Who Do You Love?

I want to be involved in church, but I don’t want to be around that person.

I want to serve on this team, but not if that person is in charge.

I want to engage with God’s Word, but not if that person is preaching.

I want a community of people to grow into Christlikeness with, but not if they’re older than me or younger than me or they go to private school or go to public school or vaccinate their kids or don’t vaccinate their kids. They better be just like me if they want to be in community with me.

Have you ever felt or thought any of these things?

If we’re real honest with ourselves, the answer would certainly be yes.

I definitely have. More often than I care to admit.

Here’s the deal though.

That doesn’t sound like love to me.

It just doesn’t.

To refuse to listen to preaching, or serve, or be in a small group because there’s someone you don’t like is about one of the least loving mindsets you and I can have.

Today I want us to be reminded of one of the more misunderstood passages in the New Testament. I’m talking about the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.

Let’s read part of it together.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

One of the most important steps of studying the Bible is understanding the context of what you’re reading.

Where have you heard this passage taught?

Most likely at a wedding. This is one of the classic wedding messages.

This isn’t sinful or heretical or wrong, but it does skew our view of what this passage is about.

If you open up your Bible, you’ll see by looking around the immediate context of this passage that this is not primarily about romantic love. It’s about congregational love.

This is a description of what love should look like in the church. The last time marriage was mentioned is in chapter seven. A lot has come up since then. Just previous to this chapter is a long discussion by Paul about the role of spiritual gifts and diversity in the body.

The body of Christ.

This text is not about romantic love, it’s about congregational love.

How we doing?

How are our churches doing at this?

How are you doing at this?

I recently read a quote that was pretty abrasive.

God is looking for mature men and women to carry on His work, and sometimes all he can find are little children who cannot even get along with each other. – Warren Wiersbe

Talk about some convicting stuff.

Do we exemplify mature or childish behavior?

I’ll tell you, there’s much room for improvement in my life when it comes to loving the body like Paul teaches us to here in this passage.

I’ll be honest, my heart breaks when I hear of petty disagreements, turf wars, drama, disunity, cliques, and all the like. My heart breaks when I’m culpable in such matters.

We are called to be patient and kind. To all people. We are called not to be jealous of others. We are called to not be prideful.

We are called to not be self-seeking. The church isn’t about what any of us can gain from it. It is about what we can give to it. If anyone had the right to be self-seeking, it was Jesus. The whole universe was his. But instead of taking from the people of God, he gave his life for the people of God. Are you trying to create your kingdom of sand in your church, or are you giving your life for it?

We are called to not be easily angered. Let’s be honest with ourselves. What is at the root of the issues that fire us up? Is it about the glory of God and health of his church, or is it about  our own egos or preferences?

We are called to not be a keeper of wrongs.

This does NOT mean that you are to be a welcome mat, treated poorly over and over.

This does mean that you shouldn’t hold a grudge, but instead you should forgive them. This isn’t an easy process, it doesn’t happen in an instant, but it is what you’re called to do.

Regardless of what someone in the church has done to you, it is a far cry to all you’ve done in your rebellion towards God, which was forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

Reconciliation is the desired end result here.

Divisions and disunity, cliques and squabbles, pettiness and immaturity. These grieve the heart of God.

Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.

Before you think that this is an idealistic view of the church, let me remind you what the church in Corinth was like. This was a messed up place. Yes, more messed up than the church you left or the church you’re in. There was incest that wasn’t being addressed, and the people were suing one another in the church. I’d say that’s some pretty grotesque and intense stuff.

Yet, Paul doesn’t give them a way out here.

He doubles down and tells them to love one another. To be the body.

I’ll be honest, few things break my heart more than seeing the people of God full of hate for each other. Sure, there are people you will get along with better than others. There will be some that you never have a deep relationship with. There will be some that are not easy to get along with.

You know what?

You’re still called to love them.

Let us all set an example for the world around us of a people who aren’t petty, who aren’t angry, who aren’t envious or self-seeking. Let us be different. Let us be loving.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

 

 

Care Before Commands

God’s love for us is not dependent upon how well we follow His commands for us.

I’ll say it again.

God’s love for us is not dependent upon how well we follow His commands for us.

This seems like the most basic principle of living in light of the good news of the gospel, and yet we as followers of Jesus can forget this time and time again.

The best way to combat forgetting or neglecting this truth is by diving into the story of Scripture. I don’t mean simply reading your Bible to check off a box (like I do way too often), but rather I mean immersing yourself into the whole cohesive story of Scripture. I believe that God’s Word is inerrant, that God’s Word is put together in a specific way by the Spirit’s leading over mankind. So when we look at the entire story of Scripture, we see gospel themes all over the place.

The unfortunate truth is that many of us (yours truly included at times) fail to really understand what the Bible story really is. We like to read devotionally, follow a Sunday School reading plan, and never really get the point of most passages because we don’t read in context. All of this leads to mishandled beliefs about the Bible, God, and the good news of the gospel. Lastly, a disjointed approach to the Bible leads to a litany of verses taken way, way, way out of context (Philippians 4:13, Jeremiah 29:11, etc.).

But let’s get back to the topic at hand. God’s care and God’s commands.

If you asked the average Joe or Jane meandering the sidewalks of our cities to describe what the Old Testament was about, there’s likely one theme that comes to the forefront of their response: God’s commands. They may talk about his anger and wrath, but they will likely have some component of the law of God as part of their answer.

Now let’s say you asked the average pew-sitting Paul or Phyllis, regular members of our churches, the same thing. They would likely answer the same way! Again, this includes rapidly rambling me.

It’s easy to think that the Old Testament is all about God’s commands for us to follow, with the New Testament being all about God’s care for us through Jesus.

This is well-meaning, but off.

If you look closely at Scripture, you’ll see that God is extending grace and showing His loving kindness long before He imposes commands on His people (which are also His loving kindness, btdubs).

For instance, if you look at the book of Genesis, you see that it is fundamentally about God’s love for His chosen people, namely the family of Abraham. While commands for right living are interlaced throughout this narrative, the main theme is clearly (in my opinion) God’s covenant relationship with Abraham’s family, in the midst of Abraham’s stupidity (as well as the stupidity of his descendants).

The book of Genesis is NOT primarily about the origin of God or the origin of the cosmos (Whether you bleed Answers in Genesis or believe God used evolution to create the world we currently live in, there’s not going to be a clear and concise answer found in Genesis). It’s not a conglomeration of classic Bible stories and their quirky VeggieTales adaptations (I’m not knocking VeggieTales, I grew up on that stuff. I certainly do like to waltz with tomatoes).

The book of Genesis is about God’s care for His people. A care for His people that not only comes before the commands of Exodus-Deuteronomy, but also a care for His people that is not dependent upon His people’s ability or willingness to follow such commands.

Still don’t believe me?

Open your Bible.

Yes, as far as timelines go, the command to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (I am tempted to start naming the trees in my yard, such as the Tree Full of Leaves I Will Pay our Students To Rake and The Tree That Hopefully Won’t Cause Foundation Damage) comes at the same time more or less as the introduction of Adam into the perfect garden.

Yet after Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God immediately clothes them via a sacrifice, and promises to send the Messiah. I would say that’s a solid example of God’s care for them even after their disobedience.

Immediately after their displacement from the garden, the wheels fall off. Murder, deception, rage and malice, wickedness, pride. God gives the people 120 years to repent and turn to Him, but they refuse, and the flood happens. Let’s not forget that the fact God left a remnant via Noah and his family is also unbelievable grace.

After God’s grace given to Noah, there is a covenant made. But right after it comes more horrible stuff. More pride and arrogance (Tower of Babel). Clear incest (Judah and Tamar).

As generation after generation progresses in Abraham’s family, God’s care for them continues to be extended.

I would encourage you to dive in to the book of Genesis. Without the PG-tint glasses that our Sunday School backgrounds give us. It is dirty, grimy, dark, and nasty. But in the midst of humanity’s horribleness, God’s grace explodes off of every page.

If you need help reading the Bible in such a way, I can recommend two resources. Number one. The LifeChange Bible Study Series. These are great resources and they’re affordable. Number two. Anything by Jen Wilkin. She’s a phenomenal teacher of the Bible.

As we wrap up, fast forward to today. March 29, 2019.

How well are you doing at believing the truth we started with?

Do you evaluate your spiritual actions each day and hope you’ve done enough for God to be pleased with you?

Do you face incessant and unceasing guilt for your inability to follow His commands (been there, done that)?

Remember this truth. Before God imposes commands in our lives, He shows us His care for us. And when we fail to follow those commands in our lives, He continues to show His care for us.

I’ll close with the following quote.

God loves you as much as he loves Jesus! Think of that! God knows all about our weaknesses, doubts, fears, and sins. Yet, he loves us no less than he does his own child. – Bryan Chappell

He loves you.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Embarrassed To Be A Christian

Some of us hate confrontation.

Some of us hate conflict.

Here’s what I’ve learned recently.

To be a follower of Jesus means that most people aren’t going to agree with me or like me.

You may be thinking, well duh Nate, we know this.

Well, I have to remind myself sometimes of that truth.

Recently, I was reading in the Gospel of Luke, and I came across the following verse. It’s a verse I honestly hadn’t noticed before.

Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. – Luke 6:26

Wow. That’s pretty intense. Jesus is proclaiming  that if everyone likes you as a follower of Jesus, you’re probably not standing solidly on the truth. Instead, you are most likely flattering others and telling them what they want to hear. That was the method of the false prophet.

Jesus is making it clear that not everyone around us is going to speak well of us. As a matter of fact, we can expect the opposite when we stand on what Scripture says is true.

That doesn’t jive well with my desire to be fully liked by all people.

Now, I am not an advocate for being Christian jerks. There is a balance of truth and love. Many people that claim Christ are some of the rudest, meanest, and honestly most vile people when it comes to communicating that which the Bible says is true.

For some of us who claim Christ however, our desire to be well loved leads us to avoid the truth. We tiptoe around the topics of the day, living our lives as sheepish, embarrassed Christians. I think many members of our churches live this way.

Here’s what I mean by this:

Some of us are embarrassed by the Bible’s view on sexuality.

So we avoid talking about it. The Bible calls homosexuality sin, but it also calls premarital sex, masturbation, pornography, transgenderism, divorce (for a reason other than marital unfaithfulness), and a litany of other sexual or marital practices to be sin. In a world of individualism, some of us back down off of what the Bible says to be true, not wanting to infringe upon people’s preferences or personal lives. Yet to be a follower of Jesus is to submit one’s sexuality to Jesus.

Some of us are embarrassed by the claim of Christ that all of a person’s life, all of their heart and soul and mind and strength, should be submitted to the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

But, we want people to come to our churches. So we preach messages that tickle the ears, make people feel good about themselves, and keep the status quo. Instead of daily submission to a life of discomfort via allegiance to Jesus, we preach for our people to chase the desires of their hearts, that they can achieve all of their dreams and goals with Jesus’ magic pixie dust of blessings raining down upon their lives. Christianity becomes about feeling good.

Oh, and those times where Jesus calls us to love Him more than we’d love our own family, that was hyperbole and exaggeratory on Jesus’ part. Our kids should be number #1 in our lives. Don’t teach them covenant commitment, make it about their fun and comfort.

Some of us are embarrassed by the call to holiness that is abundantly clear in Scripture and is a crucial part of what it means to follow Jesus.

So we make life about authenticity and transparency. This leads to the Game of Thrones watching, Cards against Humanity playing, beer drinking, cussing, partying, but attending church on Sunday version of Christianity. Are any of the above the unforgivable sin? By no means. But the whole “in the world but not of it” mantra of this subset of Christians shows the world around it that there’s really nothing different about them. They partake in the same things, act the same way. This truly is an abuse of grace.

Some of us are embarrassed by the practices and traditions that are present in our churches.

We are afraid to bring people to our church, because what will they think when we belt out all four verses of “Be Thou My Vision”? What will they think when we have the Uber-awkward “greet people around you time” of the service? What will they think when we talk about tithing, or when we have a Frightless Family Fun Night on Halloween? None of this is hip and relevant. None of this is cool and popular.

Some of us are embarrassed by the character of God, namely His anger and wrath towards the unrighteous.

So we make it our mission to be God’s PR rep. We start by not studying and definitely not speaking about the Old Testament, because that’s not about the God of love. We then make sure to downplay the fact that the Sermon on the Mount ups the ante for the follower of Jesus. We don’t talk about hell. Some even come to the conclusion that hell isn’t real. When we do this though, we are communicating that Christ died for no reason.

Do any of these hit close to home for you?

Some of them hit home for me.

We have all of a sudden become people who are apologizing for what we believe! We’ve become people who are embarrassed to be associated with Jesus.

We all fall into it.

I’m a pastor and I fall into it.

When I get my haircut in Wichita Falls, I inevitably get asked what it is I do for a living. I answer truthfully, yet there are times when I start to feel embarrassed. My heart doesn’t want the discomfort of being known for all of the above things I talked about in this blog. My heart is also wicked, not to be trusted.

To be a follower of Jesus is to be weird, to be not liked at times.

No, we mustn’t be rude and arrogant.

Yes, we must be willing to stand for truth, truth spoken in love.

Stop apologizing for being a Christian.

Start embracing the discomfort.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

The Rule Of Love

Authority.

That’s not a popular word these days.

It doesn’t seem loving to rule over others.

That’s because there have been so many negative examples of authority throughout history, and we have all likely been negatively affected by someone who has abused their power and not used it to cultivate life. This happens in homes, businesses, governments, and churches.

This disdain that many have for authority figures can seep into the church if we’re not careful. At many times, this clearly does. The church becomes a place in our minds that has no authority over us as people. This creates a culture of Christians that move from church to church,  never submitting to the rule of a church over them.

Instead of churches full of Christians that are holding each other accountable, we have churches full of independent Christians, which in my mind is an extreme oxymoron.

In his book, The Rule of Love, Jonathan Leeman sets out to show how the authority of God over us is not at odds with His love for us.

In the opening chapter, Leeman begins by showing how our culture’s view of love is way off course. Our culture makes love about self, finding happiness. We have allowed consumerism and tribalism to seep into our views on love. We see this consumerism by the way that men and women evaluate their ‘purchasing power’, measuring themselves up to what they believe they deserve in another man or woman. Tribalism shows up when we define ourselves by our own group, whether that be race-related, career-related, or likes-related.

This false love comes into the church in a detrimental way when we only submit to the body when the programs and worship styles make us as a group feel comfortable, or if it’s the best we can consume individually.

Leeman continues his book with a chapter on how various theologians throughout church history have thought about love, whether that be God’s love or the love of man. This chapter got a little tiring for me, but there were some intriguing points of discussion.

After this, we get two chapters on God’s love for Himself. Now that’s certainly a topic I don’t hear a lot of conversations about in our churches, but it’s an important one. God loves Himself. That’s a confusing phrase and theme of Christianity, but it is the basis and foundation of what it means for us to love each other. I would encourage you to dig into articles on this, and pick up this book for a thorough study on this topic.

At the conclusion of these two chapters on God’s love for Himself, we are given a list of how this applies to the local church, in the areas of membership and church discipline.

  1. Holy love impels a church to evangelize and do good.
  2. Holy love impels a church to mark of members and practice church discipline.
  3. Holy love impels a church to teach and disciple.
  4. Holy love motivates a church to worship.
  5. Holy love creates a distinct and holy culture. 

The second of these points gives us one of the main thrusts of this book.

According to Leeman,

A church that chooses to emphasize God’s love but not God’s holiness is a church that doesn’t actually understand what God’s love is. God’s love, I’ve observed, is wholly fixed upon God and his glorious character in all aspects. It’s holy. A church characterized by holy love, likewise, is jealous for God’s glory and fame. 

We live in a day and age in our Christian culture where membership and discipline are frowned upon. They both seem too authoritarian at best and unloving at worst. To not welcome all and accept all is to not show the love of Jesus to others, we say. I’ve heard that said explicitly and implicitly countless times. Yet it becomes pretty clear that if we are to model the love and holiness of God, this includes setting clear distinctions between those who are in the body and those who are not. If we are to model the love and holiness of God, then we should enforce church discipline. This can be abused yes. Definitely. But the abuse of authority by some should not hinder the attempts at God-honoring authority by others.

In chapter five, Leeman goes on to talk about God’s love for sinners. It was a pleasant chapter full of the good news of the gospel.

In chapter six, Leeman continues by speaking on the idea of love and judgement. As he has done several times throughout the book already, he shows how judgement is an unavoidable aspect of love. Our daily lives are full of judgements about what we love and don’t love. Do I love keeping my body healthy or eating Pizza Hut? Do I love clean teeth or getting to work? These are silly examples but they should serve to remind us that we all make countless judgments every day about what we love.

The final chapter is about the relationship between love and authority, ultimately what the entire book is about. The following quote was so good that I had to stop and write it down in my journal,

Good authority loves. Good authority gives. Good authority passes out authority. – Jonathan Leeman

Yes, there are authorities in our lives that hate, take, and refuse to delegate.

But that is not the type of authority that God desires us to model, in our homes or in our churches. As a man who has been given some authority over certain aspects of my current church, I have been tasked by God to cultivate what I reside over. Too often I fail to do that.

This book was ultimately a pretty good read. It wasn’t one of the best books I’ve read recently, and it wasn’t one of the worst. I think that many people would get bogged down in some of the monotonous sections of the book, but if you push through to the last couple chapters you will find some great truths.

I have received a free copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an unbiased review.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Still Throwing Stones

In a world of social media, Christian culture can become discouraging and harmful. Here’s what I mean.

There is an up and coming, incredibly talented singer by the name of Lauren Daigle.

She is a professing follower of Jesus. My wife loves her music, and I gotta say, I can get down to it too. She sounds a lot like Adele, so you can’t really go wrong with listening to her. Recently she appeared on the Ellen Show, sparking a whole lot of Christian outrage, and she then followed that up with a radio interview in which she stated she wasn’t sure about whether or not homosexuality is a sin.

This has caused quite the divide in Christian circles, as people bang on their keyboards empassioned responses to what has taken place. On one side are those who see no wrong in what she has done by not calling homosexuality sin, and on the other side are those screaming the word heretic while getting ready to burn her at the stake. As is the case in most polarizing situations these days, there is animosity and anger and pride on display in these responses.

As a blogger, thinker, and pastor, I strive to find the Christian middle ground in most debates, and so I will try and do so again here.

Through this blog, let me walk you through my personal opinion. You have no responsibility to agree with me, I just ask that if you disagree with me that you would be charitable and kind.

I believe I need to be clear about this first. What I am advocating in this blog is a more loving, fair, and considerate approach to Lauren Daigle, not a more liberal approach to viewing homosexuality. I believe that the Bible makes clear that homosexuality is a sin. That being said, we are to lovingly call people out of that sin, not condemn them with hatred. I struggle with deception, pride, anger, envy, jealousy, and no one is condemning me with hatred. We must lovingly tell the truth about sexuality, instead of berating and hating those who struggle with such a sin.

With that being said, I want to address how we as followers of Jesus should respond to this situation.

Lauren Daigle doesn’t go to my church.

I serve in a church here in Vernon, Texas, and Lauren Daigle has never stepped foot in my church. This is an important fact.

When it comes to the Christian faith, I like to think of circles that are expanding. You have local, state-wide, national, and, finally, international circles. I think about this when it comes to generosity, missions, and in the case of Lauren Daigle, speaking the truth in love. So for me, I don’t want to give to an international charitable organization if I have been totally devoid of generosity in my community. I don’t want to go on an overseas mission trip if I haven’t knocked on my neighbor’s door. And lastly, I don’t want to condemn someone for a sinful action when I haven’t had the courage to speak up to someone in my local church.

This philosophy or mindset has come as a result of realizing that doing things nationally or internationally is far more easier than doing that same thing locally. It takes less effort to send an Operation Christmas Child box than it does to give to someone in need just down the street from me. It takes less effort to share my faith with a stranger in South America that I’ll never see again than to sit down with the neighbor I see every day. It is less awkward to speak the truth in love on Facebook than it is to sit down at a lunch table and confront my brother in Christ’s sin.

In a social media world, we condemn those we don’t even know.

Here’s the reality. My heart is grieved. It truly is. My beliefs on sexuality are not popular, but they are the Biblical truths according to Scripture. I do not hate or despise those who don’t agree with me, but the grief is still there. Whether it is Jen and Brandon Hatmaker or now Lauren Daigle, my heart is grieved when the truth of Scripture is downplayed or ignored, or even flat-out rejected.

To have an emotional response to these things is not sinful. Just today I was reading in Galatians, remembering just how upset Paul was with that church for abandoning the message of the gospel, and how he would eventually oppose Peter to his face for doing the same. But to have a hateful response to these things, that certainly is.

I feel like these verses pop up all the time in my blogs, but here they are again.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:2

Lauren may not repent of her actions, of her words. That doesn’t mean we are to condemn her. I can wholeheartedly disagree with her stance (as I do) and not rake her name through the mud.

Love is not passivity. It is not ignoring the truth, the Scriptural truth. Love is speaking up, but it is speaking up personally in our own community. So for me, I have no hateful rhetoric to spew at Lauren Daigle. I am, however, preparing my heart for conversations with students who may bring this matter up, and I will be prepared to lovingly share the truth with them.

But shame on me or you if we’re ready to throw stones at this woman who we know not personally. Yes, be grieved, but don’t condemn and chastise a woman you don’t know. Before you take to social media, take into account the last time you took sin seriously in your own church or maybe even in your own life.

If you have enjoyed this post and if you have agreed with me, please give it a share. In a world of hateful rhetoric, even in Christian circles, we can remind people that we are still able to love in the midst of speaking truth.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

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

Love, Vocation, Geography

We tend to put the Spirit in a box where its primary purpose is to help us in love, vocation, and geography. What I mean by this is that the majority of my conversations in which the Holy Spirit comes up revolve around who someone is going to marry, what job they will have, and where they will live. These are all things that growing up I felt a lot of pressure to make a “Spirit-led” decision in. This led me also to relegate the Holy Spirit to a position in my life where his primary purpose was to speak to me in those areas alone.

God the Holy Spirit does lead us, but the primary meaning of the leading of the Holy Spirit is not to lead us to marry this person or that person or to lead us to Cincinnati or Chicago. The primary place to which the Spirit leads us is to holiness and obedience. – R.C. Sproul 

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read from Sproul, and this quote is no exception. Nestled in a booklet about Christian conscience is this quote that speaks volumes.

The Holy Spirit’s primary leading in our life should be towards holiness and obedience. Take for instance the classic Fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians 5. This chapter pits two lists of characteristics against each other, the fruit of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. We are all likely familiar with the so-named ‘fruit of the Spirit’, the characteristics that we as believers should have and exemplify (we all fall short, but it’s what we should be striving towards). In this chapter we come to Galatians 5:25, one of my favorite verses for its encouragement and conviction. This coupled with Galatians 5:16 gives us the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit’s leading.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. – Galatians 5:25

I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16

These verses do not say ‘walk by the Spirit and you will know explicitly who you are to marry, where you are to live, and what you should do with your life”. These are aspects of our lives that God does speak into no doubt, but let us not relegate the Spirit of God to just these areas.

In efforts to potentially take some weight off younger and older believers alike, let’s take a quick look at what I personally believe (and I may be wrong, and you may not agree with me) regarding love, vocation, and geography.

LOVE 

I personally do not believe that the idea of ‘the one’ is accurate. We romanticize this ideology and that’s not necessarily good. I believe that we are called by Scripture to marry someone who is of the opposite gender and who has saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Outside of those two parameters, I believe that God is more concerned with us showing Christlike love to our spouse than he is us finding the perfect man or woman for us (newsflash, no perfect men or women exist). In my relationship with Jamie, I never got a lightning flash dreamlike moment where God audibly spoke to me and said she’s the one. Instead I found myself incredibly attracted to her outward appearance, her character, and her love for the Lord. Our goals and aspirations lined up, we enjoy being around each other, and so we have committed to loving each other for life. Seeking godly counsel and prayer do go a long way, but I don’t necessarily believe that there’s a rule of thumb where you get an audible confirmation from God about the person you want to marry.

VOCATION 

As previously stated, there are times where God explicitly calls people to do specific things with their lives (I have had God’s call on my life to be in vocational ministry. This was not an audible speech moment, rather a feeling in my gut that was affirmed and confirmed through prayer and godly counsel). More often than not though, I believe that we are to use the natural gifts we’ve been given by God in a way that brings honor and glory to His name. So if you’re a gifted scientist, do that for Christ. If you’re a gifted orator, do that for Christ. If you’re a gifted teacher, do that for Christ. In the midst of my sister having a specific calling from God on her life to one day do overseas missions, I remember playing XBOX as a teenager racking my brain and trying to discern God’s will so as not to garner his anger by stepping outside it. When boiled down, I believe that God’s will for us vocationally is to love God and love neighbor through something that we are gifted at, and the rest is just geography.

GEOGRAPHY

This sounds repetitive, but it’s true. There are times where God calls men and women to specific locations. Most of the time however I believe that God is more concerned with how we live than where we live. When making decisions regarding where you live, you should again pray and seek counsel. But don’t sit around waiting for an audible voice. The question should remain the same regardless of whether you’re talking about love, vocation, or geography: “will this bring glory to Christ?”

My decision to leave Phoenix and move to Vernon was never confirmed by signs and wonders. It was a decision made between me and Jamie, with the counsel of friends and families, in that we felt like we could serve the Lord faithfully here and bring glory to His name. Today marks six months and it stands as one of the better decisions I’ve ever made.

I hope that this brings a breath of fresh air to many of us who become anal about the will of God. I welcome discussion and disagreement, just be cordial please.

The main thing (although I’ve devoted little words to it really) I want to share is that you shouldn’t limit the Spirit to these decisions. The Spirit of God is in your life to lead you in obedience and holiness.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach