You Are Holy, Not Just Heaven Bound

One day, I’m gonna die.

When I die, because I have placed my faith in Jesus, I will spend the rest of eternity in communion with Him and all the saints in a place called heaven. It will be a place where there are no more tears, pain, sin, or death. It will be a place where all will have been made right. It will be a place where we have perfect communion with God. I believe it will be here on earth, that ‘heaven’ will be God restoring creation to the perfection of the pre-fall period, not blowing it all up and starting again (ultimately though, who knows).

All that to say, heaven sounds pretty great.

Unfortunately, many of us (yours truly too) live as if the blood of Jesus ONLY seals our eternal locale.

The Bible however teaches us that the blood of Jesus makes us holy.

If we evaluate our memories, our experiences, our childhoods, many of us would conclude that we were talked to way more often about where we are going (heaven or hell) than what we have become.

Now, heaven is obviously a great thing for us to look forward to. I definitely look forward to the perfection that is promised in Scripture. I look forward to seeing Christ face to face, seeing those I love who are also in perfect communion with God (they aren’t waiting for me, mind you, they’re in a perfect utopia, remember?).

But, the Christian life is not just about the endgame (oh, wow, just typing that makes me excited for the Avengers movie that is about to come out. Just thirteen more days)!

The Christian life is about who we are, not just where we’re going.

The Christian life is about holiness, not just heaven.

If following Jesus was only about going to heaven when we die, then we wouldn’t need to care about living lives of holiness today.

Oops, I just described how I too often live.

I just described how many of us who claim Jesus live.

If following Jesus is just about dying and going to heaven, then honoring Him with our actions, thoughts, words, and habits in the here and now isn’t that important.

In some churches, we have been taught more than this. We have in fact been taught about holiness, and how being set apart should show itself in every area I described above. But even in those settings and circumstances, we can hear it the wrong way. 

Since I was sixteen years old, my dad has encouraged me with the following mantra: “Be God’s Man.” He has texted it to me, told me face to face, e-mailed it, and modeled it.

Here’s how I have misheard it at times.

In moments where the gospel is far from my view, I start to make it a standard to live up to, instead of my identity to walk in.

In those moments I strive with all my vigor and power to become the man of God that Jesus is calling me to be through the encouragement of men like my father. When I fail to live up to my self-imposed standard, I feel woefully inadequate.

But, man alive, listen up!

Because of my faith in Jesus, I AM God’s man! I am a child of God! It’s not something I have to earn or live up to, it’s something I already AM! That’s where the power for holy living is found! The grace of God! My dad’s encouragement is for me to walk out who I AM, not earn the title!

My point is, many of us hear about calls to holiness in church. If you attend the church I work at, you’ve likely heard it from me. We can hear these calls to holy living and misunderstand. We can hear these calls to holy living and spend our energy and effort trying to earn the title of holiness. Yet, Scripture makes it clear that we already are holy in the sight of God! We are already saints! Already set apart! Already righteous!

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21

The title of holy is not something you have to earn, it’s who you ARE.

Let’s quickly run through just two implications of this.

If I’ve been made holy in the sight of God, it is my Savior who should be praised, not my sin. 

Let me be clear, repentance and confession are powerful. Acknowledging my sins to my wife, friends, and family in Christ is important. There is freedom found in doing this. But if my sin becomes the point of emphasis in an effort to be “authentic” and “transparent”, I am glorifying the very thing that put Jesus on that cross.

My youth group knows that I sin. I tell them.

My family and friends know. They see it.

Those I disciple know that I sin.

But my youth group, family, friends, and those I disciple all know as well that I have a Savior in Christ Jesus who set me free from anything they see and anything I confess. I glorify my Savior, not my sin. Let us not be so concerned about not being judgmental to others that we start to parade our sin and not our Savior.

If I’ve been made holy in the sight of God, so are all others who follow Him

Our churches are full of men and women who are prone to act like immature toddlers (same as I). Gossip, slander, backbiting, attention seeking, anger, rudeness, selfishness. There is this in abundance. But, if we are all holy, shouldn’t we thus see the best in those around us? Where would gossip and slander go if we acknowledged that Becky and Brandon were holy? Where would the selfishness and attention-seeking go if we realized we were all equal in the sight of God?

I believe that these classic church sins would disappear if we saw each other as fellow recipients of the holiness of Christ.

You, if you’ve put your faith in Jesus, are holy.

Stop trying to earn it. 

Stop waiting to live with and for Christ once you die.

Accept who you are.

Let it change everything about you.

Nothing so floods our hearts with the experience of God’s grace as making sure it overflows from our hearts. – Bryan Chapell 

In His Name,
Nathan Roach

 

 

 

Attacking Your Family

When we fight and condemn one another, denounce other Christians and divide from them, fostering all kinds of divisions within the church, then we do not have the mind of Christ. – Christopher Wright 

If I were to give an account for every word that I have spoken throughout my life, I would be woefully ashamed of many things I’ve said about others without their knowledge. In a world that remains in darkness, the church bodies in our communities sadly has its light for Christ dimmed due to in-fighting, gossip, slander, and the like. They have become respectable sins, those sins that are in our lives that aren’t nearly as bad as adultery and murder and thus eat away at our relationships since they aren’t confronted.

The above quote is from the book Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit. In the chapter about peace, Wright bemoans the reality that many of our church communities are ravaged by condemnation and accusations being thrown to and fro. There is no peace it seems in the body of Christ.

I want to first address and confess my sins in this area. In my first years in ministry, there were many times where I spoke poorly about those who had no ability to defend themselves since they weren’t even privy to the conversations being had. I belittled spiritual leadership in authority over me, I poked fun at others’ expense, and spouted off about anyone and everyone when given even the slightest sliver of an opportunity.

All of this I did with very little remorse or even concern. In my prideful state of mind, I was simply speaking truth in the midst of those who had strayed from it. In my arrogant state of mind, I was merely calling people out due to their sin (btdubs, the Bible never calls for us to call people out for their sin via conversations without their presence).

I am grateful to God that I have seen a lot of growth in this area since I moved back to Texas. Although I am still prone to falling into sin in this area, God has brought me a long way.

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. . . . . may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 15:2, 5-6

How do we glorify God as a community?

We live in harmony.

We build up our neighbor, our brother or sister in Christ.

My heart breaks when I see full grown adults bickering with one another and gossiping about each other. My heart breaks when I fall into this sin. We are not called to speak poorly about anyone, much less someone who also calls Jesus Christ their Lord.

The above passage is encouraging in its phrasing. The ability to live in harmony with all people, no matter what, is brought about by the God whose vary character is one of endurance and encouragement. We can encourage others and find the endurance to do so even when nobody else is, because that is the character of our God.

Here’s just a few quick ways that we can combat this insidious sin in our churches.

1. Confront Sin Privately (and be willing to be confronted)

As I said earlier, in previous seasons of ministry, I used the excuse that I was simply confronting sin when I went around gossiping and slandering. That’s not how the Bible teaches us to confront sin. We are to admonish and exhort one another privately, in the context of already established relationships. On a vastly important note, I have no right to speak into the attitudes and lifestyles of others if I give no one the opportunity to confront sin in my life without getting defensive or upset.

Instead of gossiping to others; lovingly, kindly, humbly, bring up the matter at hand in private conversation.

2. Speak Up

This is the hardest one for me to do. I don’t very often. But one way that we can correct the sins of gossip and slander in our churches is by speaking up and saying that we aren’t going to allow it. We should go about this in a manner of humility, not accusing or attacking those who are in the moment gossiping. We must simply remind one another that it divides the church against itself, and that nothing good EVER comes from gossip and slander.

As a twenty-five year old, it’s difficult for me to speak up against it in certain contexts, but we are called by God to make peace.

3. Encourage 

The final way that we can confront gossip and slander is by consistently and constantly encouraging others. In his book, Side by Side, Edward Welch encourages his readers to see the good in all people.

The goal here is to keep our eyes open for good things in others. When we see good things, we savor them and point them out. As you get to know people, you will encounter many hard things, some unattractive things, but if you also see good, you will see people more as God does, and that is a blessing. – Edward Welch 

Instead of being men and women who claim to follow Jesus yet tear down their sibling in the Lord, let us be men and women who consistently build others up. Find the good, and speak about it. When the temptation to slander comes up, encourage. When the temptation to bemoan someone’s actions comes up, speak instead about the good that you see in them.

We live in a dark world, this is true.

Instead of tearing one another down through incessant gossip and slander, we can bind together and transform into the community that people desire to be about.

My question is, are you part of the problem?

I know I have been at times.

God’s grace is greater than your sin and mine.

Let’s be people who leave gossip and slander behind.

Warped And Sinful Words

When it comes to sin in the minds of modern Christians, sins of aggression (hate, malice, murder) and sex (lust, adultery, sexual assault) are the ones that we tend to see with the biggest amount of physical and earthly consequences, especially in the church.

We all have heard and read the stories of pastors who have fallen into egregious sexual sin and have been removed from their flock as a result. We have heard stories of men in pastoral roles who led with hatred and malice in their hearts, becoming dictators who trampled on their staff and congregations.

I am not inclined to disagree with this sentiment.

That being said, I want to put another sin in the ring.

There are few sins that are as detrimental to the life of a church than the sin of divisiveness.

There are few sins that are as prevalent in the life of our churches than divisiveness.

Gossip, slander, drama. They are too often saturating the life of the local church. Phone calls, texts, private conversations. All full of disagreements that instead of being addressed in a healthy way are spread through the grapevine. All of these conversations destroy the health of a church.

Look with me at a couple verses out of Titus 3.

Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned. – Titus 3:10-11

Earlier this week I came across this passage in my devotional time with the Lord and it has stuck with me since. That is heavy stuff, a heavy indictment against this specific sin. These verses come on the heels of a passage in Titus 3 that is all about how as followers of Christ we have been saved by God to do good works and to live lives that are worthy of God.

In verse 8 we read, I want you to stress these things (the gospel message), so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. 

As those who have been bought with the precious blood of Christ, we are saved to do good. What’s the antithesis of that in this passage? Foolish controversies and quarrels (v. 9), and divisiveness.

The book of Titus is such a good book to study as it speaks into the life of a church, and how it is supposed to function. Titus chapter one is mainly about the qualifications of a pastor or elder. Titus chapter two has a lot to say about intergenerational discipleship. Then it concludes with this chapter about good deeds and the dangers of divisiveness. My prayer is that we as followers of Christ would take the format of this book to heart. There is much more to it than this, but here’s a simplistic takeaway:

Titus 1 – If you have appointed or hired pastors or elders in your church. Trust them. Pray for them. Support them. They have not been placed in your church to be used, abused, or be treated like puppets. God has placed them in your midst to shepherd the church.

Titus 2 – Disciple, disciple, disciple. Some churches do this well, others not so much. But the call is clear. The older men are to disciple the younger men in the church, while being willing to learn from the younger men. The older women are to disciple the younger women in the church, while also being willing to learn from the younger women.

Titus 3 – Don’t be divisive. You have been saved for good works. You have been saved to evangelize, disciple, and support the leadership of your local church. This does not mean you have to agree with everything that your pastoral staff does. This does mean that you should talk to them about it rather than engage in gossip or slander.

It pains me to acknowledge that this sin of divisiveness has been present in my life to an extreme degree in my past. Instead of seeking counsel, speaking to my pastoral leaders, or supporting them in their actions, I instead gossiped, slandered, and honestly caused division.

Please do not make the same mistake. Look with me again at how Paul responds to this type of behavior in followers of Christ. We are to warn those who are being divisive. We are to call them out privately for living in a way that is not in line with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Scripture then goes on to use some severe terminology about them. They are warped, sinful, and self-condemned.

That’s harsh but true. It was in my life. I was warped in my beliefs. Church was about me. Pastors were a commodity for me to use, not a shepherd to trust. I was sinful. The fact of the matter is that Christians are called to be unified in the church. Shame on us when we’re not. Lastly, divisive people and gossips are ultimately just condemning themselves each time they talk. Scripture makes clear that every word we speak we will have to give an account for (Matthew 12:36).

I pray that I would avoid the sin of divisiveness.

I pray that you would too.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach