What Grace Is For?

I was home from Oklahoma Baptist for the summer and I decided to go to a get together with some of my high school friends. We ended up being at a house with a few dozen people. I had a great time interacting with a lot of old friends. As the night went on and the numbers dwindled, Cards Against Humanity was pulled out and offered as an activity (think adult style Apples to Apples). While I’m not a fan of this game, my conscience cannot be thrust upon others, so the fact it was brought out is not what bothered me.

What bothered me is when a young woman a few years older than me looked at me and said, “I know this game is horrible, but hey, that’s what grace is for right?” She laughed and went back into the other room to continue playing.

Again, my conscience is different than yours. Cards Against Humanity is not the devil. So that’s not what my blog is about.

What my blog is about how that statement, although it was in jest, seems to be the way many people treat grace, treat the good news of Jesus Christ.

Grace has been abused. There is an incredible tension in the Christian faith where God’s grace does not run out, but we are not called to trivialize it by accepting sin in our lives. Now I’ll be the first to say that I struggle with giving myself grace, it’s hard for me to accept it when I turn from actions, words, and thoughts that I know are not honoring to God and thus are sinful.

Not only do we sometimes abuse grace with a cavalier attitude towards our sin and the call to holiness, we also desire to be welcoming and encouraging to others and so we tell them their sin is a okay in the eyes of God. I’ve done it. I may not have explicitly told anyone, hey, your sinful lifestyle is pleasing to God, but rather by not confronting it I am giving them this idea.

This comes from a desire to love others well. But in actuality, it is loving others poorly.

There is a big portion of people who are following Jesus who have done away with the commands of God, the call to holiness that is explicit in Scripture, in order to love others like Jesus would. I’ve heard the dialogue. I’ve taken part in the conversations. I’ve felt the temptation to do the same. We want to make up for the ‘sins’ of our forefathers by responding to the sinner on our block with love. I’m all for that. But we must also lovingly speak truth. Jesus did not come to do away with the call to holiness, in fact He calls us to be like Him in perfection (Matthew 5:48).

The abuse of grace is dangerous and grieves the heart of God. The reason I know this is because the Bible speaks clearly against it. The other day I was reading through 2 John while also preparing a lesson for my youth on John 14, and interestingly enough both of these passages speak up against the abuse of grace. Look at these verses with me please.

And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. – 2 John 6

Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. – 2 John 9

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. – John 14:15

Loving Jesus is shown in following His commandments as taught in Scripture. To love others in the context of the church is to walk in the commandments of Jesus as taught in Scripture. Verse nine of 2 John is a hard one. If we stray from the teachings and commandments of Jesus as taught in the Scriptures, we are in fact straying from God Himself. This verse is not saying that if I struggle with sin I will lose Jesus. Rather it is saying that I don’t get to call the shots. I don’t get to decide what Jesus says. Kind of like one of my recent posts, Scripture tells us what Jesus’ heart is and thus what the character of God is (The Light Of Jesus, John 14:7).

There are well-meaning men and women, including myself, who at times abandon what Scripture says in order to love people the way we feel Jesus would. Our hearts are in the right place, but we are in danger of becoming what Jude verse four describes as ungodly people who abuse grace and forget that Jesus is their Master.

What I’ve discovered to be more and more true is that Biblical illiteracy is the reason many of us live in sin. It’s been hard for me to figure out how people (including myself at times) can love Jesus and also accept and celebrate sin in their lives and in the lives of others. Then I realized it’s in part because we don’t read Scripture as much, or as closely, as we should.

You can’t avoid these verses.

You may be a Greek theologian and scholar who can explain to me how these verses (which is a small sampling on the topic) don’t actually teach us to follow the commands of Jesus that we receive from His teachings and the teaching of the apostles. If you can, I don’t think I’d agree with you.

You can’t be more merciful than God, and yet we try to. We try to apologize to others on behalf of God, trivializing His commands and extending grace to areas of sin that we shouldn’t celebrate.

I am always looking for feedback and loving discussion, so comment below if you want to. You can also follow my blog below.

Love you guys.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

The Good Shepherd

There is nothing like children’s camp to reinvigorate one’s faith. Three days with nothing but the laughter and love of children is an encouraging thing.

After spending a week with the students at camp earlier in July, I honestly was not that enthused to leave my wife and go back with the children. However, after all has been said and done, I am overjoyed that I got to be a part of this week.

Let’s get the what in the world moments out of the way. Here were some of my favorites:

  • the kid who conveniently lost his body wash, shampoo, and towel the entire week until approximately two minutes before we left for home.
  • the kid who refused to change out of his Minecraft pajamas for three days straight.
  • the kid who told me he wanted to talk to me about spiritual matters but decided not to because and I quote, “When I look at you, I’m reminded of a cheese I had a long time ago that was disgusting. So I can’t look at you without thinking about cheese.”
  • the kid who sat me down one morning and told me all the reasons he should be given the servant leader award that we passed out at camp
  • the kid who had some of the utterly worst gas I have ever smelled in my entire life, and who committed countless atrocities of that nature in the evenings.

Again, there’s nothing like church camp with a couple dozen little ones.

Seeing their faith though I was challenged and reminded of what it was like when I first put my faith in Jesus for the first time at a young age. These kids desired the Lord. They desired Jesus and they desired to grow closer to Jesus. We had one kid that so wanted to experience God that he would come back and talk to us after each evening service about how he wanted to be better at prayer and studying God’s Word.

It was invigorating.

It also tied in perfectly with what I’m going to be teaching tomorrow to the youth in my Sunday School class.

Tomorrow we’re going to be looking at John 10 and the role of Jesus in our lives and the role we play as a sheep.

I’m stoked to see so much spiritual growth in the lives of countless kids, and I’ve already ranted previously about what we as adults need to be doing to set the example for them (Changing Our Community). I want to briefly focus on childlike faith and what we all can do to better be like the kids in our church.

John 10:1-21 teaches us all that Jesus does for us, in His self-proclaimed role as the Good Shepherd:

  • He calls His sheep by name
  • He goes before His sheep, leading them
  • He leads His sheep into abundant life
  • He lays down His life for His sheep
  • He protects His sheep from harm

Here’s how we are to respond. We are to respond like sheep.

When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. – John 10:4

All that this passage says that we have to do is simply follow Him. That’s it. He promises to provide for us and protect us.

The proverbial thorn in my side when it comes to sin struggles is worry, fearfully playing what if games of all that could possibly happen. I’ll go long stretches of time with none of this, but then it’ll come back with a vengeance, especially when I’m outside of community with brothers in Christ. So when a Facebook post went viral in Vernon regarding a dangerous man attacking a couple teenagers, my mind immediately went to the what ifs of my wife and myself and safety, etc. There’s nothing wrong with occasional pangs of worry, but it often becomes a sinful practice of disbelieving God’s ability to protect and provide.

Growing up, if my dad was around, I felt safe. No matter what. We could be in pitch black darkness surrounded by blood-hungry enemies and I guarantee you I would feel totally safe. Because I knew my dad could protect me. I knew my dad would provide for me. Because I knew my dad loved me.

This passage should cast all worry and anxiety from our minds. Our hearts. I know I’m not alone in falling into sinful levels of worry. I know that I’m not alone in having to train my mind and heart.

Here’s what I love about kids. Most of them don’t worry about a thing. They are full of vigor and wonder and excitement and awe and trust.

I saw many of them put their trust in Jesus for the first time, and I’ve already seen many of them living out this trust back home.

As adults, let us be men and women who put their trust in our Good Shepherd. God desires to answer the prayers of His people especially when they are in line with His will which is illuminated for us in Scripture. A prayer I need to commit to praying is that God would give me confidence and security in His love for me. This is a prayer I recently read in a Bible study of mine and it’s simplicity is freeing.

If you are like me and worry, pray for confidence in His love.

If you are like me, God has proven himself to you time and time again. You don’t have clarity on all that has happened in your life but you know that He has been faithful to provide and protect.

I was reminded after five days with the kids at camp that I need to become like a child and trust Him.

I felt safe with my dad.

I can feel even safer with my Heavenly Father, with Jesus as my Good Shepherd.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

I appreciate any and all feedback and you can follow my blog below!

 

 

Show Us A Sign

Thousands upon thousands of people had just been fed with five loaves and two fish. Every man, woman, and child had had their physical appetite met by a miraculous act of God the Father’s provision through His Son Jesus (John 6:1-14). They were hungry, away from home, listening to and learning from the man who did miracles all throughout their region. Then, God provided. Miraculously provided.

The crowds crossed the sea to Capernaum in order to continue following Jesus. Scripture says that they knew Jesus did not cross the sea with the disciples (John 6:22), yet they found him outside of Capernaum when they crossed the sea. The disciples even saw Jesus walk upon the water.

The miracle-worker was still at work. Thousands fed with one boy’s lunch. A sea crossed on foot.

Jesus sees the crowds and makes the bold proclamation that He is in fact the one who brings eternal life, and that the miracles He has been doing are to point the crowds to God (John 6:29).

Then comes the craziest verse ever.

So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?” – John 6:30

This is not a new crowd of people who say this to him. These are the people who were just fed miraculously, and who just deduced that Jesus did not take a boat to cross the sea yet still made it to the other side. This crowd had seen something amazing. We read the Bible with a background in church and this stuff doesn’t awe us or terrify us anymore. But think about it! JESUS FED THOUSANDS WITH ONE LITTLE MEAL. That would be like me going to the middle of Vernon with a Lunchable and calling everyone in town to come be fed, feeding everyone in town with my ham and cheese cracker stacks. Preposterous. Amazing.

Yet with this having happened just the day before, the crowds asked for a sign that Jesus was from heaven.

Doofuses.

Yet, if we’re being honest, we can be doofuses too.

I saw God miraculously move in the lives of so many students this week, drawing them to salvation and renewed commitment to Him. Here I sit just three days later and I can feel the icy tentacles on my mind trying to convince me that God’s power stayed at Camp Chaparral. God did the miraculous and yet here I am asking for a sign.

This theme of questioning God despite the miraculous is all over Scripture.

This afternoon on my day off I was reading through part of Genesis. In Genesis 14, Lot (Abram’s nephew) is captured by a coalition of five kings. Abram brings 318 men with him, fighting back and overcoming these kings, rescuing Lot, and achieving the spoils of war.

After this miraculous victory, Abram says the following:

I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth – Genesis 14:22b

Abram is swearing about something in this verse that isn’t all that important to the point I’m trying to make, what I want you to notice is that Abram is acknowledging that the God who appeared to him two chapters prior is the Lord God Most High, the possessor of heaven and earth. Abram knows that victory came at the hand of God, not at the hand of Abram.

Fast-forward one chapter.

I’m not an Old Testament scholar so I don’t know exactly how much time has passed between the two chapters, but God here appears to Abram and promises him a son, an heir.

Then comes the crazy stuff.

And He (God) said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.” He said, “O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it?” – Genesis 15:7-8

God promises him a son and land to possess.

Abram responds by questioning how he will know this will take place.

Maybe I’m reaching, I acknowledge that I could be wrong here. But it fascinates me nonetheless that Abram asks God more or less for a sign that He will be faithful.

Wouldn’t the military victory brought about in the previous chapter be that sign? Five kings against 318 men, and God gave victory to Abram.

Regardless of whether or not I’m reading too much into the story, the principle is true in my life.

I question God’s ability to provide and protect, right on the heels of Him showing me the miraculous.

Do you believe the promises of God? Have you seen the miraculous? If you have, are you all in with the Lord? Have you abandoned your own desires for the cause of Christ? Or are you asking for another sign?

If you are a follower of Jesus, then God has done the miraculous in your life.

Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins. – John 8:24

Here Jesus is saying to the crowds that if they don’t believe that He is the Messiah they will die in their sins. This doesn’t sound miraculous. But think about it inversely.

The fact that you have put your faith in Jesus, and thus have life instead of the death you deserve, is MIRACULOUS.

Acts 17:25 says that God supplies us with life, breath, and everything else.

Each day is a miracle.

Are you trusting in the character of God or are you coming off a miracle asking for a sign?

In His Name,

Nate Roach

I appreciate any and all feedback and you can follow my blog below.

He’s Still On The Throne

He’s still on the throne.

throne
I know Jesus doesn’t sit on a middle-earth throne, but this sure looks cool.

A couple years ago, my mom texted me this amidst a conversation about the trials and difficulties that were present in my life at the time. Certain aspects of the world as I knew it were spiraling out of control in some ways and my mom knew just what to encourage me with. Jesus was still on the throne, even in the midst of what seemed like chaos.

The second Psalm can be a source of great encouragement when the leaders and rulers of our world are prone to evil and wickedness, and when disaster strikes our world, our country, our city, or our family.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the Lord and his Anointed One. “Let’s tear off their chains and throw their ropes off of us.” – Psalm 2:1-3

Here’s a pretty accurate illustration of the way that Jesus is treated in the minds and hearts of so many in our world. So many in our day take their stand against the Lord and his Anointed One. Now in the case of this Psalm, that Anointed One would be David. But in the case of our day, the one who holds all things together and rules over all is none other than Jesus Christ. The godly man or woman understands that they are submitting to the ultimate rule and reign of Jesus. The ungodly man or woman however is the one who sees submission to Christ as bondage and seeks to break the chains of God’s sovereign hand over their lives.

The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them. Then he speaks to them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath: “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” – Psalm 2:4-6

This is simultaneously one of the most encouraging and fear-inducing passages in the Psalms for me. The Lord laughs at those who seek to break free of His rule and reign. He isn’t scared, intimidated, worried, or anxious when the men and women of this world seek to break free of His rule and reign. Instead He just laughs. He finds it humorous that man would strive to buck up against His rule and reign. Then his anger and wrath are felt as He reminds the wicked of this world that He has installed His King on Zion, on His holy mountain. Jesus has been enthroned. He is enthroned over the cosmos, and He should be given His rightful place on the throne in each of our lives.

I will declare the Lord’s decree. He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with an iron scepter; you will shatter them like pottery.” – Psalm 2:7-9

This shows us just how powerful King Jesus is. The nations are at His disposal. The very ends of the earth are under His control. He can shatter the wicked with an iron scepter, breaking them like pottery. The picture of Jesus that is all too often portrayed and presented in our culture is the Jesus that is simply a lover. A guy who sprinkles grace onto our unrepentant sins and personal brokenness, inviting us into a moment of intentional worship and transparent fellowship. While Jesus certainly is a loving Shepherd of the broken, He is also the Victorious King, the One who defeated death, evil, Satan, and every wicked scheme of the enemy. King Jesus is powerful.

So now, kings, be wise; receive instruction, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with reverential awe and rejoice with trembling. Pay homage to the Son or he will be angry and you will perish in your rebellion, for his anger may ignite at any moment. All who take refuge in him are happy. – Psalm 2:10-12

Servitude, humility, awe, reverence, respect. When we come to terms with who King Jesus is, that should be our response. We should come to his feet and worship Him for who He is. Instead of following our sinful desires and bucking up against His rule and reign, we should submit to King Jesus and let Him have his rightful place on the throne of our hearts and our lives. The man who is happy is the man who takes refuge in Him, the man who submits to King Jesus.

In Acts chapter 4, Peter and John were imprisoned and tried for their outspoken faith in Jesus. Upon their release they went to the community of faith and shared with everyone what they had experienced. They used this very Psalm as encouragement in the face of pronounced and intimidating persecution from the governmental and religious leaders of their day.

I do not know what you are going through today.

Maybe you are facing persecution for your faith in and submission to King Jesus.

Maybe you are facing the aftermath of terrible destruction or disaster in your life.

Maybe you are fearful of the future, and the headlines of the news get you more and more worried.

The reality of evil can’t be avoided or run from. However we don’t have to meditate or dwell on evil. We can meditate on the fact that Christ has defeated Satan.

Brother or sister in Christ, may you be encouraged that King Jesus sits on the throne. May you be strengthened in your resolve, strengthened in your faith and trust that King Jesus is not frightened by the news articles that you see on your social media accounts. Brother or sister in Christ, may you be drawn deeper into fellowship with the Powerful King Jesus.

If you’re not sure where you stand with King Jesus today, tell Him so. One thing I love about the Psalms is that they are honest, full of cries to God and raw emotions.

Ask King Jesus to help you trust Him more.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

– I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog below