We were once visited by a relative who knew that my wife and I were firm believers in keeping Scripture as our Savior taught. Expecting an assault on his liberal, no-law theology, he preempted an anticipated first strike by firing off a volley of tired old bromides on love and grace.
Whenever I hear these sweet nothings, my brain slips into neutral and then flames out. Why do so many replace serious study and investigation of Scripture with jargon they don’t understand themselves?
Many self-claimed teachers cling to featherweight phrases they’ve heard and now personally own – superficialities with no bearing on anything, just empty calories.
We’ll look at some of the shallow sweet nothings you often hear today and compare them with Scripture. This may prove useful if you are ever confronted with cliché abuse.
It’s the kind of message you hear in countless worship settings.
Preacher Peter steps to the pulpit. “The L-rd spoke to my heart today and He gave me this message. Brother Brad has been struggling in his marriage. Brad, just take it to Him in prayer. Just let go and let G-d.
“Brothers and sisters, what is YOUR burden today? Whatever your struggle, it’s covered by the blood! Can I get an amen? Remember, He is working things out in your favor, He will never leave you where He found you. No weapon formed against us shall stand. Every assignment has been canceled. Devil, we’re returning everything you sent signed, sealed, and undelivered!”
So did you learn anything? Were you given any fresh insights that motivate you to walk closer to Yahweh in your life?
New clichés are launched all the time. Even Bible verses can become clichés when wrenched from their context and forced to apply where they don’t belong. The worst clichés are the ones that rhyme. “My worship is anointed and appointed.” And, “I’m too blessed to be stressed.”
TV evangelists are great at spinning cotton candy. Throw in some audience participation, some “Speak it brother,” and the crowd will rave, thinking it’s a great message. Platitudes abound where critical thought is absent.
Clichés live in the world of generalities, as do countless sermons today. The minute you get specific is when you must be ready to defend your beliefs and teachings.
Where in the Word do we find support for clichés? Paul said to Timothy, “Avoid profane and vain babblings which some professing have erred concerning the faith,” 1Timothy 6:20.
Let’s dig into some of the more common clichés and see what lurks there. Can we take away anything worthwhile?
- “If G-d brings you to it, He will bring you through it.” So how do you know He brought you to it? As in the lesson of Job, Satan can also bring you to it. Or maybe Yahweh did bring you to it and wants you to stay there for a while and learn something.
Trials offer great learning lessons.
In 2Corinthians 4:16-17 Paul wrote, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
Peter cautioned: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Messiah’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy,” 1Peter 4:12-13.
Trials make the dedicated believer stronger. As the Companion Bible notes, the same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay.
- “G-d wants me to be happy.” Where is that in the Bible? Happiness is driven by emotion; commitment comes by conformity to the Word, and THAT is what makes Yahweh happy. Yahshua told His disciples in John 13:17: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye DO them.” True happiness is not about us. It’s about being united with Him through following His will, which leads to wisdom and righteousness.
Worship became emotion-driven about 50 years ago, where happiness became the new goal. Happiness is not an entitlement. Getting in line with Yahweh is what leads to satisfying, real happiness in the Believer.
Peter teaches a counter-intuitive lesson on happiness: “If ye be reproached for the name of Messiah, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of Elohim rests upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified,”1Peter 4:14.
James 5:11 adds, “Behold, we count them happy which endure. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of Yahweh.” Incidentally, if the law came to an end, so did Yahweh and Yahshua, because the same word telos, meaning goal, is used for Yahshua as being the end goal of the law as well (Rom.10:4).
You can recite clichés all day long, but unless you get out of your comfort zone and do something about the faith you profess, it is just smoke and mirrors in Yahweh’s eyes.
Yahweh is a Creator of action just like the Hebrew language that He uses to describe Himself. Yahshua said in John 5, “My Father works and I work.”
To say what Yahweh is, is tantamount to saying what He does; to describe Him is to talk action and behavior. He is a mighty One of doing and achieving; clichés, on the other hand, live in a world of inertia and indolence. When Yahweh called out Israel, they were expected to start doing His will.
- “G-d loves you.” In a television series years ago the main character, playing an angel, repeated this phrase in every program as the antidote to every problem and trial. This bromide taught the viewer that all Yahweh wants is to love you the way you are – even in your sin. How does that fit with Yahshua’s teaching in Luke 13:3, and 5: “except you repent you shall all likewise perish”?
In Acts 17:30-31 Paul explained about Yahweh to the pagan Greeks on Mars Hill, “And the times of this ignorance Elohim winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.”
The word repent and its permutations occur 112 times in the Scriptures. That TV actor never told anyone, “Turn to Yahweh in repentance, as the Word admonishes.” Most people would run from such counsel to change their behavior. They are happy where they are in whatever faith they have found themselves, and expect Yahweh to honor that.
Rather than conform to His will they expect Yahweh to bend to theirs, and want to be assured that He is completely pleased with their anemic performance, which that TV show, as well as these clichés, promote.
Paul continues, “Because he hath ap-pointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained.”
The center of gravity in Yahshua’s salvation plan includes His teachings about overcoming and righteousness. The central theme of the entire Scriptures is to conform to Yahweh’s will. We please the One we worship by changing our life, not spouting meaningless jargon.
The apostle said in 1John 2:5: “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of Elohim perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.”
- “Where G-d guides, G-d provides.” This implies that Yahweh leads you to Truth so He can make you prosperous. Yahshua was never endowed with wealth. He said in Matthew 8:20, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” This was never Yahshua’s desire.
Today’s prosperity doctrine has aban-doned this fact. The false teaching completely misses the message and example Yahshua brought through overcoming sin and the world. Speaking of false ministers in 1Timothy 6:5, Paul warned about “perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is holiness: from such withdraw thyself.”
- “We are saved by faith alone – but not by a faith that is alone.” This belief nowhere exists in Scripture. The first extant writing to contain the phrase “faith alone” is John Calvin’s Antidote to the Council of Trent (1547).
“Faith alone” is a spurious twisting of James 2:17: “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” Also verse 24, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” James then tops it off in verse 26 with, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” The “faith alone” doctrine was promulgated by Martin Luther in his attack on Roman church works like indulgences.
Often used is Romans 3:28, which does not speak of being set apart but of justification: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.” We are not saved by faith alone but are justified by faith alone. Faith justifies the man but works justify faith. Justification is followed by sanctification or being set apart by our actions.
- “Let go and let G-d.” This cliché makes a catchy bumper sticker but can eviscerate the purpose and goal of the believer’s walk. Taken wrongly, it slams the door on obedience and forecloses on any working out of our salvation with fear and trembling, as commanded in Philippians 2:12. Those who repeat it ignore the crucial next step, which is sanctification or being set apart through obedience.
Obedience is a core teaching in every book of the Bible. Those who are called can’t let go, because they are committed to a life of active overcoming. Where in the New Testament do we find any disciple letting go of his walk and “letting Yahweh”? Yahshua never taught it. He said in Matthew 7:21 that we must do the will of His Father. Paul in Philippians 2:12 admonishes to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. James writes in 1:22 to be doers of the Word and not hearers only.
First John 3:24 says, “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” And He gives His Spirit to those who obey Him, Acts 5:32.
Often ignored are Revelation 12:17 and 14:12, which say we need the faith of Yahshua as well as keeping of the commandments for salvation. Revelation 22:14 teaches that if we obey then we have the right to the tree of life.
We must not confuse unconditional grace with unconditional salvation. The world thinks salvation is automatic, so they consider “Let go and let Yahweh” a great fit. At funerals you hear that the deceased is now looking down and smiling. Does anyone ever ask how he or she measured up in order to be awarded everlasting life? Let alone explain how they were judged worthy even before Yahshua could return to initiate the judgment.
Paul wrote in 2Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
“Letting go” is just another way of buying into the once-saved always-saved belief and avoiding the command to follow Yahweh’s Word. Many of these superficial clichés have an anti-law, anti-obedience basis.
Yahshua further explained in Matthew 7:21: “Not every one that saith unto me, Master, Master, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
Living by the Bible’s commands, which is sanctification, is anything but passive. The true believer’s life can be taxing. He combats opposition from family, friends, employers, and others who have not been enlightened to the Truth.
Yahshua never promised a free ride down Easy Street, but rather tribulation as we follow the Word. He said, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Why mention this at all if Yahweh does everything for us? Promoters of such classic clichés also discount the work of the Holy Spirit that indwells the saint and helps him to obey Yahweh’s statutes, Ezekiel 36:27.
When Paul reflects on the activities of the believer he says nothing about La-Z-Boy recliners and cozy days watching pigeons in the park. Paul’s metaphors for the walk of the True Worshiper are soldiering, tough athletic contests, and planting and farming in the hot sun. The Puritans called their walk “holy sweat.”
Paul defines the metrics clearly in 2Corinthians 5:9: “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.”
- “He or she is in a better place.” One of the most quoted of the clichés, this one is offered in sympathy at funerals, but also in ignorance. How can the grave be a better place? Like the old dog Rover, when we die we die all over.
“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten,” Ecclesiastes 9:5. Verse 10 says further, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” At death we no longer are conscious or sentient.
Of course, this cliché assumes the deceased are in heaven. Even if the Bible taught salvation at death, only Yahshua decides who is worthy of it, and then only at the judgment, Luke 20:35. “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage.”
Scripture says that we lose total consciousness at death. When He returns, Yahshua our Judge will raise to life those He finds worthy of the first resurrection. The dead remain dead until this resurrection event at the Second Coming, Matthew 24:30-31.
Solomon did not say the dead go to a better place. Only that the person’s breath of life, not the person’s immortal soul, goes back to Yahweh: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit [ruach] shall return unto Elohim who gave it,” Ecclesiastes 12:7.
All thoughts perish at death, Psalm 146:4, and the dead can’t praise, Psalm 88:10.
Only Yahweh has immortality, 1Timothy 6:16. No one has it automatically.
Furthermore, the dead are RAISED incorruptible. They don’t come DOWN from heaven but rise to meet the returning Yahshua in the air when He comes to earth, John 6:40.
- “There, but for the grace of G-d, go I.” This cliché is used to minimize or excuse the bad behavior of another. It says in effect, “That could have been me there.” It really says that Yahweh’s grace restrains you but didn’t quite work for them.
- “Ask J-sus into your heart.” Why my heart? Why not my head as well? This is yet another emotional cliché void of nutrition. What does it mean in the practical world where we all live? Clichés like these make living by the Bible just an ethereal, emotive experience rather than, as Yahshua teaches, one that mirrors His own examples. John tells us in 1John 2:6 to walk as He walked. He says in verse 4 that to say you know Him but don’t keep the commandments makes you a liar without the truth.
The Word teaches action, doing, sacrificing of self, and working out your salvation with fear and trembling. Asking Him into your heart just doesn’t have the same ring.
- “Do you have a personal relationship with the L-rd?” For the True Worshiper, an honest-to-goodness relationship with Yahshua means taking part in His death and resurrection by repenting and being baptized. It is followed by living a life befitting the example He set.
Paul admonishes in Romans 6:3: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Yahshua were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Messiah was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
In John 15:14 Yahshua defined the personal relationship He wants: “You are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” There is no other valid “personal relationship.”
- “G-d said it. I believe it. That settles it.” This cliché serves no purpose in a discussion of doctrine or belief. It is used only to deflect any serious inquiry, and padlock the door on further discussion. It is a one-size-fits-all comeback for those who are unskilled in the Word.
Truth to tell, the Bible doesn’t actually say what they may think it says, which means they don’t in fact believe it, and so nothing whatsoever is settled.
With most of these popular clichés the thrust is antinomian, meaning faith over obedience, and passivity over action. Revelation 2:26 counters that with: “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.” Overcome. Keep my works. These are action verbs, words of doing, dynamic words that define the True Worshiper’s life
Forget the ways of false clichés. Start living and applying Bible Truth and discover all the joy and satisfaction that you have been missing in your life.