There are several unbiblical and untrue clichés that are seemingly passed from one generation of Christians to another. And these clichés need to be crushed. Believers must continually repent of the thinking represented in these clichés, and Christian leaders must not allow these clichés to be passed off as Christian truth. Here are my top five Christian clichés that need crushing.
5. Do your best, trust God with the rest.
I first saw this cliché on a poster of a guy playing basketball. He was attempting a dunk and was halfway to the rim. The poster seemed to imply to try your best to dunk the ball, and God will reach down and pull you up the rest of the way. It never worked for me.
The message wrongly paints the picture that God steps in and supplies the rest to our valiant efforts. And because one person’s best may be better than another person’s best, some need more help than others.
The truth is that no one’s best is better because even our best efforts are filthy rags before our holy God. And how foolish and miserable is it to only trust God with the rest, the leftovers? It’s much better to trust Him with everything. He desires and demands that we trust Him with all that we are.
4. God helps those who help themselves.
Similar to the first cliché, this one encourages you to help yourself, to attempt to live this life well in your own strength and energy. And God will look down and see your effort and provide the extra help you need.
But the message of the Christian faith is not that God helps those who help themselves. It is that God helps the helpless. And all of us are helpless before Him. We’re helpless in rescuing ourselves from our sin, and we’re helpless to live as we should. We desperately need Him each moment. We grow in Him as we remember our helplessness and rely on Him continually for everything.
3. God will not give you more than you can handle.
Maybe you were having a difficult trial, and some well-meaning person takes you to lunch to offer encouragement. He or she reaches across the table and says, “Hang in there. God will never give you more than you can handle.” It sounds so encouraging, but it is deeply wrong.
Actually He will give us way more than we can handle in our own strength. In His goodness, He will allow life to overwhelm us so that we’ll continually recognize our need for Him, so we’ll humbly seek His strength and wisdom. When we realize that we’re utterly helpless without His grace and strength in our lives, we are placed in a vulnerable posture that welcomes His power. Sometimes, God allows circumstances to completely overwhelm us to put us in that posture.
2. Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words.
My friend and co-worker, Ed Stetzer, wrote an excellent blogpost about the famous quote, “Preach the gospel, use words if necessary.” The quote is often attributed to Francis of Assisi, though there is no record of him offering this statement. Those who use the quote often do so with good motivations, encouraging people to live out their faith in action, not merely words. Unfortunately, the cliché can cause people to believe that the gospel doesn’t need to be spoken or declared.
The reality is the gospel means “good news.” It is news that must be declared, news that must be heard for salvation to occur (see Rom. 10:17). You can’t “be the news.” The news must be heralded.
1. God is my co-pilot.
Perhaps you have encountered the bumper sticker and thinking that articulates, “God is my co-pilot.” The thought is that God comes alongside us as we live our lives. He is there to offer encouragement, to keep us awake when we get tired, to point out where we should turn. He is there to help us live our lives. After all, we’re the pilots, the ones in charge.
In our sinfulness, we like to be in control, but the Christian faith is relinquishing the pilot’s seat to Jesus. In the gospels, Jesus never responded positively when people attempted to come to Him on their terms. Jesus continually gave one invitation to His would-be followers: follow Me. If we think we’re the leader in our relationship with God, we’ve not yet understood the Christian faith. He leads. We follow. He reigns. We bow. He is Lord. We submit and follow.
So what are some other clichés you’d like to see crushed?