Oftentimes in Christian culture, idioms, sayings, and phrases can become ubiquitous. These phrases sometimes have biblical roots—but sometimes they don’t. Speaking in terms that we’d only use with other believers in the church (and not with the rest of the world) is what we might call speaking “Christianese.” But when we speak this language, do we know what we’re even saying? And if we’re not sure what we’re really saying, how will others (particularly non-believers)?
A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” This is so true. But the next iteration of this truth is that what’s in our minds about God will affect how we communicate about God. And what we communicate about God will then influence how others think about him as we interact with both believers and non-believers through evangelism and discipleship. How we communicate about God tells everyone else what we’re thinking about God.
The nuances in how we speak our “Christianese” language matter a great deal. To live out and share biblical Christianity, we need precision in our understanding and verbalization of God. We need to be precise because God’s character, gospel and Word are distinct absolutes—beautiful in their deep effectiveness.
While there are undoubtedly many “Christianese” phrases that we could discuss to enhance their biblical integrity, here are a few that we definitely need to wield with more precision:
“I need to give things over to God.”
This is a bad way of saying that I need to trust God and remember what’s true. What’s true is that God controls all things (Job 42:2). Humans have no power to take anything from the Almighty God. All things are his and all things are in his control (Dan 4:35). This is not a power-play dictatorship; this is awesome news because God’s power is never divorced from his perfect character. Our God who is perfect in kindness, peace, gentleness, and patience is also perfect in power. You don’t give things over to God; all things are his to begin with. Instead of saying “I need to give things over to God,” we should say, “I need to repent of trying to control my own life. My life doesn’t belong to me but belongs to God. And he is trustworthy.”
“I need to let go and let Jesus take over.”
First of all, we don’t “let” God do anything. How could we speak of letting the one who “upholds all things by the word of his power” do anything as if we control what he does (Heb 1:3)? Jesus is “before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17). We don’t let Jesus hold all things together; he’s doing it whether we give him permission to or not. What needs to happen instead of “letting go” is remembering truth and repenting of unbelief. If I’m having a hard time trusting God in an area of my life, then I’m having a hard time believing the truth about who he is. If I utterly believe the truth of God’s character from his word, I would have no problem trusting him with all things in all ways.
“You must accept Jesus.”
Using the word “accept” sounds like Jesus has put in an application for a place in our lives. We reviewed his application, considered his benefits, thought about what he has to add to what we already got going and we’ve decided to accept him into our life’s program. It’s ultimately prideful; it puts salvation on my terms. What really happens when you become a Christian is total and utter humiliation and surrender. Surrender happens when the Spirit of God reveals our desperate need and leads us to salvation, not because we’ve decided it’s just a good idea (Jn 6:44; Acts 2:21). This surrender is something that’s a one-time thing upon acknowledging our sin and recognizing Jesus as the rightful Lord of our lives, but it’s also a learned thing that we grow in as we learn from him (Matt 11:25-30). I learn to surrender myself to Jesus more and more with each new day. This doesn’t mean that I consider Jesus and accept him. It means I consider Jesus and bow down to him. I don’t accept Christ; Christ has accepted me.
Other phrases we can think more deeply about are:
+ God will never give you more than you can handle.
+ Motherhood is a woman's highest calling.
+ Everything happens for a reason.
+ Guard your heart.
While there’s grace for saying the wrong thing (I do it all the time), we should think about stewarding our thoughts and words about God as we would wield a sword. God’s Word is sharper than any double edged sword, living and active, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12). God’s revelation of himself is powerful on its own—understanding and communicating it with precision should be one of our primary endeavors as Christians. If our “Christianese” doesn’t align with the words of God himself, what language are we really speaking?
Rebekah Hannah is a biblical counselor at The Grace Center for Biblical Counseling in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Andrew and has three daughters.