The Good News of Nathan?

The gospel is all about Jesus.

As people of God we should be all about the gospel.

These seem like total no-brainer statements, yet if we’re honest, we all subtly move away from these truths.

I know that I have countless times in my life in the past and in the present. First, when it comes to that first statement, here’s what would happen. When I first got to OBU, I wanted everyone to know my story. You can see the problem that arose just by how I phrased that last sentence. I wanted people to know MY story, not the story of Jesus, not the story where I was simply an extra with a teeny tiny part to play.

So what happened is that I regularly, I mean probably a couple times a month, would share my testimony with anyone who wanted to hear it. Each time I shared it I would emphasize all of my nasty, gritty, and grimy sin struggles. Anger, sexual sin, dishonesty, rebellion. Then at the very end I would tack on a quick here’s how God redeemed me from all of that (the other stupid thing I would do was act like none of those sin struggles were still in my life, maybe to will myself into getting rid of them, who knows). It also got so bad that I would embellish my story like crazy, dramatizing it, making it seem unfathomable. This snowballed and soon my story was full of scenarios and situations that never actually happened. Imagine that, being dishonest when sharing my own testimony. Man thank God for grace.

The gospel that saturates the Scriptures was suddenly about me. I never said that in those words, but it was clear in the way that I shared my life story.

Life progressed and as I entered vocational ministry, the temptation to make the gospel the means by which I would build my own kingdom and legacy was hot and heavy. In hopes of not making the same mistake silly old 18 year old Nate made, I confess that this continues to be an ongoing battle for me. Ministry is rough and rugged and not at all what I expected it to be when I first submitted to God’s call on my life as a teenager. Yet despite the brutality of it at times, it’s easy to treat it as any other job and make it about achieving my own goals and aspirations. I don’t particularly believe that everything is explicitly black and white, that having dreams and desires is sinful. That being said, it is sinful to take from God’s glory (or hilariously attempt to).

The proclamation of the gospel is not to be used to build our own kingdoms of sand. I’ve seen evangelists and preachers make the gospel their avenue to glory. I’ve fought and at times given into that same desire in my own heart. May we be men and women of God who do no such thing. May we understand the futility of trying to make the gospel about us.

For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son – Romans 1:9a

The gospel of His Son.

The gospel is all about Jesus.

Let us transition to the second statement.

As people of God we should be all about the gospel.

Sometimes the gospel seems mundane. Sometimes the gospel of Jesus Christ seems like VBS style theology to the pew-hardened follower of Jesus. Here’s where Paul in the book of Romans blows that false feeling out of the water.

So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. – Romans 1:15

There was already a gospel presence in Rome when Paul wrote the Roman church this letter. This is easily proven in verse seven. For there to be church community in Rome, people needed to have submitted to the Lordship of Jesus. For them to have done that, they would have needed to have heard the gospel. Thus we can say that the gospel had been preached in Rome. Yet, Paul is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to preach the gospel in the very place there was already a gospel presence. Why? Because as people of God we should be all about the gospel.

It may seem repetitive to our hearts, but if it is, it is more than likely because its beauty has not cascaded into every dark crevice. A right understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ leads to a yearning to hear it and preach it and share it and soak it in. We should be all about the gospel. That word can get watered down, so here is what R.C. Sproul gives as a mini-synopsis of this good news:

  • Jesus’ life of perfect obedience
  • Jesus’ atoning death on the cross
  • Jesus’ resurrection from the dead
  • Jesus’ ascension into heaven
  • Jesus’ outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church

What a surprise, the gospel is all about Jesus.

We live in a society where we are supposed to tickle the ears of our congregations with pep-talks that use Scripture as support instead of actually preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

To preach the gospel every week does not require preaching from the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) every week. Every story in Scripture points to Jesus in some way. Any sermon can be a gospel-saturated sermon.

Let us not grow weary of proclaiming the gospel to our families and friends.

Let us be men and women of the gospel.

 

 

The American Flag or The Cross

I remember the sermon. I was a senior in college home for the weekend and we had a guest speaker at our church. I enjoyed his message, but there was an undercurrent of a belief system that was concerning to me. Although not explicitly said, there was an implicit sense of the end of the world being equivalent to the rapid moral decline of the United States. This was a sentiment that I have heard echoed in other messages, blog posts, social media rants, etc. If the United States should fall as a nation, the end of the world would be upon us.

Honestly this is very concerning to me. Here’s a few quick reasons why.

  1. This belief is wholly inconsistent with history. The USA is not the first world power that has ever existed. Egypt, Rome, Babylon, Assyria. There is historical and Biblical proof of these nations’ rapid declines, and guess what, we’re still here.
  2. This belief is way too narrow. It is statistically true that in the Western world the church is dead or dying. Europe is incredibly dark spiritually and we’re right behind them. That being said, the global church is exploding. People are coming to Christ in droves in Africa and Asia. We may be on the outskirts here in the USA, but the global church is thriving in the midst of suffering.
  3. This belief is the result of putting our hope in the wrong thing. This is what this post is about. If you take a long look at the Old Testament, you will see that many of the prophetic oracles against the nations (including also the people of Israel) promised destruction because people were believing in their own government, specifically military, for hope and security. Take for instance Isaiah 31:1 – Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord. (see also 2 Chronicles 16:7)

I grew up believing that this was the best country on earth. We were the epicenter of morality, spirituality, and Christian missions. We sent people out to the nations who needed the gospel. We were a country that was all about Christian values. We were God’s country. The rose-colored glasses started to come off at OBU, and then were completely ripped off my eyes in Phoenix.

Phoenix was the darkest of places I’ve been to. A staggering 90%+ don’t having saving faith in Jesus Christ. A major metropolitan area right here in our country, an epicenter of sorts in its own right, and it is dark. This country is not my home. This country is not my hope.

I’ll be honest, my time in Phoenix frightened me. I’ve written about this experience in other blogs, how I came to quickly realize that the United States wasn’t my home. God walked me through fear and anxiety and brought me to the point through studying Scripture that I was able to realize that the United States of America is not a Christian country.

Honestly, there is really no such thing. There can be leaders and policies that support Christian morals and values, but there is no such thing as a Christian country.

There is however such thing as a Christian nation. However it is not a nation that is limited by geography, ethnicity, financial class, or culture. It is a nation of people who have put their trust, hope, and security not in mere men or governments, but instead in Jesus Christ.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10

The decline of our country can be discombobulating. It can be devastating. It can be discouraging. However, if you remain in that space, that is likely a sign that your hope is in the wrong thing. Repent and believe in the good news of the gospel, that our Risen King sits enthroned in heaven and controls the world and the powers that ‘rule’ it.

It is easy to look at what’s happening and blame my generation for the moral chaos that seems to be swirling all around. It is harder to accept that we may have failed our children by teaching them to put their hope in our country, their security in the American Dream, and their peace in our military might. May we be people who teach our children to put their hope in their Risen Savior, their security in His sovereign hand, and their peace in His unfailing love.

We have an American flag in our sanctuary where I work, and I fear that it has become a symbol of where people are putting their hope. The cross is the symbol of that which we should be putting our hope in.

The American flag doesn’t bring me peace, security, or hope.

The cross of Christ and the empty tomb bring me peace, security, or hope.

MY HOPE IS NOT IN DONALD TRUMP MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. MY HOPE IS IN KING JESUS MAKING ALL THINGS NEW AGAIN.

I plead with you to live for Christ, to be allegiant to Him first and foremost. Be in the public sphere, vote, rally, protest when necessary, but be allegiant to Christ more than country.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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God Speaks

I’ve never heard audible words from the Lord. I’ve never had some overwhelming Damascus road experience where I saw with my own eyes the risen Christ. I’ve never had some immensely emotional response in worship. But even still, God has spoken to me time and time again. And today, He is speaking to you. In creation, In His Word, in the preaching of a pastor on a Sunday morning and the words of a friend on a Tuesday afternoon. God speaks to us daily.

That is something I wish I had come to grips with a long time ago, and it is something I think many of us will fight to believe in during our lifelong walks with the Lord. For me, I would have seasons of my life where I struggled with doubt and disbelief because I had never had some amazing emotional response to the gospel where I heard the Lord audibly speaking to me. For me I was a seven year old who accepted Christ and placed my faith in the gospel in my parents’ bedroom. It was childlike faith, living and moving and having my being in the Lord from day to day.

Somewhere along the way I accepted a lie. Somewhere along the way I convinced myself that if I wasn’t hearing from God in some awesome, audible, amazing Exodus-style way then I wasn’t walking with Him well. So I would try and conjure up these emotional experiences. I remember sitting on the back row of youth group trying to will myself into an encounter with the Lord that I would be able to look back on as some incredible moment where I heard from God. Embarrassingly enough now, I would try and conjure up tears so that if I emotionally responded to some message than surely God would reward that with some indisputable word from Him.

This lie lingered in my mind throughout the years. It was triggered by sin. I would fall into a sin of some sort and immediately begin to doubt the strength of my relationship with the Lord simply because I felt like I wasn’t hearing from the Lord. Now this wouldn’t happen all the time but it would rear its ugly head over the years.

These past few months in Phoenix has simply obliterated and decimated that lie.  I’ve come to realize that God speaks to all of us daily through creation, friends, the truth of His Word, and the preaching of the pastoral shepherd we are under.

Creation. Scripture testifies over and over that creation speaks to us about God. The stars proclaim His glory (see Psalm 19:1-2). Looking at creation proves the existence of a Creator much as a painting proves the existence of an artist. Beaches, forests, mountains, sunsets, birds, dogs, snow, rain, stars, moon, sun, the Grand Canyon. When we immerse ourselves in creation we can find ourselves overwhelmed with the magnitude and creativity of the Lord. Open your eyes to the world around you and worship Him who made it all with just the words of His mouth. Worship in wonder.15226581_1112302335554109_839234830_n

Friends. This can also extend to family, or anyone at all you are in Christian community with. The Lord uses the words of a friend or family member to remind you of the truths of His Word. Don’t discount the words of a friend spoken in love. It’s been crazy to me how often God has reminded me of one of His promises or truths just in the middle of simple conversation while playing ping-pong, watching TV, or eating dinner. The Lord speaks to us daily through normal conversation.

God’s Word. My mom recently told me, “If you want to hear God audibly speak to you, then read the Bible out loud.” How impactful is that. What a beautiful reminder. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is God-breathed. The entirety of Scripture is God’s written words to us His church, useful for teaching and correction and reproof and training in righteousness. Don’t discount getting in God’s Word. Dive deep and discover the depths of God’s grace in every story, song, and letter. Let His Word be ever in your mind and on your lips.

Preaching. As followers of Christ we should all be engaged with a local body of believers. As a result of being a part of a local congregation, we are all under the preaching and teaching of the pastor, the shepherd God has appointed to care for us and teach us God’s Word. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes from hearing the message of Christ. A sermon is more than just a thirty minute scolding or fortune cookie anecdote. It is God speaking to us through a man He has chosen. This should lead us to all pray for our pastors, that they would weekly preach the gospel, no more and no less. Listening to God’s Word through the preaching of our local pastor is a way to hear from the Lord.

More often than not our lives will be more like the book of Ruth than the book of Exodus. It will be a life filled with normal activities rather than miraculous signs and audible voices. Yes God speaks audibly to whom He wills. Yes there are more avenues of God’s communication with us than just the ones I have listed. Yet if you like I have struggled to see the extraordinary and eternal in the ordinary and temporal, let these ways I have listed above be an encouragement to discern and discover God’s voice and communication with you.

God speaks to us all each day.

In His Name,

Nate Roach