Christian concepts that are a little off

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I wrestled with what to title this post. The title I had on the notes to myself was “Christian sayings that bug me.” But not only did that sound curmudgeonly, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things what bugs me. What matters with any Christian saying is whether it truly matches up with the Word of God.

I don’t mean to be overly nitpicky and critical here. I know what some people mean by some of these sayings, and I think their hearts are in the right place. But when a saying is a little off from what Scripture actually says, it’s not only a little jarring, it can either reveal or cause misunderstanding of Scriptural truth.

So here are a few phrases that to me miss the target a little.

We need to “be Jesus” to people.

We can’t be. We can reflect Him and represent Him. We are “ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (II Corinthians 5:20). We can be instruments through which He works. But we can’t be anyone’s spiritual Savior, deliverer, help. Jesus is the only one.

“Unleashing” God’s power.

This makes Him sound like a genii in a bottle, and if we just rub the lantern in the right way, we’ll see Him work in a mighty way. Even a little study of God’s power and might in the Bible should convince us how ludicrous it sounds to think of ourselves as His gatekeepers. Now, there are passages that indicate our disobedience or lack of faith can block Him from working, and Jesus said some things could only be accomplished by prayer and fasting, and this may be what this saying is getting at, but it shifts the emphasis the wrong direction. His power is His own to direct as He will.

God does not do anything except in answer to prayer.

This may have arisen from James 4:2b: “ye have not, because ye ask not.” It’s true that we don’t have some things because we haven’t asked Him for them, but it is not true that He only acts in response to prayer. There is much to governing the world that we know nothing of, and how many times have we enjoyed our daily bread when we haven’t remembered to ask for it? He does so much more than we know, it’s facetious to think He never does anything except when we ask. I’ve been blessed many times in large and small ways by things He has done I never thought to ask for.

God does not give us more than we can handle.

Of course He does. He doesn’t give us any more than we can handle with His grace, but leaving off that caveat puts the emphasis on us and our ability to handle things rather than on His grace sufficient for everything. It’s “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13), not “I can do all things.” I think sometimes He puts us in situations we can’t handle on our own for that very reason, to draw us closer and help us rely on His strength and not our own.

We need God to show up.

….as if He is not already here, and everywhere. I wrote more about this phrase earlier, and I know people mean by this that they really want God to work, to manifest Himself, to display His grace and power by really moving in people’s hearts. But we don’t need to downplay His omniscience or His desire to manifest Himself.

A coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.

God is not in the business of remaining anonymous. All throughout Scripture He does things to make Himself known to people. One exception was when Christ was doing miracles during His earthly ministry: often He would heal someone and then tell them not to make it known. I’m not sure of the reasons for that: maybe it would draw more people who only wanted healing or provisions rather than hearing His word, maybe it would draw undue attention from the Pharisees, maybe it just wasn’t the time to manifest Himself in that way. But as a general rule He does things in people’s lives for the express purpose of turning their hearts to Himself.

Have you heard these phrases? Do you think they are off-base in their emphasis? Are there other similar phrases I have missed?

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15 thoughts on “Christian concepts that are a little off

  1. I think it’s interesting that the errors found in all of these phrases are a de-emphasis on God’s greatness and power–and an overemphasis on man’s. It reminds me of the song “I have made you too small in my eyes, O Lord, forgive me…” (from “Be Magnified”) The problem is not that God is small, but that we see Him as such.

  2. The anonymous one really gets to me, too! Our ladies Bible study is reading Trusting God by Jerry Bridges…and it really opens my eyes wide, as far as how we can be putting limits on God in our own lives and minds by not recognizing His true Sovereignty. If there are COINCIDENCES we can’t trust him. Or as JB said, “If there is a single event in all of the universe that can occur outside of God’s sovereign control then we cannot trust Him.”

  3. I confess I’ve never thought of the, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” I’m sure I’ve said it numerous times! I’m really glad that you pointed that out because it *is* inaccurate.

    Thanks for the post!

  4. All very great points! “Unleashing God’s power”…AS IF He needs us for that! What a Mighty God we serve! I have heard the one We need God to show up. Really? I feel Him with me all the time! Thanks for sharing these Barbara

  5. These are great, Barbara.

    Another one I’d add is when we say things like “your prayers worked!” instead of thanking GOD for working, so thanks for praying. It’s a subtle difference, like some of these you mention, but we do need to ensure we’re giving glory to God for the answer.

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  8. Very good, well-written, and thoughtful! I appreciate your emphasis on God’s greatness. I believe “Christianity lite” can be the attempt of sincere Christians to express what they believe is right without a full knowledge of Scripture. Therefore, they have some doctrinal problems. “Rightly dividing the Word of truth” comes with study. I loved how you kept these explanations short and to the point–better than I did with this comment! God bless you!

  9. What an interesting topic! Another one I wonder about, praying for a “hedge of protection.” A pastor once said, “why not a concrete barricade, 10 stories tall?” Funny isn’t it, how we unknowingly at times place limits on what God can do. Our invisible God, he was before all things and in him things hold together.

  10. “God does not give us more than we can handle!” That one drives me crazy. God is with us in the midst of the hard. God weeps when we weep etc.

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