Don’t Come As You Are

Once you clean up your act, you can come in.

Once you stop falling into the same cycles and patterns of sin, then you’re welcome here.

Once you cover up those tattoos, take your hat off, and purge your social media, then you can find community in this place.

I look around at my generation, I listen intently to the stories they’re telling. Many of them are saying that these phrases above, these litmus tests for church community, were imposed against them.

If they were pretty, pristine, clean, and family-friendly, they could find the support of a faith community and of pastors. But if they were rough around the edges, broken, struggling, and sinful, they were judged and condemned. Subtly and not so subtly communicated with to clean up their act before they come back.

Sure, Jesus explicitly stated that He came to seek and to save the lost. Sure, Paul stated that Jesus’ reason for coming was to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). But that was Jesus. We’re just His people. We’re here for the nuclear families, the morally acceptable, those that know what to say and how to say it in church settings. That’s who we’re here for. That’s our calling.

God forgive us.

Jesus reinvigorate us.

Spirit guide us.

We were made for the mess. The dirty, broken, mess of life that is raw and real. Broken families. Egregious sin. Nasty rumors. Mental health struggles. We as the church are to sit, listen, encourage, and point to Jesus. But so many people in our communities won’t come in our doors. They’ve heard our gossip and slander. They’ve heard what we think about people like them.

I believe the role of the church community is to equip and empower the people of God to live in such a way that draws others into the community.

So in a sense, our Sunday morning worship services are for Christians. But they are for profoundly broken Christians. Those weekly services are to push us back into the world to reach others for Jesus.

But we sit on the sidelines.

Instead of leveraging our relationships for mission, we become codependent (this happens to me all of the time y’all).

People of God, you’re made for more. Let me show you one of the most insane examples of God’s heart for the broken.

Turn to 2 Kings chapter 5.

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. – 2 Kings 5:1

My passion is to take our G-rated glasses off when we read Scripture. I want you to read that again. What stands out?

An enemy of God’s people being given victory by God.

What in the world?

Remember, at this time the people of God were the nation of Israel. The people of God transcend nations and boundary lines today. Back then it was national. But yet you still see in this story God’s heart for those who were literally His enemies.

Naaman has leprosy and God heals him through the work of the prophet Elisha.

Things get even crazier in chapter six.

You may think, okay, sure God healed this man. But maybe it was so the Aram people stop their violence against Israel.

Nope. That doesn’t happen.

2 Kings 6:8 says that the Aram people are still moving against Israel.

Elisha hears of all their plans, before God uses Elisha to blind the people of Aram. This is an extremely popular story, for it is the moment where Elisha shows his servant the innumerable chariots of fire around them, protecting them. But people stop there (again, G-rated glasses).

The blinded army come before the king of Israel. Let me show you what happens next.

When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those who you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory. – 2 Kings 6:21-23 (verse twenty-four tells us the Aram army comes to attack again)

Hold on.

What?

The people of God capture their enemies and then throw a feast for them?

Yes.

That’s exactly what happened.

God loves His enemies as well as His own people. They are given opportunities to repent, as Naaman showed. The book of Romans says that we are all God’s enemies. Not that we’re not close with Him. Rather that we are straight up His enemies. And yet God still sent His Son to die for us.

It seems like a Jesus juke but it’s Scripturally faithful.

God’s grace is for all people.

He extended grace to His enemies, both historically and spiritually.

What roadblocks do we put in the way of those who want to experience the love of God? Naaman did nothing that was worthy of being healed. The Aram army certainly didn’t deserve to be celebrated as they were.

I am stingy and self-righteous if I believe that the grace God has given to me was because of my actions and only goes to morally good people.

I am failing to live out the heart of God if any of my preaching, teaching, or day to day life is communicating to the Christian and non-Christian alike that they shouldn’t come into community as they are.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s be the type of people who celebrate with our ‘enemies’. Let’s be the type of people who know we’re no better than the non-believer. We have no high ground. We’ve simply been rescued.

Christ Jesus came into the world to SAVE SINNERS. – 1 Timothy 1:15b

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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Affirmation Addiction

The whiteboard here at the Community Center where I work holds a special place in my heart and in my relationship with one of my best buddies out here. The whiteboard is where we go to unpack in written form the deep recesses of our brains. This is often hilarious and joyous as we speak candidly about relationships, health, and the things which plague our minds and hearts at the time.pills.jpg

More than just being a good end of the week laugh, we use this time to speak gospel truth into each other’s lives as we admit our places of fear, doubt, and other things which hinder our growth in the Lord. Just yesterday was once such impactful moment, where I was able to speak truth to my friend, while also receiving from the Lord a reminder through my very own words of a truth I needed to hear as well (It’s intriguing how God often speaks to me the loudest via my very own words).

Affirmation. Purpose. Identity.

These three things tend to go hand in hand in hand in my mind and life (boy, that was quite the sentence). When I feel affirmed, I feel like I serve a purpose, and my identity becomes wrapped up in that feeling of affirmation. I begin to seek it out more from the place I received it from, and become acutely aware of where I’m not getting that feeling. Where I’m not getting that feeling, I then struggle with thoughts that I have failed in some way in that arena of my life. In the most ironic of ways, it was in addressing this in my friend’s life that I realized how big a struggle it is in mine as well.

This is a terrible way for a follower of Christ to live. It is dangerous, draining, depressing, and devoid of gospel grace.

I believe every follower of Christ has struggled with this or is currently struggling with this in some form or facet. We all struggle with needing to be affirmed by our family, friends, work supervisors, or significant other. Not only that, but when we get sucked into the idea of ‘Christian karma’, where God’s affirmation of us as individuals is contingent upon our performance and behavior, then we feel like we have to fight for His love and thus our very purpose and identity. This level of needing affirmation can destroy a person at their very core. I know. I’ve experienced this.

This debilitating desire of needing affirmation can lead us to inspect every word said to us, feeling joyous when it appears positive, and devastated when it isn’t. Brother or sister, this is no way to live. Man in the mirror, this is no way to live.

This desire to be affirmed seems to be not so insidious at first glance. We all want encouragement, the Scriptures teach that we should be affirming and supporting our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, so it only makes sense that we should expect that in return.

Yet when the enemy creeps in and starts to make that encouragement the source of our identity, bad things are in store. What should give us life and purpose and identity is the gospel, what the good news of Christ crucified says about us. Grace. Coming to the Father in prayer, meditating on Scripture, partaking in the Lord’s Supper. It is these things that should fuel our lives, beckoning our hearts into ever increasing joy as we feel the grace of God seeping into and filling the dark and hidden crevices of our hearts.

Your relationship with him [Jesus] must be your ultimate satisfaction. Every other relationship and every other source of success is like a sugar high. The buzz feels good for a while but leaves you deflated in the end.  > Jeff Iorg

Brother and sister in Christ, search the Scriptures for a deeper understanding of who God is. When we come to a deeper understanding of who God is, we then can understand the wonderful riches and blessings that we have in Christ. When we remind ourselves of this day by precious day, the insidious craving of affirmation grows bleak in comparison to the guaranteed love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Search the Scriptures. We are forgetful people, and I believe I’m the worst of all when it comes to this. That’s why we must preach the gospel to ourselves daily as we remember who we are in Christ.

Every page of the grand narrative of Scripture points to Christ, and we are able to glean a beautiful and marvelous depiction of who we are in Him.

I’m praying that God would open my eyes through His Word to the realities of my identity in Him.

I pray that He would do the same for you.

Blessings.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

Grace To Say No

The enemy of our souls has crafted a debilitating and devastating one-two punch with which he wages war against us. The combination of temptation followed by shame in the aftermath of failure can leave us reeling and broken. I can think of countless times where I’ve been there.

We let our guard down, allowing our ears to be itched by the enemy with the enticing ‘promises’ of present pleasure and enjoyment. When our minds aren’t bathed in Scripture and prayer they becomes increasingly susceptible to these sly and alluring lies to give in to the desires of our flesh and act in sinfulness. The deed is done, as the lustful thoughts enter the mind, the angry word lashes out at the friend, the white lie is uttered from the mouth. Yet the enemy isn’t done with us quite yet.roadblock

After giving into sin, the enemy attacks us with shame, guilt, and condemnation. He leaves us grasping for grace, doubting its power to truly redeem and purify us of our most recent fault. We come crawling to the cross for redemption, but we wrestle in our minds and deepest hearts about whether or not there is actual grace for the 1001st fault.

Yet even with a Biblical and right understanding of the power that grace has to forgive us of our deepest faults, we can still get caught in a discouraging cycle of a habitual sin if we don’t realize that grace has power before we sin as well.

The cycle goes something like this. Temptation, sin, confession, forgiveness. Temptation, sin, confession, forgiveness. We may have seasons of strong victory over our habitual sin, but if we don’t understand grace’s one-two punch, we are destined to remain in such a cycle of despair and discouragement. Been there. Done that. Bought that t-shirt. I don’t want to be stuck in a cycle of sin again. So how do we overcome, and stand firm in temptation?

We understand the full power of grace at work in our lives. We understand that grace is not only there for us when we fail, it is there for us before we even come close.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. – Titus 2:11-14

Wow. Read that passage again. Really meditate on it and strive to comprehend it. The grace of God teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions. It teaches us to live lives of self-control, uprightness, and godliness. This doesn’t come from a self-help book (been there, done that), it doesn’t come from simply willing yourself to be better. The power to change and get free of habitual sin lies in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that is greater than all my sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, combat the one-two punch of the enemy. Don’t get dragged down into a never-ending cycle of temptation and condemnation. Counter with not just the grace that we are given when we sin (because we will continue to make mistakes), but the power that grace gives you and I to say no to that which our flesh wants to say yes to.

How do we receive this power? By faith in what Christ has done, and hope in what that means for eternity.

This passage is beautifully explicit about what Christ has done for you and I who worship Him as Lord. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify us. You and I have been redeemed from the stain of sin, we have been purified from the infection of our flesh. Christ did this. Not because of anything we could do, but because of His great mercy and love (Titus 3:5).

Let that saturate your mind and heart. Let that seep through the broken cracks of your sinfulness and let it come as a breath of fresh air. In Christ, we have grace that is greater than all our sin.

Implementing the power of grace to say ‘no’ to our temptations does not come by way of formula or steps. It comes by way of meditating on the gospel and proclaiming aloud that “that’s not me”. When temptation comes your way, proclaim the wonders and goodness of God’s grace. When temptation beckons, combat it with prayer and the recitation of Scripture. Maybe you memorize this passage and use it to wage war on the enemy. Whatever method you may use to combat sin and experience grace, let Christ be central.

Oh how foolish and naive I am when I attempt to combat sin through my own strength. Oh how fortunate and blessed I am that I don’t have to.

The power to overcome sin is the Lord’s.

Meditate on His grace.

Walk in freedom.

Wage war.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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