Confessions of a Perfectionist

Matthew 5:48 used to put me in chains.

Be perfect therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:48

In college, this verse led to so much pain in my life. Instead of realizing this verse was to show us that we could never measure up to the perfection of God the Father, I made it my standard.

Now, yes, the Bible is replete with references to being holy because God is holy, of striving to live worthy of the call of God. That being said, the Bible never expects us to be perfect humans in our own strength. Let me say that again and make sure you see both sides of that statement.

The Bible never expects us to be perfect humans in our own strength.

Oh, how I missed this message in the Scriptures.

Instead of allowing my imperfections to drive me to the power of the Spirit, I allowed them to shame me of doing things that now embarrass me. Let me lay it out for you.

I put my faith in Jesus and what He did for me on the cross on December 24, 2000. I was seven years old.

What this means is that the vast majority of sins I have committed in my life have come after putting my faith in Jesus. So what began in college was a process of dealing with that sin in an unbiblical way.

I would live for Christ, having verses about being perfect always on my mind and heart. Yet over the course of weeks and months sin would pile up in my life. Instead of repenting of it and accepting grace, I would naively and foolishly simply restart my life with Christ. This would look like buying a new journal, buying a new Bible, buying a new Bible study or Christian book and simply beginning afresh (this often involved getting rid of those things that I had previously been using for my spiritual life).

My life was all about being perfect and shoving sin back down into my heart by simply pretending like I was starting afresh. To talk about it in Christianese terms, I made private rededications to God dozens of times. The first few days of a ‘rededication’ would be absolutely great. But then the weight of all of my sin would come crashing back down on me.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Two years ago, while in Phoenix, God spoke through my now wife and through His Word to tell me clearly the following: stop running, accept grace. All of my rededications didn’t have the power to change a stinking thing in my life. When faced with the reality of my sin, I was running away from the very One who had died in my place, the very One who I could find rest in.

Stop running, accept grace.

Maybe you are somewhat like me. Maybe you are constantly under the weight of the call to be perfect. Maybe you are trying to be that perfect man or woman under your own power. My encouragement to you is found in the following verses.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. – 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:4

Even typing this up in my office brings my heart to worship. Oh, how I wish I had searched the entirety of Scripture for what it says about being perfect.

Let’s meditate on 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 together.

In that passage, someone is doing the following:

  •      Sanctifying you completely
  •      Keeping your spirit blameless until Christ comes again
  •      Keeping your soul blameless until Christ comes again
  •      Keeping your body blameless until Christ comes again

Is it you?

NO.

The Scriptures make clear that it is God, the one who calls you, the Faithful One, who does this work in your heart and life.

HE. WILL. SURELY. DO. IT.

That gets me animated in preaching, teaching, and in this case blogging.

HE. WILL. SURELY. DO. IT.

That verse does not say, and you will surely do it. You will keep yourself blameless and holy. No! It says He will.

I just had the temptation to run down the hall of my church. This seriously gets me so excited.

The pressure is off my tiny little shoulders.

We are called in Scripture to be perfect and holy.

But this is not on our strength.

No, it is done by God, and according to James 1:4 it is often done through the difficulties of our lives. This is a small reminder that everything in our lives, including the rough parts, are used for His glory by making us more like Him.

I wish I could tell you that I have never felt the urge to run since God called me out of my rededication addiction in October 2016. I wish I could tell you I have perfectly embraced the reality that I will not ever be perfect under my own strength. That’s not the case. But looking at my shelf right now and seeing two years worth of journals is a reminder that I’m no longer running from the past.

Yes, you are called by God through Scripture to pursue holiness and Christlikeness. It is an active thing. That being said, it requires resting in the finished work of the Faithful One on your behalf.

The pressure is off your shoulders.

The pressure of perfection was placed on Jesus Christ and He accomplished what we could not.

You are called to be blameless and perfect.

HE. WILL. SURELY. DO. IT.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

Oh The Places You’ll Go

What should I do with my life? What am I passionate about? What job should I take? What if I don’t like my profession? Which direction should I go?

These are all questions that have gone through my mind at some point, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. They are questions that people grapple with, and they are important to think through and seek discernment in. Although these questions are valid, I believe there is an unnecessary pressure in society for people to pick a career and figure out what they want to do with their lives before they have even experienced life. Discovering your passion and pursuing a career is a good goal to have because I know God has placed passions, dreams, and desires in our lives for us to pursue with Him. But sometimes I feel like I need to tell people a 10 year plan for my life in order to validate the intrinsic value of what I am doing in the present, when in reality I have no idea what is ahead, and I am not always sure about what I want to specifically do within the sphere of ministry.

I used to struggle with feeling like I didn’t have a practical passion. I was passionate about things, but not defined occupational things. I would get worried that I wouldn’t find that one thing that I was made to do. A lot of time has passed since then, so I have learned more about life, myself, and what I enjoy doing. Yet sometimes I still struggle with wondering if I’m doing the right thing, or worry that I am not passionate enough about certain things. I could discuss all of my self-reflection and discoveries and blah blah blah…but that’s not what I want to focus on.

When I talk about the journey of life and what I think I want to do, I often tell people that it is not as much about what I do as it is how I live. I don’t always know what I want to do, but I know how I want to live. Let me explain, what I do is valuable, but how I carry out what I do is what matters.

Since I am a follower of Christ, I already know how I am supposed to live. He lays out in His Word how I should conduct myself. I am to carry out whatever I do with faithfulness and integrity. I am to rejoice in the Lord in all things. I am to serve humbly; and the list goes on. Even if I were to do something I had little interest in, I am called to do it well and live in such a way that points others to the Lord. Of course, those are not traits I naturally incapsulate. I’m prideful, I get discouraged, I don’t always have a God-honoring attitude. That is when God’s grace comes in. He is willing and able to produce His character in me. He calls me to reflect His character every day as a witness to others. It is His desire for all of us. He will equip us.

The way I love the Lord and love people within the everyday actions of what I am doing is what is eternally valuable. It is my joy to serve in whatever capacity He wants me to. I am beyond thankful to be serving the Lord here in South Africa. I know it is where God wants me to be at this moment and I am determined to make the most of it; but I can serve here in South Africa doing everything I should be doing, all without submitting to the Lord’s purpose in my conduct and interactions with others. If that were the case, I would be completely missing the point.

I believe we focus too much on what we do with our lives rather than how we live them. Our lives are more than the career we pursue. It is about how we live and ultimately, whom we are living for. Our lives are always drawing people’s attention to something. I don’t want my life to be about myself, and yet so many times that is the message I am sending to others. I desire that everything I say and do come out of a heart that is fully in sync with the heart of God. A heart that longs for people to be in close relationship with Him. I want to love fiercely, be present, and be intentional with my relationship with God and others. If I were a waiter at a restaurant, a lawyer, a housekeeper, a soccer coach, a nurse, an accountant, or any other vocation; my purpose would still be the same. To love God, love people, and make Him known. To quote C.T Studd “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Here’s the truth, wherever God has you at the moment is where you are meant to be. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek growth or pursue being in a different place in life. It means you are responsible to live each moment well, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. In reality, there are people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who are still figuring out what they want to do with their lives, and that’s ok! No matter what age you are, just breathe. Don’t get so caught up in finding what you want to do for the rest of your life that you actually miss your life. Instead, seek to serve the Lord in every aspect of your life. He knows everything about you, what you are good at, what you desire. Let Him show you how you should live and He will guide you in what you should do. Life is short. Love well, explore, have fun, forgive, chase dreams, grow in experience, change careers, or be content doing what you have been doing!

Now I don’t worry as much about whether I am doing the job I was made for. I was made to glorify God in anything and everything I do. That is what matters. That is what fulfills. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17. He made all of us and infused us with certain abilities and passions ultimately meant for serving Him. He knows the complexities of our hearts. I trust that He will continue to guide me and put me in whatever context I need to be in as I pursue Him, my one true passion.

Blessings,

Shannon Roach 

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

 

Fading Like Grass

One day, I will be called home by God. One day, my physical presence on earth will fade away. I’m not going to live forever. I’m mortal. I’m going to die.

To many, this is probably not encouraging or joyful news. For many, this is just another cause of depression or discouragement. Staring our own mortality in the face can be disheartening. But if we grasp a Biblical view of ourselves and of God, the fact that we are minute, mortal creatures can be a freeing experience.

When I lived in Phoenix, I lived with a brother in Christ who was particularly in tune with his mortality. We could be eating dinner, laughing up a storm, and then the topic of our mortality would broached. While this didn’t always make me happy and pleased, it was inherently Biblical. My friend didn’t broach this subject regularly in order to stifle our joy, rather, it was done to remind us of just how precious these moments of togetherness were.

Today, I was laying in my bed digging into a Bible study on James that I recently started. While doing so, I made a connection in Scripture that I can honestly say I’d never noticed before. Look with me at James 1:9-11.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. – James 1:9-11

In this verse, the man of wealth is compared to grass and flowers that quickly fade away when the scorching heat comes upon them. I looked at cross-references and came across Isaiah 40:7-8, verses that I’m familiar with but had never seen the connection to James 1 before.

The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. – Isaiah 40:7-8

Notice that proclamation of the Scriptures. Surely the people are grass. You likely won’t hear that at a commencement address or from a coach speaking to his team. Surprisingly, I rarely hear this type of imagery from the pulpit either, even though it is a true statement.

Growing up, when I would hear this passage, I would normally just hear verse eight. “The grass withers. . . . but the word of our God will stand forever.” To me, it was nothing more than a bold proclamation that God, His Word, and His promises would stand the test of time, even after the earth as we know it has gone away. It was only about the eternal nature of God and of His Word. I had never noticed the pretty confronting implications of the previous verse.

I’m grass.

You’re grass.

We’re all grass.

The sun scorches us, and we die.

Contrasted to an eternal God, we are nothing.

Again, this can lead to a despondent, disheartened, discouraged mindset on life, on the beauties of life and the gifts that God has so graciously blessed each of us with. But there’s another, more valid response. There’s the response of humility and trust in God that leads to freedom.

The passage from James is wedged in a passage explaining that you and I are going to face a heck of a lot of stuff in our lives. We are going to face trials of ‘various kinds’ (v. 2). Some of our brothers and sisters in Christ will face persecution, others of us will face life in a sin-affected broken cosmos. All of us face something. And when these things come, they can shake our confidence. They can leave us reeling, grasping for answers.

When our world shakes, many of us make the mistake of righting ourselves with a facade of control. We pretend that there’s nothing to worry about because we’re on top of things. We rely on our savings account, our job stability, our life experience.

James is giving a word of warning to those who would do just that. He reminds his readers that the rich man will ultimately pass away one day, even while pursuing that which he strives to obtain.

We must humbly come before the Lord, remembering our place before Him. When tragedy and trials strike in our lives, we must remember our God is both wise and generous with said wisdom (v. 5). This humility, this humble view of ourselves, can lead us to the wisdom that God has for us, the wisdom to live our lives well, even in trials.

Consider the following quote from Greg Gilbert’s study on James.

“Our physical lives do not last forever. Just as the grass withers and the flower fades, so we are here one moment and gone the next. That reality powerfully underlines James’s main point – that our faith should be not in our own wavering, unstable selves, but in the unchanging and immortal God.”

You and I are but grass.

Have you ever seen grass? Of course, you have. But have you ever seen how easy it sways, or how easily North Texas heat obliterates it in the summer? That’s us. In the passages we looked at today, we see this truth clearly (James 1:10, ‘like a flower of the grass’ and Isaiah 40:7, ‘surely men are grass’).

Friends,this is the most freeing truth on earth.

I’m not going to be around much longer. I don’t have to worry about legacy, about my kingdom of sand. I can trust in the One who is wise and generous with His wisdom. I can seek to love others and persevere in trials.

I’m not going to be great. I’m not going to be a world-changer. I don’t have to feel the pressure to achieve great things.

I am grass.

Guess what? You are too.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Lifted Up To Sing His Praises

Every day is a chance for me to sing the praises of my King. Every morning is a gift of His grace poured out on my life.

Yesterday I came across Psalm 30 in my time with the Lord and my oh my it stirred my affections for Jesus and made my heart burst with joy. The Psalms tend to do this for me. They remind me that the experiences I face day to day are not unique or isolating, but rather they are just part of being a human being. The emotions the Psalmist unpacks give me the freeing reminder that I too can be bold when I approach the throne. Why? Because of Christ.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

We can confidently come to the throne.

Psalm 30 took me straight there.

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. – Psalm 30:1

Right out of the gate I was driven to my knees. I meditated and thought long and hard about the ways that God has rescued me. The ways  He has lifted me up out of harm’s way, out of the crosshairs of my foes. Worry, jealousy, anxiety, anger, pride, defeatism. These things assault me. These things want to rejoice in their victory over me. Yet the Lord draws me up and out of the way.

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help and you have healed me. – Psalm 30:2

Healing is found in Christ and Christ alone. He alone is the soothing medicine that my aching and broken heart needs. Just look at this wondrous truth! God heals us! He heals me! I have cried out to Him in pain and He has reached down and lifted me out, He has healed me. What a wondrous Psalm.

O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. – Psalm 30:3

Relatable much?

Have you ever felt like you’re in hell? That the junk you’re walking through is beyond words, is more painful than you could have ever imagined having to face? Now I’m not incredibly well-versed in the theology of the Psalms, but in my opinion what David is describing is not the reality of us all headed toward hell outside of Christ. Rather I think this is evocative imagery, much like David will earlier say that God has forsaken him completely (Psalm 22:1).

So if you’re going through a whole lot of garbage in your life right now, rejoice that we serve and worship a God who draws us out.

By the way, rejoicing doesn’t mean immediate gratitude for horrible circumstances. Job wrestled with so much suffering before he came to a deeper intimacy with God. If you have a friend who is walking through hellish circumstances, don’t be an idiot like Job’s friends and try and find a blame for what’s happening. Listen, learn, and love.

These first three verses describe the ebb and flow of life; they emphasize and illuminate our seasons of life where God is pulling us up and out.

I am not going to cover this entire Psalm in this post, I do however want to emphasize the way that we should respond to these verses.. We realize how we should respond by looking at verses five, nine, and twelve.

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. – Psalm 30:5

What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? – Psalm 30:9

That my glory may sing your praise and not be silent, O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! – Psalm 30:12

How do we respond when God pulls us out and up?

We find joy in that truth! Joy comes in the morning. Every day is a reminder of what God has done. Every day when I get out of bed is a reminder of what else God has pulled me up from.

We tell of His faithfulness. David pleads with the Lord not to allow him to go down to death, because if he is but dust then he can’t praise the Lord. He knows that he is called to tell of the Lord’s faithfulness. So every day that we are living should be a day where we praise the Lord and tell others of all that He has done for us and in us.

We cannot be silent! God deserves our thanks forever. Again, every single day that we exist upon earth is a day to be loud about all that God has done. God has been faithful to us, over and over.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! – Psalm 67:3-5

How will all the peoples and nations of the earth praise our Risen Savior, our good and great God, if we don’t first tell them of how this God has been faithful to us?

Speak out.

Speak up.

Our social media feeds and our daily conversations need an influx of proclamations of God’s faithfulness. In a world of hatred, vitriol, and division, we can be an encouragement to those in our lives who need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness.

If you still feel like you’re in a pit. I’m sorry. I’m praying for you. I’m hoping that God will begin to pull you out. His grace is always stronger than our suffering.

For those of you who are in a season where you’re out of the pit, rejoice.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

Move Toward Someone

Monday afternoon I was in Mardel bookstore searching for some material for the children’s ministry at our church. As I walked through the kids section, I saw a book I had given my prodigal younger brother for Christmas in a previous year and tears filled my eyes. Two years after his departure and I still get caught off guard with the pain of that reality.

Monday night I was at FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and heard something about a great event being put on by another church in town, and for a moment envy and jealousy crept into my heart, threatening to briefly harden my heart towards this other church instead of rejoicing with those who rejoice.

In the span of just a few hours, I was confronted with my suffering and my sin. My external pain and internal temptations.

Some of you may be thinking what I think from time to time, “Nathan, shut up, you’re constantly talking about these things on this blog.” My fear is our churches are full of people thinking the same thing about each other, “Can you just stop talking about the same things all the time? We get it. Sin, sin, sin. Suffering, suffering, suffering.” And while there are a plethora of commands of how we’re supposed to treat each other, we appear sometimes to not really want to obey these commands at all. Let’s look at some below.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:15

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

What I am not advocating for is all of us sitting around together in our Sunday School classes, going in a circle and sharing our deepest current sins and struggles with absolutely no follow up (This happened to me at a D-Now when I was in Junior High. It wasn’t helpful.)

What I am advocating for is for us to be willing to have those type of conversations with some of our fellow believers.

Talking about these things is not always done in a beneficial way. Opening up about sins for the sake of tearing down facades of perfectionism and walls of great lives is not enough. I once sat in a Men’s Group in college where all we did was rate our temptation towards certain sins on a scale of 1 to 10. After that we prayed together, acknowledged we’re all battling temptation, and then never talked about it again. This does basically nothing. It’s borderline enabling, because it tells people that everyone fights sin so don’t beat yourself up too much. 

Confession without daily walking in wisdom and love through sin is dangerous and incomplete.

We need to be people who daily fight for each other. Yes, daily. To get there, we have to acknowledge that all of us fight sin and fight suffering. Every one of us. Every day.

I have yet to meet someone who is physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and relationally 100% every day. So even on my most joyous and hopeful days, I’m struggling in a sin-ravaged world.

Now that I’ve rambled, let me get to the part of the blog I really want to focus on.

To get to what I’ve described above, we have to move toward each other.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, someone is not going to randomly start opening up about their sins and struggles at church out of nowhere (if they do, that’s likely a cry for help that we must follow up on and be a source of hope and freedom for that person).

Why do we need to move toward one another?

Because we’re human. And we’d rather not open up about these things.

But Christ came to us.

John 1:14 says that the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us. He set up shop on our block. We in our flesh would never go to God, so He came to us in grace and love.

We can model this in this way. Move towards someone today. Move past the mega-annoying ‘how are you doing’ question that only leads to a ‘good’ response. Push past that into real questions about their lives. Seek to humbly listen, learn, and love. Don’t come with answers, come with questions. Don’t come with selfish motives, come with a desire to love someone in your church as Christ would.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger – James 1:19

This will inevitably be insanely awkward at first. Last year I met with two great young men every week for lunch, and for months it seemed to be all conversations about Fortnite and sports. It took a while for us all to collectively push past those surface conversations into deep intentional ones. In some of my discipleship relationships today I’m still in the awkward stage. To be vulnerable and open about these matters in our lives, we need to trust that the other person cares enough to pray, call out, convict, and follow up.

Guess what. Doing this, this moving towards someone else thing, is uncomfortable. It takes effort because it’s not what we’re naturally prone to do. Yet Christ stepped out of glory to meet us here on earth. You and I can get out of our comfort zone in order to become covenant communities of believers who are actually for each other in the grimy and gritty days we live in.

I would challenge you to not simply like and share this post, but rather to implement it. Pick one person this semester or season to have this type of relationship with (outside your spouse). Pick one person that you weekly, if not daily, reach out to in the midst of our own personal sins and struggles. Don’t just confess. Walk through sin. When it comes to walking through sin with another, I mean that when someone confesses sin to me, I’m going to text and call and message and make sure that they are aware of my prayers and of my Scripture-based encouragement as they go through the fight. Don’t just break down in tears about difficulties in your life, pray through it.

If we as the Church would do this, we would see our churches come alive.

Move towards another person today.

Stressed Out

49% of Americans say that they are regularly stressed out. That’s based on an article I saw today on my Twitter feed. Now, I don’t know how they’re able to track such a thing, but the study showed that people worldwide are more unhappy this year then they’ve been in the past ten years. I’m assuming it factors in emotional, mental, and physical struggles, but I don’t have all the details. Either way, this is shocking.

When I was attending OBU , I made it a point, a mission in some ways, to live a life devoid of stress. Some might call this irresponsible or lazy, but I can honestly say that that was not my heart behind it. Rather, I saw countless brothers and sisters in Christ who allowed their hearts to be overrun by stress, anxiety, worry, and fear.

As a result of my mission (a stress-free life) I sought to make the mundane fun. My friends helped me by having similar intentions.. Going to get groceries became an avenue for fun memories and experiences. Going to class became opportunities to bring joy to the lives of others. Doing homework was a chance to enjoy friendships. Everything was full of life and vitality. It brought me some of my favorite moments and memories of my whole life. Because of this intentional lifestyle, college was only occasionally stressful for me.

Writing this I realize how much things have changed in my life and heart. That joyous young buck has been slowed, worn down, more stoic. For those of you who know me now this may sound laughable, but you didn’t know me then. My eyes have been opened to the pains of this world, my heart opened to the fears of this world, and my mind overrun by the anxieties of this world. There is clearly a part of this transition that is genuinely good. As a pastor now, not just a wild and free college student, I have a responsibility to lead with maturity and focus. At the same time however, I ache for the jovial young man I once was.

You may not be in my same season of life. Most of my readers are not. But you may feel the same. You think about your life today and you realize that it’s not what it once was. You’re more stressed. You’re more afraid. You’re more anxious.

As believers, we need to reorient ourselves. Many of us bought the lie in the past that Christianity was the easy route, that Christianity was the path to a full and blessed life. All of that is crashing around us as we take our rightful place on the margins of society. This transition leaves many of us looking with rose-colored glasses back to the good ol’ days of Christianity in America.

We must reorient ourselves in Scripture. That’s why I blog. I see the problems and struggles of my fellow followers of Jesus and in my own life and I know for a fact they can only be overcome when we spend time with the Lord in His Word. So I blog, even in my weakness, praying that at least one person would be encouraged by my writings to go to Scripture for hope.

The goofy, jovial me is below the surface of my crustier than normal outer shell. Each time I’m with the Lord, my anxiety loosens its grip on me and I’m freed by the truths of Scripture. It happened just this morning. Check this out:This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. – Genesis 5:1

When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. – Genesis 5:3

These two verses are likely not on somebody’s coffee cup or on their pillow or in a picture frame on the wall. But man alive they’re powerful. The language used in these two verses shows that Seth’s relationship with Adam is much like our relationship with God. Made in his father’s image, Seth enjoyed a special relationship with his dad. Genesis 5:1 tell us that we can enjoy this same type of intimate relationship with God, as does Genesis 1:26. We are made in God’s image just as Seth was made in Adam’s image. I wrote in the margin of my Bible this morning, “We are all children of God.” This is the first of hundreds of passages in Scripture emphasizing the theme that as followers of Jesus we have a Father-child relationship with the God who made everything!

This theme of Scripture alone should ease our minds. Where is the need for legitimate worry when God is sovereignly working all things for our good? But here’s the deal. If I didn’t go to Scripture this morning, I would not have encountered this passage and would not have been reminded of God’s grace given to me in this way.

Again, that’s why I blog. I strive to remind people that listening to sermons and going to church can’t hold a candle to experiencing the brightness of seeing Jesus daily through prayer and His Word. I would most definitely be more stressed today if I was not in His Word this morning.

I like what Max Lucado has to say about this topic, “Rather than rehearse the chaos of the world, we can choose to rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty.” – Max Lucado

Man, this is truly one of the cures for anxiety. Instead of playing the chaos of this world through my brain ad nauseam, I can choose instead to rejoice in the ways that God has shown Himself faithful.

Part of working in a church is we do get to have front row seats at life change. The other part is that all day long I’m hearing the chaos of our members, or people they know, or strangers. Sadly, 90% of the time someone comes into our office, or calls our office, it’s bad news. Not good news. (I welcome calls of encouragement. I don’t get to hear many great stories. Seriously. Call me sometime.)

It’s easy to take that home. It’s easy to just sit back and rehearse the chaos. But anxiety’s grip is loosened when I take an active step in meditating on Scripture, on God’s goodness. This doesn’t mean naively pretending the world is perfect, but rather acknowledging that God is greater. In the case of today, it means meditating on the fact that I’m able to approach God as His child.

Scripture memory is one way that we as God’s people can dwell on the greatness and graciousness of our Father. In my current season of life, I carry note cards with Scripture on them in my back pocket so that when I have downtime in my day, I can meditate on the beautiful truths of Scripture. The verse I wrote down today to memorize is the following:

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. – Colossians 3:2

By meditating on what matters in the spiritual realm, I’m able to prevent myself from getting lost in the bad news of today, instead resting in the good news of the gospel.

The times are changing.

God never does.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Grace Isn’t For Me

Yesterday, I forgot the gospel.

The day before, I forgot the gospel.

Tuesday, I forgot the gospel.

Now, I obviously don’t have a memory loss problem. (I mean not that I know of.) What I do have is a heart that is fleshly, a heart that is sinful, a heart that is forgetful.

As a pastor, I preach and teach the good news of Jesus multiple times a week. I do so in large groups, I do so in small groups, I do so one on one. Constantly the message of the gospel is being spoken by me. I hope and pray and hope some more that it is bearing fruit in the hearts of those I proclaim it to.

What has become frustrating to me though is the fact that I could speak all day about the gospel and believe that it applies to others, but in my heart and mindset at home, I don’t allow it to be applied to me.

Here’s a clear example of what I mean. I distinctly remember one day in May 2016, not long after I graduated, when my inability to accept the gospel was probably the most stark. It was a Sunday morning and I was sitting with my church community as we partook of the Lord’s Supper together.  

I remember it clear as day. We were passing out the elements, and as I sat there, I told myself “grace doesn’t apply to you.”

The Lord’s Supper, in my church tradition, is simply a pointing back to the work of Christ on the cross. We don’t receive grace when we take it each time, rather it is a reminder of the total and complete grace we received by putting our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross.

My heart and mind refused to allow me to rest in grace.

Even though I took the bread and the cup, my mind kept saying, “You can’t accept this grace. You’re a pastor who sins. You’re garbage. This grace isn’t for you. You are supposed to lead people but you yourself are trash.” This went through my head on repeat.

This was only a few weeks after being ordained to be a pastor. To me, the fact that people saw God’s call on my life to be a pastor and my own inability to overcome all sinful desires in my heart didn’t compute. I was a fraud.

On that immensely painful day, I had forgotten the message of the gospel.

I wish I could say that was the last time I forgot the message of the gospel. To be transparent, that’s one of the harder parts of my job as a pastor. I absolutely know and believe that Scripture says I’m held to a higher standard. But way too often I hold myself to a higher standard than the message of the gospel. I refuse to accept grace and walk in forgiveness. Instead, I try and punish myself emotionally and mentally in penance.

Maybe, you’re like me.

Maybe, you doubt grace.

Maybe, your sin seems greater than God’s love for you.

God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:4-7

That’s the message of the gospel. God is rich in mercy. He loves us. He loved us. Even when we were dead as a result of our sins against Him. He made us alive with Christ, He saved us BY GRACE. Now we are seated with Him in glory (even if we’ve still got work to do here on earth). This is the gospel.

What we modern Christians forget sometimes is that Paul wrote Ephesians to followers of Jesus. This book (like many if not all of Paul’s letters) was not an evangelistic piece. Rather, it was a letter written to those who were already following Jesus. Yet, Paul reminds the people of the message of the gospel. Why?

Because we’re all prone to forget what the gospel tells us about ourselves. We all forget how we’re viewed by God. We all forget that we’ve already been made perfect in the eyes of God. Just look at the books of Galatians and Hebrews. These were people who were forgetting that they were perfect in God’s eyes, and so they fell back into legalistic and religious tendencies in order to give themselves assurance of their salvation.

Brothers and sisters, the gospel is not something you move on from. The gospel is the beauty of the Biblical story, it is the message of our freedom.

I’ll be honest, I still forget what the gospel says about me. I still allow myself to be defined by my sins and shortcomings. That’s why I need to remind myself of the gospel every single day. That’s why I need people in my life reminding myself of the gospel every single day.

But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. – Hebrews 3:13

We fall into sin, we fall into the lies of the enemy when we are not being encouraged by one another daily. The individualism of our day and age in churches drives me insane. How arrogant of us to think we can do it alone.

I need to preach the gospel to myself every single day.

I need you to remind me of it too.

If you see in me a falling back towards earning the grace of God, call me lovingly into repentance and back under the never-ending, unceasing grace and mercy of God.

Preaching the gospel to yourself daily means saturating your heart and mind in the truths of the good news of Jesus found in Scripture.

In His Name,

Nate Roach