When a Christian becomes nominal



(of a role or status) existing in name only.

Imagine yourself enjoying dinner.  Two bites in it occurs to you that your pasta is a tad bit shy on seasoning and might benefit from a dash of salt.  You reach for the saltshaker, sprinkle on a small amount, and take another bite.

Alas!  The salt has no effect!  Upon repeating the process a few times you realize that this salt is no good; it has lost its saltiness.  Frustrated, you toss the salt in the garbage.

Jesus uses this exact scenario to describe people who Christian in name only.  They might look and talk like his followers, but their day-to-day actions reveal a very different reality.

Matthew 5:13 reads as such: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by people.”

Salt is a flavor enhancer; long ago when this verse was written salt was used as such, among other things.  Elsewhere in the Bible we are encouraged to have speech that is “seasoned as with salt.”  It was and is also used in the preservation of meats and in ceremonial sacrifices.  In short, salt is useful for its lasting, preserving and enhancing qualities.

What of salt becoming tasteless or unusable?  When salt becomes compromised with water or moisture it becomes difficult to work with and diluted.  You might have struggled in the past trying to get dried-up clumpy salt out of a shaker.  That’s why we tend to add a few grains of rice to saltshakers in order to absorb moisture and keep the salt fresh.

In Jesus’ day, disposing of “bad salt” was difficult because if it were thrown into a field or garden it would ruin the integrity of the soil.  Therefore, when salt went bad it was thrown in the street, as Jesus says, and trampled underfoot.

Back to nominal Christian faith.  A person who has experienced Jesus in such a way that they identify themselves as a “Christian” can lose their flavor.  It is a subtle and dangerous tragedy, yet one that seems to be quite common among the believers in the modern American church.

One need not pry too deeply to realize this is the truth.  Were we to think of some of the more obvious measures of Christian faith, we might include church attendance, bible reading and financial stewardship.  In other words, you would be right in saying that according to the scripture Christian people go to church, read their Bibles and are generous with their money.

Yet the most recent data on these metrics is disturbing as it relates to faith in our country.  According to polls by the Barna Research Group, the Ponce Foundation and Christianity Today, only one in three people who call themselves “practicing Christians” regularly attend church in 2021.  No wonder churches are declining so rapidly.

While there are 2 billion professing Christians on the planet, 82% of them state that they only read their Bible on Sunday morning and only 29% have read the entire Bible through.  How about money?  Only 30% of Christians give over three percent of their income away consistently, spending much more on entertainment and fashion.

What about you and I?  Staying salty is tough work.  That’s why the road is narrow that leads to life.

In this dark day I encourage you, if you ponder these things today and find yourself tasteless, to do whatever is necessary to find Jesus again.  Scream, yell, crawl your way back to vibrant faith before it is too late.  May we experience the conviction of God and grace to match that we might be found pleasing to the Lord both now and on the day we meet him face to face.

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