Not everyone who claims to be a “Christian” is truly a Christian in a biblical sense (Matthew 7:21-23). Back in 2016, I came up with this short list for why a person might identifies him or herself as a “Christian.”
- Going with the flow: They’re just tagging or playing along. Don’t really care much about sins, holiness or hell. After all, Christianity has a lot of great moral principles so why not? You can’t go wrong with Christianity.
- Their parents are believers: They just want to be identified with them, “I believe what my parents believe. I want to be a good son, or daughter and make them happy, even though I don’t take this whole ‘Christianity’ thing seriously.”
- Guilty conscience: This forced them to look to religions to help ease their conscience. It could be any religion, but in most cases they go with Christianity or Roman Catholicism.
- Peer pressure: Most of their friends are “Christians” and they just want to fit in. Pressure could also come from many other sources.
- Relationship: Someone they’re going out is a Christian and the problem is that that person only marries another Christian. So at this point, the unbeliever pretends to be a Christian and play the game. But the truth will come out after marriage in one way or another.
- Loneliness: They heard that a community of faith is a great way to meet new people and build a network of good friends. They come to church and try to fit in.
- Network/Help: They have problems in their lives that they know a community of faith can help. Or maybe they need network/work or opportunities.
- The lesser of two evils: They believe that all religions are corrupted, including Christianity, but reason in their heart that there’s a lot of truth in what Christ teaches. They don’t follow Christianity in a biblical sense, but they pick and choose what they want to believe and follow. Starting with Christianity, they form their “own version” of it.
- Cultural: The culture they’re living in subscribes to Christian values.
- Intellectualism: Christianity challenges their mind. They love the letter but not the Spirit behind it. They find great joy and entertainment just researching conspiracies and things related to Christianity. This even open doors to write books and blogs.
We can add one more to the list:
- Political: … Many of the politicians are not Christians in a biblical sense no matter how many times they say, “I’m a Christian.”
Sam Storms in his book, “Kept for Jesus” has a similar observation:
The point here is that people claim and actually do, in a sense, believe in Jesus for any number of reasons other than a legitimate desire to receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal life that he offers. Some believe (like these in John 2) because they are swept away by the sensationalism and excitement of supernatural activity. Some believe because by identifying with the local church they find instant friendships and social activities and a place to belong. Some believe because they are looking for a way to soothe their guilty conscience or to experience personal affirmation, or because they long for transcendent meaning in their lives, and religion appears to provide it. Some believe because of pressure from family or friends to conform. Some believe because they find Christianity intellectually satisfying. I could go on citing reasons people believe that have little or nothing to do with genuine, heartfelt repentance and love for Christ and a passion to follow him.
I’ll talk more about false conversions later on. Personally, I don’t assume that a person is a true believer just because s/he claims to be one.
“So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (Romans 1:15 ESV)
Paul was eager to preach the Gospel to them that were in Rome. Either he was referring to the unbelievers there, in which case the Gospel must be preached. Or he was referring to the believers, to lead them to a fuller understanding of it and to make sure that they know the Gospel. Or he was referring to both the unbelievers and believers. We must not assume that people are saved just because they attend church with us. We too must be eager to preach the Gospel to them that are at church and make sure that they understand the Gospel.