The Beauty of Conviction

The Bible is convicting.

I think we start to believe a falsehood over time that we are always to leave our time in God’s Word feeling encouraged, equipped, overjoyed. While these experiences and moments in God’s Word do take place, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Throughout the last couple years, I keep turning to the same well-known verse to remind me of this fact.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, – 2 Timothy 3:16

Paul is describing to his mentee, Timothy, the role of God’s Word in the life of a follower of Jesus.

Notice how it includes rebuking and correcting! Now, when I’ve been corrected and rebuked throughout my life, it doesn’t normally come with a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart. So, there will be times where we go to God’s Word and get smacked in the face with conviction, with the need for repentance and turning from our sins.

This has been happening to me today.

There’s an aspect of conviction, of repentance, that I forget sometimes still. It’s what blew me away during my time in God’s Word this afternoon.

It’s the following truth.

God is with me in the midst of conviction.

Do you feel like God is distant in the midst of you recognizing your sin? When the Bible confronts your anger, lust, pride, gossip habits, fear, worry, hate, do you feel abandoned, condemned, less-than?

That is the enemy’s way of stealing what is truly a gift, the process of repentance, and replacing it with self-loathing.

Don’t give into his tricks.

God is with you in the midst of conviction.

This came out of a very unfamiliar passage for me, Haggai chapter one.

In the first chapter of Haggai, the Lord speaks through the prophet Haggai to call the people to repentance (which is really what all prophets in the Bible were called to do).

The reason for this prophetic word of repentance is because the people of God were building houses for themselves while the Lord’s house laid in ruins.

Side Note: I’m sure churches have used this passage to tell people to contribute financially to building plans. No. That’s not what this is about at all. According to Acts 17:24-25, God doesn’t dwell in our modern churches anyway. So, don’t fall for that baloney. 

After this convicting word from the Lord, one that likely didn’t bring much happy feelings for the people, there is a powerful verse. Let’s look together at what happens when Haggai is done bringing this word.

Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you,” declares the Lord. – Haggai 1:12-13

Bam.

Boom.

That’s some good stuff right there.

Side Note: I will likely end up naming my firstborn son Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel Roach has a nice ring to it. I’ll see if I can convince Jamie. 

God hasn’t permanently abandoned the people to their sin.

God hasn’t abandoned you to your sin forever.

Now, Scripture does make it pretty clear that there are times in our lives where God lets us pursue the sins we keep choosing over Him until we see that they are empty.

But when conviction comes to you, that’s a wonderful thing!

It means that the Spirit of God is moving in your heart!

When the conviction comes, remember that God is near. That God is drawing you out of your sin and into a renewed relationship with Him. If conviction never comes into your walk with Christ, beware. You likely have strayed. I’m not saying that you need to be convicted every day you read God’s Word. By no means. But a lifestyle devoid of conviction is likely a lifestyle that is hardened to God’s Word.

Let’s go back to Haggai.

After this profound statement from Haggai, we see that God truly is with them, truly is moving after this word of conviction. In verse 14, we see this:

So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God, – Haggai 1:14

God is moving in the hearts of the leaders of God’s people, as well as each individual follower of God as well!

What we see here then in this:

God brings conviction, is present in conviction, and gives them the ability to respond to this conviction.

Have you ever felt convicted over your sin and then set out on your own to change?

How did that work for you?

If you’re like me, you probably were repenting over and confessing the same sins not too long after this.

God is present in our conviction, but He also provides for us the grace and strength necessary to respond to that conviction.

Instead of trying to modify your behavior, lay your heart bare before the Lord. Let Him slowly but assuredly cleanse your heart of that which leads to the sin in your life.

Also, rely on your brothers and sisters in Christ! None of us are strong enough to resist sin on our own!

Man, this one really put the rambling in Roach Ramblings.

I hope you see the truth of God’s Word!

You haven’t been abandoned or forsaken in your conviction!

He is with you and will give you the strength to move forward!

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

Redeeming Social Media

I’m hesitant to write anything about social media these days because, for the most part, I don’t participate in any of it. But for the sake of transparency, here is my short history of social media.

I’ve been on most major social media platforms since 2006, which is when I got my first Facebook account. I’ve had a few Twitter accounts, a couple Instagram accounts, and I had a mad SnapChat streak going with a friend for over half a calendar year. But as of now, I only have a minimal Facebook page and a LinkedIn. So that’s that.

Now before I move on, I want to say I believe most anything* can be redeemed for the Kingdom of God. I believe our work, our rest, our play, our entertainment, our habits, our hobbies can be used for that sake of loving God and loving others. (*I say “most anything” because I’m not sure how explicitly sinful activities can be redeemed, although I know God can bring about, in a way, redemption out of those activities.)

I want to also lay this foundational assumption of the way everything works. I believe everything, yes, everything, forms us. Everything forms us, molds us, makes us. From morning to night, from night to morning, we are forming and being formed by everything that’s around us. For example, when I make a salad, the salad is forming my body (in a healthy way). But when I make a bowl of ice cream, the ice cream is forming my body (in a, let’s say, different way).

James K.A. Smith’s You Are What You Love is where I stole (acquired) this idea. So if you want to read more about this idea about everything as formative, then buy it and read it for yourself. In fact, it’s so good I would be willing to buy it for you.

OK, so far we determined:

  1. I have used and currently do use social media.
  2. I believe in the ability for Jesus to redeem most anything in creation.
  3. Everything in the world forms us to some end in some way.

Now, let’s talk about two distinct yet related ways that social media forms you. And I am going to use Instagram as a clear example. This is not to raise it higher or drag it lower than any other forms of social media. It’s just a way to make this all more concrete.

Two of the many ways a social media platform like Instagram forms you are: (1) It increases your desire for novelty, and (2) it increases your desire for sensuality.

First, Instagram is intentionally designed to cause you to become addicted to it. This is not-so-subtly because of advertisements. Instagram makes money when it sells ad spaces. Economics lesson over. Everything about the platform is meticulously crafted to usher you into an mindless habit of swiping and tapping and swiping and tapping and swiping and tapping. We become Olympian-like in our ability to swipe and tap so much that we do with ease it while operating an oversized bullet moving at 75 miles per hour.

How? In short, Instagram plays into our biological and neurological essence to trigger positive emotions based on novelty. We desire new pictures. It’s that simple. We want to see something new every time we open the application. If you saw the same picture on the top of your Instagram feed whenever you opened the app, you would be less inclined to open the app.

Second, Instagram as a visual media is particularly designed to play into our natural, sensual desires. OK, Economics lesson again: Sex sells. Economic lesson over. You know it’s true. Just watch literally anything. I mean there are too many examples. You were probably lured into tapping on an advertisement just five minutes ago because of some really good looking guy or gal wearing sunglasses that you can’t tell if they’re taking them off or putting them on. But woh those are some good looking shades.

To be sure, I am not immune to these “ideas” because I’m aware of them. I think studies have shown the opposite can be true in many cases. I might be more inclined to succumb to social media tricks simply because I am aware of what’s going on. To be honest, that’s one of the many reasons I don’t have many social media accounts anymore. It’s simply too enjoyable.

So what does all of this have to do with following Jesus?

Well, I’ll tell you by referencing Matthew 5:27-28:

“You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:27-28

Adultery?

Yes, I’m talking about adultery. Why?

In Russell Moore’s Storm-Tossed Family, he mentions briefly that affairs are often had because of a desire for novelty. Yes, novelty, especially in all things, obviously, sexual.

So, let’s just say novelty does play a large role in affairs. And let’s say based on Jesus’s words that affairs are not just having sex with someone who is not your spouse. Affairs can be in your heart, and they’re not just restricted to married people either. This is some difficult stuff to consider.

But what does this have to do with social media, including Instagram?

It’s this:

Everything forms us. Instagram forms us by engaging, rewarding, and enhancing our innate desires for novelty and sensuality. Desires for novel sensual experiences drive affairs. Therefore, Instagram is forming us to have affairs.

And recall, affairs can be had in your heart whether or not you’re married.

If you are serious about following Jesus, you need to deeply consider what he has to say about how to resist the temptation to sexual sin.

Jesus also says this:

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” – Matthew 5:29-30

Please hear me out on this. I am not saying every Jesus follower needs to “cut off their hand,” i.e., delete their social media accounts or toss your smartphone to be recycled properly. I am saying if you claim to follow Jesus, and I pray I’m doing the same thing–if there is a log in my eye in this, please point it out for me–please consider his intense hatred of sexual sin and his command to cut yourself off from anything that might cause you to sin.

Can you use social media, namely Instagram, to bring about redemption? Yes. Certainly, please do that. Please do that for the millions of people on Instagram. Please exemplify Jesus there. Post pictures of Bible verses. Post pictures of you enjoying creation. Post pictures of your small group sharing a meal. Post pictures of you spending time with your spiritual family and biological family. Please. Be light and salt on Instagram.

But I equally beg you to consider if Instagram is worth having if it sends your whole body to hell.

For me, my proclivity to lust and greed and jealousy was too much to have an Instagram. It’s too much for me to watch certain movies and TV shows and YouTube videos. I’m a weaker brother. I really am.

And if you are strong enough to bring about God’s Kingdom online and be a faithful witness, stay on social media. But if you are weak like me in these regards, please delete your account.

Social media is a discipleship issue. It’s a spiritual issue. It’s a life or death issue.

Whatever you choose, I pray your faith would increase ten-fold as you follow Jesus.
– Matt Welborn

Me, Myself, and I

I wonder what they think of me.

I wish I had some time for myself, some self-care, maybe some pizza and a good movie. 

I’m so sick of the same sins that I battle all the time. I can’t seem to just fully get free of my struggles. 

If I could only eat better, be organized, be more fit, then I could really make a difference. I just need to improve my life. 

My upbringing was the worst, the job I recently left was so hard on me, none of the circumstances of my life have been fair at all. 

Have you ever had any of these thoughts? If we’re being honest, some of these go through our minds, right? In our day-to-day lives, we are focused on ourselves. That first one is the worst for me. I over-analyze every conversation, text message, or e-mail to make sure that I was perfectly articulate and kind in all that I said. I’m so introspective. To a fault. My wife regularly has to remind me to shut up and let things go.

Some of us live our lives focused entirely on self-indulgence and self-care. We focus so much on making it to the weekend, getting away from responsibilities, filling our own souls up with what we need to keep going. As naturally selfish people, we can consistently put ourselves before others.

Self-improvement Christianity runs rampant in our current church culture. Sermons, books, articles, blogs, and podcasts all fill our minds with the idea that we can go to Jesus and His Word with a focus on improving ourselves. We learn of habits to help us overcome anger, pride, fear, anxiety, lust, doubt. We learn of habits to help us be better servants, friends, church members, neighbors, parents, spouses.

We listen to messages that tell us that God wants to help us achieve our dreams, God wants us to loosen up and accept grace, God wants to help us be better versions of ourselves. At first glance, this seems all good and right. The gospel and the Bible both impact how we live. We are called to get rid of that which hinders our faith and replace it with that which cultivates our love for God and neighbor.

But, the gospel is not about self-improvement. The gospel is not about God sprinkling a little bit of magic pixie dust on our problems and difficulties. The gospel is not a supplement we can take to help us be better. The gospel, the good news of Jesus, is about God taking us from death to life.

One vein of self-improvement Christianity that has become supremely popular is the brokenness obsession. You can read and listen to a lot of Christian media that encourages the reader or listener to lighten up, to accept the sins you struggle with, to be your ‘authentic’ self.

All of what I’ve written about so far is focused entirely inward.

There’s a better way for me to live.

There’s a better way for you to live.

When we take our eyes off of ourselves, we can find the freedom that Jesus intended for us.

In her book, Flourish: How the Love of Christ Frees Us from Self Focus, Lydia Brownback unpacks in detail much of what I just described. It was such a good book, I devoured it in two days. I would encourage you to get it and give it a read.

There are a litany of quotes I would love to share from this book, I’ll focus on just one though.

Christ is our identity too, if we’ve been united to him by faith. Sometimes we forget that. Some of us have never understood it. And it gets obscured by our naturally self-oriented hearts. 

That’s some good stuff right there.

That’s some good stuff based off of Galatians 2.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

When we fully grasp the message of the gospel, we look outside of ourselves, and we are set free to flourish in good works towards others.

If I spent as much time out in our community as I did inwardly over-analyzing how people perceived me, I bet you I could see a lot more done for the Kingdom in my life. If I spent as much time serving others as I did striving to create a better version of myself through self-improvement, I bet you I could see a lot more done for the Kingdom in my life. If I spent as much time diving into God’s Word and prayer as I did unwinding through entertainment, I guarantee you that I could see a lot more done for the Kingdom in my life.

If I took my eyes off myself, believing that the truth of Galatians 2:20 applies to every facet of my life, I guarantee you that I would become more aware of how God is at work in the community around me.

So my encouragement for you is to immerse yourself in Scripture. Not self-help books that tell you to accept yourself and be your best self. Not podcasts that teach you that God can help you achieve all of your dreams. Get into Scripture. Remind yourself of what the overarching story of the Bible teaches us about who we are. We have been hidden with Christ. Our identity is in Him.

That means I don’t have to devote time to wondering what people think of me.

That means you don’t have to endlessly pursue the next self-improvement plan.

That means we don’t have to endlessly pursue the next activity that will help us feel better about ourselves.

That means we don’t have to parade our accomplishments before others in order to be praised by men.

It means we can focus on others.

It means we can live out the gospel.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Wretched Idolatry

The Bible is not always as PG-rated as we would like to think. While teaching the Bible in a flippant manner is not good, I also think that there is a shock value in many Biblical texts that we are supposed to steep in rather than gloss over.

Here in February, I’ve been starting through the book of Jeremiah. This is a book of the Bible that I have never spent a ton of time in, but as part of God’s Word I know that it is useful for my training in righteousness. As I was reading through the first few chapters the last couple days, I’ve been caught totally off guard by the language it uses when talking about the idolatry of God’s people.

Through the lips of Jeremiah, God proclaims that the spiritual idolatry of His people is equivalent to whoredom.

You read that right.

Not only that, but the Lord goes on to use even more shocking imagery for the sins of His people.

In essence, Jeremiah 2-3 teaches us a few things about idolatry.

IDOLATRY IS ADULTERY

Idolatry is adultery. This imagery, this theme, is all throughout the Biblical story, most often seen in the prophets.

Look at the language that God uses through the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 2-3.

This is what the Lord says: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown. – Jeremiah 2:2

Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ‘I will not serve you!’ Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute. – Jeremiah 2:20

You have lived as a prostitute with many lovers – would you now return to me?” – Jeremiah 3:1b

Then in the most stunning language we see this:

(you are) a wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her craving – in her heat who can restrain her? – Jeremiah 2:24a

Why such abrasive and shocking language?

Because the reality of idolatry is deplorable.

God made a covenant with His people in the Old Testament, and although He rescued and redeemed them time and time again, they turned from Him and worshipped other gods. They were not faithful. All one has to do is read the Old Testament with even the slightest attention to idolatry and you will see that it seeps into almost every story. God’s people regularly and religiously pursued false gods of the other nations and false gods of their own creation.

What idols have you created? What fills your heart and mind besides the Lord?

IDOLATRY IS CONTAGIOUS

So we’ve seen in this passage that idolatry is equated to spiritual adultery.

Sadly, it gets worse. Jeremiah says that idolatry is contagious. According to Jeremiah 3:7-10, we see that the faithlessness of Israel leads Judah into sin as well.

When a country or community becomes dominated by idolatry, the idolatry starts to become the new normal. Idolatry can become the status quo, seeping into the very nature of the community.

How many of us find our confidence and security in our possessions? How many of us find our confidence and security in our government or military? How many of us find our confidence and security in our ability to follow man-made religious traditions? How many of us find our confidence and security in the praise of others?

All of the above are foolish.

Here’s a not-so-subtle form of idolatry I’ve found myself in: needing the praise of man.

There’s nothing wrong with desiring appreciation. That’s a natural desire. But when the praise of man becomes the source of energy, life, and joy in my heart, I’ve fallen into idolatry. One way the praise of man has become a contagion in our communities is through social media. Now, every person has the ability to speak up about practically anything. Now, we can parade our accomplishments before a litany of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ who will build us up with their likes, and if we’re lucky, their heart emojis.

This is all fine and dandy when the likes are coming.

It becomes discouraging when the likes run dry.

Even writing about this seems silly. Ultimately it is.

Social media gets us consistently and constantly comparing our lives to the lives of others, filling our minds with things that are neither pure nor lovely.

In a world of people-pleasing affirmation addicts, the idolatry of needing affirmation became contagious. I fall into it time and again.

WE CAN TURN FROM IDOLATRY

Here’s the good news. Both for me and for you if you too struggle with idolatry.

Jeremiah 3 has some profound words about the grace of God.

” ‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever. . . . . . . . “Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” – Jeremiah 3:12b, 22a

I’m not faithful to God. I’m a spiritual harlot. I’m a donkey in heat. Yet God says here in the book of Jeremiah that He will receive His people back to Him. This theme of God’s forgiveness and grace in the midst of our vile sins runs throughout the entire narrative of Scripture.

He is not angry forever. He relents from giving us what we deserve. He is faithful, even when we are not. He is powerful enough to cure us of our backsliding.

I backslide a lot.

Like a lot a lot.

Yet each time I return to the Lord, each time I limp my way back to Him, He is faithful to receive me and restore our relationship.

There is a way out of the idolatry you find yourself in, the idolatry that is ingrained in your psyche, the idolatry that is likely even culturally acceptable.

Return to the Lord, to your first love.

Lay your idols down at His feet.

Let your heart and mind be filled with praise for Him.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

The Commandment of Reconciliation

In every church I attended up until the last two years, we held Communion* quarterly. (*I will use Communion, the Lord’s Supper, and/or the Eucharist interchangeably.)

When it eventually came around, I was always scared, or perhaps, worried. Why? Essentially I was told to reflect on the last three months of my life and confess every sin that came to mind–if any did. I was given 15 seconds to “get right with God.”

By the time the plate with juice and little crackers came by, I’d better be spiritually clean enough or I’d be…punished? (I’m really not sure what the consequences were, but they were portrayed as severe and harsh. Maybe even “lose your salvation” harsh.)

Now, I’m sure I misunderstood someone or something someone said at some point. A lot of my early theological understandings were half-baked–and my ingredients were one part Scripture, two parts whatever I was taught explicitly, and four parts who-knows-what. For example, it took me until 4th grade to finally ask who the Jews were. I seriously had no idea.

But back to my understanding of coming to the Lord’s Table in a “worthy manner” as based in what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11. I used to think it was all about confessing my sins so I could clean myself up for Jesus. I was more concerned with getting things right with me and Jesus so Jesus could say, “Take and eat, you deserve me.”

I have never and will never deserve Jesus.

I’m a sinful, selfish, greedy man. My heart without Jesus is wicked and cruel and dead. My flesh is weak and desires money, comfort, sex, and happiness above Jesus.

But Jesus saved me.

So I don’t come to the Table by any means of my own. I come to the Table because of the love of the Father, the death and life of the Son, and the power of the Spirit.

Now, if you’ve ever eaten a meal with your family, you might notice something peculiar: You’re eating with other people. The same goes for when you eat the bread and drink the wine of the Eucharist. You’re communing with other people. And that it actually way more terrifying a reality than missing one sin and forgetting to confess it before coming to the table. Why? Because the Bible has some serious commands about coming to God without making things right with other people.

Let’s consider what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11 about Communion. (It’s slightly long, so take your time and read it slowly and attentively.)

Now in giving this instruction I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For to begin with, I hear that when you come together as a church there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. Indeed, it is necessary that there be factions among you, so that those who are approved may be recognized among you. When you come together, then, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For at the meal, each one eats his own supper. So one person is hungry while another gets drunk! Don’t you have homes in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I praise you? I do not praise you in this matter!

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself; in this way let him eat the bread and drink from the cup. For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen asleep. If we were properly judging ourselves, we would not be judged, but when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined, so that we may not be condemned with the world.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, welcome one another. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you gather together you will not come under judgment. I will give instructions about the other matters whenever I come.  – 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 (CSB)


There’s a lot in there to unpack. But I want you to notice one big idea. In verses 20-22, we see people are eating and drinking separately from one another. Division runs so deep, Paul calls it out and rebukes them. He even says they act like they, “despise the church of God!” And later, in verses 27-30, we see the divisive way they are eating and drinking “together” is a sin (!) and they are actually eating and drinking judgment (!) on themselves.

So what should they do instead?

Paul tells them in verses 33-34, and Jesus also gives a similar answer in Matthew 5:23-24. Paul simply tells them to “welcome one another.” How exactly?

Jesus says this:

So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. – Matthew 5:23-24

I know the language is a little different. But both are acts of worship–and that’s what I want to focus on. Both Paul and Jesus are condemning something interesting: Failing to love others. Paul says this is a sin that caused the Corinthian church to have people fall sick and even die! Jesus says this is a sin that he would rather you take care of by reconciliation before coming to worship God!

In case you missed it:

Jesus most deserves our worship, but he most desires our reconciliation with others.

God desires mercy, not sacrifice.

If you know someone has something against you, or you have something against someone, pray–and act. Give someone a call. Meet up with them. Make wrongs right.

Roll up your sleeves, our rest in Jesus means we have work to do.

– Matthew Welborn

 

Christian, There’s Nothing More You Need

Something must be missing.

I’m still fighting sin. I’m still fighting loneliness, worry, and anxiety. I’m still feeling like I can’t truly show my church family what I’m going through. I look around and I see others who seem so in tune with the Lord. I listen and hear testimonies of the miraculous at work in others, and I’m not seeing that same power in my life.

Something must be missing.

Something must be wrong.

I used to be so on fire for the Lord. I mean, not recently. But for real, back when I first got saved, I had a big desire for Him. I would go to church excited, expectant. I would be so overwhelmed during the worship. I would feel His presence in prayer, or during the preaching.

But now, now is different.

I’ve been betrayed by friends, I’ve been rejected. I don’t wake up excited for church. I mean, there are some weeks when I don’t even want to go. Where’d the fire go?

Something must be missing.

Something must be wrong.

Maybe you have felt some of the above. We all have to some degree if we’re being honest. Any Christian could find themselves in these examples. Maybe right this moment you have a nagging feeling in your gut that something’s off.

So what do you do?

My brother or sister in Christ, let the following passage seep into your bones.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. – Colossians 2:6-10

My brother and sister in Christ, according to God’s Word, you have been brought to fullness. If you have placed your faith in Christ, you have been filled up with all you need.

According to this passage, there are some dangers present when we start to feel incomplete: “hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Here’s what they look like in our lives.

Legalism

When I start to feel this off-ness, I turn to my good friend legalism. I start to look at the spiritual disciplines as a checklist that I better live up to fully.

Legalism is me saying “Christ isn’t enough, I need to do good.”

So traditions we grew up in, even though they aren’t founded in the Scriptures, become the missing piece of our walks with Christ.

So you best believe I’m never going to miss Sunday School. I’m going to always wear a suit to church. You won’t see me at movies and you definitely won’t see me engaging with the lost world around me.

Sunday School isn’t a Biblical mandate. It is a gift when utilized properly, but it’s not a mandate.

Wearing suits to church isn’t a Biblical mandate. As a matter of fact, in some ways we can become a place where people don’t feel welcome if they don’t dress right. God deserves our respect, but if our personal beliefs about dress are determines our opinions about others, we are out of line with Scripture.

When we refuse to be with those who aren’t following Christ, we hunker down into bunkers full of Christians that will eventually die out because we’re not reaching others in our communities with the love of God.

Legalism is insidious and we’re all guilty of it in varying degrees.

God’s Word and prayer are amazing things, but if we turn to them in order to ‘do good’ rather than respond to the grace of God, we’ve got things wrong.

Many of us will turn from feeling off and empty towards legalism in order to soothe our souls.

Christ isn’t enough, we must do good.

Emotionalism

The other thing I turn to when things feel off in my life is emotionalism.

Deep down in our hearts, we all want to feel loved, cared for, wanted. That’s a perfectly normal desire.

But what about when I don’t feel that?

When I don’t feel loved by God or by others, something must be wrong.

So I turn to emotionalism.

Emotionalism is me saying “Christ isn’t enough, I need to feel good.”

Emotionalism is me pursuing spiritual highs, for lack of a better term. If a new church, or experience, or program promises me a feeling of God’s presence or love for me, I chase after that. As a young man in ministry, I’ve catered to this and pitched opportunities accordingly. Come feel God’s presence, come feel His love.

Now, let me say, Jesus’ ministry was full of moments when He did just that. Where He poured out His love on those who needed to experience His love. But emotional spirituality can be dangerous.

Just as only ever catering to the mind creates legalists, only ever catering to the emotions creates emotionalists. The former is what I fall into now, and the latter is what I grew up in. I grew up in a youth ministry that created an atmosphere to play to the emotions of myself and others. When I look around today, having emotional encounters with God wasn’t enough for many of my peers. They were led astray.

Emotionalism in our hearts shows itself as spiritual FOMO. We bounce around from experience to experience, maybe even church to church, in order to find a weekly or daily moment that helps us to feel good or feel God’s presence.

The problem with emotionalism is that feelings are fickle.

If I based everything off my feelings, there would be days I wouldn’t come to work, wouldn’t love my spouse, wouldn’t pursue Christ.

So what then is the answer?

This passage gives it to us.

We have received Christ as Lord. We are to continue to live our lives in Him, rooted in Him, built up in Him, because in Christ WE HAVE ALL BEEN BROUGHT TO FULLNESS.

Christ is enough.

I don’t have to do good, or feel good (obviously this statement is in the context of this blog).

We are immature and foolish. We lean towards legalism or emotionalism. In these moments, we aren’t believing Scripture.

On ordinary days, and in ordinary ways, let us remain rooted in Christ.

Your life may look more like the book of Ruth, than the book of Exodus. There may be moments you feel like something is missing. I would encourage you strongly to pursue Christ in His Word and in prayer.

This week has been a doozie for me. I woke up this morning agitated and exhausted. Yet when I intentionally opened His Word today, something I neglected to do all week, I was strengthened to keep going.

Christ is enough.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Go Down The Street

I live in a city full of people in need.

You do too.

I live in a city where houses are crumbling, students go to school hungry, violence persists, hundreds of kids need mentorship, and kids walk to and from school and down our streets in the middle of the night.

You do too.

These issues are nuanced and specific to certain contexts and communities. But there are needs that need to be met by God’s people in every single place where people reside.

Here’s the heartbreaking issue.

We too often forsake the local needs of our community for the national or international needs we come across.

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? – James 2:15-16

That one puts some tears in my eyes. How often is that me? How often do I proclaim the good news of the gospel but don’t care enough to meet physical needs as well?

Well, I guess I have met some needs.

They’ve just been overseas or across the country.

Surely that counts right?

That’s a pretty good combination at least.

Preaching the gospel locally and meeting the needs of people internationally.

My brothers and sisters, I don’t believe this is how the church is supposed to be.

My brothers and sisters, I don’t believe this is how my life is supposed to be.

To use the context of the verse, you could say:

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and well fed. I would help you, but I’ve expended all my energies and resources on overseas missions,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? – Nathan’s Opinions 2:15-16

What I do nationally or internationally should be out of the overflow of what I do locally. This is what I imperfectly practice and strive to be about. For me and my wife, we choose to focus on local missions first, and then if there is anything left over, we extend out from there.

Think of it as circles that are expanding.

Local, regional, national, and international.

My desire and prayer is that I will focus on doing things in my local circle, but our churches have become places at times where we focus on national or international and forsake the local. We go on short-term mission trips, but fail to evangelize our neighborhoods. We collect goods to send overseas, but we ignore the kids walking to school hungry in our own community. My heart breaks at this.

International Efforts Are Great, Local Efforts Are Too 

I want to start by making this abundantly clear: Gospel-centered, Jesus-proclaiming international efforts of sharing Jesus and meeting needs are great things. Let us pray and support them financially. I have nothing against them. That being said, I want to lovingly push back and remind us that local efforts are great too.

International Efforts Are Easy, Local Efforts Are Hard

Please hear my heart again. My sister is literally a missionary overseas sharing the gospel right now, and nothing about her situation is easy.

But, for me in North Texas, to get involved in international efforts is easy.

It’s easier for me to send money per month to help some child overseas whose picture is on my refrigerator, then it is for me to open up my home to a child here who is in need. Why? Because it’s hard.

It’s easier to go take part in a VBS on a short term mission trip than it is to build relationships with students in town all year long. Tonight my wife and I are having a couple students over, whom we love. But opening up our home to a couple Junior High boys takes some effort.

It’s easier for me to send a gospel tract to a missionary overseas than it is for me to meet weekly with young men in our community and guide them closer to Jesus.

It’s easier for me to take a trip to Washington D.C. for a focused week of service, than it is for me to volunteer at the local food bank or local Boys and Girls Club.

International Efforts Make Discipleship Uncertain, Local Efforts Put Discipleship On Us 

If you’ve been on a national or international mission trip, the discipleship, the follow-up, is often uncertain. I served on teams three consecutive summers with the North American Mission Board, and each year when we left we were unsure if those we had conversations about the gospel with were being discipled or followed up with. We had faith churches we partnered with would do so, but we just didn’t really know for sure.

But sharing the gospel in a local capacity puts the discipleship on us. That’s hard. That’s messy. That’s difficult. That’s time-consuming. This is how it should be.

I recently was part of a regional youth weekend at a camp near where I live and work. I taught a breakout session on Discipleship. I asked the room of students who had ever been discipled, led in their faith, by an older follower of Jesus. 5% of the students raised their hands.

Wow, how that rips me up inside.

That’s the purpose of the church.

It is not a matter of time, but of priority.

If we are not actively discipling those younger than us in the faith, our priorities are way out of whack.

International Efforts Should Be The Overflow Of Our Local Efforts 

Here’s what all this boils down to for me. International efforts should be the overflow of our local efforts. I’m all for raising money and goods for kids overseas, but only if we are matching that in our local community. I personally don’t feel at peace about kids walking to school hungry in my community while we send all we have to other countries. I’m all for short-term mission trips, but only if we are evangelizing and discipling our own community as well, opening up our homes to any and all.

The community of faith is to be one that is irresistible, one that draws people in. One reason I think that our churches are fighting to even stay afloat is because those who don’t claim Christ see communities full of need filled with churches doing nothing.

Let me say that again.

One reason our churches aren’t drawing people in is because we preach the good news of Jesus to communities full of needs while often doing nothing to meet those needs.

Let me be clear. I’m imperfect. While my wife and I strive to focus locally, we fall short. I’ve missed the last two weeks of meeting with a couple High School boys I’m mentoring. We are opening up our home for just the first time in 2019 tonight. But we’re striving to meet the needs of Vernon, TX first and foremost.

Pray for international missionaries like my sister. Give to international organizations doing great work. Go on short term trips throughout the nation, partnering with churches.

But do this out of the overflow of what you are doing locally.

Before you get on a plane or write a check,

Go down the street.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach