask Jesus into your heart” is not found in Scripture and in the only place you can find something resembling it, reading the context will show that isn’t what it means. Not only that, but when doing evangelism the phrase will be confusing. It can cause confusion as to exactly what salvation is. Salvation isn’t praying a little prayer to ask Jesus into your heart. Salvation is a work of God by which He takes someone who is in open, active rebellion against Him and gives them a new nature, and so they repent and believe in Him. Todd Friel has said about this, “There is not a single verse that even hints we should say a prayer inviting Jesus into our hearts. Some use Rev. 3:20. To tell us that Jesus is standing at the door of our hearts begging to come in. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.’ There are two reasons that interpretation is wrong. The context tells us that the door Jesus is knocking on is the door of the church, not the human heart. Jesus is not knocking to enter someone’s heart but to have fellowship with His church. Even if the context didn’t tell us this, we would be forcing a meaning into the text (eisegesis). How do we know it is our heart he is knocking at? Why not our car door? How do we know he isn’t knocking on our foot? To suggest that he is knocking on the door of our heart is superimposing a meaning on the text that simply does not exist. The Bible does not instruct us to ask Jesus into our heart.”
- HEAVEN GAINED ANOTHER ANGEL
When a believer dies, there is usually at least one person who says this. However, this simply isn’t true. When we die, we are still humans. While we are in Heaven, we are still humans. Angels are separate beings from humans entirely. S. Michael Houdmann has said about this, “We will serve Him throughout eternity, not as angels, but along with the angels.”
- WE ARE ALL GOD’S CHILDREN
While we are all God’s creation, the Bible makes it clear that it is the Church who becomes the children of God. Galatians 3:26 (ESV) says, “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” John 1:12 (ESV) similarly says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” In contrast, the Bible has referred to the unsaved as, “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3, ESV). He said to unbelieving Jews, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” (John 8:44, ESV)
- GOD HAS A WONDERFUL PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE
When this phrase if used, it is not usually used to make the point that God will use you providentially for His glory. Instead, it is usually done to say that God will make their lives more enjoyable (He’ll give you love, joy, peace, fullfillment, lasting happiness, health, wealth, and prosperity), and that is the impression it gives. In Ray Comfort’s Book, “God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life: The Myth of the Modern Message”, he gives us an illustration to show us just how ridiculous this is. The Pastor of a church gets up at the end of a service and says this,
“God has a wonderful plan for your life. He wants to give you true happiness and to fill the God-shaped hole in your heart that you’ve been trying to fill with sex, drugs, alcohol, and money. Jesus said that He came to give you life, and give it ‘more abundantly.’ So come forward now and give your life to Jesus, so that you can experience this wonderful new life in Christ. While they are coming, let’s pray for the Smiths, who lost their two children in a car accident this week. Brother Jones has been diagnosed with cancer. Remember to uphold the whole family. His wife had another miscarriage on Tuesday, and both of their other children are chronic asthmatics. Sister Bryant fell and broke her hip. She’s such a dear saint—she’s had trial after trial in her life, especially since the death of her husband, Ernie. Elder Chambers lost his job this week. That will make things difficult for the Chambers family, especially with his upcoming triple-bypass operation. Sister Lancing died of kidney failure on Monday night. Keep the Lancing family in prayer, because it’s their third tragedy this year. How many of you this morning need prayer for sickness or have problems with depression? That many? You had better stay in your seats, and we will have a corporate prayer.”
Most of Christian History has been a trail of martyrdom, and America is a rare exception (That probably won’t last long). Apostle Paul was beheaded and bled out like an animal. In fact, John is the only apostle that wasn’t martyred (And not for lack of trying). This wasn’t just the early Church. So does God have a wonderful plan for your life? Well, define “wonderful”. Definitely not in the sense that those we evangelize view “wonderful”.