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

 

 

 

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.

 

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