The Light Of Jesus

Light.

Darkness.

Black.

White.

Truth.

Falsehood.

The days of clearly defined morality and truth in our culture seems to be utterly long gone now. There is no longer right or wrong, there is simply opinion and speculation. There is a grayness to just about every subject under the sun these days. This has become part of our world around us, and it has made its way into the church.

As a youth pastor, I see my students growing up in a world that is distinctly different from the one that I grew up in. I grew up with an innate sense of what is right and wrong, of what is Scriptural. My students are growing up in a culture and world where the Bible no longer has any weight in public spheres and philosophical conversations of this nature. I see them every Sunday struggle with the definitive truth of Scripture and how accepting this definitive truth would make them ostracized and bigots in the eyes of their peers. I feel it. I know they feel it too.

Now I am not saying woe is me I’m persecuted for my stance on Scripture and truth. By no means. I am simply saying that I am willing to accept the label of being ‘old-fashioned’ and maybe even foolish in the eyes of some for putting all my eggs in the inerrancy and reliability of Scripture basket. And for my students it’s far worse, far more difficult.

We have concocted a world where truth is defined by the individual, whereas the Bible makes it clear that God defines what is true, not our feelings or opinions or biases or perceptions.

Please hear my heart. The inability to see my heart is one of my least favorite aspects of blogging. With just words on a page I can appear to be saying or implying things I’m not. My heart is that I wholeheartedly acknowledge my own biases and assumptions and positions that I bring into Scripture. I am not arrogant enough to believe that my opinion on all matters is wholly in line with God, but I will humbly stand on the belief that the Scriptures drive my beliefs and I will not back down from them.

I am trying not to write a 4000 word intro, so let me get to my point.

In John 8, the Bible makes it explicitly clear that Jesus is the answer, that Jesus is the Light in the midst of moral darkness, that Jesus is the direction we all need. He is our light.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life. – John 8:12

You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. – John 8:15-16

I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world. – John 8:26

There is a whole lot more at work in this passage, but I want to address some things out of these particular verses. Essentially Jesus makes this proclamation that He is the Light and the direction in the darkness. The Pharisees question his claim because their law said their must be two witnesses to prove anything, and Jesus comes back by saying the Father testifies alongside Him, affirming His claim to be the Light. Lastly, Jesus responds to even more questions that they have by stating that His Father is true, and that He simply proclaims that which His Father says to Him.

Now let me be clear that the Bible is not my God.

That being said, I believe that God (Jesus. Man the trinity is confusing.) speaks to us through His Word. All of it, not just the red words. The Bible is all about Him. The entirety of Scripture conveys his heart, not just the sermon on the mount through Revelation. Obviously the gospels give us a clarified and condensed view of Him, but all of Scripture points to him.

We in the church have followed the maxim, “God says it, I believe it, that settles it.”

But that is such an incredibly wrong maxim to follow. That makes truth built upon our feelings and beliefs. So for instance if I am struggling with greed, I can start to nuance Scripture so that it doesn’t explicitly say that greed is sin, I can start to cave to the American Dream which practically says that greed is a win in business and in life. I can listen to theologians who say that whatever dude wrote the parts of Scripture that call greed sin was just saturating the text with his own opinions. I can let my feelings lead me into disbelief. So God might say it in Scripture, but because I don’t believe that, I don’t live it out.

In my humble opinion, that is what’s wrong with our churches today. We have stripped the Bible of its inerrancy, and replaced it with a Bible that is like a choose your own adventure book where you the reader determine what is true.

In my humble opinion, where does that road end?

If you follow things out to their logical conclusion, eventually we will make the very words of God spoken to us nothing more than suggestions.

It reminds me of that scene in Pirates of The Caribbean where Elizabeth Swan is taken captive despite evoking the rights of the pirate code, to which Barbossa responds “they are more like guidelines”. Now I know the Bible isn’t a pirate code, and maybe that doesn’t make any sense. But either the Bible is authoritative or it’s not.

I’m digressing.

We should be those who follow the maxim that if God says it, that settles it. What God says is true regardless of my feelings or what I believe.

In the midst of darkness, I point my students to the light of Jesus on display in His Word.

We live in the realm of darkness, but we can trust in the light of Christ.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

He Holds It All Together

It’s been a draining couple of days in Vernon, TX. My days have been chock full of ministry-related activities, and the busyness (albeit really exciting busyness) of moving Jamie into our duplex. Last night I wrestled with whether or not to wake up early and head to Wichita Falls for the youth pastor (and worship leader) breakfast I am a part of on Thursday mornings. I felt so tired (having been going from 6 AM to 9 PM) and didn’t feel like getting up. That being said, I felt the call of God for me to not abandon community just because I may be tired. So I set my alarm and headed into Wichita Falls. The breakfast was refreshing, I found myself encouraged and grateful for the community that I was a part of.

Just as we were wrapping up, I received a text. Tragedy had struck in Vernon. It is not my place to say what it was, but I was confronted yet again with the brokenness of the world that we reside in. The whole day has been solemn and somber, and tears have not been far from my eyes when I’ve had moments of quiet and isolation. As a young youth pastor, I’m walking through the brokenness of this world more days than I would like to, as I see the pain that so many congregants and students have to walk through some days.

I went about my usual Thursday routine before pausing just a little while ago to spend some time in Scripture. I read through the first chapter of Mark and when journaling about it I remembered what Scripture says to be true, what I believe the whole first chapter of Mark is all about:

Jesus is the Son of God, full of all the compassion and power of God.

The first chapter of Mark is a whirlwind of activity and snapshots of Jesus’ early ministry. In just one chapter we see John the Baptist prepare the way, Jesus get baptized, Jesus call his first disciples, and Jesus preaching and healing throughout Galilee, whether that be casting out demons or healing leprosy. In the midst of all this, there are key points that illustrate what I mean.

First off, verses seven and eight show the majesty of Jesus before He even arrives on the scene so to speak.

And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. – Mark 1:7-8

John the Baptist says that he isn’t even worthy of untying Jesus’ shoes. That’s humility and that’s awe in the face of majesty. Jesus is fully God and John understood this. Shortly after this we see Jesus baptized and the very Spirit of God descending upon Him (vv. 9-11). Jesus is full of all the power of God, and the rest of the chapter proves this. He preaches the gospel (v. 15), drives out demons (vv. 23-27), and heals a leper (vv. 40-45).

It’s His healing of the leper that showcases in my opinion the compassion of Jesus and the heart of God. Lepers were outcast, contagious, treated as almost less than human. A leper approached Jesus and asked for healing, bowing before Him. Jesus responded in verses 41-42.

Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. – Mark 1:41-42

I’m aware that verse forty-one is also translated at times as ‘moved with pity’ or ‘moved with indignation’, and I’m not a Greek scholar, but I am amazed by the fact that Jesus touched him to heal him. All throughout the gospels we see Jesus move with power in many ways, often healing people just via his words. Yet he chooses to reach out and touch this man that so many found unclean and disgusting. I believe that shows His compassion.

Here’s what I want you to know. There are dark days. There are days where the darkness seems overwhelming and the grief is heavy. Yet on these days, we can remember that the King Jesus we submit to and follow is full of amazing compassion and amazing power.

As a follower of Jesus, I can KNOW that God is all-powerful and TRUST in His compassionate heart. That is hard on days like today, but it is no less true.

Be encouraged by this verse as well (one of my all-time faves):

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all thing hold together. – Colossians 1:16-17

What was at one time no more than a pleasant reminder of God’s control has become over time a stake in the ground of my mind and heart to remember and cling to. God is still God and Jesus still holds the cosmos together. The sin of this world is raging and at times it’s all I can physically see. Yet I can cling to the fact that Jesus still reigns.

“By the Son, for the Son, and through the Son, all things exist and hold together.”

Jesus shows us the character and heart of God. Cry out to Him. Acknowledge His power and trust in His compassion.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach