A Better Story

And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thrityfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.

Have you ever had a passage from Scripture take on new life? You’ve heard it. You’ve read it. You’ve studied it. But all of a sudden, it becomes the heartbeat of your walk with Jesus. It’s as if the words on the pages of your Bible have floated upward, saturating your mind and heart. It becomes all that you can think about. You read, you pray, you move on. But it continues to tug. 

That has been my experience with the parable of the sower from Mark 4. I’ve been slowly but surely meditating on the Gospel of Mark over the last couple of months. A couple weeks ago, the parable of the sower was up next. I read it. Then read it again. Soon, my colored pens were flying over the text, scribbling and writing, highlighting and circling.  

This passage lodged itself in my heart.

Particularly that last line from Jesus.

The seed that produced fruit. 

Thirtyfold.

Sixtyfold.

A hundredfold. 

Oh how I long to be that seed. Oh how I long to see the church I serve as a pastor become that seed. I long to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God. 

Yet, Jesus obviously hit the nail on the head. Spiritual warfare, persecution, worldly cares, wealth, and fleshly desires can destroy any fruitfulness in our lives. Nothing has changed in humanity. It’s still the same obstacles. 

Spiritual warfare is far more real than our little Western minds think it is. I’m not the “there’s a demon behind every tree” guy. But I am the “we have an enemy who doesn’t want us to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God” guy. A couple weeks ago I had five days straight of oppression. No, it wasn’t a demonic presence in the form of some beast on fire in the corner of my bedroom. But it was a weight, a spiritual weight, that I couldn’t shake. I would wake up at 3:45 every morning and not be able to fall back asleep. Instead I just laid there and laid there and laid there. I felt off for days. I neglected to go to God in prayer and instead tried to shoulder it myself. That didn’t work. 

We can fail to be fruitful for the Kingdom because we’ve allowed the enemy of our souls to deceive and demoralize. 

We can also fail to be fruitful for the Kingdom because we’re way too impressed with earth. 

And that’s what I want us to think about. 

What story are we telling in our churches?

Are we telling a better, more fruitful story?

Or are we telling an earthly story? 

You see, what we communicate in our churches matters. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that Jesus makes your life better, we are setting people up to no longer bear fruit once they face persecution of any kind. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that this life is about success, accolades, accomplishments, wealth, brands, and followings, then we set people up to fall for the deceitfulness of riches. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that this life is unbearably hard, and that all that we see is just death and destruction, then we set people up to get distracted by the anxieties and worries of this broken world. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that this life is about vacations, sports, fun, food, drinks, and entertainment, then we set people up to pursue the desires of their flesh the 166 hours a week they aren’t sitting in the pews of our churches. 

I want to pastor my church in a way that tells a better story. 

A story about a King and His Kingdom.

A story about the repitition and affection-led aspects of discipleship.

A story about a King who creates a better world through His people. 

I don’t want to be the reason that those in my church don’t bear fruit. 

So I want to tell a better story. 

In the coming weeks and blog posts, I want to combat the false stories we tell in our churches by asking questions that help us to dig into Scripture, be honest about the modern church, and then look to and meditate on the hope of the King and His Kingdom. I hope to share anecdotes of how I’ve fallen short, narratives of where others haven’t, and Biblical principles to form our churches around. 

Here’s the next few to look forward to:

Do we delight to draw near to God?

Are we counter-culturally winsome?

Do we sit in church gatherings with greedy, lustful hearts?

Come, take a journey through the Scriptures. 

Let’s tell a better story together. 

– Nate Roach 

The Righteousness Of Jesus

(Tonight, we add Matt Welborn (one of my closest friends from OBU) into the mix of writers. Our blog has almost 250 followers and I’m excited to see it continue to grow with your help!)

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sin and righteousness. The more I read about God’s righteousness, the more I realize the depth of my own sin.

I was reading in Mark 7 recently, and I came across the passage in which Jesus and His disciples go about eating without washing their hands. The Pharisees were upset. Jesus wasn’t following the rules! How can someone be righteous if they don’t obey their elders? At first glance, maybe Jesus is in a bind here.

Yet Jesus responds to the upset Pharisees:

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ – Mark 7:6-7

Their hearts were far from God, thus their worship was in vain.

The Pharisees were supposed to be the most righteous of all of God’s people. If I was sitting around, observing this conversation nearly two-thousand years ago, I’d be worried. The people I saw as most righteous were the same people Jesus was saying were far away from God.

I don’t want to be far away from God. At the same time, I’m not very righteous. I’m terribly unrighteous. Jesus spits a list of sins shortly thereafter:

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” – Mark 7:20-23

Yikes. I’ve definitely had evil thoughts. Sexual immorality — yeah. Theft? Well, I envy often. And I’ve stolen for sure. Murder? I’ve hated another person. Jesus says that counts. Adultery? I’ve lusted after another person. Jesus says that counts too.

I don’t really want to keep going in this list. It’s hard to look inside and see how evil my heart is and has been.

The beautiful thing, though, is Jesus knows already. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I want that. I want a clean heart. I want a right spirit.

When Jesus came to earth and lived among us, He knew our unrighteousness. He knows it more deeply and intimately than we probably will ever know. We are born into sin, far away from God. But God came to us.

Jesus came to us when we were far away.

By dying on the cross and raising from the grave, Jesus conquered sin and death and all unrighteousness. He came to exchange our hearts of stone for hearts of flesh. He desires for each and every one of us to be alive in Him. To be actually, fully, completely human. Jesus wants us to walk with Him in the same way Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden. Jesus invites us into relationship — even in our state of unrighteousness.

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

In our state of unrighteousness, Jesus died for us. He defeated death and is now offering the free gift of righteousness to all who believe. What does that righteousness look like? Phillipians 4:8 tells us. This is what we get to think about and be about:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9

The God of peace will be with us. Jesus gives us the Spirit of God to practice the very things above. This is a list I’d much rather embody.

Whatever is true — seeking the truth in all things. Whatever is honorable — thinking about the words that lift people up and serve the Kingdom of God. Whatever is just — the Bible is pretty clear about God’s desire for justice (and our place as seekers of justice). Whatever is pure — Jesus says during the sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” To see God!

The list continues. Whatever is lovely — is it not pleasant to see beauty? The loveliness of the Grand Canyon, the wonder of wildflowers, the patience of your parents, the face of God. Whatever is commendable — the great acts of service: loving God, loving others, and laying aside your selfishness to serve another person. Anything excellent and worthy of praise — anything!

This is a much better list of things to think about and be about. I pray that the Spirit of God would reveal the depth of your sin, the great need you have for a Savior, and the wonderful reality of your new life in Christ. Think about the loveliness of Jesus Christ. Think about these things. Practice these things. And the God of peace will be with you.

The peace of Christ be with you,

Matt Welborn