I Deserve Death

This phrase was not a part of my regular vernacular before I moved to Vernon. Sure, I knew that it was true according to Scripture, but it wasn’t something I spoke about often. But then a couple of my close friends started saying this pretty regularly. Sometimes in jest, but most often with a heart for being real about what the Bible says about us, which leads them to live with a sense of profound gratitude even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

As I have been moving through the book of Romans in my personal study time, I finally have come to the end of chapter one. And this final verse is a doozy.

and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. – Romans 1:32

This verse, which I’m focusing on today, immediately follows a list of sins (not an exhaustive list) that characterize those who have chosen to abandon their Creator and worship created things instead. You can go back and read Murder & Envy if you would like to hear my thoughts on that passage.

Anyway, here’s the indictment. Here’s what we deserve if we have committed any sin, for the preceding list covers a wide range of our sin struggles, great and small.

According to the truth of Scripture, we deserve death.

I, Nathan Roach, am a sinner. Daily I struggle with sin. God has said that apart from Christ I deserve death.

Here’s the fact of the matter. Not only do we as human beings sin against the righteous and just Lordship of Jesus, we know better. Earlier in Romans we see that all of mankind inherently knows that there is a God, and thus inherently knows what is good and what is bad (Romans 1:18, 21).

When you boil it down, our sin is cosmic treason.

God sits upon the throne in heaven. Right now I’m reading Revelation in my quiet time (don’t worry, I’m not charting or diagramming the end times) and although there is a bajillion different things in that book that I know absolutely nothing about, I have been encouraged and in awe of the way it proclaims the glory of God (Revelation 5 stunned me), the Lamb who was slain is worthy of power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing (Revelation 5:12). It is against this God, this King, that we are committing treason every time we sin.

Every time.

You see, too often I view my sin as first and foremost transgressions against whomever I sinned against. So if I say something out of anger towards Jamie, I feel as if I’ve sinned against her, and so on.

But the reality is, our sin is cosmic treason in the face of the Creator of all things.

Every time we sin, we challenge and defy God’s right to reign over his creation and to impose obligations on us as creatures made in his image. – R.C. Sproul 

Our sin is a big deal.

Our sin results in us deserving death.

You know, that’s what makes the second part of this verse even more painful to read. Not only do wicked men know that death is what they deserve for celebrating and walking in lifestyles of sin, they also celebrate and approve those who do the same.

Isn’t that such a clear picture of much of what’s wrong in the world (it shouldn’t be surprising that God’s Word portrays the reality of the world we live in)? We rebel against God, and instead of repenting, we accept and celebrate and condone and praise those who walk in sin as well.

I’m plenty guilty of this.

Let’s take the sin of gossip and slander, of speaking about those who aren’t in the room. I hate this sin. I hate that it seeps into my life from time to time. I do my best to fight against it, but in my weakness I fall into it. Here’s the mental gymnastics I do. Instead of acknowledging that I have sinned against God by speaking about one of His image-bearers in an ungodly manner, I choose to say to myself ‘everybody does it, it’s okay if I fall into it too from time to time. Besides, it’s a small town, it’s just part of it.’

Gossip and slander may not seem like damnable offenses, but before a perfectly holy and just God, they are.

So not only do I know that death is the price for sin, I accept and celebrate those who sin as well.

Shame on me for the times I twist my own version of morality because I don’t want to be allegiant to the commands of the God who made all of this.

That’s why our culture condones sin. It eases the conscience and cosmic treason becomes communal. It’s easy to not feel guilty for something that is culturally acceptable.

This is where the chapter ends.

But thankfully it’s not where the book ends, nor is it where the story ends.

This bleak picture of our sin is where the gospel shines the brightest. We deserve death, but we have been purchased through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We fail daily, but Christ lived a perfect life that we could not, and DIED THE DEATH WE DESERVE.

So as a follower of Jesus, I don’t have to worry about the eternal punishment of my sin. I am set free in Christ.

I have been saved by God in Christ. I daily seek to become more like Christ. I want to learn to love what he loves and hate what he hates.

I deserve death, but because of Christ, I don’t get it.

This is the message every person in our community needs to hear. Wherever you may be reading this, it is the message every person in your community needs to hear.

People are dying without the hope of Christ. They are receiving eternal death in hell. We must not be complacent. We must speak.

 

Murder & Envy

Mankind is basically good. Yes, sure, we make mistakes, sometimes big ones, but deep down we’re all good people trying our best to live good lives. We have men who truly want to be good fathers, husbands, and neighbors. The women want to be good mothers, wives, and neighbors. We just happen to slip up from time to time.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this type of mentality about life (even in church settings) and sadly how many times I’ve believed it.

Man is inherently good.

While this is easy to affirm without thinking, it is an incredibly dangerous lie that ends up affecting a whole lot of our theology and doctrine.

Claiming that man is inherently good seems like a statement made from optimism and positivity. If we try hard enough to convince ourselves that that is true, then maybe we will begin to see the world around us with rose-colored glasses and not get so discouraged.

It works for a little bit. We look at the news and think oh that man was a ‘good’ guy, he just happened to make a mistake. We drive down the street in our community and interact with others and assume they are deep down good people. When I’ve felt this way towards others it has always come from a place of wanting to love them well. It seems hateful and mean to assume less than the best in people. What I’m trying to say in this blog is not that we should always assume the worst of others. Instead I’m trying to say that we should have a Biblically-centered view of mankind, not because we’re hateful pessimists, but instead because we are hopeful lovers of Jesus. So I plead with you to keep reading even if you disagree with me thus far.

It has been almost a month since I ventured back into the book of Romans, at least an in-depth study of it. This afternoon I had some down time and decided to get back into it. The next passage in my studies was Romans 1:28-31.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; – Romans 1:28-31

This passage is situated in Romans 1 following Paul’s statement that the people had abandoned God, exchanging worship of Him with their own idolatry. So we see that God gives them up to those things which are not proper (this is a complicated and hard truth that you can find my opinions on at Given Up), and then Paul lists those things which are not proper.

So what can we conclude from Romans chapter one? Mankind is not inherently good. Rather, they choose apart from Christ to worship created things rather than the Creator. Because they choose allegiance to this world rather than King Jesus, God gives them over to the sins they desire to commit.

According to the Bible, mankind is not inherently good.

Rather, mankind is inherently sinful and wants to commit the sins we see in the above list.

Now, if you happen to be a theologian in the making like myself, you may have bells going off that I’m teaching total depravity right here and you may be trying to peg me as a Calvinist. If that happens to be you, I gotta say, I’m not. I’m not a five-pointer, the only tulips I’m super familiar with are in the garden down my street. There are three things I know for sure: I love Jesus, I love stuffed crust pizza from Pizza Hut, and God’s ways (including salvation) are above my own (Romans 11:33-34). Just felt I should be clear about what I believe.

Anywho, mankind is sinful, through and through.

Let’s talk about the list. Let’s talk clearly about the list. I have known those who will look at this list and others like it in the Bible and say ‘well, my sin struggle isn’t named here, so it must not be that bad, it must not be sin’. This is preposterous thinking and it’s missing the point. This list in this passage is not designed to be an exhaustive list of sins we could commit. What Paul is trying hard to emphasize in a thesaurus way is that our inherent sinfulness runs from the most abhorrent sins to even the smallest we can imagine. From murder to disobeying our parents.

The point of this passage in Romans 1 is to illustrate a few things I think I miss and forget:

  1. Mankind is sinful, saturated with unrighteousness
  2. Condemning sin may be old-fashioned, but it is necessary
  3. Sin MUST lead to remorse in the life of a Christian. We should never get to a point where we accept sinful lifestyles in our churches.

Now let me wrap it up by hopefully encouraging you or convincing you that for me to see man as sinful is not me being hateful and mean. I want to quickly and hopefully show that to do so is the most loving thing I could do.

I know the message of Scripture. I know that those who die apart from believing in Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins will spend eternity separated from Him, that is, hell. So when I say that I acknowledge that my community is full of inherently sinful people, it is not me seeking to believe the worst about people. God gives grace to the non-believer, some non-believers are amazing people in our community, but even the morally sound, servant-hearted non-believer is still apart from the saving love of God.

Believing that all of mankind is inherently good makes me passive.

Believing that all of mankind is inherently sinful makes me active, it makes me desire to share my faith.

I welcome dialogue and you can follow my blog below.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Given Up

When you really dig deep into Scripture, you can’t avoid the hard stuff.

There has been a phrase in the Bible, in one singular verse, that has caused me a whole lot of problems. It’s the phrase that I circled when I read it last month, and put question marks all above it.

It’s in the following verse.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. – Romans 1:24

God gave them over.

This phrase had been giving me fits. How does a good and loving God give mankind over to the most vile desires and passions that they have? It’s easy for me to do what I did, circle and question it, but never come back to it. Thankfully, I came back to this verse.

I want to share a blog that honestly might make some of you stop following my writing (although I hope this isn’t the case, cause I love y’all). I want to share with you this afternoon an unpopular but no less integral and important aspect of doctrine.

God’s mercy isn’t infinite.

I recently read this in a commentary on Romans and wrote in the margins that I’ve never heard this taught and my gut reaction is to write it off as hearsay and maybe even heresy.

Then I thought about it for a little while. And I must admit, it’s true.

God is infinite, and thus his character can be described as such. But to say His mercy is infinite is to say that there is ultimately no punishment for sin. Infinite mercy is thus an extremely popular belief in our present day in age, even in many churches. The doctrine of hell, of separation from God, is glossed over and removed, replaced instead with the doctrine of his grace and mercy which never cease.

This is why Biblical literacy, or the preaching of the whole of Scripture, is such a passion of mine. It is only when we take certain passages and make them the centrality of our entire beliefs about God that we fall into gross misunderstandings of His character and the reality of the world we live in.

In this passage in Romans 1, we are clearly told and taught by God through Paul that God’s wrath is poured out on all mankind apart from Christ, since all mankind has at some point suppressed the truth of God and have chosen instead to follow their own wisdom (aka foolishness, Romans 1:22) instead (You Deserve Wrath, Not Love) . Romans 1:23 goes on to say that all of mankind has chosen to exchange the glory of God for their own images.

With all of this in the background of our reading of this verse and this difficult phrase, we begin to see what God is doing.

What God does here in that phrase “God gave them over” is the term ‘judicial abandonment’. God is choosing to give mankind up and over to its own desires, its own sin, its own ‘wisdom’.

This judicial abandonment by God ultimately leads to horrific darkness. It is to be totally and completely devoid of God. It becomes intriguing to me the more I think about it to realize that what our culture is begging for, what sinful mankind is begging for, is exactly what God grants in this passage and ultimately what they will receive when they face Him after they die.

Mankind apart from Christ wants life apart from God. Mankind wants to call the shots. God’s wisdom is too overbearing and too narrow, so mankind fights back and exchanges Scriptural truth for personal conviction and opinion. God’s call to suffer and die to one’s self is too insane a calling, so mankind says that to follow one’s heart and live for one’s own desires is the way to go. Jesus saying He is the way, the truth, and the life is too narrow-minded and bigoted, so mankind opens it up to all systems of belief.

What breaks my heart each day is to see so many who have grown up in the knowledge of Scripture doing what verse twenty-two proclaims. They cling to new wisdom, because God is old-fashioned, and thus become foolish in His eyes.

Judicial abandonment by God is horrifically dark. Judicial abandonment by God is Him giving us what we desire in our hearts apart from Christ.

I’m a sinner apart from Christ. I’m prone even as a follower of Jesus to want sinful things. Just look at this list later in this chapter: homosexuality, unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, hate, arrogance, boasting, disobedience, being unloving, being unmerciful, and celebrating all of the above sins. We are all prone apart from Christ to desire and strive towards these sins. So for God to ‘give me over’ is to give me what I want.

The Bible actually closes this way.

Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy. – Revelation 22:11

So no, God is not infinite in mercy.

One day, God will give us what we want. Whether it be our sin, or the righteousness of His Son. One day, after we die, God will either give us eternity with Him because of faith in His Son, or we will go through eternity separated from Him in a real place called hell.

This is an immensely difficult truth. But it must be read in conjunction with the other truths of Scripture. Here’s an encouraging one:

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9

God desires for all to come to repentance. He desires for all to receive the righteousness of Jesus. But His mercy is not infinite. If we reject Him here, He will reject us for eternity.

Thank God that He sent His Son to live the perfect life I could not and to die the death I deserve. Thank God that Jesus rose from the grave and set me free from sin.

Thank God for those who told me the gospel.

Notice how this passage says that all of mankind has been judicially abandoned by God apart from the gospel. Apart from Christ, that is our lot, our end game. This is the message we must share.

Let’s get on the ball and share with those who need to hear.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

You Deserve Wrath, Not Love

God’s love is unfailing and inexhaustible for those who are His children. His mercies are new every morning. His faithfulness stretches to the horizon. His grace is inexhaustible as well because of the blood of His Son poured out on the cross. His wrath is just, fierce, and poured out upon those who are not His children.

Most of us would affirm the first four sentences, leading us into worship of our wonderful King. Yet instead of worshipping God because of His wrath, we tend to apologize to the world for that aspect of His character, as if He was a moody teenager whose actions simply needed defending because He is in a phase.

I would affirm and attest however that it is the wrath of God, His just, fierce, and full wrath, that makes the gospel shine even brighter in my heart. It is true that the light of the gospel shines brighter against the backdrop of our dark and dire position before God.

I’ve heard it a bazillion times from those who think the Scriptures are archaic, untrustworthy, and unnecessary for the modern Christian. The picture is painted of a god in the Old Testament who is vengeful, violent, wrathful, angry, and moody. In steps Jesus however and the god of the Old Testament is neutered, replaced with this Son of God who comes onto the scene of human history proclaiming that God loves everybody no matter what and that we are not in danger of God’s wrath as long as we are loving and not judging.

To claim that the New Testament portrait of God is one of love rather than wrath is in my opinion impossible to reconcile with Romans 1.

Romans 1:18 says the following.

For the WRATH of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. . . (emphasis mine)

Paul certainly begins his letter to the church in Rome with gospel truths and thanksgiving for those who were called by God in Rome to be saints.

That being said, he transitions into a lengthy proclamation of God’s wrath and the fate of mankind apart from God’s wonderful grace via Christ.

Since I have been studying God’s Word, I have never undertaken to study the book of Romans. This is in part because of its length, but definitely the more terrifying aspect of it for me is its depth, how meaty and deep it is. The whole salvation debate that seems to be the rage for any newly minted self-proclaimed theologian (i.e. Calvinism vs. Arminianism, etc.) uses much of Romans for its battleground and because of this I just didn’t want to wade into those waters (since when it comes to how God saves people my answer is I have no idea). However, it was also passages like this in Romans that I wanted to avoid having to mentally wrestle with and come to terms with. It’s easier to pretend these passages about God’s wrath are not here.

All this to say, after many years, I decided that now was the time, and so I picked up a commentary by the late R.C. Sproul and I’ve been slowly digesting this meaty chunk of Scripture. Lo and behold early on I’ve had to face this one.

God’s wrath.

Revealed. Unapologetically and explicitly said to be against mankind for their sin.

When I’ve read Romans 1 in the past, I’ve kept myself out of it. The people that Paul is talking about in this passage were the wicked and foolish men of past and present who were unwilling to submit to God as Sovereign over their lives. This time through I’m seeing that I am definitely in this passage. There’s no avoiding it. Honestly in reality I’m all over it.

Why is God’s wrath being poured out?

. . . against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. – Romans 1:19-22 

Mankind has seen evidence of God through creation. I’m not trying to fight about apologetics or philosophy, now’s not the time or the space. I’m simply affirming what the Word of God says to be true: creation alone testifies of a Creator.

Mankind has seen evidence of God, but every single man and woman who has ever lived has suppressed the truth. Every person who has ever walked the earth has chosen to ignore the reality of God and instead live however they want. All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.

God is perfectly just and right. Those who refuse allegiance to Him are deserving of His wrath.

I, Nathan Patrick Roach, deserve death. I deserve separation from God for now and eternity. In the words of Lecrae, “If we all fought for our rights, we’d be in hell tonight”.

This dark and dire statement is where the gospel blossoms. That is why God’s wrath is necessary, and honestly is beautiful. I cannot sit here and say I understand how God’s wrath works nor can I affirm and celebrate the destruction of another. However, I can give great thanks that God extended grace to me through His Son.

Brother or sister, if you are living outside of a relationship with Jesus, then you are deserving of God’s righteous wrath. Just as I am deserving apart from Jesus.

I would plead with you to repent, to turn. We all at one point suppressed the truth of our God for our own sinful and selfish gain. Search your heart, submit to King Jesus.

Thank God for His wrath, for in it we find His grace.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

The Good News of Nathan?

The gospel is all about Jesus.

As people of God we should be all about the gospel.

These seem like total no-brainer statements, yet if we’re honest, we all subtly move away from these truths.

I know that I have countless times in my life in the past and in the present. First, when it comes to that first statement, here’s what would happen. When I first got to OBU, I wanted everyone to know my story. You can see the problem that arose just by how I phrased that last sentence. I wanted people to know MY story, not the story of Jesus, not the story where I was simply an extra with a teeny tiny part to play.

So what happened is that I regularly, I mean probably a couple times a month, would share my testimony with anyone who wanted to hear it. Each time I shared it I would emphasize all of my nasty, gritty, and grimy sin struggles. Anger, sexual sin, dishonesty, rebellion. Then at the very end I would tack on a quick here’s how God redeemed me from all of that (the other stupid thing I would do was act like none of those sin struggles were still in my life, maybe to will myself into getting rid of them, who knows). It also got so bad that I would embellish my story like crazy, dramatizing it, making it seem unfathomable. This snowballed and soon my story was full of scenarios and situations that never actually happened. Imagine that, being dishonest when sharing my own testimony. Man thank God for grace.

The gospel that saturates the Scriptures was suddenly about me. I never said that in those words, but it was clear in the way that I shared my life story.

Life progressed and as I entered vocational ministry, the temptation to make the gospel the means by which I would build my own kingdom and legacy was hot and heavy. In hopes of not making the same mistake silly old 18 year old Nate made, I confess that this continues to be an ongoing battle for me. Ministry is rough and rugged and not at all what I expected it to be when I first submitted to God’s call on my life as a teenager. Yet despite the brutality of it at times, it’s easy to treat it as any other job and make it about achieving my own goals and aspirations. I don’t particularly believe that everything is explicitly black and white, that having dreams and desires is sinful. That being said, it is sinful to take from God’s glory (or hilariously attempt to).

The proclamation of the gospel is not to be used to build our own kingdoms of sand. I’ve seen evangelists and preachers make the gospel their avenue to glory. I’ve fought and at times given into that same desire in my own heart. May we be men and women of God who do no such thing. May we understand the futility of trying to make the gospel about us.

For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son – Romans 1:9a

The gospel of His Son.

The gospel is all about Jesus.

Let us transition to the second statement.

As people of God we should be all about the gospel.

Sometimes the gospel seems mundane. Sometimes the gospel of Jesus Christ seems like VBS style theology to the pew-hardened follower of Jesus. Here’s where Paul in the book of Romans blows that false feeling out of the water.

So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. – Romans 1:15

There was already a gospel presence in Rome when Paul wrote the Roman church this letter. This is easily proven in verse seven. For there to be church community in Rome, people needed to have submitted to the Lordship of Jesus. For them to have done that, they would have needed to have heard the gospel. Thus we can say that the gospel had been preached in Rome. Yet, Paul is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to preach the gospel in the very place there was already a gospel presence. Why? Because as people of God we should be all about the gospel.

It may seem repetitive to our hearts, but if it is, it is more than likely because its beauty has not cascaded into every dark crevice. A right understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ leads to a yearning to hear it and preach it and share it and soak it in. We should be all about the gospel. That word can get watered down, so here is what R.C. Sproul gives as a mini-synopsis of this good news:

  • Jesus’ life of perfect obedience
  • Jesus’ atoning death on the cross
  • Jesus’ resurrection from the dead
  • Jesus’ ascension into heaven
  • Jesus’ outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church

What a surprise, the gospel is all about Jesus.

We live in a society where we are supposed to tickle the ears of our congregations with pep-talks that use Scripture as support instead of actually preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

To preach the gospel every week does not require preaching from the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) every week. Every story in Scripture points to Jesus in some way. Any sermon can be a gospel-saturated sermon.

Let us not grow weary of proclaiming the gospel to our families and friends.

Let us be men and women of the gospel.